Haiku Festival Aotearoa 2012

hfa2012Sitting at front (from left): Margaret Beverland, Deryn Pittar, Cathie Bullock, Barbara Strang, Nola Gazzard and Kristin Herman.
First standing row: Beverley George (in purple), Cynthia Rowe, Karen Peterson Butterworth, Laurice Gilbert, Benita Kape, Lynn Tara Austin, Elaine Riddell, Pat Prime, Sue Courtney, Shirley May, Anne Hollier-Ruddy and Owen Bullock.
Back row: Maureen Gorman, Raewyn Blair (with handbag), Jim Kacian, Dy Andreason, Jenny Fraser (obscured), Kirsten Cliff, Richard Roberts, Kieran O’Connor, Nola Borrell, Vanessa Proctor, Moira Cursey, Catherine Mair (really obscured), Arthur Amon, Janet Keen, Dave Robertson, and Andre Surridge.

Note: Sorry if you can’t work out who’s who, just getting this many haiku poets in one place at one time – and all looking the same way (ie, stop talking) – was something like herding cats. Getting them to stand in regular lines … ha!

Third Haiku Festival Aotearoa
Tauranga, June 15-17, 2012

Words & pictures: Sandra Simpson

Margaret Beverland and Sandra Simpson organised the third New Zealand haiku gathering – the first to feature a tutor from overseas.

In fact, the festival ended up with two overseas tutors as Beverley George (Australia, editor of Eucalypt tanka journal), who had been at the 2008 HFA and was the first delegate to register for Tauranga, offered to step in and take a workshop on tanka when a Kiwi tutor was forced to withdraw.

Jim Kacian (US) was the “headline act”, taking two master classes, one on haiku and one on haibun. Jim, a poet, publisher, editor and founder of The Haiku Foundation, used his visit to begin filming segments for the new THF video archive.

Sandra welcomed delegates on Friday night, thanking the funders without whom the event could not have taken place – Legacy Trust (Tauranga), Tauranga Rotary and Creative Communities (Western Bay of Plenty District and Tauranga City), as well as Windrift and Small White Teapot groups who both made cash donations to the festival.

She then invited Jim to say a few words to set us on our way – the generosity that was evident throughout the entire weekend kicked in when he was asked to add to that and talk about America’s haiku community. His comments were interesting, thoughtful and, for a small haiku community such as ours, encouraging.

Although Vanessa Proctor had attended the 2005 HFA and Beverley the 2008, this was the first time we’d had more than one Australian present and Tauranga was delighted to welcome five delegates from across the ditch, including Cynthia Rowe, president of HaikuOz.


Clockwise from front left: Moira Cursey (Hamilton), Mariko Marceau (Auckland), Margaret Beverland (Katikati), Cynthia Rowe (Australia) and Vanessa Proctor (Australia).


Clockwise from front left: Nola Gazzard (Christchurch), Nola Borrell (Lower Hutt), Andre Surridge, Elaine Riddell, Jenny Fraser and Richard Roberts (all Hamilton).

Organisers were also pleased to have Laurice Gilbert, president and national co-ordinator of the New Zealand Poetry Society, attend. Cynthia, Laurice and Beverley joined Jim for an informal panel on Sunday that that took questions from the floor on all haiku-related topics.

There were many familiar faces among the delegates, but there were also plenty of new faces, a heartening sign for the future of haiku in New Zealand. Two last-minute enrolments came courtesy of having heard Jim being interviewed by Lynn Freeman as part of the Arts on Sunday radio programme (National Radio).

Margaret and Sandra had prepared delegate packs that as well as containing name tags, pens and programmes also included bookmarks and/or postcards brought back by them from Japan, notepads courtesy of Kale Print, coasters (for the thinking and drinking of hot beverages that comes with being a poet) and hand-made soaps from MyAura, the business of a local medical herbalist. Flowers in the conference room at the Greerton Motor Inn were by Mary Parkinson, who has created a butterfly garden and outdoor orchid plantings at Te Puna Quarry Park, who once worked as a floral artist for the Savoy Hotel in London.

Haiku Master Class with Jim Kacian

Saturday morning was all business as the first master class took place, introducing many of us to the concept of ba, the cultural associations which envelope each of us and which we bring to writing our haiku.

“It is not just about right here, right now but about your whole culture and experience, and haiku does this better than anything else,” Jim said.

There are three major components to any haiku, according to Jim:

Form: The most commonly recognised form in the “wider world” is 5-7-5 and/or 3 lines
Content: Cherry blossoms, autumn moon, etc
Style: The most difficult component to define.

Jim pointed to the difference between “What is the moment?” and “What do I want to say?”, adding that the relationships between two images within a haiku is another way of “entering the specifics of the moment”.

He also discussed the notion of haiku as “fast-food for the literati”. He is not against the idea of sci-fi-ku, pysch-ku and so on, believing that if people with skills get involved it could help spread the truth about haiku.

“Haiku is capable of being great literature,” he said, thanking Basho for elevating the hokku (later haiku) from jokiness and a sort-of party game (renku) to a poem in its own right.

“There is no one way to write haiku … you have to ask yourself what kind of haiku is it? The first idea of form is processed and some decisions are made, such as not to write 5-7-5.

“Find what poems work in your ba … but ‘I’ have to get out of the way so the poem can reveal itself. For many the best poems they write are before they know what haiku is – you have to get past the notion of ba and be fresh again.

“It’s about the freedom of having it at your disposal – your style is your style.”


Although Lawrence Marceau (left) and Jim Kacian had never met before, they had grown up within a few miles of each other in the US state of Massachusetts.

Jim argued that haiku are not nature poems, rather they are poems interested in the human reaction to nature – and he pointed out that in 16th century Japan people were very interested in being able to control nature’s wild extremes, including tsunami, earthquakes, storms, landslides and so on.

“It’s really hard to capture nature in the raw,” Jim said. “And a lot of classical Japanese haiku are pretty pictures of beauty and serenity, which is another way of controlling the destructive elements. But that doesn’t really apply to us – this is a different country and a different century. What’s important in your life will matter more than pretty pictures from the 16th century Japanese ethos.

“We need to write to our own culture. There is a preponderance of work produced that is not addressed to our own culture, whatever that may be.”

He is a champion of the form that best suits the poem. This may be anything from a single line to four lines or something that might be described as “organic”.

“It’s my job as the author to find the best form for the best content.”

Jim noted that three-line translations did not start appearing until the early 1900s, before that haiku had been translated from a single, vertical line in Japanese to a single, horizontal line in English.

He characterised one-line haiku as “one line, one thought” but then offered the alternatives of “speedrush” – the rushing of image past the imagination where the sense catches up at the end; and “multi-stop” – which offer multiple readings by changing the place where the cut falls.

Jim demonstrated multi-stops by reading from his book of single-line haiku, where I leave off (published in English with Dutch translations in 2010), offering some four variations of this poem:

no answer when I call you autumn eve

– Jim Kacian

“All the poems that we remember are the ones that break the rules in interesting ways,” he said. “Haiku can contain universes.”


The first workshop option saw four people follow Owen Bullock upstairs to a meeting room to learn and practice techniques for performing haiku. Owen’s knowledge of theatre and folk music was invaluable and each participant received one-on-one tuition. His best piece of advice … slow down when reading. When you’re going as slowly as you think you can, slow it a little bit more!

Downstairs in the main room Lawrence Marceau, senior lecturer in Japanese at the University of Auckland, was sharing his knowledge of the haibun of Yokoi Yayū (1702-83). Lawrence had returned from a six-month stint at Kyoto University as a Visiting International Scholar in the Department of Japanese Language & Literature just three days before the conference began.

He later confessed that, despite his field of study, he had never written a haibun before so enjoyed trying the form himself during the writing exercise.

Visit to the Katikati Haiku Pathway

The weather gods could not have been kinder – winter sunshine and blue skies – for our bus trip to the pathway, where the group was welcomed by Catherine Mair, founder of the project and chairwoman of the pathway committee.

Jim Kacian describes the pathway as “the most important physical site for English-language haiku in the world” … and that’s not just because he has two poems on the pathway! Margaret Beverland and Vanessa Proctor also joined the pathway family in 2010 and Vanessa had her boulder poem, representing all the new poems, blessed in the pouring rain by a kaumatua (Maori elder) as part of the birthday celebrations (read about that event).


Jim Kacian alongside his newest poem boulder.

a breeze & my mind on to other things

– Jim Kacian


Catherine Mair (left) talks to Karen Peterson Butterworth.


From left, Anne Hollier-Ruddy (Orewa), Shirley May (Tauranga), and Lawrence and Mariko Marceau (Auckland). Photo: Nola Borrell

In all, 30 people made the trip out from Tauranga and set off to explore the 40 poems. And although some managed to get “lost” in a snug bar at the local pub for a little while, everyone was back on the bus at departure time, a good number with haiku created while on the walk.


Pub Group 1 (clockwise from left front): Maureen Gorman (US), Pat Prime (Auckland), Beverley George (Australia), Arthur Amon (Auckland), Catherine Mair and Jim Kacian.


Pub Group 2 (clockwise from left front): Cynthia Rowe (Australia), Vanessa Proctor (Australia), Laurice Gilbert (Wellington) and Dy Andreason (Australia).

Saturday Evening

Presentation of prizes in the 2012 Katikati Haiku Contest drew a good crowd – young prizewinners and their families, several teachers and one principal. Jim said a few words to the youngsters present, noting that in 2000 he had travelled around the world twice thanks to haiku, encouraging them to stick with what they loved, that it would bring them all sorts of opportunities and joys.

Read the list of 2012 prizewinners, their poems and judges’ comments.


Junior prizewinners, from left, Harry Frentz (2nd), Ruby Robertson (3rd) and teacher Vicki Knell, collecting 1st prize for Callum Reed.

The floor was then turned over to an open mike session (without the mike!) and it was great to see so many people gathering their courage and presenting a poem or three. Lawrence offered two haiku by Takebe Ayatari (1719-1774), who has a poem on the pathway, reading them first in Japanese and then English.

Delegates were also offered a chance to talk about Cyril Childs (NZ) and Jan Bostok (Australia), both of whom have passed away since we last gathered, and some nice memories were shared. The passing of John Knight (Australia) was also noted.

The book sales table attracted a lot of interest during the course of the festival but was a hive of browsers and buyers on Saturday evening.

Sunday Workshops

Sandra Simpson’s workshop on the junicho form of renku was in the small meeting room – she had chosen the hokku (head verse) before the workshop so participants were off to a flying start. The group had great fun and despite most being worried about the tangle of rules in renku, the first verses were safely navigated. The group intended to finish their 12-verse poem online.

In the main room Beverley George shared her expertise on tanka and had participants working hard as they sought to improve their knowledge of the form. Beverley had also generously brought with her a copy of the Australian tanka anthology, Grevillea and Wonga Vine, for each workshop participant. A beautiful souvenir of the event.

Haibun Master Class with Jim Kacian

Haibun are one of the most difficult things in the world to write, according to Jim Kacian, as they require you to master three distinct skills:

  • Good prose
  • Really good haiku
  • Matching the prose and haiku in a way that seems inevitable … but not obvious.

“You don’t continue the content of the prose into the haiku,” he said, “but it’s not discontinuous either. I believe the prose and haiku should tangentially glance against one another.”

He also noted that haibun may be many things, not just prose, including a prose poem, a quotation only, a title only. Where does the prose come? First, last or in the middle? Many variations are possible.

Jim had a hand-out booklet for each participant and, under strict instructions to not turn to the second page, we opened them.

The first page offered only the haiku of a haibun and Jim invited us to discuss what we thought the prose might be that would fit the haiku. Later, we had the prose only and were invited to write a haiku to fit.

The booklet also included a haibun that was a title, in this case a date, and a haiku, as well as a haibun written by two people. The discussions and exercises surrounding the examples were challenging and inspiring.

Jim has written about the haibun workshop in Contemporary Haibun Online (July 2012), featuring a “collaborative haibun” that was written during the class – the prose by Elaine Riddell in response to a haiku (from her own haibun) by Cynthia Rowe.


Enjoying Sunday lunch together are Kieran O’Connor (Australia) and Benita Kape (Gisborne).

Panel Discussion

The panel comprised Jim Kacian (founder of The Haiku Foundation, owner of Red Moon Press and managing editor of the RMP annual anthologies, former editor of Frogpond), Laurice Gilbert (president and national co-ordinator of the New Zealand Poetry Society), Cynthia Rowe (president of HaikuOz, haiku editor of Free XpresSion) and Beverley George (past-president of HaikuOz, organiser of the 4th Haiku Pacific Rim conference and editor of Eucalypt tanka journal).

Also in the audience were Pat Prime and Margaret Beverland, co-editors of Kokako, Sandra Simpson, editor of Haiku NewZ, Nola Borrell and Karen Peterson Butterworth, organisers of the inaugural HFA and editors of the taste of nashi, the third NZ haiku anthology, and Barbara Strang and Nola Gazzard, part of the group that organised the last HFA.

Topics were wide-ranging – including relationships between haiku groups in Australia and New Zealand, the haiku scene in Australia, the benefits of NZPS membership, Haiku NewZ and its role for the haiku community in New Zealand (and Australia), the Haiku North America conference in 2013 (on board the Queen Mary at Long Beach, California) and the role of editors.


HFA2012 organisers Sandra Simpson (left) and Margaret Beverland. Photo: Andre Surridge

Margaret and Sandra gave their thanks – to those attending, to the event’s funders and to the organisers of the festivals that had gone before. At the inaugural event in Wellington in 2005, Judith Walsh of Christchurch was excited enough by the gathering to suggest at the final session that her city may host the next one … and so it came to pass. Four Western Bay of Plenty poets attended that event in 2008 and the idea was planted that a festival could be held in the Tauranga area. Sandra and Margaret have brought that to fruition and commented that with any luck someone in the room could see that it wasn’t a difficult task and that the seed had been planted for the next Haiku Festival Aotearoa.

See you there!

Funding for HFA 2012 was provided by: The Legacy Trust, Rotary Club of Tauranga and Creative Communities (Tauranga City and Western Bay of Plenty District). Seed funding was provided by the Windrift (Wellington) and Small White Teapot (Christchurch) haiku groups.