Haibun on Pausing for Peace
the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society's 2008 Retreat at Asilomar
[by J. Zimmerman]

2008 Asilomar Haiku Retreat: Day 1.

Yuki Teikei Haiku Society (YTHS) president Carol Steele, YTHS, treasurer Patricia J. Machmiller, and YTHS Board Member donnalynn chase brought us together with warm opening welcomes.

Carol's welcoming gift of the following haiku was particularly apt, with its air of invitation and openness and exploration — perfect for the start of Asilomar — and beautifully presented on a mauve card in a miniature mauve envelope:

We remembered absent friends: Jim Arnold and an early and active YTHS member, Mary Hill, whose bamboo garden had been a celebrated site for the YTHS annual Tanabata celebration. Carol had brought a wide ceramic bowl planted with a miniature bamboo grove, in which we were invited to hang our haiku for Mary.

We received the 2008 Annual anthology of YTHS, edited by Paul O. Williams (and beautifully designed by donnalyn chase) showing

The anthology includes one of Paul's haiku, his recent winner of the Shiki on-line kukai:

Author and featured speaker Patricia Donegan, selected the theme "Pausing for Peace" for the retreat. She contrasted two types of pause:

  1. sometimes a pause occurs naturally, as in noticing sunlight on the wall.
  2. sometimes a pause occurs on purpose, in the practice of what Tibetans call sky mind: "we need a mind like the sky so the mind opens up":

She read from her new book Haiku Mind, in which she shows 108 haiku by modern and classical poets, with a meditation on each. "If we can forget the self," she said, "compassion naturally arises. So haiku is a practice of compassion."

2008 Asilomar Haiku Retreat: Day 2.

Patricia J. Machmiller spoke of the importance of using a kigo in a haiku. The kigo provides a poetic device (or mechanism) allowing the poet to evoke in haiku the associations through "stickiness" and "resonance" that a kigo brings.

Participants each received a copy of the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society's kigo list for Autumn, with categories:

Patricia suggested these autumn kigo as particularly apt at the time and place of the Retreat:

We took personal writing time to go for a ginkoo (a walk in which we would create haiku and tanka). We returned shortly before lunch for three rounds of sharing today's poems.

After lunch Patricia Donegan lectured on "the Craft of Haiku", though she was so often and aggressively interrupted by argumentative audience members that I found it hard to track her key points. This is what I got:

Donegan studied with Seishi Yamaguchi in 1986-1987. He required that his student pay him $1 per haiku for feedback. [This statement caused an optimistic rustle around the room as various participants contemplated the joy of setting up such a business ... ]

She suggested three steps to writing a haiku:

After another ginkoo, we returned for a workshop with Donegan. She demonstrated techniques she attributed to Seishi Yamaguchi, cutting words from our haiku. I did not offer my 5-7-5 haiku (an easy target for cutting its last line and more). But the shorter haiku I offered was rather rewritten, yielding a different haiku from the original.

Additional recommendations arising from Donegan's comments:

In the evening, an introduction to the dreaded linked-verse form, the renku. And then a renku party, with two teams, one led by Jerry Ball and the other by Roger Abe. Both teams finished around the witching midnight hour.

2008 Asilomar Haiku Retreat: Day 3.

The morning was a delicious Art Party presented by donnalyn chase and Carolyn Fitz. They taught us to:

That afternoon, Emiko Miyashita, a delightful Japanese woman (who lives in Kawasaki and works on the Ginza in Tokyo), conducted a lively feedback workshop, from which we all benefited. Volunteers that submitted their work for public review each received a special reward: a beautiful hand-sewn bag, each made by her own mother. Also, Emiko Miyashita invited us to submit haiku in English for the Asahi weekly newspaper; she comments in Japanese on English-language haiku — a novel approach!

In the late afternoon we gathered to celebrate our fallen comrade, haiku poet and naturalist Jim "Ouzel" Arnold, who died last year. We made an altar of stones and shells he had given us. We took turns reading his haiku from his A Very Slim Book [designed by artist and poet Susanne Smith] and then read our own poems in memory of him:

Increasingly our poets are adding tanka to their repertoire, including:

In the evening (and as at the 2007 YTHS Retreat) Mariko Kitakubo in a traditional kimono performed her tanka in Japanese. Her gorgeous costume and graceful gestures enhanced the charm of the performance, as did the background music. Her official translator, Amelia Fielden, attended and read her English-language translation after each tanka. At the end of the performance, Amelia Fielden read some of her own work.

2008 Asilomar Haiku Retreat: Day 4.

The retreat ended with group readings of the two renku, to great admiration. Then a reading of haiku written for Mary Hill on kimono-shaped colored papers, hung in the miniature bamboo grove:

The closing circle was led by donnalynn chase.

After goodbyes, goodbyes, detouring only to stop and listen to the ocean and watch hang-gliders take off and drift on threads and foil above Marina, I'm on the freeway for home.

Other Books on Haiku

Buy Essential Haiku The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa edited by Robert Hass.
The past-poet laureate of the U.S.A has compiled this enthralling collection of his own essays in which he summarizes the lives of three masters and inventors of the haiku tradition in Japan, and presents the lives, the prose, and 300 of the poems of: Matsuo Basho (1644-94), the ascetic and seeker, Yosa Buson (1716-83), the artist, and Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), the humanist.
Buy Haiku Seasons The Haiku Seasons: Poetry of the Natural World by William J. Higginson.

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