'Straight From the Haijin's Mouth' is one of the features that makes up my haikai column in a fine line, The Magazine of the New Zealand Poetry. This edition is from the January 2012 issue, and is reprinted with the kind permission of Laurice Gilbert, Catherine Mair and Patricia Prime.
Straight From the Haijin's Mouth
I asked long time friends and poetry writing buddies Catherine Mair and Patricia Prime, 'Where has your reading and writing of haiku taken you over the years?'
Catherine Mair's answer:
It was the late 1980s and I had just started writing poetry. Because of the economical, rural/nature content it was suggested that I might find an affinity with haiku.
I'd never heard of haiku. Upon expressing my ignorance I was sent a few notes on the basics of this genre. In 1993 the first New Zealand Haiku Anthology included five of my haiku and the second Anthology (1998) included a number more. My interest in haiku lead me on a number of journeys the most far flung being a jaunt to Romania for a haiku conference hosted by Ion Codrescu. Picton was another very enjoyable destination.
The succinct way of haiku suits my natural brevity and because of a busy lifestyle the idea of so much in so little really appealed to me. Haiku satisfied several leanings. I'd been very interested in painting but farming in partnership with my husband and bringing up four children left little time. Over the years I've met some superb people. Haijin seem to share a relatively humble outlook and an acute sensitivity to nature, including human nature.
There is something about haiku which is spiritually satisfying. Something which seems akin to creation.
Patricia Prime's answer:
As co-editor of the New Zealand haiku journal Kokako for the past 15 issues, I am privileged to have come to know and correspond with editors and writers throughout the world. I wrote my first haiku in the 80s and have submitted work to journals in the USA, Canada, Australia, Great Britain, India and Ireland. What better way is there to make friends than through poetry?
Martin Lucas says in the Introduction to his book Stepping Stones: a way into haiku that “Haiku is not a descriptive poetry, it is a reflective poetry, and we need to understand that distinction.” Haiku in its own way is self-counselling; it is a pleasure to read other people’s work and to study their methods and it is beneficial to write about one’s own feelings. Haiku is a form that blends sensitivity with realism, using simple language and clear images and I hope my poems are accessible to most readers and that they can identify with them in some way.
I’ve spent half a lifetime in Auckland, where I’ve lived, worked, brought up my family and found poetic inspiration and motivation. I’ve also made trips to China, Tibet, Macau, Australia and the South Island. These were enchanting journeys and have since lent themselves to my poetry. Writing haiku has been a long journey: some haiku had their beginnings long ago, others are very recent. Old memories supply material for my haiku, as do places I’ve visited, nature, friendships I’ve made and my family.
In a spiritual sense haiku can be a release for emotion, can range from the lyrical to the haunting, or be touched with humour or sadness. A lightness of tone, memory and imagination, are all part of the spiritual reality of haiku.