July 11th, 2007

Egrets Reading

Tanabata Recap

me, Wendy Wright
Naia, Peggy Hehman-Smith
Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden, CSULB

While many of my speculative poetry friends were at Readercon, this last weekend turned out to be a mini-haiku retreat for me.

Naia, my friend and haiku poet from the San Diego area, came up for the weekend. We started at the Los Angeles County Arboretum, where we had lunch, saw a black-crested night heron snag a fish in the middle of a group of turtles and a peacock dance, rattling his feathers for a bored peahen.

Then, we drove to the Rancho Los Alamitos Historic Ranch and Gardens where we met up with two other haiku friends, Wendy Wright (and hubby Tom) and Peggy Hehman-Smith for a Tanabata celebration where we were all given bamboo branches to decorate. We all made origami stars and birds, kirigami ladders and cages for our stars, wrote haiku and attempted to do some Japanese calligraphy for our tansaku.

Then, we ate bento box dinners, listened to Madame Yoko Awaya play the koto and Hiroyuki Shirai play the shakuhachi. Then, we watched students of the Bando Mitsuhiro Kai Japanese Dance school perform traditional fan dances. In the middle of all this, I actually wrote several IMO publishable haiku while listening to the koto.

On Sunday, we manned a table at the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden at CSULB, which turned out to be a lot of fun, talking to the parents and children who came by to learn about haiku. We had two tables. One was set up for the younger children with coloring book style haiku drawings for the children to color. Wendy did the artwork for some tanabata haiku by Issa. For older children who didn't want to color but didn't want to try to write haiku, Wendy put a haiku on a blank paper by Issa:

Even the insects sing
"it's great Tanabata!

- Issa

She brought a book illustrating how to draw various types of insects. One little girl drew a very cool-looking earwig. All of the papers had a hole punched at the top with a ribbon so the kids could take their haiku artwork home and hang them up for Tanabata.

At the other table, we had tanzaku for haiku writing as well as some blank paper. I brought four of my "prettiest" haiku books - Haiku, Poetry Ancient & Modern compiled by Jackie Hardy; Haiku for Lovers compiled by Manu Bazzano, Haiku Inspirations by Tom Lowenstein, and A Haiku Garden by Stephen Addiss with Fumiko and Akira Yamamoto.

A surprising number of people were game enough to attempt their first haiku with some help from us. One older woman I helped had never written a poem before and her grin of accomplishment melted my heart.

All in all, a very inspiring and rewarding experience.