Joint Haiku Meetings in Washington State
For many years, haiku poets from Port Townsend carpooled to Bellevue in order to attend the monthly meetings of Haiku Northwest, a regional group of the Haiku Society of America. Regrettably, the length of the trip from Port Townsend to Bellevue eventually proved too time-consuming and expensive to make on a regular basis. By 2006, the Port Townsend group was enjoying a surge of enthusiastic new members and monthly meetings were vigorous and rewarding. The need to make a long journey was less compelling. Even so, members of both the Port Townsend group and Haiku Northwest, especially longtime members, missed seeing one another and sharing their lives through haiku and conversation. So a plan was hatched to get together twice every year, once in the spring and again in the fall. These biannual events have become a tradition and other local haiku groups are now joining in the festivities. It is gratifying to see that isolated groups of poets in the Pacific Northwest are finding these celebratory events a means to join together as a community through a common interest: haiku.
The first meeting took place on May 8, 2008 in Bellevue, It was hosted by Haiku Northwest, the Seattle-based regional group of the Haiku Society of America. The Port Townsend Group joined Haiku Northwest for a ginkō (haiku stroll) in the Bellevue Botanical Gardens followed by a meeting in the Bellevue Library. Haiku by the Port Townsend group were read aloud by members of Haiku Northwest, accompanied by David Ash on various flutes.
The second meeting was held on November 8, 2008, in Port Townsend at the home of Doris Thurston, one of the group’s founders. Before the meeting, we enjoyed a ginkō along the beach and among the bunkers of Fort Worden State Park. The Port Townsend group performed Haiku Northwest poems, accompanied by marimba, tablas, piano, clarinet, and various percussion instruments.
The third meeting took place on July 11, 2009, also hosted by the Port Townsend group, this time at the home of Richard Lloyd who lives on Marrowstone Island. All festivities took place there, including a tan-renga writing session. The meeting featured the theme of hats, reflected by submissions of “hat-ku” to the chapbook produced to commemorate the occasion. As might be imagined, a few folks appeared in some rather interesting headgear.
September 26, 2009 was the date of our fourth meeting. Haiku Northwest welcomed members of the Port Townsend Group at Seattle’s Kubota Garden. After a ginkō, we visited the Rainer Valley haiku sculpture and then met at the Rainer Beach Library. The theme for submitted haiku this time was shoes, which were collected for another chapbook.
The fifth meeting was held on May 2, 2010, hosted by Haiku Northwest, and was the first meeting attended by members of the Bellingham Haiku Group. We met for brunch at the Farmhouse Restaurant near La Connor where we wrote linked verse during the meal. Then, we explored the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve after listening to a presentation by one of the rangers. The rest of the meeting took place at the reserve.
The Port Townsend Group hosted the sixth joint get-together on October 2, 2010. Before meeting at the hostel in Fort Worden, we were guided on a special tour of the Point Wilson Lighthouse. The meeting featured the sharing of special items poets brought from the places they live and the reading of Doris Thurston’s chapbook, A Circle of Light.
This, the seventh meeting of haiku groups in the Pacific Northwest, is historic [June 18, 2011]. For the first time, five Northwest groups are participating. Hosted by the Port Townsend Haiku Group, festivities began at the Fay Bainbridge State Park and continued at the Bloedel Reserve tea house and gardens on Bainbridge Island. Members of Haiku Northwest, the Bellingham Haiku Group, the Vashon Island Haiku Group, and the Mount Olympus Haiku Society also attended, as well as a few poets who are not affiliated.
About the Groups
In 1992, when Doris Thurston and the late Mimi Call discovered that some of their friends were interested in learning about and sharing haiku, the Port Townsend Haiku Group was formed. Meetings were held monthly at Mimi Call’s home for the first fifteen years or so. Membership ebbed and flowed for the first ten to twelve years but since then has been on a steady rise. There are now approximately sixteen active members. In 2006, when Mimi’s health became frail, Doris began to host meetings at her house. She did so until 2010. Polly Thurston coordinated the group’s activities. Christopher Herold took over from Polly in 2010. Duties are now in the hands of Alison Hedlund. The group meets at the homes of various members, still on a monthly basis, to share their work and various haiku homework assignments. In 2008, Christopher and Karma Tenzing Wangchuk formed the Port Townsend Renku Club, an offshoot of the haiku group. Currently there are eleven active members.
The Vashon Island Haiku Group meets monthly on Monday afternoons to share their haiku. The poets take turns hosting. The late Helen Russell founded the group in 1998 when aging made it difficult to tend her beloved bonsai. The group is comprised of thirteen members, all of whom were on hand for the first meeting some thirteen years ago.
Seren Fargo founded the Bellingham Haiku Group in the spring of 2009. They meet for two hours on the third Monday of every month at the Firehouse Café in Fairhaven. The group tries to get together for a ginkō every season. At present, there are about twenty people on the group’s mailing list. Of those, from four to seven typically attend any given meeting.
In January of 2010, Maggie Jamison founded the Mt. Olympus Haiku Society. A longtime haiku writer, Maggie placed an ad in the Peninsula Daily News in hopes of establishing a group of people interested in learning about and sharing haiku. Four people responded and the newly formed group decided to meet twice a month, taking turns at members’ homes. Most meetings are kept to about a half an hour. Haiku are read twice before copies of the poems are passed out. The poets then recite their poems again while the rest of the group follows along, making comments as they go. The group likes being small (five members) since the chemistry is good and more can be shared in a shorter period of time.