Haiku Aotearoa 18 – 20 April, 2008 Christchurch: brief report

A year after attending the stimulating 3rd Haiku Pacific Rim International Conference in Matsuyama, Japan, I was delighted to be a delegate at a New Zealand national haiku conference in Christchurch, New Zealand, convened by The Small White Teapot Haiku Group. Organisers Barbara Strang, Judith Walsh and Anne Edmunds are to be warmly congratulated.

Thirty-one delegates attended with twenty-nine flying or driving in from various parts of New Zealand, including Invercargill, Dunedin, Hamilton, Wellington, Otago and Auckland. Australian Haiku Society Queensland Regional Representative, Jeffrey Harpeng, a founder of The Small White Teapot Club and instrumental in its naming, flew in from Brisbane, and I arrived from Pearl Beach, via Sydney.

The congenial but explorative tone of the conference was established on Friday night in the keynote address by Cyril Childs and led to lively, open-minded discussion throughout the conference. It was interesting to learn Cyril first became intrigued by haiku while working in Matsuyama, Japan, in 1989. Matsuyama is the birthplace of the poet Shiki and there is a wonderful museum there, the Shiki-Kinen, dedicated to haiku.

If I had one disappointment about the conference it was that because of the necessary stranding of workshops, I was unable to attend every session. Those I did attend were enjoyable and rewarding, and included a haiku session led by Nola Borrell and Karen Peterson Butterworth, a tanka session led by Owen Bullock and a haibun session led by Joanna Preston. The latter inspired me to write three haibun immediately on my return. I would have liked to have attended Barbara Strang’s session on New Zealand keywords and was intrigued by the very full whiteboard of suggestions that ensued. I was sorry to miss out on Jeffrey Harpeng’s renga session, which I heard those attending greatly enjoyed. Sessions for all delegates on getting your work published and a plenary discussion on directions for haiku in New Zealand were also informative. For more details visit Haiku NewZ, edited by Sandra Simpson for the New Zealand Poetry Society (NZPS).

A highlight of the conference was the launching by Laurice Gilbert, National Coordinator and current President of the NZPS of the anthology: the taste of nashi : New Zealand Haiku. Edited by Nola Borrell and Karen P Butterworth, and published by Windrift, the taste of nashi is a carefully selected and tastefully produced publication. Design and layout are enhanced by calligraphy from Japan organised specifically for this anthology. It was pleasing to see that so many poets whose work was included were able to attend the event.
To find out more about this book and to order a copy please visit
The launch was followed by an innovative presentation of image and haiku by filmmaker and poet, Richard von Sturmer.

A large park adjacent to the conference proved the ideal setting for an autumn ginko. The first observation was made by Jeffrey Harpeng who spotted a $10 note floating in the dark stream. At some peril this was retrieved – and relinquished – by Owen Bullock, though I did hear mutterings of a book trade. After that everyone spread out and got down to the serious business of observation and recording.

Haiku Aotearoa was an inspiring and successful event. Personally, it was an especial delight to meet so many people whose work I have published over time in Yellow Moon and in Eucalypt. They included: Nola Borrell, Andre Surridge, Helen Yong, Karen Butterworth, Barbara Strang, Elaine Riddell, Joanna Preston, Owen Bullock, Shirley May, Jeff Harpeng. Although they are no longer with us, I am pleased to be able to say I also published the work of Bernard Gadd, Jeannette Stace and Veronica Haughey. Veronica particularly, stayed in regular contact over nearly eight years with the help of a good friend. A tanka of Bernard Gadd’s is included in Eucalypt 2, a number of copies of which I donated to the conference for this reason.

Beverley George
Australian Haiku Society (HaikuOz)