“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
my mother’s hair
against an ocean
full of stars
the baby’s toes
the tai chi master
shifts his stance
into the afterlife red leavesAll 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
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