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International Haiku Conference 2019

IHC St Albans

International Haiku Conference – St Albans, UK

(31 May – 2 June 2019)


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

Colin Blundell
Colin Blundell

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.

Mariko Kitakubo
Mariko Kitakubo



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
Judy Kendall


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
Ralf Bröker



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
Charles Trumbull



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

Ikuyo Yoshimura
Ikuyo Yoshimura

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
David Lanoue




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 walk in St Albans
ginko walk in St Albans



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.

Watercolour artist Elisaveta Ilieva
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. 

Green Wood Haiku Group
Green Wood Haiku Group




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)

Colin Blundell and Anna Maris
Colin Blundell and Anna Maris

1 Prize – Debbi Antebi:

setting sun
I adjust
my canvas

2 Prize – Iliyana Stoyanova:

rough sleeper
his bench almost catches
the morning sun

IHC contest
IHC contest

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
Ian Storr


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 Georgiev
Antoaneta Nikolova and Yordan Georgiev




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
Anna Maris


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 and his students
Yutaka Matsubayashi and his students








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!

folk songs and dances from Okinawa and Akita led by David Hughes
folk songs and dances from Okinawa and Akita led by David Hughes

group dance CaritaPaul 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.

Sunday afternoon, June 2nd

There was a farewell meal in a local Turkish restaurant for anyone who was able to stay for the afternoon.2


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

‘Beyond Words’ anthology launch


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:

raindrops strike

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 Philipova, 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:

Sof 18 Dec

Write-up: Frank Williams
Photos: Frank Williams, Zornitza Harizanova and Iliyana Deleva

BHS Winter Gathering and AGM 2018

 17 Nov 2018

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 Spirit Editor, Caroline Skanne; Editorthe 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 

Marco Alessi from Naviar Records
Marco Alessi from Naviar Records

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. 

Sue Richards
Sue Richards

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

Frank Williams
Frank Williams

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

Outgoing President Kate B Hall was presented with a gift in appreciation of her service
Outgoing President Kate B Hall was presented with a gift in appreciation of her service

towering above the snowfield
a pine reaches
for the sky

watching sky-divers
I pine for my youth
in dare-devil mode

Write-up by Susan Lee Kerr
Photos: Frank Williams, Mike Keville


Free Verse: The Poetry Book and Magazine Fair 2018

Free Verse – The Poetry Book & Magazine Fair: Saturday 22 September 2018, 11:00 am – 5:00 pm 22 Sepr 2018

As part of the BHS on-going outreach programme, and for the 4th year running we had a table at the new venue, Senate House, London, of ‘Free Verse, The Poetry Book & Magazine Fair ‘, run by the ‘Poetry Society’, and organised by Julie Bird. Senate House is a brilliant venue, and it attracted a lot people, even though it was a rainy day.

In total we made £80.00 from the sale of books, which was nearly double what we made last year. We met some brilliant people and hopefully made some converts to haiku. Our BHS member from USA Robin Smith came especially to meet us during her stay in London.
Helpers on the day were Kate B. Hall, Iliyana Stoyanova, Debbi Antebi, David Bingham, David Jacobs and Frank Williams. Above are a few photos from the day.

Photos and write-up by Frank Williams

BHS at Wagamama, Chelmsford

2 August 2018


Haiku contest for the opening of Wagamama Chelmsford IMG_3770

This summer, the British Haiku Society was approached by Wagamama to assist them with a series of restaurant openings across England. As a new and eager member, I volunteered to help with the Chelmsford branch and, some weeks later during the height of the heat wave, found myself on the train to a city I had never been to, to teach total strangers about the marvelous and mysterious form that is haiku.
The Wagamama marketing team were very helpful in the fortnight leading up to the event and gave me a generous budget from which to provide haiku entertainments and draw a fee. We decided that as it was to be an outdoors event, with diners turning up at different times, it would be best if I could run a haiku contest, whilst walking around to chat informally about haiku with the visitors individually as they waited for their dishes to arrive.
With this in mind, I turned up early and brought decorations of origami cranes in the Wagamama colours of black, white and orange to set at each place on the table alongside a haiku competition entry form and a biro. I had a table to one side (next to a very charming sake stand) and covered it with more entry forms, some beginners’ haiku guides I had written and printed, and of course the grand prize: a copy of Haiku: Classic Japanese Short Poems published by Amber Books, a mini notebook and pen, and a Wagamama tote bag.
As I wandered around and talked to people about haiku, I was amazed by the enthusiasm with which they greeted me. Everyone was friendly and incredibly eager to learn about and write haiku, particularly the children, who encouragingly had all been learning about them at school. It made my job very easy: the hard part was judging so many fabulous entries. In the end the prize went to a lovely family, who had between three of them submitted over twelve excellent haiku!
I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to help with this event and am immensely grateful to both the British Haiku Society and Wagamama for making it happen and welcoming me on board.

Write-up by Jasmin Kirkbride


BHS at Wagamama, Liverpool

12 June 2018 

I was very kindly invited by The British Haiku Society to attend the opening evening event at Wagamama, a Japanese influenced restaurant in Liverpool. As soon as I entered Wagamama I knew I had entered an oasis of calm and tranquility with a distinct Zen like quality of flow.  I felt immediately that haiku had a home here.

The restaurant was soon filled with people eager to taste the Japanese inspired food and at the same time experience for themselves the concept of haiku and how integrated it is into Japanese culture. The guests were given a selection of Haiku Cubes which act as a medium of inspiration in creating their own unique poem. Alongside this was cherry blossom paper with 2 examples of haiku written by one of Japan’s most prolific Haiku Master’s Matsuo Basho. Together with 2 haiku written in the 21st century. It made for some great inspiration and anticipation at the chance to create live haiku on the night.

This was followed by my talk about haiku – it’s origins, form and influence in society back in the 17th century and in the 21st century. And also a little bit about Basho and how integral he was to both the expansion and awareness of haiku in the Japanese culture. The guests were then presented with the most delicious food which I can only describe as nothing less than works of Art! And the Head Chef visited each table and gave a talk on the food, it’s flavours alongside its Japanese influence.

In-between Mains and Deserts every one got busy writing Haiku! And I have to say the Haiku produced was of such a high standard, some of which were a strict 17 syllabic count which was very impressive.
There was a chosen winner and a prize of a haiku collection book was given.

It was wonderful to see how a form of poetry from many centuries ago had traveled from Japan to Liverpool into the 21st Century and maintained its ability to reconnect “Self with self” and connect people to each other. It restored my faith in the power and ability of words to heal the world haiku by haiku.

Write-up by Rose Booth



BHS Spring Gathering 19 May 2018



BHS SG 2018

This year the BHS Spring Gathering took place in the Meeting Room at the Kensington Central Library. There were four main parts to the day:

(1) Spring Gathering Haiku

In the morning session led by Debbi Antebi, participants wrote haiku on the theme of ‘spring gathering’. There were many different perspectives and approaches to the same theme, as will be seen from the examples below. 

spring gathering
its wits and me –
royal wedding
Alan Summers  

Spring Gathering haiku
Spring Gathering haiku

spring gathering
around the old oak
a mass of daffs
Andrew Shimield

spring gathering
i scribble something
& cross it out
Caroline Skanne 

Coffee break between the activities
Coffee break between the activities

the sound of bicycle tyres    
down lanes in spring
with my many selves
Colin Blundell 

spring gathering…
the squirrel always first
at the bird feeder
David Bingham

spring gathering my strength for a haiku
David Jacobs    

Kensington Gardens
Kensington Gardens

spring gathering
the scent of wisteria
at my doorstep
Debbi Antebi

a gathering
finding fellowship & fun
lambs gambol
Di Davy      

spring gathering
my muse didn’t visit
the park today
Frank Williams

spring gathering
Zebedee, Dylan and all,
Howard Colyer

sunny breakthrough –
in the poplar fluff
a mini rainbow
Iliyana Stoyanova    

David Bingham and Mark Gilfillan
David Bingham and Mark Gilfillan

spring gathering
hares on the hill
some boxing
Kate B Hall

a gathering of eggs
the cuckoo
cracks first
Mark Gilbert

along platforms
little groups of flag-wavers
spring gatherings
Mark Gilfillan

gathering of crows
at dusk
Paul Hickey

I find my way
by unfamiliar routes
spring gathering
Susan Lee Kerr

(2) ‘Whoku’ Session

This session was led by Mark Gilbert, who informed us about a relatively new form of haiku/senryu in which one line (or part of a one-line poem) consists of the name of a person who is alive, dead, real or fictional. Some examples of the form were shared, and participants were asked to try their hand at writing whoku.      

Mark Gilbert
Mark Gilbert

the impossible shine
of his shoes

the wren’s song is perfect
the wren’s song is improvised    
Leonard Cohen

Lionel Hampton
on iron

Mark Gilbert


(3) Ginko and Kukai

Frank Williams
Frank Williams

We were fortunate to have a sunny afternoon for the ginko in Hyde Park, which was led by Alan Summers. Upon our return, we shared the haiku that had been produced and held a haiku contest (kukai). The winner of the contest was Frank Williams, who received a haiku book prize. 

Here is his winning haiku: 

perfect day
the sat on log has
its own rhythm



(4) Haibun Time

The day finished with a haibun activity led by David Bingham, who discussed different ways in which haibun may be written and shared strategies for crafting strong pieces. Participants were then asked to write their own haibun based on their ginko experience and to share their writing within their groups.

BHS poets at the Spring Gathering 2018
BHS poets at the Spring Gathering 2018


Overall, it was a great day filled with haikai activities, and the feedback received from the participants was very positive.

Write-up by Debbi Antebi
Photos by Debbi Antebi, Frank Williams, Howard Colyer and Iliyana Stoyanova

BHS Winter Gathering and AGM 2017


BHS Winter Gathering 2017
BHS Winter Gathering 2017


On Saturday 2 December 2017 nearly 30 BHS members met for the BHS Winter Gathering and AGM at the Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London. In the morning we had the AGM and a wonderful workshop led by Diana Webb – Having Fun with Haibun: matching haiku with the haibun prose and writing haibun in groups inspired by “Balloon Girl”(2002) – a mural by graffiti artist Banksy.

This is one of the haibun written by Kate B Hall, Karen Hoy, Debbi Antebi, Frank Williams and Iliyana Stoyanova:

Brick Wall

Letting go of her childhood. The weeds at her ankles. Signed by the artist in colour on the grey wall. The wind in her outstretched hand. Both the child and the wall keeping their innocence.

on the South Bank
a girl mesmerized
by a red balloon

In the afternoon we enjoyed a haiku performance by the Green Wood Haiku Group – haiku and haibun reading, accompanied by shakuhachi music and singing, a sequence of urban haiku performed in an experimental way, and an audio visual display. The members of the Green Wood Haiku Group who wrote material and took part were: Martin White, Sue Richards, Lizzie Prudence, Norma Gregson, Sandra Goodfellow, Ann Turnbull, Bethany Rivers, Catherine Redfern, and David Bingham. Afterwards we had a structured discussion about the techniques which can be used when performing haiku.

Green Wood Haiku Group
Green Wood Haiku Group

So all in all we had quite a lively and informative gathering and we are looking forward to the next year!

2017 AGM 
Write-up: Iliyana Stoyanova
Photos: Frank Williams & Debbi Antebi

The Poetry Book Fair 2017


On the 30th of September 2017 for the third year running, the BHS had a table at the Poetry Book Fair at Conway Hall, London. The Fair was not as busy as last year, however thanks to the BBC documentary quite a few people stopped to talk to us at our stall and took leaflets. In total we made £46.00 from the sale of BHS books, anthologies, and Blithe Spirit copies. The pocket-size 2016 members’ anthology proved to be very popular.

All in all we were successful in the BHS remit to outreach to the public. We hope to return again to the Poetry Fair next year.

Many thanks to helpers, Kate B. Hall, Iliyana Stoyanova, Frank Williams and Mark Gilfillan who took turns in staffing the table throughout the day, and making it a success!

Write-up: Frank Williams & Iliyana Stoyanova
Photos: Frank Williams, Iliyana Stoyanova & Jason Why

London Haiku Group Anthology

Photo by Frank Williams

On 2nd July 2017, thirteen members of the London Haiku Group ran by Coordinator, Mark Gilfillan assembled for a meeting at the Royal Festival Hall. Each person brought along six poems for critiquing. A few months earlier it was agreed that the Group would produce an Anthology based on the poems brought along for critiquing. The Anthology would be edited by Frank Williams. From each person two poems were chosen by popular vote for inclusion in the project. We also welcomed two new people to the Group. Each person read out their poems and they were commented upon. The quality of work submitted was excellent, and showcased the wide variety of styles being produced, which added an extra interest and sparkle to the discussion. It is hoped that the Anthology will be finalised by the end of 2017. After the meeting a few members retired to the bar for refreshments and a general chat. The next meeting was scheduled for 3 September 2017 at the Royal Festival Hall, meeting at 12.45pm by the ticket office for a 1pm start.

Write-up by Frank Williams