Archive for the ‘haiku’ Category

My year of Joy Kogawa House and Haiku

November 26, 2017

For me, 2017 has been a year connected to Joy Kogawa House.

Historic Joy Kogawa House is the childhood home of Canadian author Joy Kogawa, who wrote the ground-breaking novel Obasan, a fictional story based on Joy’s memories of being interned as a child during WW II, along with thousands of other Canadians of Japanese descent. Located in the Marpole neighbourhood of Vancouver, the house was built in 1912-13. Joy and her family lived there from 1937 until they were interned in 1942. During the war, the house was confiscated and sold, and Joy’s family was not able to return to Marpole. Years later, however, Joy lent her support to a community campaign that saved the house from demolition. Today, the house is a space for author residencies, literary events, as well as remembering the injustices experienced by Japanese Canadians during the Second World War, and moving toward healing and reconciliation.

Joy Kogawa House c 1938

Joy and her brother at the front (west side) of the house c. 1938

 

I was grateful to be offered a writing residency at the house, which was initially planned for February. Since February is National Haiku Writing Month (the shortest month of the year for the shortest form of poetry), and haiku is one of my passions, I decided to focus on haiku, and to partner with the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival (VCBF), preparing for the spring blossom celebration and the festival’s international haiku contest. Plans shifted slightly, and rather than staying at the house in February, I organized a poetry reading and haiku workshop, and worked with the VCBF on koinobori scale-painting activities in preparation for Sakura Days Japan Fair without staying at Joy Kogawa House (which I was able to do since I live in the Vancouver area). (More on these activities in an earlier blog post.)

Joy Kogawa House events

February poetry reading, plus haiku workshop & koi scale painting

In May, I visited the house for a reading and performance of “A Suitcase full of Memories” by Joy Kogawa and Soramaru Takayama of Japanese Poets North of 49, and was delighted to meet and briefly chat with Joy afterwards.

In July, I was able to live at the house and work on my own writing projects, finishing a verse novel for children, and co-editing an anthology of haiku poetry written by members of the Vancouver Haiku Group. I started the month by hosting a book-making workshop given by poet and book artist Terry Ann Carter from Victoria, which brought together many creative people, and was an inspiring kick-off to my in-house residency. Staying at the house by myself gave me time and space to focus on writing without my usual distractions, making a big difference to my writing pattern and productivity. I also enjoyed the opportunity to explore and get to know the Marpole neighbourhood, including its tree-lined streets, housing mix, history, and changing local culture, and to relax in the peaceful stillness of the backyard where a young Joy Kogawa once played.

four images

I returned to the house to live and work at the end of August, and also hosted a presentation by my friend and colleague Jean-Pierre Antonio, a professor at Suzuka University in Japan, who gave us a fascinating account of the life of Japanese immigrant Masayuki Yano through the translation of Mr. Yano’s pre-WW II diaries.

Jean-Pierre's talk

At the end of September, my haiku activities at the house concluded with the hosting of An Evening of Japanese Poetic Forms: from the Tokaido Road to the World Stage, with Terry Ann Carter reading from her new book of haibun (prose with haiku), Tokaido (Red Moon Press), Rachel Enomoto sharing haiku, and Kozue Uzawa reading tanka and leading participants in a short tanka-writing workshop.

Japanese forms reading

An Evening of Japanese Forms, a Word Vancouver event (with thanks to Tracey Wan for the bottom right photo)

In early November, Joy Kogawa returned to the house to read from her children’s picture book, Naomi’s Tree, which was a treat for all of us who came out to listen and celebrate the old cherry tree in the laneway behind Joy Kogawa House. The tree now has a plaque, encouraging people to seek it out on their neighbourhood walks.

So now, I seem to have come full circle, enjoying the house in each season, and again, looking ahead to early spring when the cherry blossoms will bloom again.

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My workspace while in residence at Joy Kogawa House (looking out at the old cherry tree behind the back fence)

 

To close, here are a few simple haiku written during my stay:

 

no need

for an alarm clock

early morning crows

 

picking the last

ripe raspberry

evening robin

 

And from my evening walk past the elementary school young Joy Kogawa attended:

 

fading daylight

the empty swing

still swinging

 

 

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Breaking the ice (haiku reading and upcoming workshops)

February 5, 2017

For the month of February (which is National Haiku Writing Month), I’m partnering with Vancouver’s Joy Kogawa House to celebrate haiku with events leading up to the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival. Last night, I was joined by other members of the Vancouver Haiku Group, as well as visiting poet Carole Glasser Langille, to kick off the month with a reading of prose, haiku and other poetry.

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The weather was more wintery than I expected when I picked the theme (there were more hints of spring in Vancouver by this time last year), but despite the snow, the house was full, and by the end of the evening we’d fully moved into the spirit of spring.

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Cherry preserves in anticipation of the blossoms to come . . .

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In partnership with the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival (VCBF), renowned haiku poet Michael Dylan Welch (from Sammamish, Washington) will be teaching a “How to Haiku” workshop at the Terry Salman branch of the Vancouver public library February 18. More info on the VCBF site.

I’ll be teaching a “Haiku Secrets: beyond the basics of writing haiku” workshop at Joy Kogawa House on Feb 25 (move away from 5-7-5 and learn how these tiny poems can express powerful experiences in both nature and urban life). More info on the events page of Joy Kogawa House. To register contact info@kogawahouse.com.

Both workshops are followed by an opportunity to decorate a giant koi “scale” with haiku for a koinobori installation at Sakura Days Japan Fair, which will be held at VanDusen Garden April 8-9 (2017). We’ll also be encouraging participants to submit haiku to the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival international haiku contest.

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koi-installation

(Above photo courtesy of the VCBF and Powell St. Festival)

 

West Coast winter haiku

December 5, 2016

One thing I actually enjoy about Vancouver’s winter rain and early darkness is the neon reflections.

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(A version of the above photo-haiga was published in the last issue of A Hundred Gourds)

Today, we even got some snow. It’s days like this that I’m happy to work at home.

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A taste of Japan – through photos, haiku and food

July 7, 2016

Reminiscing, I decided to repost this haiku-photo collaboration from 2010. Sad to say that Ruriko, the owner of the cafe-gallery exhibit space, died of cancer a few years ago.

Note: Yokan is a winter citrus fruit. Also, I feel compelled to point out that my haiku have progressed since this time, and these older haiku have some problems, though I still like the yokan haiku and the collaboration with Jean-Pierre’s photos.

wild ink

Recently, Jean-Pierre Antonio, a friend who has lived and worked in Japan for over 20 years, asked me to write some haiku to accompany a series of photographs he took in Tokyo and Kyoto this past December. Usually my haiku is inspired by personal experience, and I wasn’t sure if I’d have any success trying to write in response to someone else’s photographs, but Jean-Pierre’s multiple images of  bright winter yokan fruit, calligraphic wisteria vines, and mysterious crows immediately evoked a strong feeling of place and mood, and the first haiku quickly took shape. Writing something to go with Jean-Pierre’s photos of young people engrossed in manga-reading and close-up sections of ancient fabric took a little more thought. To write about the fabric, I had to, in a sense, reach back across time to imagine what was going through the minds of the long-ago fabric artists…

The result of our collaboration is currently…

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Fall is cherry blossom time?

December 1, 2015

 

While spring is the traditional time for celebrating cherry blossoms, fall is when we hear the results of the annual Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Invitational contest. This year, I was excited to learn that one of my haiku (inspired by the Vancouver Canucks hockey team making the Stanley Cup playoffs) was selected as the top winner in the “Vancouver” category. And, seeming in honour of the occasion, these rather confused cherry blossoms were blooming in November when I visited Vancouver’s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden.

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Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Invitational Top Winners, 2015

Vancouver

Stanley Cup playoffs
the last cherry blossoms
still hanging on
                      Jacqueline Pearce
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

British Columbia

cherry blossoms
come and go
my seventy years
                      Dan Curtis
                      Victoria, British Columbia

Canada

Alzheimer’s ward
cherry blossoms
in the fog
                      Marco Fraticelli
                      Pointe-Claire, Quebec

United States

cherry blossoms
no room in the selfie
for me
                      Joe McKeon
                      Strongsville, Ohio

International

cherry blossoms
falling
in love again
                      Brendon Kent
                      Southampton, England

Youth

cherry blossoms—
grandma tells me about
her first date
                      Cucu Georgiana, age 12
                      Botosani, Romania

Click here for commentary on winning poems

Fall is also a time when local cherry trees are filled with beauty of a different colour.

fall cherry trees

Fall is in the air

September 2, 2015

Technically, it’s still summer, but with many people heading back to school and the long summer drought finally ending here on the BC coast, it feels like fall has arrived. The long string of dry hot days has also turned many leaves prematurely brown.

For years after I finished high school and university, I used to get itchy feet this time of year and feel that excited flutter in my chest that comes with the anticipation of seeing old friends again, the potential of meeting new ones, and (in university years) wondering what exciting vistas new classes might be about to open for me. In more recent years, this feeling seems to have morphed into a yearning to travel in the fall ─to explore new places and admire fall colours in different locations.

 

autumn wind─
I have the sudden urge
to buy school supplies

 

park

Getting ready for Chinese New Year

January 22, 2014

Dr Sun Yat-Sen Garden -cropI didn’t expect to see much in Vancouver’s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden in the middle of January, but when I visited last Saturday, I found it blooming with red lanterns and bustling with preparations for Chinese New Year. I was also surprised to see winter jasmine in flower and many trees full of early buds.

The Chinese  lunar New Year (which begins on January 31 this year) is a time for sweeping away the old (dust, clutter, debts, worries) and welcoming in the new (renewing hope for health, happiness, and good fortune). Staff and volunteers at the garden were busy cleaning, tidying, tying up loose-ends, and decorating in preparation for the upcoming Year of the Horse Temple Fair, Feb 2 (2014). Red lanterns are hung around the garden to bring good luck (red is considered the most auspicious colour because of its association with fire, the sun, energy, light, and life-blood, which demons fear, so it also keeps demons away), and they welcome back the light of spring.

A few images and haiku from my visit:

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New Year’s lanterns─
the courtyard mosaics
swept clear

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preparing for
the New Year─
peony buds

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still pond─
finding the courage
to say goodbye

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Bamboo & Basho

June 27, 2013

Interested in haiku poetry or how to use bamboo in your garden? This Saturday I’ll be joining other poets from the Vancouver Haiku Group at Vancouver’s Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden for a celebration of bamboo. Angela Naccarato, poet and Intuitive Consultant, will lead haiku workshops (open to anyone visiting the garden, with three workshop times between 1-3pm), and I will be sharing some of my photographs of “bamboo in Basho’s footsteps” (from my last visit to Japan).

Bamboo haiku workshop

A haiku I wrote on my last visit to the garden:

bamboo haiku

Sharing poetry & music (with a historical twist?)

May 21, 2013

If haiku expresses a “now moment,” can haiku be written about the past? I’m immersing myself in early Vancouver history today to see if some haiku emerge, and I’ll be sharing the resulting “historical haiku” Thursday evening at Chapters bookstore in downtown Vancouver as part of a larger celebration of poetry and music with the Vancouver Haiku Group. Everyone is welcome! (May 23, 7-9:30 pm, Robson St. Chapters store)

Chapters Reading

Needs some work, but here’s an example of what I’m working on:

Main&7th_1899(2)

(Main & 7th Ave about 1899 – I don’t remember where I got the photo from, so I hope I can be forgiven for not giving credit. It is probably from the Vancouver Archives, and I believe most of their old photos are in the public domain.)

Added after the event (in this photo James Mullin’s Asian flute accompanies Kozue Uzawa’s tanka reading):

James&Kosue

The event was led by Angela J. Naccarato, founder and facilitator of the Vancouver Haiku Group, who read some of her own haiku and free verse.  Other poets included Marianne Dupre, Rosemary Carter, Brenda Larsen, Vicki McCullough, Liam Blackstock, Ashok Bhargava, Alegria Imperial, Donna Farley, Kozue Uzawa, James Mullin, and myself, taking the audience on a journey that evoked colours, sounds, and emotions from childhood memories in India to a monsoon in China to swimming with turtles in Barbados to Vancouver’s past to cherry blossoms in Vancouver’s present.

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(Here, Liam Blackstock entertains the audience with charismatic readings/performance of his free verse poetry)

Daily Haiku

May 5, 2013

Some of my haiku are being featured this week on Daily Haiku, starting with this one posted today:

yellow smudged moon—hoya2
scent of hoya flower
in the empty room

The timing is perfect, as my hoya plant is now in bloom (and, as usual, I was alerted by the scent when I was up alone in the middle of the night). When I was a kid, my parents had a hoya plant for years before it finally blossomed. My mom thought my dad had tied some plastic flowers to the plant to play a joke on her.

This Daily Haiku cycle started April 7 with the haiku of invited poet LeRoy Gorman. Seven different poets are featured in rotation, until September (2013). Here’s a short haiku by Jim Kacian posted April 15, which suggests a whole story in a single line (and reawakens some vivid summer memories):

summer night she smells faintly of fire