Many haiku practitioners, myself included, were able join the ranks of Seabeck Haiku Getaway attendees when, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the annual conference was held virtually in the fall of 2020. Participants were given a slide-show tour of the grounds led by cofounder Michael Dylan Welch, who also shared various haiku written at or about the campus in Seabeck, Washington, where the in-person getaway had taken place annually for the previous twelve years.
This anthology serves as a similar but even more comprehensive tour of Seabeck’s first ten years, from 2008 through 2017. Also led by Welch, the extended literary tour is as much an interesting glimpse into the flavor and traditions of this significant haiku gathering as it is a showcase of its participants’ creativity.
You don’t have to have been there to appreciate the quality and diversity of the 172 haiku and senryu included. The selections open with two poems each by the ten featured guests from the first decade, including this one by Penny Harter:
cover the names—
Four main sections then offer poems written by the 2017 attendees. The first, “It Happened at Seabeck,” focuses on the gathering’s activities, offering a sense of the event’s physical setting as well as its often playful tone:
the glide of a mud shark
in the lagoon
“Mountain Clouds” presents miscellaneous poems that didn’t fit into the other sections. The season when Seabeck happens each year inspires the haiku in “Autumn Again.”
early autumn even in sadness morning star
“In Good Taste” celebrates the sense of taste, the theme of the 2017 gathering. These four main sections are followed, delightfully, by “Tango,” an erotic rengay. The final section presents the winners of the 2017 Seabeck kukai. Here’s the first-place poem:
seasoned with paprika
and mom’s opinions
Even more poems are included in Welch’s afterword, in which he provides detailed narratives on each of the first ten years of Seabeck. In addition to stirring the memories of past attendees, these informative highlights may also serve as great inspiration for activity and presentation ideas for one’s own haiku group or gathering. And they certainly made me hope to be able to attend Seabeck in person someday.
As Welch says, “[W]e gather at Seabeck to share and discuss haiku each year because we need each other.” We read such anthologies for the same reason.