Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Toward Haiku

I went to "Purdyfest," a newish literary festival held in the Belleville/Trenton area, home to the late Al Purdy and a movement to protect his heritage. This year began early, on the Thursday, with what was billed as a "haiku" day. I wasn't quite sure what to expect (except that mention was made that the attendees would be invited to take part in a linked group writing.)

Now I find that to be receptive and expressive to haiku I need to have a certain mind-set. No, that's not quite right. I need to open my spirit to a special way of experiencing the world, one that is available to me only if I try. I did so and found that the haiku sensibility stayed with me the whole weekend, not just that day.

The afternoon, after we got to know each other, had two experienced writers from the Ottawa area explain different forms of Japanese verse and their practice in modern English. One then explained 'renga' or the linked verses, using a recent collaboration of her own as example. When she was satisfied we had some idea of what we were doing, she led us in the creation of a renga, or at least as much as we had time for that afternoon/evening.

The renga begins with a hokku; she wanted three short lines about the 'place' we were at; mine was chosen. It then continued, three lines alternating with two, each participant writing and submitting for each verse with the renga master choosing which one would best fit the (changing) rules and qualities as she presented them. We only finished ten verses, with all the choices and explanations that needed to be made.

The next day saw unofficial continuations of the discussion as well as the launch of three collections of poetry in the haiku/tanka tradition.

The wonderful thing for me was that that spirit, that way of seeing and experiencing the world through haiku moments, did not diminish. I came away with more than thirty rough haiku, awaiting careful construction.
Because they are not finished to my satisfaction I will not present any here, with this exception. This is the 'hokku' or beginning verse that headed the renga:
tall trees, tall grass
a river
runs through it

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