Scott Metz has an open thread at The Haiku Foundation where over 100 thoughts and memories have been left.

Penny’s highlights are at her site where she points to her favorites from the photos taken by MD Welsh. Tobacco Road points to the whole album.

Fay speaks of the cruise at her blog and Scott did a Periplum on her based on his HNA talk.

Deborah P Kolodji did a post during the conference, shared a a cartoon by Naia, pre-conference sight-seeing, a part 2 from Ottawa, and a and a retrospective with photos.

Janick Belleau has notes from the conference on her webpage.

Rick Black has shared his look at the process of selecting poems with Kwame Dawes for a chapbook. See it here: chapbook contest results and invitation document.

Michael McClintock’s Sketches from the San Joaquin was their choice this year. Rick Black says, “I hope you’ll all consider entering our upcoming chapbook competition – it should be a lot of fun, a good way for me to give back to the haiku community and for poets to put together a collection and get a book out of it. You can go Turtle Light Press Chapbooks to see the guidelines.


Naia has started a blog to recount the city exploring and other vantage points on HNA in Ottawa. Start at day 1.

John Brandi
John Brandi gave the plenary address with consumate skill, tying together threads from across the conference, quoting people who spoke during the conference, bringing together humour and tribute. (He knew Nanao Sakaki and Bill Higginson.)

At one point he shared a secret — he showed the clock he had stashed in the podium. What speaker would want to talk with time hanging over his head? Now he is standing over time he quipped.

He did not stand alone there. The room was warm with community in suspended time. And with those who have gone before who, as Patricia Donegan put it, serve as “an archive of the human spirit” such as Elizabeth Searle Lamb who was said to never prune a branch which she could walk around.

We are small and humble in this universe, a human scale of now against space, powerless alone and yet not. As Elizabeth Searle Lamb put it,

shutting out the cold
But grief still enters
By another door

We write of large mortal things in our small scale. We may do so in many styles. Brandi said of himself that he hasn’t been of the perfectly clean line, more like the scene at the monastary he saw where,

Fallen leaves —
The abbot sweeps
Around them.

Poetry is not the linear unpacked expected but the intuitive synthesis of now and what has come before. It mat be centering or unsettling.

To keep balance is a challenge in haiku yet as we write the poems they write us and the lessons can be extended outside the page. For instance, he and his wife were considering relocating and the clincher came from poetic principles — the leap that keeps vitality. Why not also practice leaping in daily life? And so they moved from Alberquere to El Rito and the new home proves the reward of this wisdom.

His path to haiku was not a direct one. More like,

every inch
Of the way
In leaking boots

as he said in his presentation.

It began simply. As a kid his family would take trips into nature, such as to the Mohave desert. This shaped his twig towards the haiku tree in two ways:
1) It plopped him down into direct experience with nature
2) After each trip his dad would say draw something that impressed you from the trip and then his mom would say why don’t you write a line or two about how you felt about it? After a series of vacations, around age 10, they suggested, why don’t you draw a cover and make a title for those? They bound it and so he had his entry into book making and validation of what he perceived.

Years passed and college and an English professor came. When Brandi presented his short poems the prof suggested he try the tried and tested, valid Western forms like the sonnet, or maybe the limerick instead.

Unfortunately that prof is still out there in one form or another; we know that the small, contained form of haiku has the core poetic elements. At the heart of the practice are the essentials…what you need to know is present and concrete without embroidery, there is a central image and a leveraging of perception into suggestion.

A poet can learn a lot from Miles Davis who said, “I always listen for what I can leave out” and “don’t play what’s there – play what’s not there!”

Seeing what is absent is an entry point to where you might not otherwise discover. Back on those family trips seeing the hermit homes in Sierra Nevada’s tree roots fired his imagination. Years later Brandi would come to walk alongside artist philosopher Ninao. Leaving him one day Ninao called Brandi back saying,

Come back
You’ve forgotten
Your footprints!

Haiku is a call back to the land where there is a grounding. With the new media there’s an emphasis on staying connected, but what does it mean, he asked, to be connected to who and what is absent?

As Emiko pointed out earlier in the conference, it helps to establish the seasons in yourself. As Nunao advised,

if you need answers,
to the white water.

Haiku is grounded in the immediate real. Ninao and Bill understood this although both could slip fluidly between the practical and the philosophical. Bill was well-versed in what came before and had a habit of pointing past himself to history in a way that humbled and mentored. Upon writing

just an ordinary day
A horse has 4 legs
A man has 2

Bill was able to point to the antecedent of

when cherry trees bloom
Birds have 2 legs
Horses 4

Practice is helped by study and by doing as Basho advised — turn it over a thousand times on the tip of your tongue. There are many flavours of haiku but diversity is a sign of health . “A good practice is always undermining itself.” Or as Yogi Berra said, “What difference does the uniform make? You don’t hit with it.”

Haiku has brought good things, good conections this conference. Where next?

In his 2008 chapbook from Tangram, Staff in hand, Wind in pines he wrote with a nod to Lamb he wrote,

Today’s conundrum:
To cut that branch
Or walk around.

To see what is next.

Nick Avis Nick Avis spoke of crosscurrents from Newfoundland and Labrador. There he was involved for 20 years with the March Hare Festival, the largest literary festival in Atlantic Canada. Newfoundland is 40% Irish. The connection and similarities across the Atlantic to Ireland are strong. Unfortunately parity is an issue on both shores. Major male poets far outnumber female. Lyric poets far outnumber haiku poets.

Lyric poets outnumber haiku poets in Newfoundland as anywhere. Why should this be for an elegant form with economy of meaning?

There’s the preconceived notion in Canadian literature that the measure of one’s status is based on: bigger the better. Long poems, book-length or epic poems are given more status. Avis suggests that part the basis of that habit of thinking may come from how long works are unpacked; more of the onus of communication is on the writer. In minimalist poems and haiku the demand is on the reader to step into the gap bring suggestions for connections and build the narrative.

Why does haiku not become more popular and central for reading and writing in the general culture? One aspect is form, this sense of greed economic, bulk discounts, weight put on greater length as greater value. A second aspect is content. Due to greater urbanization and disconnect from nature, most people are not involved in the natural world or aren’t interested in it. If the majority of people were we would not be in this environmental crisis.

Haiku gets a focus when non-haiku poets try it as an exercise, such as Michael Redhill or Heaney. Often this yield unfortunately miscuing to mistakes that would be mistakes in any poetic form — unnecessary verbiage, intellectualizing, not being intuitive, anthropomorphizing, padding, etc. Well-rendered poems, such as the haiku sequence In Hardy Country by Tom Dawe deserve a wider reading.

It’s an unfortunately situation where the term is watered down to the point where publishers ask “no haiku please.” Partly, why haiku can be misunderstood as sentimental 5-7-5 verse about anything under the sun is from popular figures writing without a knowledge base of the history. Partly, within the community there is a laxness of terms, where we call a senryu without season’s kigo, a haiku. We add to the confusion.

As advocates and fans and practitioners of the form we can work to educate. Haiku magazines and journals can be seen as on par with other poetry journals. By reading, writing and dialoguing about the people who are doing good poetry, we can spread the word that good poetry lives in haiku as well.

Amarjit Tiwana learned of the haiku form in Punjabi through Parminder Sodhi who, living in Japan, made a book of translations entitled Japani Haiku Shairi. He was introduced to this book by his mentor Angelee Deodhar in 2003. Since then Amarjit has taken the promotion of haiku as his life work.

In his online project, Haiku Punjabi, he introduces contemporary and classic haiku to speakers of Punjabi daily. There are 3 editors and over 40 contributors. The audience for haiku is large. There are 120 million Punjabi speakers, 80 million in Pakistan, 20-25 million in India and the rest spread around the world. In Canada there is a concentration in Toronto and Vancouver and there are 8 Punjabi Members of Parliament.

In print, his book Nimakh, released in India in 2008 has received attention for haiku. He sent the book to 500 authors, critics, university professors and poets and it is being widely read. Nimakh is from the Sanskrit word which means the time it takes to blink an eye. It is a collection of haiku by him which translates to Moment.

He is working on a new book, translation of Basho and Issa and contemporary poets to make a collection of 135 haiku for school children. He plans to place a copy in each of 5000 Punjab schools and distribute them for free to introduce children to these classics.

H09 asked about the difficulty of translating. In Punjabi the syllables are not counted the same way. Each letter is a sound unit but “this is the way of intercultural translation. Something is kept, something is left, something is added.”

Angelee Deodhar has been bringing haiku to India through translation.

Angelee's talk
During the conference she gave a talk on love haiku.

H09 asked: How long have you been involved with haiku? This is a summary of her reply.

I have writing haiku for over 20 years now. Although the British school system is in English and all the classic western writers are covered, eastern writing is not.

An ophthalmologist by training, she became ill in 1989 and while ill, she came across a magazine which had haiku in it. She inquired at the Japanese embassy for information on the kind of poetry. They in turn send her a photocopy of an article which had on it contact information for Bill Higginson. She then wrote a letter to him asking for more information. In reply he sent her a copy of the Haiku Handbook inscribed with “in answer to your question.” he refused payment for the book and they continued correspondence as he mentored her by lettermail and by phone. She finally met Bill Higginson and Penny Harter in 2001 at the HNA in Boston and in 2003 in NYC.

Angelee Angelee Deodhar’s translations of particular haiku and of the form is spreading the word in Hindi. Below is the book which she edited. 89 are poems written in Hindi and translated to English and 16 are translated to Hindi.

Indian Haiku ed by Angelee Deodhar

Indian Haiku ed by Angelee Deodhar

H09 asked: Who is your favorite haiku poet?

I’m drawn to Shiki‘s technique of write as you see it and feel it.

H09 asked: Do you have any new projects coming up?

David Lanoue and I have just collaborated on Distant Mountains: 160 poems by Issa. It’s a bilingual edition. We started with 500 poems and narrowed it down to 160, arranged by the 4 seasons and New Years.

Jim giving a talk
Jim Kacian gave a talk onThe Haiku Foundation‘s future. For long term plans there’s ideas of scholarly retreats, residencies, artist colonies, scholarly journals, a digital archive of history of English haiku, a hall of fame, and a haiku museum. He said someone pshawed that last ideas with, “I never heard of a museum for the sonnet. Good. We’ll be the first. Dream large and we’ll get there. Dream small and we’ll get there.”

On the ginko walk past Parliament and the changing of the guard he was impressed by the amount of rah-rah-rah that Canadians got for the country. It was like American patriotism. And it struck him that nationalism is a belief. There is no Canada. There’s land and there’s people. There’s no U.S. There’s land and some people. But look at the amount of energy we can push towards this belief. Haiku, he said is more than a poetry form. it is a belief.

There was a round table discussion of places to host retreats and discussion over the interactions the Foundation would have with Haiku North America and American Haiku Archives which are housed at the California State Library in Sacramento, California.

The American Haiku Archives has been going 13 years now. Around 70 people attended its inauguration. The foundation of the collection was made by a donation of the collection and papers of Elizabeth Searle Lamb, a foremother of haiku in North America.

The archive seeks to preserve not only haiku but the people and culture of haiku collecting biographical ephemera of haiku poets, including photos and correspondances.

Michael Dylan Welch gave an introduction to its history and use for anyone who wants to come and use the collected resources. Each item is treated by archivists to keep for centuries, treated so that the binding, paper and fastening is stable. It costs $15-20 per item and there are thousands of broadsheets, chapbooks, ephemera and books in the collection.

There was an announcement that Stephen Addiss would become the Honorary Curator for 2009–2010 taking over from George Swede.

sharing memories of Bill
Just before the close of the conference, people gathered to share their memories of Bill Higginson and to read his words with our breath. It was cozy with the circle of people.

I couldn’t record verbatim each thing said but I hope to convey some of what was remembered reconstructed from notes. (I missed some people but add to the comments freely.)

John Stevenson and Michael Dylan Welch gave some overviews of his impact…

Higginson is on par with Harold Henderson or RH Blythe. He continued working his poems even though he had reached a level of being a father to the haiku community. The path he was on has since become a road and may soon become a highway and he was a part of that development.

Bill Higginson came to each HNA conference. He was the plenary speaker at the first one. His subject was addressing democracy in the haiku community. He was not content to preach to the choir but he evangelized for haiku. His reach was far. He wrote Wind in the Long Grass, a book on haiku for children and with Penny did Haiku Handbook among others. Penny mentioned that the publisher will put out a 25th anniversary edition of the handbook.

George Swede said that he was a larger than life figure and there might be more than one reason for that. For a time they both were in Japan and where ever Higginson went, he was greeted with Higginson-san and wherever Swede went he too was greeted Higginson-san. [They do bear passing resemblance.]

Margaret Chula said the foreward that Higginson made for her tanka book, Always Filling, Always Full demonstrated the kind of man he was in two ways. First, that it was written over Thanksgiving. What committment. And second in it he states he was re-reading an 8th century Japanese book. What scholarship!

Jerome Cushman remembered when Higginson was asked to judge a deaf student’s haiku contest. The previous judge wrote off all the submissions as undistinguished whereas in Higginson’s typical manner, Bill took the time to carefully read all and declared a winner in Sam Seppa’s poem

hide and seek
in the cornfield
first kiss

Nick Avis also spoke of the personable way Higginson had of seeing individuals and being present with who he was present with. His poem to Bill

his eyes
the way they held me
in the moment

Paul MacNeil was stuck by how, although he is a man younger in haiku than Higginson, he was given the respect of a colleague.

IMG_9648 Gary Hotham goes way back with Bill. When Gary was young he put an ad out in the New York classifieds to start a poetry journal. He got a response from Bill asking, do you know what you’re getting yourself in for?

Charlie Charlie brought forward how Bill was in the habit of answering quickly and thoroughly. He stayed accessible and was happy to dialogue. Even now when he writes, Bill is internalized and he asks himself what Bill would think of a particular piece.

Micheline Beaudry shared a response Bill gave when he spoke to her group in Quebec City on whether haiku can be freestyle or should be constrained by rules. He said that any writer or group of writers may do anything. The issue is what’s the relationship between what they do it and what they call it. Is it a name that other people use for something else. Linked poetry takes a lifetime to do well. It keeps me alive to learn more. Although sometimes I wish people would learn more before they leap in we should encourage strengths rather than carp on failures.

David Burleigh related an ancecdote of when Bill visited him and repossessed a copy of the Haiku handbook. (Ask him to tell it if you get a chance.) He also shared a haiku about Bill written by a Romanian writer recently.

Lenard Moore is another person who has known Bill for years. In memory of him, this haiku was shared

night rain
the poet’s last email
still in my inbox

Dina Cox pointed out the striking level of being seen and feeling that what you say is important and heard. After her presentation he took the time to speak to her and looked her in the eye and shook her hand with a real handshake. Faye Aoyagi also mentioned that habit of his, for crisp attention and listening. {That nature of being a gentleman and genteel struck me as well.]

sharing memories of Bill Anita Krumins mentioned that although Bill could be stern and intransient, and Penny moderated that, he also was one of the most protective husbands she’s ever seen and told a story of Penny being dressed in a kimono with a few assistants. You’ll have to ask her for that story. She told it well.

Garry Gary described how powerful of pair the two were, the Bill and Penny show and shared,

autumn rain
the lamplight falls
on his sajiki

Kris moon kondo spoke of how Bill had a masterful but quiet presence. Once when they missed a flight, Bill got them on the next flight without a wait and with an upgrade to first class. It was characteristic of how he conducted himself with a belief that good will happen and the universe will open and it did.

Terry Ann Carter related a story of performing with Bill, Penny and John Stevenson, where there were dancers responding to spontaneously generated renku and how much at ease she was put and how at ease he was.

Naia spoke of how she felt she had missed the chance to really get to know Bill when she met him but is glad for this evening when she gets a chance to understand better who she met briefly one conference.

Patricia Donegan who knew Bill and Al Ginsberg related the haiku Bill wrote for Al.

Alan sick
no, gone
but still apricots bloom

Angelee Deodhar related how when she was in India in the days before email and internet, she came across this poetry form and write to Bill for instruction on what it was all about. In his habit of generosity and long reply, he answered not only with a letter this time but with 3 books.

Penny replied that Bill was generous because he knew he could answer and because he received so much by giving.

A few people mentioned how Bill gave a respect to each poem and poet. When asked to judge a contest he would not skim the entries but give consideration to each, set each aside and look again at another time of day to weigh it. He was impatient with sloppy logic and sloppy writing but eager to uphold a person as being worthy of being nurtured.

DeVar Dahl said what impressed him about both Penny and Bill was how they stayed involved in the community and in learning. Some speakers to conferences fly in, do their bit and leave whereas the couple came and didn’t even have presentations to make and attended as much as they could. Claudia Coutu Radmore added that the same had struck her. The small Kado group invited Bill and Penny to come and they not only came to a summer picnic reading but did a bookstore reading and added their haiku as anyone else to the broadsheet not expecting special treatment.

Someone read one of Bill’s haiku

restless pigeon
gentle words from clerk
bring tears

Guy Simser relayed the poem for Bill of

the clock
chimes and chimes and stops
but the river

Penny read a new poem to his memory, and the last haibun that Bill composed hours before he passed as well as told of her dream and her tribute haibun to Bill in which she feels Bill urged her — and would want us all– to bloom, bloom.

If you have made a public album or blog post about this HNA, let me know and I can gather the links here as well. There was an article at the Xpress by Adam Volk and one at the Ottawa Citizen by Katie Daubs.

If you would like to add links to your photos for others to enjoy (such as from flickr), or a summary of what impressed you, join in.

There were 3 parallel streams of talks to attend as well as times not in session so you may have seen what I didn’t.

If you presented, and would like to make your notes available, please leave a comment and these can be added here as well.

Upcoming are… Nick Avis’ talk, Interviews with Amarjit Sathi and Angelee Deodhar, a summary of the tribute to Bill Higginson, an introduction to the Haiku Foundation and the Haiku Archives, and maybe even some notes on John Brandi’s talk.

Two tireless organizers Terry Ann and Guy during conference and the other tireless organizer Claudia while at the plenary supper.

Pat Donegan, Angelee Doedhar, John Stevenson, Maggie Chula, Penny Harter

IMG_0811John Brandi and Dennis Maloney

courtesy of Margaret Chula
John Brandi and (some of) his harem. He wowed the room with his inspiring plenary address.

Watching photo ops