Haiku Northwest’s annual Seabeck Haiku Getaway celebrated its tenth annual retreat in October of 2017. What began as a shorter weekend tradition in 2008 quickly stretched into a long weekend, and over the years we’ve added new and varied traditions. Perhaps the talent show was our most dramatic addition, but even smaller traditions, such as weathergrams or the “haiku sputnik,” have contributed to the weekend’s flavor. What follows, to commemorate our tenth anniversary, is an overview of each of Haiku Northwest’s first ten haiku retreats at the Seabeck Conference Center in Seabeck, Washington. While not every activity is listed, these reports cover a great majority of each weekend’s numerous highlights, with gratitude to everyone who helped to make them happen.
For the first retreat in 2008, our theme song was Sarah McLachlan’s “Ordinary Miracles” (“everything is beautiful— / it’s just another ordinary miracle today”), a fitting lyric for how haiku celebrates the ordinary miracles of everyday existence. As our featured guest, Emiko Miyashita from Japan led an introduction to haiku from a Japanese perspective, and surprised us by wearing different kimonos during the weekend. With Michael Dylan Welch, she read poems from the recently published Gendai Haiku Kyokai Anthology, The Haiku Universe for the 21st Century. She also talked about “Santōka’s Traditional and Free-Verse Haiku,” sharing selections of her translations done with Paul Watsky. Other highlights were a “Haiku Show and Tell” group activity led by Ruth Yarrow, a “Details of Japan” slide show and “Fuyoh Observations: Six Lessons from Japanese Haiku” presentation by Michael, plus Christopher Herold’s two-part workshop, “Feathering the Moment: Spontaneous Composition Emanating from Silent Observation.” Christopher later collected poems from this collaborative exercise in a small booklet that might be considered our first unofficial retreat anthology, or at least a precursor to this tradition. Margaret Chula led a haibun workshop, and Alice Frampton talked about “The Music of Haiku” and facilitated an outdoor scavenger hunt. We also began our tradition of having anonymous haiku workshops, where poems without names are written on a whiteboard for group discussion. This first year we also had a friendly competition for best name badges. Over the years we’ve each made our own, with great creativity and variety (plus, ahem, a sticky note or two). We no longer continued the competition after this first year, but do continue to revel in the creative ways attendees have identified themselves. In later years we’ve had as many as 10 to 20 newcomers each year, so name badges have been very helpful. In our first year nearly all attendees came from Washington State, but in later years we welcomed participants more and more from Canada, from Oregon and California, and from farther east on the continent—and once or twice from Australia.
We held our 2008 meetings in Reeser House, our chairs arranged in a large circle that taxed the room’s limits. On the Sunday afternoon we all visited Scenic Beach State Park to explore the woods, the waterfront, and the old Emel house where Seabeck Haiku Getaway cofounder Alice Frampton lived as a child. Michael and Alice codirected this first retreat, and the registration fee was $139, including accommodations (Friday and Saturday nights), and all meals and activities. This first year we made $203 on the silent auction, which was just enough for us to break even on our expenses, and these silent auctions have been a great benefit ever since. Here’s a poem by Emiko from the first Seabeck Haiku Getaway weekend:
Reeser House’s bathtub
still warm, I wonder who took the bath
Our second retreat took place October 16–18, 2009, in the Lounge, an A-frame building with large triangles of windows at each end. Partway through the weekend we marveled at how, for at least ten minutes, it was raining at one end of the short building but not at the other! Tanya McDonald joined Michael in directing this retreat, and they continued to run the next few retreats together, with Tanya serving as registrar, taking on the challenge of making sure everyone got into the accommodations they needed and had their dietary restrictions met. The weekend’s theme song was “Bread and Roses” by Judy Collins (“Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses”). The registration fee was $159, and we had 33 attendees. Penny Harter was our featured guest, and with Penny we began a new tradition of starting the weekend with a reading by our guest, this time titled “Haiku Hopscotch: From Haiku, to Sequences, to Haibun.” Down at the beach, Penny also skipped her first stone ever. She also led a haibun workshop and facilitated a Hubble telescope photo workshop, with dozens of space photos scattered on the floor for us to pick up and write about—or be inspired to write about whatever came to mind. Another new tradition was our first annual Seabeck kukai, or haiku contest. We each wrote haiku anonymously on index cards and then we chose and discussed our favorites—it was a pleasure to find out who wrote the winning poems. Other highlights included a discussion led by Ce Rosenow on “The Haiku Society of America in 2010 and Beyond” (Ce was president of the society that year), an exploration of Southern California season words by Deborah P Kolodji, with the suggestion that we might nurture a similar awareness with Pacific Northwest seasonal references. In addition, Richard Tice gave a presentation on “What Might Have Happened When Sōchō and Bashō Wrote Linked Verse?” Margaret D. McGee also gave a talk from her recent book, Haiku—the Sacred Art. We also wrote tan-renga together, later collected in a booklet, and Michael gave a presentation on “Learning from Shugyō Takaha.” Tanya led another “Haiku Show and Tell,” during which time Genie Nakano danced some haiku for us, among many other fascinating revelations. Dejah Léger also recorded a magical video of each of us reading our haiku, which we were happy to share on social media and on YouTube after the weekend.
Another standout from the weekend was the production of our first official retreat anthology. In fact, we made two. Tanya McDonald edited Woolly Bears and Cedar Flashing, collecting haiku, senryu, and haibun written during the weekend. Michael edited Seeing Stars, assembling “galactiku” poems written during Penny’s Hubble telescope workshop. Both books were hand-sewn, and Seeing Stars later won the “Best Anthology” award in 2010 in the Haiku Society of America’s Kanterman Book Awards, for all haiku books published in 2009. Old-time Seabeck attendees still rave about Penny’s remarkable and inspiring workshop. The following is one of Penny’s poems:
so many stars—
how can we be lonely
in their light
In 2010, Charles Trumbull was our guest speaker, over the weekend of November 4 to 7. For the first time we started on Thursday afternoon. The extra night bumped our registration fee up to $199, and we’ve kept the retreat to three nights since then. We also moved to the Colman Center for the first time, to accommodate our 39 attendees. We met upstairs in a large circle of chairs, and used the downstairs room for other activities. “Seize the Day” by Carolyn Arends was our theme song (“Seize the day, seize whatever you can / ’Cause life slips away just like hourglass sand”), reminding us to make the most of life’s moments that make up the warp and weft of haiku. Charlie gave detailed presentations on “Meaning in Haiku” and “The Uses of Haiku: Native American Writers.” Other presentations were “Haiku with Very Few Verbs” by Jerry Ball, “Exploring Urban Haiku” by Deborah P Kolodji, “The Seasons in Kigoless Haiku” by Christopher Herold, and “Punctuation in Haiku,” a workshop by Michael. Tanya McDonald walked us through her workshop, “Juxtaposition: Taking a Flying Leap,” and led us on “Favorite Haiku” and “Haiku Show and Tell” group sharings. Susan Constable’s haiga slideshow, “In and Out of Water,” brought the art of haiga to our increased attention, and we’ve continued to have haiga displays and presentations in most subsequent years. Ce Rosenow directed a workshop on prose poetry and haibun and gave a presentation on “(Re)Defining the West: Orientalism in American Haiku.” Christopher and Michael also led renku writing sessions.
A particular highlight from the weekend was a craft activity led by Susan Callan in making suminagashi, or ink marbling on fancy papers. The 2010 handmade retreat anthology, From Leaf to Leaf, edited by Tanya and Michael and with illustrations by Dorothy Matthews, featured suminagashi paper on each unique cover. This year was also the first year we hung what we call the “haiku sputnik” in our meeting room—a sphere with dozens of haiku on index cards clipped to the ends of metal antennas. From the start it was always a pleasure to see our featured guest discover that all of the sputnik’s poems were his or hers. Outside the Colman Center meeting location we also enjoyed the brand new “Bouncy Bridge,” a short suspension bridge stretched across a shallow gully, which led to many moments of laughter, and poems as well. For the first time this year, we also presented the results of the Porad Award haiku contest, sponsored by the Washington Poets Association but recently taken over by Haiku Northwest. Here’s one of Charlie Trumbull’s haiku from the weekend, with its Bashō allusion:
in the distance
a duck calls, whitely
For 2011, still at the Colman Center, we met over the weekend of October 13 to 16, with John Stevenson as our guest. He had taken the train all the way from upstate New York to join us. As usual, the fall colors were out in full force. We had 31 attendees, and our registration fee was again $199. Our theme song, “Bound by the Beauty,” came from Jane Siberry (“I’m bound by the beauty of light upon the land / Oh, I’m bound by the beauty of the wind”), echoing the delight that surely all haiku poets feel in response to the world around them. John led us in three workshops that helped us recognize the world’s beauty, and its darkness, including improvisational writing. Michael Dylan Welch led “renkurama” and rengay writing sessions, and gave a talk on “21 Haiku Lessons from A Book of Tea.” Carmi Soifer led us on a haiku walk focusing on our five senses, and Susan Constable gave another presentation and slideshow on “Photo Haiga: Getting Started.”
Barbara Snow also introduced us to weathergrams, which we’ve been making ever since—haiku in calligraphy, done on strips of biodegradable paper, hung with string on bushes and trees around the campus. And it’s from Barbara’s presentation, I believe, that this tradition has spread to the larger haiku community, with weathergrams making common appearances at many other haiku events across the continent. As far as I can tell, this happened only after their introduction at Seabeck. The Seabeck staff has told us how they and other guests have enjoyed finding these poems here and there around the grounds for months afterwards.
Meanwhile, as usual, we also held our book fair and silent auction, the latter of which has continued to help raise money for our expenses—our gratitude to everyone who has donated whatever they can, this year and in all subsequent years. And for our anthology this year, we went with a holographic option. This meant that each poet hand-wrote one of his or her poems on special paper designed for custom boxes. The poems were assembled into individual boxes, titled Bound by the Beauty, and given to each attendee. Here is a Seabeck poem by John Stevenson:
bouncing foot bridge—
I let go of
October 11 to 14 in 2012 saw us returning for our fifth anniversary retreat. Our attendance jumped to 51 people, our highest yet, despite an increased registration fee of $215. Our theme song was an instrumental for the first time—“Gathering” by Chris Spheeris, celebrating the joy of our being together. This time Paul Miller was our featured guest. He led us in a fun and informative workshop, “Haiku Mad Libs.” He also gave presentations on “Synesthesia in Haiku,” or sense-switching, and on “The Space Between,” about the different ways we can create space in the juxtaposition of two parts in our haiku.
We also started a new tradition by having a panel discussion, this first time exploring “Poetic Truth,” with Cara Holman, Tanya McDonald, Angela Terry, and Michael Dylan Welch sharing their thoughts on authenticity in haiku. One panel discussion wasn’t enough, though. We also explored “The What and Why of Gendai Haiku,” with Johnny Baranski, Barry George, Tanya, Paul, and Michael as panelists. I’m not sure we got to the bottom of many questions regarding gendai (modern) haiku, some of which is surreal, opaque, and avant-garde, but we certainly tried.
Other presentations were “Online Haiku Resources” by Cara, “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Syllables” by Michael (about why counting 5-7-5 syllables is not exactly logical for haiku in English), and digital haiga projections by Terri L. French, Carole MacRury, Annette Makino, Jim Swift, and Michael. For beginners this year, Michael offered his “Introduction to Haiku” workshop, while Tanya led one of our anonymous workshops—and Johnny Baranski led another anonymous workshop later. Tanya also facilitated a bookmaking workshop with hand-folded papers. We had another scavenger hunt to get us outdoors, and then shared our discoveries—and sometimes poems. Ruth Yarrow also led us on a stimulating nature ramble—the “Woods and Water Ginkō” (haiku walk).
A focal point for the weekend was a sumi-e and haiga demonstration by Fumiko Kimura, where we all tried our hands at brush painting. This art exercise was in association with another new tradition, a display of haiga by members of the Haiga Adventure Study Group of Puget Sound Sumi Artists. We enjoyed their wonderful artwork set up on easels not only in the Colman Center but also in the dining room, where other conference center visitors could enjoy them. We have been fortunate to have the same group provide marvelous haiga exhibits for us every year since, coordinated by Dorothy Matthews and others.
We also enjoyed haiku readings by Barry George, Terri L. French, Alison Hedlund, Margaret D. McGee, Carmi Soifer, Doris H. Thurston, and Annika Wallendahl, beginning a new tradition of having featured readings by selected attendees. Speaking of Doris, another fond memory of this weekend was hearing her play piano during a break when she thought no one was listening.
As usual, we announced the Porad contest winners (this time with flute music by James Rodriguez, who has done this repeatedly since this year) and held another kukai. Cupcakes with autumn-orange frosting helped us celebrate our fifth annual retreat, to go along with a PowerPoint presentation with photos and retreat highlights put together by Michael. Somewhere during the weekend we also had a hokey-pokey break, all putting our best foot in and shaking it all about.
Our biggest new retreat addition, though, was the Seabeck Talent Show. Our MC was Dejah Léger, and if any of us remembers anything from the evening’s tremendous variety and fun, it would have to include the worldwide premiere performance of “Ku Contemplator” by Terri L. French, to the tune of Sade’s “Smooth Operator,” complete with air saxophone by Raymond French. We also witnessed dancing, storytelling, guitar duets (Dejah and Stuart Zobel), dramatic monologues, Broadway musical showstoppers, flute, piano, poems longer than haiku, some bad and not-so-bad jokes, and . . . a crankie. If you don’t know what a crankie is, it’s a storytelling art-form where a long scroll of paper is “cranked” from one spool to another in front of a bright light, showing silhouetted illustrations, usually while a story is told, sometimes with music. Singing in French, Dejah presented a very detailed crankie that she had been working on for months, a foretaste of another special crankie that we would enjoy the next year.
Our retreat anthology for 2012 was Windfall, edited by Connie Hutchison and Ruth Yarrow, but really a team project. Dianne Garcia did layout, and Connie Hutchison provided book design. The collection also included sumi-e by Fumiko Kimura and Frank Kawasaki, and photography by Nick Felkey and Michael Dylan Welch. Each book was hand-bound with bamboo and waxed linen into handmade mulberry paper covers, with fold-out pages for art and the group photo, a truly stunning keepsake of the weekend.
As with each of these weekend descriptions, I’m not able to mention everything, but you can see that our first five years showed the Seabeck Haiku Getaway to be expanding and maturing in exciting ways. Here is a poem by Paul Miller from our fifth annual Seabeck haiku weekend:
a freighter ballasted
with distant sea water
We began our next five years of annual Seabeck haiku retreats over the weekend of October 10 to 13, 2013, still at the Colman Center. We gathered 49 attendees, and the registration fee remained at $215. Our theme song was Louis Armstrong’s “Wonderful World.” In previous years we played recordings of theme songs, but this year we heard the song live on piano, played by our featured guest, Marco Fraticelli. He also sang the lyrics, which many haiku poets surely love (“I see skies of blue and clouds of white, / the bright blessed day, the dark sacred night, / and I think to myself, what a wonderful world”). Marco was particularly excited to be featured at Seabeck, and his warmth and enthusiasm were infectious. In addition to the customary opening-night poetry reading, he also gave a presentation on “The Haiku Moment vs. the Hallmark Moment” and summarized his King’s Road Press books, including a gift for everyone of Square in the Circle, a new anthology that offered selected poems by each of the poets featured in his long-running series of publications by leading haiku and senryu poets writing in English.
Marco’s main presentation, though, was a screening of Celesta Found, a 2003 documentary movie by his sister, Rina Fraticelli, about his accidental discovery around 1972 of a cardboard box in an abandoned log cabin in the Eastern Townships of Québec. The box contained paper, scraps, grocery lists, funeral notices, tax receipts, and seven diaries—all dating from the years 1895 to 1916. This screening was followed by Marco’s book launch of Drifting, an innovative collection of haibun using actual diary entries by Celesta, appended with his new haiku, entering into the voice of the diary’s characters. He was helped in this dramatic performance by Terry Ann Carter, in costume as Celesta, reading diary selections. Marco followed this dramatic performance with a workshop on writing haibun.
As an icebreaker this year we had the “Haiku Bingo” activity, and again enjoyed renkurama collaborative writing. We gained inspiration from anonymous workshops led by Richard Tice, Tanya McDonald, and Michael Dylan Welch. Other presentations included “The French Revolution” by Jessica Tremblay (an overview of French-language haiku activity), a “How Long Is a Moment” workshop led by Michael (he also provided another beginner workshop), an “Invitation to Tanka Reading and Writing” session by Kozue Uzawa, and a haiku writing workshop, “Emily Carr’s Wild Flowers,” given by Terry Ann Carter. Still more presentations from the weekend included “Telling Family Stories” (haibun) by Dianne Garcia, “Time Travel with Haiku,” a writing workshop led by Jacquie Pearce, and “Becoming the Leaf: A Haiku by E. E. Cummings” by Michael. As our first cartoonist-in-residence, Jessica Tremblay also talked about her haiku comic, “Old Pond Comics,” and shared several new comic strips about our haiku weekend (she worked late into Saturday night to finish these for us on Sunday morning). We also had a memorial for Jay Gelzer, a beloved member of Haiku Northwest. She loved coming to Seabeck, and had died shortly after our 2012 retreat.
One of the weekend’s most memorable highlights was “Entering the Labyrinth: Making and Walking a Spiral Labyrinth,” a presentation by Margaret D. McGee. After Margaret talked about the history and varieties of labyrinths, she led us outside to construct one ourselves, on the lawn beside the Colman Center. We gathered branches and leaves and other natural materials from the woods, worked together to lay out a labyrinth, and decorated it with our haiku (on weathergrams). We then walked the spirals meditatively—naturally falling into silence as we walked. This exercise prompted the writing of many haiku, which found their own special section in the 2013 retreat anthology, A Warm Welcome, edited by Michael Dylan Welch and Angela Terry, with artwork by Annette Makino. We’ve often used one of Annette’s paintings of the Seabeck sign to publicize subsequent Seabeck retreats, and have used the same painting on Facebook as the Seabeck Haiku Getaway profile image.
We also heard haiku readings by Susan Constable, Vicki McCullough, Annette Makino, Carmen Sterba, Terry Ann Carter, and Johnny Baranski, the latter with piano accompaniment from Marco. We also revealed the winners of the 2013 Porad haiku contest, celebrated the winners of another annual Seabeck kukai, and had Alice Frampton lead us on a walk through the woods, rife with wild mushrooms and falling maple leaves, to the historic cemetery at the edge of the Seabeck conference grounds. This walk also inspired poems that found their own section in the 2013 retreat anthology.
And we enjoyed another spectacular talent show on Saturday night, again MC’d by Dejah Léger. Following up on her much-loved crankie performance in 2012, this year she had all attendees contribute to making a new crankie, writing their haiku on a long scroll, which we celebrated with much delight, reading the poems aloud as they scrolled past the light. Another highlight was the ukulele chorus, but how could we forget the belly dancing, magic tricks, storytelling, jokes, poems, ocarina, singing, autoharp, piano, guitar, harmonica, and so much more?
If all of this were not enough, on the Sunday afternoon we were moved by a special trip to the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial, the first location in the United States where Japanese Americans were forcefully removed to internment camps during World War II. We were fortunate to have a guided tour of the memorial park by Lily Kodama (filling in at the last minute when Clarence Moriwaki was unable to lead the tour), and then drove to nearby Winslow to visit the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, where we viewed a documentary on the Manzanar WWII internment camp and saw the photography exhibit, “Ansel Adams: A Portrait of Manzanar.” We then gathered at the new Bainbridge Island Art Museum for “Haiku Travels,” a public reading by Terry Ann Carter, Marco Fraticelli, and Michael Dylan Welch, and an open-mic reading, complete with displays of handmade haiku books by Terry Ann plus sumi-e and haiga by Puget Sound Sumi Artists, coordinated by Dorothy Matthews. Such rich weekends our Seabeck haiku retreats are, as you can see. Here’s a poem by Marco Fraticelli from this very full weekend:
wasting my time
In 2014, we again held our Seabeck retreat near the height of autumn colors, October 16 to 19. This year marked the 100th anniversary of the Seabeck Conference Center, and we were treated to a special history presentation by Seabeck Conference Center executive director, Chuck Kraining. We again met at the Colman Center, and our theme song was “Getaway” by Earth, Wind and Fire (“So come, take me by the hand, we’ll leave this troubled land. Get away!”). Registration remained at $215, and we had a record 57 attendees. This was the first year that Angela Terry joined Michael Dylan Welch in running the retreat, serving as our capable registrar, making sure that everyone was properly registered for all or part of the weekend, and assigned to their preferred overnight accommodations.
This year also began a new tradition that would last for five years, exploring each of the five senses in turn. We began in 2014 with the sense of sound, with many of our activities for the weekend emphasizing sound, such as Susan Constable’s Thursday-night workshop, “Writing Sound Haiku,” “Sounds and Other Senses,” a nature walk led by Ruth Yarrow, and “400 Years of Sound in Japanese Haiku” by Richard Tice. Aubrie Cox also led a workshop on “Musicality in Haibun Prose.”
Our featured guest this year was Alan Pizzarelli, who began with a reading from his new best-of haiku and senryu collection, Frozen Socks. He continued with “American Haiku: A Personal Perspective from the Late Sixties to Today,” a freeform reminiscence of poets who played major roles in developing and popularizing English-language haiku poetry—he seemed to know them all! This session was so bountiful it could have gone on for many more hours (who knew that Alan and Haiku Handbook author William J. Higginson used to be roommates?). Together with his partner, Donna Beaver, Alan also talked about their podcast, “Haiku Chronicles: A Continued Journey into Multimedia and Podcasting” (some of their recordings at the 2014 Seabeck retreat would be featured in later podcasts). Alan also gave a senryu presentation titled “Monkeys Invade the Sacred Palace and Chase Out the Tiger.” He also participated in a panel discussion, “Haiku as Poetry,” led by Aubrie Cox, which also included Deborah P Kolodji, John Stevenson, and Michael Dylan Welch, exploring the perception of haiku by the larger poetry community and how this perception has evolved.
Margaret D. McGee also made another labyrinth, and led meditations before breakfast each morning with labyrinth walks. Other activities included “A Haiku Trip to Japan” by Michael Dylan Welch, about his most recent visit (including a trip to Bashō’s birthplace in Iga Ueno), and anonymous workshops by Kathy Munro and Deborah P Kolodji. Kathy, visiting from Whitehorse, also talked about the “Gift of the Land: Yukon Seasons.” Susan Callan led us in a craft workshop, “Make a Flag Book: An Elegant Haiku Keeper,” and master quilter RaNae Merrill talked about and displayed her elegant “Haikuilts,” a combination of classic haiku and some of her own with detailed quilt designs.
We enjoyed haiku readings by Deborah P Kolodji, Tanya McDonald, John Stevenson, Aubrie Cox, Christopher Herold, and Karma Tenzing Wangchuk, plus a featured reading of haiku and senryu from Haiku Northwest’s recently published 25th anniversary anthology, No Longer Strangers. Michelle Schaefer coordinated the reading, with music by James Rodriguez.
John Stevenson (our first featured guest to make a repeat visit) gave a workshop titled “Editor: Gatekeeper and Mentor,” putting us in the position of being an editor for a haiku journal, considering a hypothetical submission. Carole MacRury introduced us to “Poems from the Shuswap: Haiku by Laryalee Fraser,” with help from Susan Constable, and Terry Ann Carter facilitated a moving workshop, “Chiyo-ni and Aisatsu: Composing Greeting Haiku.”
Our Friday-night highlight was perhaps one of the most magical events in our history. We were each given round paper lanterns with a blue tea light inside, and were invited to take a walk in the dark. In keeping with our weekend theme of sound, we did this walk in complete silence. What made the experience so magical was seeing dozens of haiku poets in a line, each carrying large round paper lanterns in the dark, all in silence, except for the persistent rain—and even the rain added to the event’s aura, as if we were pilgrims determined to overcome any hardship or complication. We filed quietly across the wooden bridge to the antique store by the marina where he could hear Hood Canal’s splashing waves. We then silently crossed the wooden bridge again, and diverted to the boardwalk for a stop at what I like to call the moon viewing platform. We next walked in spirals through the labyrinth, and then headed up to the Cathedral in the Woods. There we finally began to talk, quietly, sharing some of our thoughts about the experience and reciting a few stray haiku—and Angela Terry rewarded us with chocolate truffles.
Other events during the weekend included a t’ai chi break and rengay writing, both of which we’d had before. Additional events included “Should the First Be Last,” a haiku revision workshop led by Deborah P Kolodji, inviting us to consider the reversal of lines, and a “Haiku on Steroids” workshop directed by Michael Dylan Welch, where we made lists of haiku taboos or rules we typically wouldn’t break and then wrote poems deliberately on those taboos or breaking those rules.
As usual, kukai voting, renkurama writing and reading, and Porad contest announcements brightened the weekend, and of course our shared meals in the dining hall are always an unsung gratification, as are the trifolds and other freebies on our freebie table, and copious snacks. Michael Dylan Welch had his “Haikuseum” on display, too, with boxes to open, poem cards to read, and other interactions.
Our Saturday night featured another rousing talent show, a surprise highlight of which was Barbara Hay introducing us to palm pipes. She gave each of us a plastic pipe, color-coded by length. We hit the end of the pipe on our palms, matching the pipe color to colors on a projected musical score. What fun music we made together, in such an unexpected way. After the talent show came “A Gala Roast of Michael Dylan Welch,” hosted by the one and only Joey Clifton (Alan Pizzarelli in disguise), with ignoble contributions by Donna Beaver and many other poets in attendance. A recording was made of this event but has mysteriously failed to surface.
On the Sunday, we heard from Jessica Tremblay, again our cartoonist-in-residence, with “Old Pond Comics: Out of the Woods,” replete with fresh-off-the-laptop comics about our retreat. On the Sunday afternoon we again visited the Bainbridge Island Art Museum, enjoying a tour of current exhibitions, followed by a reception for Haiku Northwest in celebration of its new No Longer Strangers anthology. In addition to readings from that book, we also enjoyed haiku and senryu from Donna Beaver and Alan Pizzarelli (with Native American flute and harmonica), as well as poems from Aubrie Cox, Bob Moyer, John Stevenson, and Michael Dylan Welch, plus an open mic.
After the retreat, Chandra Bales and Susan Constable served as editors for Rainsong, our 2014 anthology, featuring haiga and sumi-e by Melinda Brottem, Darlene Dihel, Judy Kalin, Fumiko Kimura, Dorothy Matthews, and Nora Shannon—we remain grateful, as before, for their contributions to the Puget Sound Sumi Artists exhibit in the dining hall. The following is one of Alan Pizzarelli’s poems from the weekend:
in the still silence
the slow fall
of cottonwood seeds
Our 2015 retreat took place earlier than usual, over the weekend of October 1 to 4, with fall colors just beginning, and featured Randy M. Brooks. We again met at the Colman Center, our registration fee was slightly higher at $225, and we collected 50 attendees. Our theme song this year was a soaring jazz guitar instrumental, “Praise,” by Pat Metheny. The attitude of praise lies behind many haiku, and it seemed a suitable way to celebrate our common poetic passion.
Our theme for the weekend was the sense of touch, which manifested itself immediately on the opening night in “Getting in Touch: Breaking the Ice” facilitated by Katharine Grubb, followed by the “Haiku Handshake,” where we lined up to shake hands with everyone else in attendance. Lots of hugs, too. Michael Dylan Welch led us in a group discussion on “The Meanings of Touch,” and facilitated a workshop on “The Finishing Touch: Cutting Haiku” while Tanya McDonald gave a beginner workshop. Other touch-related presentations included “Feeling the Flow: A Touch of T’ai Chi” demonstrated by Elizabeth-Ann Winkler, “Keeping in Touch with International Haiku Poets” by Carmen Sterba, and “Touching and Touched: The Body’s Experience,” facilitated by Erica Akiko Howard, a gentle movement exercise designed to bring awareness to the body as the instrument of touch—immediately followed by a backrub break for those who wanted to participate. Kathabela Wilson facilitated “Touch Notes,” Richard Tice led us through “Four Hundred Years of Touchy-Feely Japanese Haiku,” and Angela Terry gave a presentation on “Touching Japan.” Jacquie Pearce also got us going with “Erotic Haiku: A Hands-On Workshop.”
Perhaps the most tactile of our touching weekend activities, though, was “Bagging It: Hands-In Writing Workshop.” Angela Terry and Michael Dylan Welch gave each participant a paper bag and asked them to feel inside the bag, without looking, and to write haiku in response to what they felt—buttons, walnuts, thimbles, coins, and who knows what else. Initial apprehension quickly turned to engaged chattering and the inspiration for many poems.
We also heard haiku readings by Michelle Schaefer and Ce Rosenow, and the “One Breath Poets” group from Bend, Oregon (Janet Whitney, Sandy Thompson, and Lorna Cahall), at the Cathedral in the Woods. Ce also gave a talk on “Caring Imagination: Haikai and Care Ethics,” and Patty Hardin introduced us to “Taking the Buson Challenge.” Other presentations included an “Ink, Brush, Paper” haiga presentation by Annette Makino, and an overview of “Haiga on Tanzaku Scrolls” by Dorothy Matthews. As usual, we also had renkurama and rengay writing, an anonymous workshop, our kukai, the Porad contest winners announcement, a group photo, and talent show, plus a “Slow Ginkō” (haiku walk) led by Michael. Completely unusual was that we spotted a Pacific spiny dogfish (a type of bottom-feeding shark) in the lagoon!
Randy M. Brooks gave us our chief weekend highlights, though, starting with his Thursday-night haiku reading. He also talked about “A Life Touched by Haiku: Forty Years of Writing, Editing, Publishing, and Teaching,” detailing a remarkable career of tremendous influence in English-language haiku poetry. His featured presentation was “American Haiku: A Century Filled with Experimentation,” followed by a break-the-mold workshop in writing experimental haiku. He left us with “The Haiku Blessing,” about the intimate ways haiku invite us to be touched by other’s lives, perceptions, sensations, and shared insights.
For 2015, our anthology editors were Dianne Garcia, Tanya McDonald, and Angela Terry, and the numbered, handbound collection they produced was titled Exhaling. Here’s a poem from the book by Randy M. Brooks:
fog settles over the bay
the retreat center
The sense of smell guided our next Seabeck Haiku Getaway, this being our next theme taken from the five primary senses. The 2016 retreat took place from October 27 to 30, once again at the Colman Center—our last time there. The theme song went a bit campy this year, with “Stop and Smell the Roses” by Ringo Starr (“Why don’t I just stop, look at the pretty roses, smell them for one moment, take the time to see?”). This year’s retreat attracted 59 attendees, a new record number, but the fee to register remained at $225.
Our featured guest was scholar and translator Sonja Arntzen. She read some of her own haiku on the opening evening, and gave thought-provoking presentations on “Sniffing Out Haiku in the Waka Tradition,” “Associative Linking: An Aesthetic Constant in Japanese Literature,” and “Utamakura: Place as a Pillow for Poetry.” The first talk gave us a larger and older context for our haiku habit. The second talk prepped us for our collaborative writing to come, and the third talk inspired us to make stronger use of place names in our haiku as a means of giving our work richer meaning and greater compression. As already suggested, Sonja also inspired us in a renku-writing session, titled “Four Sheets to the Seabeck Wind.” Her instructions said, “The rules are to make it a game and therefore fun. Give the rules your best shot, but if it stops being fun, start breaking the rules.” Joining Sonja for the weekend was her husband, Richard John Lynn, a scholar and translator of Chinese literature, who talked about “Image and Imagination in the Chinese Poetic Tradition.”
This year we began mini-writing exercises called “Write Now,” each with a minute or so to explain a prompt, ten minutes of writing, and a few more minutes to share what we came up with. We had had “Write Now” sessions in 2015, but they were longer exercises. This year’s “Write Now” activities were just fifteen minutes each (in subsequent years they would be shortened to ten minutes), and were provided by Angela Terry (“The Scent of Song”), Michael Dylan Welch (“The Stink of Politics,” focusing on senryu), Chandra Bales (“The Scent of the Season”), Lynne Jambor (“The Scent of Cooking”), John Stevenson (“The Scent of Childhood”), Johnny Baranski (“Goblins and Ghosts,” in celebration of our Halloween weekend), Carolyn Winkler and Angela Terry (“The Scent of the Dead,” in acknowledgment of the Day of the Dead), and Vicki McCullough (“The Scent of Memory”). These sessions enabled us to do more haiku writing than in some of our previous retreats, and mostly emphasized the weekend theme.
Also connecting to the theme was “Making Sense of Smell,” a writing workshop led by Angela and Michael, using small containers of smelly things (mostly nice—but with a few olfactory surprises) to inspire fresh writing. We also enjoyed “The Scent of Japanese Haiku,” a presentation of haiku translations by Richard Tice. Over the years Richard has gifted us with many fine explorations of Japanese haiku, all with his own translations, and we are particularly grateful for his knowledge and research in this area.
Fittingly for this spooky time of the year, Jacquie Pearce led a haiku workshop on “Halloween and Horror,” followed by a “Zombie shoulder-rub break” (you’ll have to imagine that). We also had a “Mask-Making” Halloween craft activity led by Angela and Carolyn, followed up during our talent show with a mask dance and procession. Katharine Grubb MC’d our talent show in fine style, orchestrating elaborate Halloween decorations and dressing up in costume, with much help from others.
Before all this, Darlene Dihel and Dorothy Matthews gave a short talk on “Haiga and Sumi-e,” in support of this year’s haiga exhibit by the Haiga Adventure Study Group of Puget Sound Sumi Artists. Other presentations included a “Scent and Memory” haibun workshop by Margaret Chula, at the same time as Michael’s “Haiku Targets” workshop for beginners. We were also privileged to hear “My Australian Haiku” by Leanne Mumford, who was visiting us from Down Under. A special treat was “Photographing Haiku,” presented by Hisao Mogi, president of the Rainier Haiku Ginsha, Seattle’s Japanese-language haiku group (Hisao is also an accomplished photographer).
Jay Friedenberg gave us “Painting Haiku,” a reading and art presentation. Other featured readings were shared by Dianne Garcia, Margaret Chula, and Leanne Mumford. And, in the Cathedral in the Woods, we also heard haiku and senryu by the Portland Haiku Group (Shelley Baker-Gard, Johnny Baranski, James Rodriguez, and Carolyn Winkler), plus readings by Chandra Bales, Barbara Snow, Chrissi Villa (from her new book The Bluebird’s Cry), and Michael Dylan Welch and Tanya McDonald (from their new book Seven Suns / Seven Moons).
Terran Campbell, Tanya, and Angela also led a moving memorial reading for longtime Haiku Northwest member Marilyn Sandall. Angela Naccarato inspired us with an innovative craft activity, “Haiku Rocks,” in which we penned or painted haiku on specially selected and prepared stones. David Berger gave an informative and timely presentation “All About Mushrooms,” and then led us on a nature walk to hunt for specimens. The mushrooms seemed especially cooperative this year, too. Michael Dylan Welch talked about “The Weather-Beaten Jizo: Shikoku Pilgrimage Haiku by Shuji Niwano,” complete with maps, photographs, and a bush warbler sound recording to go with pilgrimage haiku. Speaking of Japan, Annette Makino and her daughter Maya shared “Journey to Japan: A Haiku Travelogue,” documenting their recent family trip to the home of haiku. And to make sure we stayed in a Japanese mood, Ellen Ankenbrock, Shelley Baker-Gard, and Carolyn Winkler gave us “First You Boil Water,” a full-blown tea ceremony, with tea and sweets for all. And lest they be forgotten, we held a pair of anonymous workshops, more late-night rengay writing, announced the 2016 Porad contest winners, sold books and other items in our book fair and silent auction, exercised our haiku judgment in the annual kukai, and posed together for the group photo.
The outstanding highlight of the weekend, undoubtedly one of the most memorable activities in our retreat history, was a Saturday night walk to the cemetery. We sauntered through the woods for fifteen minutes, occasionally stepping around large puddles in the trail, and then explored the dark and sometimes overgrown gravestones with flashlights. After half an hour, those who came gathered in a large semicircle outside the cemetery’s wooden fence. There we stood silently for a few minutes, invited to contemplate our mortality. After a few quiet minutes, a distant singing bowl began to ring, and then came a mournful flute. As we stood in silence a white-robed ghost of a figure emerged from the woods, while the flute music played, and the figure quietly handed out large printout posters of jisei, or death haiku, one to each person present. Not a word was spoken as we read each poem by flashlight, such as this by Koyo, who died in 1903: “if I must die / let it be autumn / when the dew is dry,” or this by Ensetsu, who died in 1743: “autumn gust— / I have no further business / in this world.” Then as soon as the ethereal magic started, it drew to a close, as the robed figure (Michelle Schaefer) disappeared into the dark in the direction of the music (played by James Rodriguez). We had all been transformed as we found our way back to the meeting room for the evening’s talent show, themed on Halloween and the Day of the Dead—although with many departures, such as another ukulele chorus.
Our 2016 anthology editors, Ce Rosenow and Barbara Snow, featured poems capturing these and many other moments in Inhaling, titled as a response to the 2015 anthology, Exhaling. Here’s a poem from the 2016 book, by Sonja Arntzen, whose quiet, gentle authority warmed us all weekend:
by the lagoon
wild pears—no fragrance . . .
bitter taste too
And so we come to our tenth anniversary retreat, our first to be held in the Meeting House, a larger facility that gave us much more room for our attendees (52 this year) and all our displays and activities. Our 2017 getaway took place October 26 to 29, with taste as our theme. Our theme song was Ravel’s “Boléro,” a fitting musical metaphor for how everyone comes together for each Seabeck weekend, each one of us adding a distinctive voice to our mounting crescendo in celebration of haiku. Michael Dylan Welch and Angela Terry continued as retreat director and registrar, and our registration fee rose to $240. Though the fees were higher this year, we’d strived each year to make them as lean as possible. The fee was $199 in 2010, the first year the retreat stretched to three nights, so an increase of only $41 over that time has not been great, and we’re grateful to the Seabeck Conference Center for providing such inspiring and versatile facilities at such a reasonable cost.
After our usual opening-night welcome and round of introductions, Scott Mason, our featured guest, launched us into a reading of his haiku, with “A Taste of Sound Play.” His other talks included “Haiku: A State of Wonder” and a haiku workshop, “Tap into Wonder,” both in support of his new book, The Wonder Code, at once an anthology of haiku and a how-to book for writing out of a sense of amazement. As his book emphasizes in its epigraph from Abraham Joshua Heschel, “The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living.” Scott also led us in an overview of “Dandelion Globes and Hand Grenades—Haiku that Move Us” and contributed to a panel discussion on “Personal Taste in Haiku,” which also featured Terry Ann Carter, John Stevenson, and Michael.
Richard Tice expounded on our weekend theme with “A Taste of Japanese Haiku,” with more of his translations, and Angela led us on an experiential writing workshop, titled “A Taste of Haiku,” in which samples of items to taste got us writing. James Rodriguez also led us in “Taste the Wind: Haiku Kites,” an engaging craft workshop where we put together handmade kites, each one decorated with haiku. Some of us ventured outdoors to give our haiku kites test flights, while others were able to make short runs indoors to get their kites aloft.
We had four anonymous workshops this year, led by Michael, Susan Constable, Lynne Jambor, and Johnny Baranski. Nicholas Klacsanzky led early risers in morning meditations, before breakfast, and we enjoyed a new slate of “Write Now” exercises, this time led by Michelle Schaefer (“Unsavory Characters”), Elehna de Sousa (“Food for the Soul”), Kathabela Wilson (“Family Stew,” with flute music by Rick Wilson), Ruth Marcus (“Ekphrastic Mandala Haiku,” with displays of her stunning mandala artwork), and Michael (“Seasonal Food Words”). Most of these exercises catered to the taste theme. As you can see elsewhere in this book’s pages, this theme produced many tasty haiku.
Still more presentations included “On the Tokaido Road” by Terry Ann, “Savoring/Savouring Anna Vakar: Book Launch and Remembrance” by Vicki McCullough, “Introducing Haiku” by Tanya McDonald, at the same time as Michael’s “Haiku Is _______” discussion (in which he didn’t say a single word), “Buried Treasure: Hood Canal and Haiku” by David Berger (from his University of Washington Press book about razor clams), “Mathematical Thoughts in Ancient Chinese Poems” by Hao Shen, visiting from China (a unexpected delight), and “Skywriting: Learning Haiku from Annie Dillard” by Michael.
Readings for the weekend, again at the Cathedral in the Woods, began with poems by contributors to Scott Mason’s The Wonder Code (Johnny Baranski, Susan Constable, Ida Freilinger, Tanya, Barbara Snow, John Stevenson, Angela, Michael, and Kathabela Wilson), introduced by Scott. We also heard from Elehna de Sousa (“Gossamer Threads”) and Nicholas Klacsanzky (from his book Zen and Son, much of which also featured work by his father, George Klacsanzky, whose pioneering haiku activities in the Seattle area laid some of the groundwork for Francine Porad’s formation of Haiku Northwest in 1988). Later, Julie Emerson, David Berger, and Jacquie Pearce read us “Ripe,” a kasen renku they’d been working on since the previous year’s retreat.
A highlight of the weekend was an “Etegami Postcard Painting Workshop,” led by Darlene Dihel, assisted by Dorothy Matthews and Melinda Brottem, in which we each created artwork in the etegami tradition, a sort of casual haiga where rapid paintings are paired with inspiring words (not necessarily haiku). We enjoyed seeing everyone’s creations, especially those by Darlene, Dorothy, and Melinda, throughout the weekend.
We also enjoyed two nature walks, one to the waterfront, and another we called “Seabeck Discoveries,” where everyone was invited to discover the friendship garden, the totem pole, the bouncy bridge, the sundial, and other hidden gems around the campus. As usual, we enjoyed rengay writing, announcing the 2017 Porad Award winners, another group photo and kukai, and a talent show—where it is so easy to read those two words, but nearly impossible to grasp the range, quality, and joy of the talent shared. One tradition that’s been part of our talent shows, for example, is what we have called a “sing-off.” In this friendly competition, haiku and senryu by our featured guest are put into a hat to be drawn at random by willing victims who take turns coming up with a spontaneous way to sing each poem—heavy metal, country, opera, any style goes. We’ve had fun dividing the audience into two halves to compete for the loudest laughs and mightiest applause.
Meanwhile, back for the third time as our Seabeck cartoonist in residence, Jessica Tremblay presented “Seabeck Comics,” including freshly produced comics all about our weekend. If you search for her Seabeck haiku comics online, you’ll see how she’s captured the spirit and details of our retreats, now having reached a full ten years. We look forward to all the new territory we’ll explore in the next ten years, perhaps going even farther than we can imagine, as in this poem by Scott Mason:
one giant leap
for a water strider
And now, in your hands, you hold the 2017 Seabeck Haiku Getaway anthology, Seabeck Reunion, edited by Michael Dylan Welch. We hope you might join our next Seabeck reunion, for it always feels like coming home, even if you’ve never attended before.