Sound Haiku: The 2014 Seabeck Haiku Getaway

First published in Ripples, the Haiku Society of America newsletter, 29:1, March 2015, pages 42–44. Click the photo to enlarge. See the 2014 Seabeck Haiku Getaway information page and scheduleSee also “The Seabeck Haiku Getaway: An Interview,” conducted by Aubrie Cox.

A record number of people (about fifty-five) attended Haiku Northwest’s Seabeck Haiku Getaway at the Seabeck Conference Center in Seabeck, Washington, October 16 to 19, 2014. This was the retreat’s seventh year, directed by Michael Dylan Welch and Angela Terry, and took place over a somewhat rainy weekend amid rising fall colours. Our featured guest was Alan Pizzarelli, who gave a reading from his upcoming retrospective book, Frozen Socks, discussed early haiku history in New York City (did you know Alan and William Higginson used to be roommates?), and gave a masterful presentation, with his wife Donna Beaver, about their popular “Haiku Chronicles” podcasts. In the guise of Joey Clifton, Alan also led a rip-roaring roast of Michael Dylan Welch. Alan also gave a presentation on senryu, and he and Donna recorded several weekend activities for possible podcasting, such as the nature walk led by Ruth Yarrow.
        Other weekend highlights included a reprise of Margaret D. McGee’s haiku labyrinth, a workshop in writing “sound” haiku led by Susan Constable, “A Haiku Trip to Japan” presentation by Michael Dylan Welch (about his visit to Bashō’s birthplace in Iga-Ueno), a haiku revision workshop by Deborah P Kolodji, an overview of Yukon seasons by Kathy Munro, a workshop on “Musicality in Haibun Prose” by Aubrie Cox, a display and talk about “Haikuilts” by master quilter RaNae Merrill, a workshop on haiku editing led by John Stevenson (our first featured guest to make a repeat appearance), a PowerPoint presentation on the 100th anniversary of the Seabeck Conference Center by its executive director, Chuck Kraining, a memorial reading and presentation of poems written by the late Laryalee Fraser presented by Carole MacRury and Susan Constable, a magical exercise to compose greeting haiku led by Terry Ann Carter, a “Haiku on Steroids” workshop by Michael Dylan Welch, an announcement of the winners of the 2014 Porad haiku contest (judged by John Stevenson), presented by Richard Tice, with flute music by James Rodriguez, a nature walk into the woods led by Ruth Yarrow, a presentation on “400 Years of Sound in Japanese Haiku” by Richard Tice, our annual kukai (the top three winners were Susan Constable, Barbara Hay, and Vicki McCullough), and a presentation on “Old Pond Comics: Out of the Woods” by Jessica Tremblay (our official cartoonist-in-residence). We also had one panel discussion, “Haiku as Poetry,” led by Aubrie Cox, with Deborah P Kolodji, Alan Pizzarelli, John Stevenson, and Michael Dylan Welch, a magnificent craft workshop to make homemade “flag books,” facilitated by book artist Susan Callan (who also made a wooden gift book for our guest speaker Alan Pizzarelli, with accordion folds revealing dozens of haiku we’d all written for Alan), and featured haiku readings by Aubrie Cox, Christopher Herold, Deborah P Kolodji, Tanya McDonald, John Stevenson, and Karma Tenzing Wangchuk, plus a celebratory reading of Haiku Northwest’s new 25th anniversary anthology, No Longer Strangers, led by Michelle Schaefer, with more music from James Rodriguez.
        In addition to the preceding activities, we enjoyed a display of haiga and sumi-e by the Haiga Adventure Study Group of the Puget Sound Sumi Artists in the dining hall and our meeting room, a bookfair and silent auction, a “Haikuseum” display by Michael Dylan Welch, and other quilt and artwork displays relating to haiku. And if that wasn’t enough, we also enjoyed Haiku Bingo, Renkurama, t’ai chi and hokey pokey breaks, the bouncy bridge, a group photo, a table full of freebies (haiku trifolds and more), a copious snack table, an anonymous haiku workshop, and our highly popular talent show, at which we sang and danced and played music, recited poems, played instruments, and told stories until it got late.
        Perhaps the most magical new addition to the weekend was a night ginko (haiku walk). Each participant was given an eight-inch white paper lantern, a strip of ribbon to make a handle, and a small blue electric tea light to put in the lantern. Then, despite a gentle but persistent rain, we lined up outside in single file and walked silently from our meeting room across the wooden bridge over the lagoon out to the waterfront. There we talked briefly about all the various sounds we heard, in addition to the rain. We then walked silently again, in single file, back across the wooden bridge, through the moonviewing platform by the lagoon, and then through the labyrinth. From there we walked up into the forest to visit the Cathedral in the Woods. Here we discussed the feelings we were having, and were invited to write haiku by combining sound images with the feelings we’d experienced on this procession. We concluded this transcendent and multisensory walk by sharing truffles in the rain. The parade of bluish lanterns in single file across the conference center grounds must have been intriguing to witness—and it was even more magical to be one of the participants.
        Our last weekend activity was a trip to the Bainbridge Island Arts Museum, where we enjoyed an hour to tour the art galleries and write haiku in response to the artwork. Then, in the theater, we began with featured readings by Donna Beaver and Alan Pizzarelli (with Native American flute and harmonica), Aubrie Cox, Bob Moyer, John Stevenson, and Michael Dylan Welch. We also had a reading from the Haiku Northwest anthology, No Longer Strangers, and a brief open-mic reading, followed by a visit to a nearby Thai restaurant before many of us caught the night ferry home across the water to Seattle.
        Susan Constable and Chandra Bales are already hard at work preparing the 2014 Seabeck Haiku Getaway anthology, which will also feature our kukai winners. Many photos of the weekend have been shared by participants on blogs and Facebook, with more to come. In particular, please read Jessica Tremblay’s marvelous summary of the weekend, in words, photos, and comics, and Rick Clark’s creative blog report.
        Our theme for the 2014 Seabeck retreat was sound, including sound devices and sound as a subject. In 2015, our theme will be touch, and we plan to work through additional senses in the years to come. Dates for 2015 have been set for October 1 to 4, and our featured guest will be Randy Brooks. Please join us!