Becoming Sky – A Haiku Reading at the Queensland Poetry Festival - Sunday Sept 9

Becoming Sky - Report by Jeffrey Harpeng

Ynes Sanz cannily mc'd this megavitamin dose of haiku by reading the label of contents on this spoken literary supplement before retreating into the shadows to put her feet up and indulge. First up was the B complex and the St John's Wort from Dangerously Poetic Press. Laura Jan Shore and James Khidir read the Sand Between the Toes anthology to the musical accompaniment of Kevin James maintaining a sustained drone on harmonium and accompanying himself alternatively on ocarina and bamboo flutes according to the changes in emotional tone as the pieces shifted through the landscape and the various styles of the contributors. This firmly established a close your eyes and drift ambience. Almost an out of body experience.

Sue Stanford was an antioxidant in the mix, her acutely observed and crafted pieces a superb antidote to myopic vision and flaccid statement. She prefaced her work with listening advice for the audience. She warned of how a single haiku can set up a resonance and stay with you for minutes and even hours on occasion and at other times elude you before you can grasp them. She advised then, that as she would be reading quite a number of them that it would be best just let go of them. Taking that advice my experience was of an ebb and flow of word and emotion elegant and elegiac, passionate and precise.

Myron Lysenko followed with the iron of irony. By stop-watching his segment he overlayed his set with a sense of an unspoken senryu. His reading elicited a good deal more ha ha than ah ha! Even his haiku often sounded like they wanted to be senryu. Myron's inclusion at this point was important to dispel the uncritical sense of reverence which a long reading of haiku may engender. A sharp whiff of ye olde smelling salts.

Lyn Reeves, to the accompaniment of Jules Witek on percussion, was Co Q10 for the heart and vitamin E for the complexion. The bulk of her reading was a series of tanka or more likely waka, given her adopting the style and structure of the Manyoshu. This sequence was a lesson in how erotic poetry should be written. Each waka first portrays a tattoo and its place on a masculine anatomy, then follows a feminine response: hope, heart and body. The lower classes in old Japan were forbidden decorative apparel and thus found outlet in decorating their own bodies. This account was made all the more erotic by it being a forbidden relationship between social classes; a high born lady and a lower class man.

A fine piece of programming. I hope next year's festival has something to equal it.