A Hundred Gourds 4:2 March 2015

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The Seabeck Haiku Getaway: an interview with Michael Dylan Welch

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Interview with Michael Dylan Welch

Aubrie: How does this haiku conference and retreat differ from others? What does Seabeck have to offer poets that’s special to the area?

Michael: I suppose all the rituals and traditions are part of what makes Seabeck different, all shared experiences, yet these traditions are really only a small part of the larger mix of presentations, workshops, haiku walks, and poetry readings that make each Seabeck weekend memorable. We also try to have new activities each year, or revive something that we might have done in the past.

We tend to have the same core people, but also fifteen or more first-timers every year, which provides fresh energy. It’s mostly the people who give Seabeck its unique character, I think, as different people take turns sharing what they know or feel regarding haiku poetry. We always gather in the fall, and cross our fingers that the fall colours are peaking when we visit, so we can enjoy the cedar flashing (when the cedar trees turn rusty), the flaming yellow maple leaves, and the appearance of all the mushrooms and wooly bear caterpillars. We haven’t yet spotted an orca in Seabeck Bay, but maybe that will happen one of these years. We’ve heard the grawk of cranes, watched double rainbows come and go over the sound, seen many deer on campus, and enjoyed the views of the mountains from nearby Scenic Beach State Park. The retreat brings together many of the best and most active haiku poets in the region, so anyone from farther afield would be able to meet some wonderful haiku poets by coming to Seabeck, and would get to experience our ferries and forests, the Olympic mountains that loom over the retreat center (sometimes with fresh snow in the fall), and of course Puget Sound.

On the other hand, we’re not really trying to be different from any other haiku retreat or conference. In fact, I’d be happy to adopt successful activities from other haiku retreats, some of which we’ve already done by having the Asilomar retreat as a model (and the Gabriola weekend as an influence as well), and to have other retreats adopt some of our traditions. It’s not a conference like Haiku North America, where you have to choose between competing activities, and not a pure writing retreat either, where you might be off on your own. I chose the name “getaway” very carefully, because the Seabeck haiku weekend is really a hybrid between a conference and a retreat—meeting the needs of both the head and the heart.


During one of my own personal getaways I saw a rainbow, seals, and pelicans.

(Photo by Aubrie Cox)