A Hundred Gourds 5:2 March 2016

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Haiku North America 2015 — Schenectady, New York

by Jennifer Sutherland

| Introduction | page 2 | page 3 |page 4

HNA 2015 – Day 1 (continued)

Haiku Groups

I then took my own turn at the podium for my presentation: “Branching Out – Groups within the Haiku Community”. This was an informal session intended to encourage participants on the benefits of forming groups and sharing haiku in the wider community. Drawing on my experiences with forming an email exchange haiku group and as a member of the Red Kelpie Haiku Group, I presented the benefits of motivation, community and the opportunity to learn that stem from group environments.

Chiyo-ni – A Performance

My session was followed by a very special performance piece from Terry Ann Carter and musician and poet Marco Fraticelli: “A Woman’s Desire: The Lost letters of Chiyo-ni”. Marco performed a series of letters (imagined) from the perspective of Chiyo-ni, interspersed with his singing of a variety of popular songs and accompanying himself on electric piano whilst Terry Ann Carter, in Kabuki-style make-up, mimed and danced, holding up Chiyo-ni’s haiku on signs for the audience to read. The audience was captivated by the performance and gave both poets a standing ovation. It was exceptional and truly memorable.


Terry Ann Carter - The Lost Letters of Chiyo-ni


In the early evening, poets congregated in the impressive Nott memorial building to hear haiga artist Ion Codrescu’s presentation “On Haiga Painting”. Ion presented a series of slides and discussed the art of haiga painting. This included an overview of the history of haiga and examples of Ion’s own amazing work. Throughout the entire conference Ion’s haiga exhibition was on show in the gallery section on the first floor of the Nott Memorial.


Haiga Master Ion Codrescu


haiga by Ion Codrescu
with haiku by Carol Purington

China’s Hermit Tradition

In the evening, Bill Porter (Red Pine) presented “A Search for Solitude: China’s Hermit Tradition”. This was a lecture with photo slides taken on his travels in China, in search of the Taoist/Buddhist hermit tradition.

HNA 2015 – Day 2

After coffee and muffins for breakfast, poets filed into the Union Taylor Music Center Emerson Auditorium for the “Memorial Reading and Reflections”, presented by John Stevenson. Haiku Poets who have passed away in the last two years were remembered in a commemorative slide show accompanied by the beautiful and plaintive piece “Kilverts Hills” (composed by Hilary Tann) with Andrew Barnhart on cello. This was a very moving session as we also, with fondness, acknowledged other poets who are no longer with us, including Peggy Willis Lyles and Australian haiku pioneer, Janice M. Bostock.

Haiku With Feathers

I stayed on for the next session in the auditorium, which was Ruth Yarrows “Haiku with Feathers”. Ruth described the habitats and calls of various birds then went on to read her bird haiku. With each haiku, Ruth performed a rendition of the relevant bird calls. Her trills, hoots and whistles seemed so realistic that one could almost believe that the birds were actually in the room! This was remarkable and truly enjoyable experience.


Ruth Yarrow – haiku poet and conservationist

The Bigger Pond

The afternoon continued with some very interesting presentations including “Understanding the Larger Pond: Haiku in the Mainstream Poetry Community”, by Deborah Kolodji. Deborah explored how haiku in the general poetry community is often overlooked or perceived as a less serious form of poetry. She encouraged poets to submit to mainstream journals in order to share their work and promote haiku. Reading haiku sequences in the open mic section at poetry venues was also recommended.


I then attended Garry Gay’s rengay workshop. Garry invented rengay in 1992. The form consists of a collaborative six verse linked poem using a single season and a single theme. Having only participated in one rengay in the past, I was fortunate to find myself part of a trio with Susan Birch and Michael Dylan Welch (No pressure there, then!) Jokes aside, the session was lots of fun.


Garry Gay – rengay originator and co-founder of Haiku North America

LIFE in our Frogpond

I then dashed back to the Old Chapel to attend “Our Frogpond Term: Searching for LIFE in Haiku Submissions”, presented by Michelle Root-Bernstein, co-editor with Francine Banworth of the Haiku Society of America journal, Frogpond, from Vol. 35.1 Winter 2012 to Vol. 38.3 Autumn 2015. Frogpond publishes a mixture of traditional, contemporary and pioneering haiku. It’s always interesting to hear editors speak first-hand about what they look for in submissions, so I sat close to the front to ensure I didn’t miss a word. In the context of this presentation, I soon learnt that LIFE is an acronym for:

Form and

“Good poems” Michelle said, “leap off the page.” Michelle and Francine have sought haiku that contain fresh imagery, are somewhat elusive and which engage and enlighten the reader. Michelle also reminded us of the importance of learning how to read and edit haiku in order to improve our craft.

Appropriating Nature

With the end of Michelle’s presentation, many poets left to join a ginko walk through the stockade district. I might have gone along if I hadn’t been intent on attending Paul Miller’s presentation, “Appropriating Nature”. Paul explored the relationship of haiku to nature and went on to demonstrate how nature can be distorted through the poet’s words. As well, he explored the theme of cultural memory. Paul explained that traditional Japanese kigo, rather than reflecting nature as observed, is a cultural artifact based on usage in ancient literature and centralized on the Kyoto region.

Editors’ Panel

After a group dinner in downtown Schenectady we returned the campus where I attended the Editors’ Panel discussion. The panel consisted of:

Susan Antolin – Acorn
Michelle Root Bernstein – Frogpond
Stanford M Forrester – Bottle Rockets
Paul M – Modern Haiku
Scott Mason – The Heron’s Nest

Questions from the audience were welcomed. All journals reported seeing more submissions from all over the world. Susan reported that 14% of Acorn’s last edition consisted of haiku by Australians.

Fire in the Treetops

The last event for the evening was the read-around from the Fire in the Treetops anthology, commemorating not only HNA 2015 but the full quarter century of HNA conferences. It was a magical to sit and hear each of the poets read aloud their own haiku, enjoying the various accents and the timbre of each voice – an unforgettable moment.

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