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Haiku Holiday 2004

On a sunny Saturday morning this past April, the North Carolina Haiku Society held its 25th annual Haiku Holiday. About 35 people made the drive out to Bolin Brook Farm near Chapel Hill. We had a number of newcomers and a lot of return visitors. Several people had been coming to Haiku Holiday for 10 years or more. We were especially glad to have Peggy Lyles, one of our presenters from last year, return as a guest this year. We were also glad to see Margaret (Peggy) Raab, a well-known free verse poet who happens to live nearby.

Our guest presenter was Paul MacNeil, haiku poet, renku leader, and associate editor of the haiku journal, The Heron’s Nest. Paul gave a talk entitled “The Care and Feeding of Your Haiku Editor,” which he delivered in his hearty, good-humored style.

Drawing on his experiences as a haiku poet and as an editor of a respected journal, Paul stressed the importance of reading haiku—including contemporary haiku in English—if your goal is to publish in a haiku journal. He pointed out that different haiku journals publish different kinds of haiku, so it is important to know the preferences of the haiku journal to which you are submitting. He talked about the perennial challenge of taking a fresh look at familiar subjects, a common problem in all genres but especially in haiku because they are so short, have a typical structure, and are often about ordinary things.

In a surprise move, when Paul ended his talk, Lenard D. Moore (Executive Chairman of the NCHS) asked the audience to write a haiku in response to the Paul’s talk, and gave them five minutes to complete the poems. Later, Lenard and Dave selected the top three, without knowing the authors at the time.

1st Place

spring morning—
the haijin peeks
over his glasses

    —Curtis Dunlap

2nd Place

Haiku lecture
watching the butterfly
bang on the window

   —Rich Krawiec

3rd Place

rising heat
the editor scowls
over the text

   —Kate MacQueen

The ginko (haiku walk) was next. Jean Earnhardt, who has hosted Haiku Holiday at Bolin Brook Farm for the last 25 years, led us around her house, down to the pond, through the woods, and past an old cabin (dating from the 1800’s) where her father was born. Among the sounds of Canada geese on the pond, and Jean’s soft, offhand explanations about the farm, we could hear chain saws. Two men were clearing out trees that had come down in the last ice storm.

After a while, one of the men came out of the woods, leading a Belgian draft horse outfitted with a logging trace. She was stocky, weighing over a ton, the man said. Her feet were as big as dinner plates. Her legs were feathered with shaggy, gold-white fur. She was patient as we stood around her, asked the man a lot of citified questions and scribbled in our note pads.

After we made out way back to Jean’s house and had lunch, we broke up into two workshops. Paul led one workshop and Lenard led the other. Both of the workshops seemed to be successful, judging from the comments afterward.

Many people had to leave right after the workshops (something for us to remember when planning next year’s Haiku Holiday), but a number of people stayed to hear the reading by Peggy Lyles, Lenard, and Paul. Peggy read from her book, To Hear the Rain (Brooks Books 2002); Lenard read from his book, Gathering at the Crossroads (Red Moon Press, 2003); and Paul read from a broadside of his haiku that he had prepared for Haiku Holiday. It was a good end to a good day . . . but the day wasn't quite over yet, because Paul agreed to lead a renku session that night.

Renku sceptics, please note: If, like me, you have sometimes thought that Shiki was onto something when said, "Haikai no renga is not literature," please read Paul’s accessible introduction to renku on the World Haiku Club website (WHC Haikuforum Renku Seminar 2000: http://www.worldhaikuclub.org/pages/resources_renku_whcwhr.html). The seminar reads just like Paul talks.

After dinner at a local Chinese restaurant, Paul, Lenard, Curtis Dunlap, and Dave Russo met at Dave’s house. We started a shisan (12 verse) renku at around 7:30 and finished at around 10:30. Paul struck just the right balance between minding tradition and enouraging the spirit of play that is vital to a readable renku. We are seeking a publisher for our renku called “The Bee Shifts.”

Many thanks to Paul, for being our guest presenter this year, and to Jean for hosting Haiku Holiday once again. When I sent Jean an email a few months before Haiku Hoiliday and asked if she would be willing to host our event again, she sent back the reply, “A perpetual ‘yes.’”

We’re hoping that is true for many years to come.

Dave Russo

See also Photos from Haiku Holiday 2004.