Welcome to Haiku Canada

Haiku Canada's 25th Anniversary Celebration, Toronto, May 2002

Report by Philomene Kocher

Glendon College was a beautiful setting for this special anniversary meeting. Out of the third floor window of the meeting room, one could view the tops of trees rooted in the ravine, seagulls sweeping over the treetops and, on Sunday morning, a brief squall of snow. Flowers, pine cones and polished river stones graced the room.

Nick Avis opened the event by welcoming all participants, and inviting them to introduce themselves by name, hometown, and a haiku. Participants travelled from as far away as Alberta, British Columbia and Newfoundland, as well as Virginia and Japan.

The unveiling of the Haiku Canada Anthology, historically a highlight of Friday evening, followed the introductions. "beyond spring rain" showcases the work of 105 Haiku Canada members, the largest collection to date. LeRoy Gorman, the Editor, was thanked for his dedication to this project over many years.

Terry Ann Carter and Claudia Rosemary Coutu delighted a very appreciative audience with their performance piece "white on white: a tribute to basho". Claudias haiku from her chapbook "narcissus unfolding" were shared, along with their interpretation in music by Terry Ann and through brush painting by Claudia. Try to imagine the magic of brush paintings appearing at the same time that the music of flute, drum, Tibetan singing bowls, xylophone, and other percussion instruments is woven with the music of the spoken word. One member of the audience noted that the performance transported one to "that other place" that includes language, but is beyond language. This was an astonishingly beautiful synthesis of talents.

A renga led by Marshall Hryciuk drew links by novice and veteran poets alike amidst an atmosphere of congeniality and, at times, hilarity. The renga continued well into the evening and will no doubt appear in a Haiku Canada broadsheet.

Saturday morning included an Anonymous Workshop led by Nick Avis and Bruce Ross. These workshops have proven to be a very popular part of the weekend events, and Saturday's was no exception. The haiku presented at the workshop are praised and critiqued. Through this process, the craft of haiku in its ephemeral and nuanced nature is illuminated. This crafting defies being captured in words, but walks away from the workshop in the minds and hearts of participants.

The annual general meeting celebrated the newly approved Haiku Canada Constitution, the newly appointed Executive and Regional Coordinators, and the dedication to Haiku Canada by members past and present. For details, see the minutes of the meeting.

Nick Avis coordinated the meeting's agenda to include recognition of many long-standing members who were there at the inaugural meeting, and subsequently attended the Festival of Falling Leaves gatherings at Betty Drevniok's home in Combermere. Nick's thoughtful introduction of readers and presenters included considerable information and reflection.

Saturday afternoon's offering included several readings and discussions. As a tribute to artist, poet and cherished friend Ruby Spriggs who died last summer, Ann Goldring gave a heartfelt reading of some of Ruby's work - haiku, tanka, and a few links from renku. Small cards with Ruby's delightful drawings decorated the meeting room. Dorothy Howard (a former President of Haiku Canada and current editor of RAW NerVZ) gave a reading - part of it including assistance from Claudia Coutu and Marshall Hryciuk for a spirited rendition of a haiku collection called "HAIKÜS de femmes canadiennes et québécoises". As Archivist, Dorothy brought many publications and materials for review, including photo albums chronicling Haiku Canada meetings.

George Swede gave a reading of haibun filled with gentleness and humour. He described his experiences in Mexico with the language, dust, ants, and bullfighting. Marco Fraticelli shared his observations on the contribution "a wordless poem" by Eric Amann (a founding member) has made to haiku in North America. One of Marco's contributions to Haiku Canada has been many years as the former Membership Secretary. Jim Kacian gave a fascinating talk on the nature of organizations and the development from their early years to their formalization. This was particularly interesting as Haiku Canada has been developing over the past 25 years from a small informal group to a larger membership now formalized with an Executive and a new Constitution.

Marco Fraticelli presented two new titles in his Hexagram series- collections of work by Sandra Fuhringer (The Tree It Was) and Dee Evetts (Home After Dark). Sandra (a former President of Haiku Canada) read from her collection. She commented that it can be a challenge sometimes to go back and claim one's early work- when perspective and crafting have changed slowly but dramatically over the years.

Time for a ginko walk provided participants an opportunity to explore the lovely grounds of Glendon, and to write haiku for submission to the Ginko Awards. An excellent banquet was provided by Glendon staff.

The evening portion of the meeting was given over to more readings. Jim Kacian shared haibun about his experiences on a trip to Japan, reflecting a keen eye and pen. Emiko Miyashita, visiting from Japan, shared her reading from her orange journal- and provided observations not only on her work, but also on haiku in Japan. Emiko's joy in haiku shone through her work and her asides. She also gifted the group with "happy bags" crafted by her mother from old kimonos.

The Open Reading is a celebration of voices - the writing voice marries the speaking voice. All participants who were not providing a formal reading were invited to share around 10 of their haiku. With attendance close to 40 this year, the Open Reading was quite amazing.

The evening concluded once again with a renga led by Marshall Hryciuk - this time a diamond renga with haiku needing to work both vertically and horizontally. This innovative renga challenged and delighted participants.

The magic of the Anonymous Workshop was repeated on Sunday morning as Nick Avis shared the stage with Emiko Miyashita. Emiko often referred to her experience of haiku in Japan when providing her feedback on the haiku. Both Nick and Emiko encouraged poets to play with their haiku (read it out loud - does it work? rearrange the lines - does it work?) until the gem of whatever drew the poet to the moment was polished.

The Betty Drevniok Awards were presented next. George Swede, this year's judge, provided comments and congratulated all winners and honourable mentions. Haiku by those present were read aloud and the broadsheet presented to all.

Dorothy Howard gave tribute to Betty Drevniok by reading from an early article by Betty on punctuation in haiku. Those present will probably always remember Dorothy's lively demonstration of punctuation through hand motions. Betty was a founding member of Haiku Canada - providing a home for the early meetings and encouragement to many.

The contest for the Ginko Awards was judged by Nick Avis, and winners were presented with gifts. These included: Bruce Ross (first), Emiko Miyashita (second), and Karen Sohne (third).

Readings by Nick Avis and Marshall Hryciuk followed. Both have served as President (Nick since 1998, and Marshall 1990-1998), and have been ambassadors of Haiku Canada at conferences and gatherings in North America and abroad.

In addition to writing her own haiku, Emiko Miyashita has been translating the work of current Japanese masters into English. She shared the work of Akito Arima (from "Einsteins Century"), Masajo Suzuki (from "Love Haiku"), and Yoshiko Yoshino (from Tsuru). Again, she offered observations on Japanese history and culture woven throughout her presentation. The reading from "Tsuru" was shared with Phil Kocher reading in English and Emiko reading in Japanese.

Following lunch, Terry Ann Carter presented the broadsheet of kado ottawa , the Ottawa haiku poets group now almost 30 strong in membership. kado ottawa members present read their own haiku.

Nick Avis paid tribute to Rod Willmott, an early member of Haiku Canada and a strong influence on English language haiku in the 70s and 80s. Nick read from Rod's published work and his anthology of erotic haiku. Nick also mentioned the work of Claire Pratt, whose chapbook was one of the first haiku books published in Canada.

The "meet the editors" discussion with Marco Fraticelli, LeRoy Gorman, Dorothy Howard and Jim Kacian proved enlightening for participants curious with the question "what do editors want?" Several editors commented that short submissions of around five haiku are more likely to be read than manuscripts. When time and energy permit, most editors try to provide some feedback. And, yes, personal preference does influence choice. For LeRoy (Haiku Canada Newsletter) and Jim (FROGPOND), this is complicated by volume of submissions and their desire to represent a variety of haiku and as many members as possible.

Readings followed by LeRoy Gorman and Marco Fraticelli. LeRoy has been influential as Publications Editor (newsletter and anthology) for Haiku Canada as well as for his innovative concrete haiku. Marco was recognized for his superb Hexagram series highlighting the work of established haiku poets.

In his introduction to the final presentation, Nick Avis acknowledged the dedication of Marianne Bluger who, in 1997, took on the task of writing a constitution for Haiku Canada. Her pioneering brought the constitution from an idea into reality in 1998. Muriel Ford also worked with diligence to help bring this vision into the reality of a more formal organization with selection and election of officers. Nick provided amendments to the text, and this year the Constitution has been approved by membership vote.

George Swede's "peregrinations" chronicled the journey of Haiku Canada from 1977 to 2002. George attended the inaugural meeting of Haiku Canada and was well prepared to share glimpses of the early years. He shared bits from the first newsletters, reminiscences of the gatherings at Betty's home, memories of verbal clashes as differing views of haiku met, and the evolution of haiku over the years in Canada.

The Haiku Canada 25th anniversary celebration was an enriching and inspiring event! Thank you Nick Avis and Ann Goldring and presenters and participants.


Philomene Kocher