Eunoia: Beautiful Thinking on Gabriola

First published in Tidepools: Haiku On Gabriola (Gabriola, British Columbia: Pacific-Rim Publishers, 2011), which I edited. The book celebrates ten years of annual haiku retreats on Gabriola Island, sponsored by the British Columbia region of Haiku Canada, and hosted by Naomi Beth Wakan. See also the Contents and list of Contributors.

Gathering in Naomi Wakan’s living room for one of the Gabriola haiku weekends.

According to Oscar Wilde, “The great mystery of the world is not what is invisible, but what is visible.” Haiku poets readily agree, for they revel in the visible with their finely honed poems—each one presenting a heightened personal experience of the sights and sounds and smells of the everyday world. As Henry Miller once put it, “The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.” With their encounters of the natural world and its seasonal changes, haiku writers repeatedly honour this mystery. They do so with their poems not by capturing these moments, but by releasing them, and this book invites you to witness their release from a unique British Columbia locale.

        Indeed, the following pages present selected poems and prose by forty-two participants in an annual celebration of poetry that has now thrived for a full decade. In 2002, Naomi Beth Wakan began inviting haiku poets from around British Columbia and further afield to meet at her home on Gabriola Island for a weekend devoted to haiku poetry. Over the years, participants have read and workshopped countless haiku and senryu poems, given numerous presentations and readings, shared haiga (paintings with haiku and calligraphy), photo-haiga, and haibun (prose with haiku), and have especially enjoyed the annual ginkō (haiku walk) to nearby Drumbeg Provincial Park. The results are even broader than the contributions in this book, with attending poets from numerous prov­inces and states publishing their poetry from Gabriola in haiku journals around the world. But here in these pages we have a taste, not only of the work of most participants, but a sampling of what these magical weekends are like.

        Each Gabriola haiku retreat has engendered a warm sense of community. Poets of various skill levels from both on and off the island gather to share and discuss their poetry. The atmosphere is convivial and supportive, and everyone brings an open mind to learn and explore. Some poets are discovering haiku for the first time, but share their poems with a joy and verve equal to those who have been writing haiku for many years. As you read these pages, you’ll gain more than just a sense of what it’s like to attend the annual Gabriola haiku weekends—you’ll also learn something about its many participants.

        This book also celebrates Naomi Beth Wakan herself. I’m pleased to include several key contributions she’s written, starting with “Grounded on Gabriola,” about her path to the island and the genesis of the haiku weekends; “How to Write a Haiku,” a poem that every haiku poet should know by heart; and “Living by Poetry,” an interview with Naomi by Vicki McCullough. Were it not for the generosity of Naomi and her husband Eli, none of our treasured annual haiku retreats on Gabriola would have happened.

      At the 2007 Gabriola haiku weekend, Jim Swift mentioned the word “eunoia.” Not only is it the shortest word in the English language that includes all five vowels, but it also means “beautiful thinking.” Jim emphasized that this is how he sees haiku, as a reflection of the self, thinking beautifully, and I heartily agree. Regardless of the experience level of each haiku weekend participant, each poem and comment in this book is indeed “beautiful thinking,” with each word written in engaged response to the unfathomable mysteries of the visible. In that spirit, I invite you to slowly turn this book’s pages and enter not just Gabriola’s island-time, but also enter each contributor’s beautiful thinking.


My Poems

The following are two of my haiku also contributed to the book:


        the ferry shakes

        into my spine—

        the whale’s wake                               +


        loons scattering . . .

        a floatplane touches down

        into summer 


To order Tidepools: Haiku On Gabriola 

Tidepools: Haiku On Gabriola. Edited by Michael Dylan Welch. Gabriola, British Columbia: Pacific-Rim Publishers, 2011. ISBN 978-0-921358-26-8. 6x9 inches, 72 pages, $20 plus postage from Naomi Beth Wakan, 3085 Mander Road, Gabriola Island, BC V0R 1X7 Canada, or from Michael Dylan Welch at 22230 NE 28th Place, Sammamish, WA 98074-6408 USA (please inquire about postage, depending where you live, by emailing or The book is also listed on Naomi Beth Wakan’s website (scroll down). See also the Contents and list of Contributors.


This book celebrates ten years of haiku weekends on Gabriola Island, British Columbia, with contributions from 42 poets, including Sonja Arntzen, Winona Baker, Allan Brown, Susan Constable, Alice Frampton, Christopher Herold, Jim Kacian, Carole MacRury, Vicki McCullough, Tanya McDonald, Naia, Richard R. Powell, Jim Swift, Ursula Vaira, Naomi Beth Wakan, and Michael Dylan Welch, featuring a mix of haiku, senryu, haibun, renku, rengay, reminiscences, and an interview with Naomi Beth Wakan by Vicki McCullough.


Tidepools: Haiku On Gabriola, edited by Michael Dylan Welch, is perfectly shaped, perfectly positioned to reflect a wordless light, the unfathomable mysteries of the visible. The book weaves together powerful memories and poems from ten years of the annual haiku weekends on Gabriola Island, British Columbia. Tidepools is a great joy to read—it almost feels like being there. By turns playful, ironic, and elegiac, the book’s haiku show simple elegance, impressive depth. Related literary forms of haibun, rengay, and kasen renku give wider impressions of the poetic gatherings on the island. Tidepools also pays homage to Naomi Beth Wakan, a most hospitable host, and fine haiku and lyric poet in her own right. Beautiful thinking! Beautiful writing!”

Terry Ann Carter, author of Lighting the Global Lantern:

A Teacher’s Guide to Haiku and Related Literary Forms


“Solitude is often the poet’s muse, but this charming and wonderfully candid collection of short reminiscences and poetry celebrates the pleasures and inspiration of the communal haiku workshop that has been hosted for ten years by poet and writer Naomi Beth Wakan with her husband Eli. Forty-two poets, old and new in both poetry and their experience of Gabriola Island, give a beautiful portrait of the inspiration of fellow poets, Naomi’s garden, and Drumbeg Park.”

Pamela Asquith, anthropologist and Japanologist