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Hannah enjoying poetry workshop

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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday - Our Earth Day Haiku Weekend Recap!

April 27, 2017

Tags: Poetry Friday, Poetry Month, haiku, Epworth by the Sea, Earth Day, nature, David G. Lanoue, Tom Painting, Stanford M. Forrester, HSA, Haiku Society of America, HSA SE

“HONORING THE EARTH” – that was the theme of our Haiku Society of America Southeast Region’s meeting and workshop last weekend, over Earth Day. Eighteen of us from eight states gathered under the Spanish moss and ocean breezes at Epworth by the Sea, a Methodist conference center in St. Simons Island, Georgia. Epworth is home to natural beauty and a staff beyond compare.

Not sure how we managed it, but the weather was perfect. As regional coordinator and facilitator of this shind-dig, I was thrilled that even things out of my control went pretty smoothly, including travel Friday from New Orleans for speaker David G. Lanoue - poet, professor, Issa scholar, past president of the Haiku society of America, and author of several books You’ve met him here, when I recapped a terrific meeting put on by my predecessor, Terri L. French. Be sure to check out David’s multi-layered Haiku Guy website, where, like our lovely Linda Baie, you can learn how to sign up for Daily Issa poems!

Friday evening we got acquainted over dinner and later enjoyed readings by the “Coquina Circle,” a handful of haiku enthusiasts in the northern Florida/southern Georgia area. Paula Moore had a few poems by each member printed up on a gorgeous broadside and gave one to each attendee. (Thank you, Paula!)

I shared Robert Epstein’s new animal rights haiku books , and just before wrapping up, our other two speakers appeared at the door – Tom Painting and Stanford M. Forrester. Both are award-winning haiku poets; Tom and his students have been “regulars” here, and you might recall a brief blog wave to Stanford, a past president of the Haiku Society of America and founder and publisher of bottle rockets press.

The two travelers had driven from Atlanta, after Stanford’s flight from Connecticut was delayed. Stanford was not too weary to share his latest work – a wonderful, hand-printed, hand-bound mini chapbook titled “matcha.”

On Saturday, we added a commuting attendee to our ranks – our own Michelle Heidenrich Barnes! I loved having another Poetry Friday-er in the room. Tom led a workshop about bird haiku, and facilitated a writing exercise that was rich and inspiring. Then we grabbed binoculars and followed him outside. The birds were beginning to quiet down for the middle of the day, but we still encountered several, including an osprey and her chick on their nest at the top of a pole. Over the course of the weekend, expert Tom filled a list of 34 species; he said some more would no doubt come in the day after we left, because of an approaching front. (Of course, Tom was up and out at the crack of dawn each morning, and dusk, too.)

After lunch we had a business meeting, and then the aforementioned lovely and talented Terri L. French led us in a 10-minute standing yoga break outside on the grass. Perfect for loosening up muscles and brain cells. (Thank you, Terri!)

David led an afternoon workshop in an ongoing series he’s developed called “Write Like Issa.” Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828), perhaps the most beloved of the haiku masters, expressed compassion for human and nonhuman animals through his poetry, and touches of humor, despite his personal history of loss and poverty. Children in Japan are well acquainted with his work. According to David, one trick to writing like Issa is to express emotion without using emotional words. (Perhaps not as easy as it first appears, eh?)

During an afternoon break, many of us took Tom up on his offer to lead another bird walk, and we were soon rewarded with observing some active blue-gray gnatcatchers flitting up in the trees, and a couple of gorgeous wood storks, striking in black and white, soaring overhead.

We also came upon a discovery that stopped us in our tracks. On the Epworth campus, in a peaceful setting looking across green space to the river, is a memorial plaque set along a walk in memory of Peggy Willis Lyles. Peggy was a very fine, highly regarded poet, and she had been active in a north Georgia haiku group among many other endeavors. I happened to get serious about haiku around the time she passed away. I remember feeling such a loss that I would never have the chance to meet her. A few folks last weekend had known Peggy, and it was a poignant moment to discover her and her work celebrated in such a way. The plaque is shown above; here are a few poems featured on it:

wind and rain
the hand I reach for
in the dark

I brush
my mother’s hair
the sparks

waves beat
against an ocean
full of stars

spring sunbeam
the baby’s toes
spread apart

the tai chi master
shifts his stance

into the afterlife red leaves

All poems by Peggy Willis Lyles, from a plaque in her memory at Epworth by the Sea, St. Simons Island, Georgia.

On Saturday evening we enjoyed some informal haiku sharing and folks finished up entries for a modified kukai (haiku contest). One of our attendees, Joette, is also a musician and played some beautiful Japanese songs for us. (Thank you, Joette!)

(A few of us might have gone out afterwards to a somewhat hidden local watering hole for more discussion and even some pool-playing....)

Sunday morning, Stanford presented a session on Santoka Taneda (1882-1940). Santoka’s life, like Issa’s, had been wrought with pain and heartache, and his haiku reflect Nature in a much harsher light than in Issa’s poetry. It was fascinating to look at this aspect of works from both men as we assembled on Earth Day decades, and centuries, later.

David led the last session, sharing from his new book, Issa and Being Human. Issa wrote about every class of people, David reminded us, with ability to see from each person’s perspective. (We could use some more of that these days.) Issa could see life from the perspective of even the “lowliest” animals, too.

Our last scheduled event before our farewell lunch was the announcement of the kukai winner. Dennis Holmes (a.k.a. Gobou) judged our contest – and took photographs all weekend. (Thank you, Dennis!) He didn’t know who penned each poem, but the winning haiku he chose was by one of my favorite haiku poets, and all-around great guy, Michael Henry Lee. (Congrats, Michael!!) He received a nice monetary prize donated by a generous member. I’m not including Michael’s poem here, in case he has designs on submitting it somewhere.

But I did ask Dennis for permission to share one of the haiku he posted with his photos. It’s the perfect way to end a post about a weekend which filled our minds and hearts with inspiration and camaraderie.

a tern
in the sunset...
Earth Day

©Dennis Holmes, aka, Gobou

(Thanks again, Dennis.) I’m deeply grateful to Tom, David, and Stanford for leading us, for all who helped behind the scenes, and to all who came - each talented, fun, kind person I’m honored to swim in the haiku soup with: Joette, Sandi, Terri, Raymond, Paula, Michael, Kent, Dennis, Shirley (from Oregon!), Robyn (like the way she spells her name...), Michelle - :0) - , David, Jane, Perry, and Toni (long-distance). Thanks as well to our current HSA president, Fay Aoyagi, who planned to attend but could not because of a family emergency. We missed you!

And now for this last Poetry Friday of National Poetry Day, enjoy all the great offerings rounded up by JoAnn today at Teaching Authors.


  1. April 27, 2017 10:44 PM EDT
    Thank you for this wrap up, Robyn. I wish I could have been there. The poems you posted are amazing. I'm always blown away by how much can be wrapped in such a small container. xo
    - Linda Kulp Trout
  2. April 27, 2017 11:21 PM EDT
    Hi, Linda - wish you could have joined us, too! We'll gather again in another year or two, I'm sure. There might be events closer to you (though I wonder if they'd be as fun... ;0) ) Thanks for coming by.
    - Robyn Black
  3. April 27, 2017 11:37 PM EDT
    That comment about expressing emotion without emotional words I think really captures the essence of haiku so effectively - effusive emotions are not a traditional aspect of Japanese culture (we quickly learned not to engage in too much PDA when we were there!), and over generations their poets mastered the ability to convey so much emotion with such elegance and simplicity.
    - Jane @ Raincity Librarian
  4. April 28, 2017 7:51 AM EDT
    Hi, Jane - thanks for joining the discussion. That aspect of haiku is a constant draw for me - such depth of feeling in so few words.
    - Robyn Black
  5. April 28, 2017 9:02 AM EDT
    Your weekend capture is filled with joy, Robyn. Thank you for taking us with you, virtually. How wonderful that Michelle was there too. You must have come away so very inspired. I like hearing that advice: "one trick to writing like Issa. . ." I do read those haiku from David, my daily lesson! Have another great weekend!
    - Linda Baie
  6. April 28, 2017 11:03 AM EDT
    Thank you for sharing so generously of your weekend. It sounds fabulous--filled with inspiration and words and nature. I wish I could have been there.
    - Kay Jernigan McGriff
  7. April 28, 2017 11:34 AM EDT
    This was one of the very best haiku meetings that I've ever attended. Thanks so much for making it possible, Robyn!
    - David G. Lanoue
  8. April 28, 2017 12:27 PM EDT
    Radical and copious thanks to you especially, Robyn, and all the poets that made the Earth Day GRAND!

    厚礼 (heartfelt thanks and deep bow)

    牛蒡 (gobou)
    - gobou
  9. April 28, 2017 1:49 PM EDT
    Such effervescent inspiration, like sugar to the system, I imagine. A great way to celebrate Earth Day. Those poems by Peggy Willis Lyles are brilliant. The sparks. Such sweetness. Thanks for sharing this, Robyn. I am sad I missed it.
    - Brenda at friendlyfairytales
  10. April 28, 2017 3:56 PM EDT
    Thanks for sharing about your weekend, Robyn. I loved reading Peggy's poems. Simply amazing what can be communicated in so few words.
    - Penny Parker Klostermann
  11. April 28, 2017 5:53 PM EDT
    What a fine recap of an exceptional weekend, Robyn! I'm so happy to have been there, even if it wasn't for the whole weekend. Such a lovely, welcoming bunch of haiku poets (why should I have expected any less? ...well, actually I didn't expect any less. :)), and inspiring? Oh my, was it ever! You did SUCH a fabulous job of organizing the whole weekend. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I came away from the day with so much more than I walked in with, and even so, I'm ready for more.
    - Michelle Heidenrich Barnes
  12. April 28, 2017 6:38 PM EDT
    What a fabulous weekend, Robyn. I love the dragon fly haiku - it made me smile.
    - Tara
  13. April 28, 2017 7:56 PM EDT
    That sounds like so much fun! Thanks for sharing it with us!
    - Ruth (
  14. April 28, 2017 8:38 PM EDT
    Sounds like a fantastic way to spend a few days - and inspirational, to boot!
    - Matt Forrest Esenwine
  15. April 28, 2017 10:15 PM EDT
    (Playing catch-up Friday Night!):

    Linda, I love that you love Issa too. :0) It was a weekend with inspiration AND joy, yes. Thanks for coming by.

    Hi, Kay - thanks for the kind words, and wish you could have joined in as well!

    David - that means the world to me, thanks. We certainly couldn't have done it without YOU - and your willingness to travel even though it's crunch-time in the academic year. Thank you so very much!

    Radical and copious thanks rightbackatcha, Dennis - You certainly helped make the weekend grand, and recorded it for us in pictures and poems, too. (Heartfelt thanks and deep bow back). Thank you.

    Hi, Brenda - if it was sugar, we were hummingbirds! Lapping it all up. Wish you could have been there, too. (And Peggy was such a brilliant poet, in more ways than one... I get a sense that her light shone brightly in all corners of life.)

    Glad you enjoyed, Penny - thank your for popping in.

    Michelle, thank you for making the trek to St. Simons! It was so wonderful having you with us on Saturday. More? Well, let's do more!

    Hi, Tara - fabulous it was. And I love that dragonfly poem, too!

    Ruth - we DID have a fun time, along with some heady thinking and creating as well. Thanks!

    Hey, Matt - it was a special time, and inspiration called from every branch. :0)
    - Robyn Black
  16. April 28, 2017 10:41 PM EDT
    I love the combination of bird walks and poems--that must have been an amazing weekend. Thanks for the introduction to Peggy Willis Lyles. I was inspired to search for more of her work and found a few of her poems online on The Haiku Foundation blog.
    - JoAnn Early Macken
  17. April 29, 2017 12:24 AM EDT
    JoAnn, thanks so much for hosting and rounding up today! Glad to introduce you to Peggy's work - I'm not a bit surprised it appeals to your sensibilities and love of the natural world. :0)
    - Robyn Black
  18. April 29, 2017 7:50 AM EDT
    Wow. What a wonderful wrap up. It sounds like your weekend fed (and rested) the creative soul, Robyn.
    - KatApel
  19. April 29, 2017 8:34 AM EDT
    Oh, thank you Robyn! I wanted a full report on the weekend and you did not disappoint. The weekend sounds inspirational and productive for poets. I've added this weekend to my official bucket list. I've never heard of Peggy but her haiku are poignant. My daughter brushes my hair while we talk....I hope I spark for her! Have great and restful week. You have a smashing success to reflect on.
    - Linda Mitchell
  20. April 29, 2017 11:45 AM EDT
    Sounds like a lovely weekend. Epworth is such a beautiful place. The perfect choice for haiku. I love that Michelle was able to join you.
    - Doraine Bennett
  21. April 29, 2017 9:30 PM EDT
    Hi, Kat - Oh, it defintely fed the creative soul; lovely way to put it. I think most others got some rest... ;0)

    Linda, thanks for circling back to read about it! That particular poem of Peggy's is one of my favorites. Here's hoping we can cross paths sometime, somewhere, one of these days!

    Hello, Doraine - I can just picture you out at Epworth walking the paths and soaking up the spirit and natural beauty all around. :0) It WAS a special treat having Michelle there, too.
    - Robyn Black
  22. May 1, 2017 5:00 AM EDT
    What an amazing and inspiring weekend! I would have loved going on those bird walks with you. Thank you for sharing with us, Robyn!
    - Catherine @ Reading to the Core
  23. May 1, 2017 10:59 PM EDT
    Hi, Catherine! Wish you could have joined us, too... thanks for coming by for the recap!
    - Robyn Black
  24. May 2, 2017 5:50 AM EDT
    I truly had a wonderful time with great poets, it will remain a highlight of the year. Thank You All
    - Michael Henry Lee
  25. May 2, 2017 11:30 AM EDT
    Wouldn't have been the same without you, MHL - thank you for coming, and for dropping by here, too!
    - Robyn Black
  26. May 3, 2017 12:38 AM EDT
    Sounds like a rich weekend, filled with words and birds, both I would enjoy! Thanks for sharing all Robyn.
    - Michelle Kogan
  27. May 3, 2017 12:41 AM EDT
    Thanks for coming by, Michelle - two of my favorite things as well, words and birds! ;0)
    - Robyn Black

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