On 28 August 2021, the British Haiku Society organised a book launch, on Zoom, of Kala Ramesh’s book ‘the forest i know’- a gathering of tanka verses, published by HarperCollins India. There were several friends, well-wishers, and admirers of Kala’s words in attendance. 34 poets were there for this event.
The event was peppered with beautiful dance recitals by Vrushali Chitali Lele, Devshree Athalye and Rekha Tandon. Alan Summers, and a very enthusiastic Karen Hoy, had a few questions for Kala about her life journey, that culminated into this beautiful collection of tanka verses. Kala revealed some important phases of her life that directly impacted her writing over the fifteen years of her journey in the haikai world, like how giving up organised religion 21 years ago, has made writing poetry what prayers are for others. That is liberating for her.
It was a lovely session of dance and poetry, bringing together poets and readers from across the globe.
Here’s the title poem from the book:
the forest I know
becomes a forest of sound …
I wish to thank Iliyana Stoyanova for organising this event and Andrew Shimield who hosted this book launch. And to the many friends I recognised on the screen, a big thank you.
On Sunday, 18 July 2021 David Bingham and Iliyana Stoyanova led a free haiku workshop for the biggest Japanese festival in UK, Hyper Japan. In this workshop 25 participants from Argentina, Canada, Greece, India, UK, and USA explored: the characteristics of good contemporary haiku and the techniques employed in writing them; had the opportunity to write contemporary haiku and then shared and discussed the haiku they had written; learned about where to follow up the session by sending haiku for publication in haiku journals, magazines and online websites and how to become involved in local and national haiku activities.
Here are the best 3 haiku submitted by the participants:
the tide turns —
stopping to talk
(Florence Heyhoe, UK)
the incessant chirping
(Julia Guzman, Argentina)
a burst of ravens
leaves the tree naked
(Francisca Weber, USA)
Last year the BHS marked its 30th anniversary but due to the lockdown we had to cancel our planned Spring Gathering in London. In order to celebrate this important milestone the BHS hosted a two-day Zoom event in June 2021. We organised two meetings to allow more of the BHS members to join in depending on their places of residence and we had more than 60 participants from Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Japan, The Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, and USA.
The programme was spread over two days and each presentation was followed by Q&A with the participants:
Saturday, 5 June – 9am-12pm UK:
Philip Rowland, Japan (Haiku and the poetics of George Oppen)
Anna Maris, Sweden (Haiku performance developed for an international environmental conference in Malmö, Sweden)
Radu Șerban, Romania (And yet… Kobayashi Issa)
Kala Ramesh, India (The Zen of Haiku Healing)
Sunday, 6 June – 5pm-8pm UK:
Susan Antolin, USA (Understatement in Haiku)
Marco Fraticelli, Canada (Haibun the Gateway to Haiku)
Roberta Beary, Ireland (Haiku Etiquette: Dealing with Rejections)
Michael Dylan Welch, USA (The Weather-Beaten Jizō: Shikoku Pilgrimage Haiku by Shūji Niwano)
With many thanks to the speakers and all participants for making it such an enjoyable experience for everyone!
This workshop was based on the way the late Ken Jones summed up haibun as ‘haiku dancing with prose‘. In relation to this, the quote by the choreographer Michael Fokine that ‘dance bears the same relationship to gesture as poetry to prose‘ was born in mind.
In advance of the workshop a choice of factual sentences (plain prose as gesture) about swans were offered, from which those who had signed up could choose one or two and write a haiku that ‘danced ‘ with it to bring along to read on the day. In addition four sentences of poetic prose, corresponding to gesture plus dance, from the work of well-known writers were offered, from which participants could again choose one and compose a haiku to ‘dance’ with it in a slightly different way.
At the event several people were able to read out what they had written in response to one or both of these assignments and various comments were made. It had also been suggested that participants bring along any haiku they might have already written, published or unpublished, about things that shone or sparkled and in the time that was left a short introduction was made about the American dancer Loie Fuller, born in the latter part of the nineteenth century, whose dances involved swirling herself round with fabric and projecting lights on it, and it was suggested that people write a swirl of words about an experience and put in the haiku at appropriate places. At least one of the pieces written in response to this prompt was published.
Virtual Ginko and Haiku Sharing – 27 February 2021
Participants were asked ahead of the February 27 Zoom meeting to go outdoors and remain rooted in one spot and to draft haiku using all their physical senses and take note of what they could see / hear / touch / smell / taste.
All haiku poets know the word, ginko, for a haiku walk and then sharing of haiku. What might have been new was the Japanese word, kokoro, which means to unite heart and mind in one moment. One spot! One moment! This was our challenge.
I encouraged participants to be aware of details that might have been missed if they kept moving and passed through without stopping and to share these along with their haiku. Also, members were asked, if possible, to send a photograph of their special spot that could be shared in a slide show, along with one or two of their haiku. Brief comment on how and why that particular spot had been chosen would be welcomed.
When we met on Zoom, what a treasure trove of haiku!
By showing photographs and describing these special spots, BHS members learned new things about other and gained a deeper appreciation of the hearts & minds of members and how haiku can bring others to a moment in time as we experience it. May I add that, listening to the haiku, what came to my mind was the masterpiece of modern literature, Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. The actual title in French translates as In Search of Lost Time. BHS members proved the possibility not of losing time, but capturing it! That is the miracle of haiku, yes?
Alan Summers and Karen Hoy offered to host a live Zoom haiku workshop, on Saturday November 28th, from 10.30 am for two hours, for fellow BHS members. Participants were invited to bring along a haiku to read, and that there would be as much discussion and feedback as we could fit into the time.
Karen felt it was best low-tech so everyone was asked to write or print out their poem on a page. This was so that everyone would be ready to hold their poem up to the screen, so that we could all see both the poet and the poem at the same time, while they read. This created a wonderful and warm aspect to the readings, with good humour as we might say right or left so we could see both the poem clearly and the reader, either peeping over, or to the side. Great fun!
There were at least thirty-eight participants in total, and after introductions, a haiku reading, and a question or three, there was around twenty minutes to do a speed but detailed workshop, which we did for everyone up for workshopping.
Much of the feedback sent after the workshop showed the participants found it to be well-organised and helpful to their writing.
The day started off with refreshments, where members reacquainted themselves with old friends and met new ones. In total, 39 members were in attendance on the day.
Long-standing BHS member Diana Webb led a haibun workshop entitled ‘Dialogues’, where we were asked to partner up to produce a haibun based on a dialogue between the prose and haiku writer. Art postcards were passed around by way of prompts. Several of the haibun were read out. Some very interesting pieces were produced.
After the AGM, which went routinely well, we had lunch, then we were treated to a workshop led by Lee Gurga, past president of the ‘Haiku Society of America’, former editor of the journal, ‘Modern Haiku’ and currently editor of ‘Modern Haiku Press. Lee started off with an interesting talk regarding ‘what’s next after you’ve had work published’. Lee explored the issues of personal mastery, group service, and genre vision as a way to challenge you up to your next game level. The second part of his presentation consisted of the workshopping of haiku that were emailed to him earlier by members. This produced a very lively discussion regarding haiku form, which words to take out etc.
It’s events like this that make me believe, if only a few our politicians read haiku, then the world would be a happier, kinder place. It’s then, I think of the quote, and I paraphrase, “When all seems lost, remember there is always hope (and haiku).” I’m pleased to report that haiku is alive and well in the UK.
Write-up by Frank Williams
Photos by Maeve O’Sullivan and Frank Williams (Photo collage put together by Iliyana Stoyanova)
The BHS was the sponsor and organizer of an International Haiku Conference which took place at the Maltings Arts Theatre in St Albans, UK on the weekend of Friday, 31 May to Sunday – 2 June 2019. The overall theme of the conference was ‘Haiku Crossing Cultures, Harmony within Diversity’.
Friday Evening, May 31st
The conference began with a reception. Drinks were served on arrival and the proceedings started with a speech from the BHS President, Colin Blundell, in which he outlined the programme for the weekend.
This was followed by the launch of the conference anthology, ‘where silence becomes song’. Each contributor introduced themselves and read the haiku they had written for the anthology.
The evening concluded with a beautiful tanka recital in English and Japanese by Mariko Kitakubo. We will treasure the memory of her grace and elegance in this wonderful performance.
Saturday Morning, June 1st
In the morning there were three sessions:
Judy Kendall gave a thought-provoking lecture entitled “Haiku – The Whirlpools of Translation” in which she tackled the problems faced by translators of haiku into English from Japanese and other languages. Those who heard Judy won’t be taking translations of haiku into English for granted anymore; she has encouraged us to dig deeper!
Ralf Bröker’s lecture “Scibun or What Kind of Haiku They Don’t Read on Rigel IV?” took us to places we don’t normally visit with haiku; star systems millions of miles from our own. After his inspiring words several haibun writers have said they might try writing some ‘Scibun’ in the future (or about the future?).
Charles Trumbull’s presentation “Georgia O’Keeffe and the Haiku Aesthetic” was obviously a topic close to Charles’ heart. We were moved not only by the beauty of O’Keeffe’s paintings but also by the dedication Charles has for her as fellow traveller in the world of minimalist expression.
Saturday afternoon, June 1st
In the afternoon there were four sessions:
Ikuyo Yoshimura gave an enlightening lecture “RH Blyth’s Influence on the Modern Haiku World” which included her reminiscences of the occasions when she had met and discussed haiku with David Cobb and James Hackett in the early days of haiku being written in English.
David Lanoue’s lecture “Gendai Issa” was informative and stimulating. He showed us how Issa appeared ‘modern’ to his contemporaries and encouraged us to think as Issa might have done if he were alive today. His illustrative examples of traditional and modern haiku were brilliantly chosen.
Ginko: Conference participants either went on a guided ginko led by Iliyana Stoyanova or were free to seek out their own inspiration for writing haiku. On returning to the conference venue the haiku written on the ginko (or previously in St Albans) were entered into a haiku competition. Then the conference participants shared the haiku they had written while the judging of the haiku took place. If people did not wish to take part in the ginko there was an opportunity to take part in a haiga workshop with the watercolour artist, Elisaveta Ilieva.
She demonstrated the process of creating haiga step-by-step and, as a result, several people have expressed their intention to try out some of the techniques she showed them.
The Green Wood Haiku Group performed “The Scent of Ordinary Things” which included music, song, visuals and drama. Their presentation was divided into ten sections, each of which showed the audience a different way in which haiku, tanka or haibun may be performed.
At the end of the day the results of the haiku competition were announced:
Colin Blundell (UK) and Anna Maris (Sweden)
1 Prize – Debbi Antebi:
2 Prize – Iliyana Stoyanova:
his bench almost catches
the morning sun
3 Prize – Alan Maley:
at Marks and Spencer
an old lady lingering
by the lingerie …
Sunday morning, June 2nd
There were six sessions on the final day:
Ian Storr brought us up to date with the “Sense of Place: Haiku, Glass and the British Coast” project. The original proposal has expanded imaginatively to include experimental glass-making, artwork and a project website.
Antoaneta Nikolova and Yordan M. Georgiev explored the nature of ‘minimalism’ in their presentation “Nano-haiku: A Possible Meeting Point between East and West” and by the end of their presentation we were thinking about ‘minimalism’ in a completely new and exciting way.
Anna Maris, in her lecture “Haiku in Scandinavia – Language and Cultural Reference” led us away from the limited view we often have of haiku and brilliantly introduced us to a more international perspective.
Yutaka Matsubayashi presented a magnificent group display of precision and athleticism in a demonstration of kendo sword-play. This was greatly appreciated by everyone.
The final event of the morning was a concert of folk songs and dances from Okinawa and Akita led by David Hughes. Their performance was so good the audience took to the dance floor to join the dancers and drummers on stage. We could not contain our enthusiasm; we all loved it!
Paul Chambers was unable to attend the conference. However, he kindly provided us with his presentation, “The Trembling of the Moment – The Haiku of Federico Garcia Lorca” which Debbi Antebi stepped in and introduced.
Throughout the conference, participants were able to buy a wide range of haiku publications from the bookstall, which was manned by Frank Williams.
Sunday afternoon, June 2nd
There was a farewell meal in a local Turkish restaurant for anyone who was able to stay for the afternoon.
Write-up by David Bingham and Iliyana Stoyanova
(International Haiku Conference Organising Committee – UK, 2019)
Photos by IHC participants: Frank Williams, Carita Forslund, Ralf Bröker, Mariko Kitakubo, Mark Gilfillan, Elisaveta Ilieva, Mike Kevile, Ikuyo Yoshimura and Robert Moyer
Haiga by Elisaveta Ilieva inspired by selected haiku from the IHC anthology
Launch of the Bulgarian/English collaborative haiku anthology
‘Beyond Words/Отвъд думите’ in Sofia, Bulgaria – 18 December 2018
David Bingham and I spent two wonderful days in Sofia with our good friend and guide Iliyana Stoyanova. After a two hour and forty-five-minute flight from Gatwick, we arrived in snowy Sofia at midday on 17 December 2018. Iliyana was there to welcome us. After settling in our hotel, we had lunch, and started a tour of this beautiful city. Over the next two days we visited The St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (one of the largest Eastern Orthodox Cathedrals in the world) and the The Museum of Christian Art, housed in its crypt; the National Ethnographic Museum; Sofia City Art Gallery and many other places of interest.
On the evening of 18 December, we attended the launch of the Bulgarian/English collaborative haiku anthology, ‘Beyond Words/Отвъд думите’. We were warmly welcomed at the American Center at the Sofia City Library by our Bulgarian haiku hosts and were kindly given, much to my surprise, many gifts. About forty-five people attended this event. The evening started at 6pm and was split in two halves. The first half of the proceedings consisted of our hosts voicing a welcome to those present. Then there was a 4-part recital from the anthology; and two singers Alexandra Ivoylova and Dilyana Georgieva entertained us with their fine voices.
The second half consisted of David thanking our hosts in Bulgarian and subsequently giving a commentary on some of his favourite Bulgarian haiku. I then read out my haiku, and those of Diana Webb, and to finish a haiku by Iliyana. Throughout this part, Iliyana was very busy translating. She also shared with the audience Keith Coleman’s wonderful letter with comments on almost every Bulgarian poet included in ‘Beyond Words’ and David Jacobs’ review of the anthology in the latest issue of Blithe Spirit. The haiku that I read of Iliyana was:
дъждовни капки отмерват
which to me summed up the effort she had put into this project over a long period. Overall, a wonderful evening, which I will never forget. A big thank you to our hosts, the Bulgarian Haiku Union, the Haiku Club – Plovdiv and the other poets, their representatives Sofia Filipova, Zornitza Harizanova, Ivanka Yankova and Vessislava Savova for their splendid welcome and kind words. I truly believe that haiku can bring people together in the most amazing and positive way.
Some photos from our visit to Sofia and this special evening are attached below:
Write-up: Frank Williams
Photos: Frank Williams, Zornitza Harizanova and Iliyana Deleva
BHS Winter Gathering and AGM 2018
Conway Hall, London
At the BHS Annual General Meeting on 17th November 2018 in London results of the biennial election were announced. The Management Committee for 2019-21 is: President, Colin Blundell; General Secretary, Susan Lee Kerr; Treasurer, Paul Hickey; Membership Secretary, Frank Williams; Blithe SpiritEditor, Caroline Skanne; Editor, the brief : Debbi Antebi; Communications Officer, Iliyana Stoyanova; Members without Portfolio: David Bingham, Mark Gilfillan; Mentoring Service: Andrew Shimield
BHS is in very good financial shape and membership is the highest ever, 379 people. This is mainly due to social media and the BHS website. The BHS Facebook group has 1278 members and the BHS page has 2069 likes. The Society is now fully compliant with the new 2018 Data Protection legislation.
Outreach and links to other societies included: London/South East regional group meeting by The National Poetry Library as a regular venue and liaising with Andy Bungay of Wandsworth Radio to promote haiku and the BHS. Wagamama haiku workshops in Liverpool, Chelmsford and London. Collaboration with Bulgarian haiku societies, contact with the UHTS (United Haiku and Tanka Society) and Blithe Spirit articles featuring poets of the Polish Haiku Association and the African haiku network.
Music, trains and words were strands of the 2018 Winter Gathering at London’s Conway Hall on 17 November compered by David Bingham. In the first of four activities Colin Blundell challenged groups with Haiku for Musicalising. From given haiku, members created musical moods using a range of simple percussion and voices: crinkling plastic cups, small drums, woo-woo sounds, stamping feet, thumb pianos, bells and whistles. Rain fell, winds blew, fireworks burst, loudspeakers crackled…
The Sound of Haiku, a guest presentation, provided a different musical mode. Marco Alessi played nine recordings of experimental electronic music inspired by traditional Japanese poetry. Naviar Records is a music community and label he leads which invites composers to participate online http://www.naviarrecords.com
The sound of haiku in Bulgarian was introduced by Iliyana Stoyanova. Members read works which appeared in Beyond Words, a Bulgarian-English anthology published this year by the Bulgarian Haiku Union and Haiku Club Plovdiv with some sponsorship by BHS. Iliyana re-read the same pieces in Bulgarian, a demonstration of how one language can take more – or fewer – words and syllables to express the same poem.
At the end of the day came a Haiku Train conducted by Iliyana. Haiku trains are a form of renshi – a modern development of renga and renku with participants in small groups writing collaborative poetry. From the starts of two different haiku many different ‘trains’ resulted. A word from the final line in each haiku – or several words or the whole line – must be in the first line of the next haiku.
Spot the links in this one from Team Squash: David Bingham, Kate B Hall, Sarah Lawson, Sprite.
a veil of snowflakes
covers the hedge
the cat flap opens
in a flap…
late for work, still searching
for lost car keys
a streetcar named desire –
all the movies I never saw
and never will
quote the raven ‘Nevermore’
and flew away
from the Tower
towering above the snowfield
a pine reaches
for the sky
I pine for my youth
in dare-devil mode
Write-up by Susan Lee Kerr Photos: Frank Williams, Mike Keville