Words and Water Dragons 2008

Words and Water Dragons 2008 - a report by Ynes Sanz

‘ ....

I used to love Keats, Blake.

Now I try haiku

for its honed brevities,

its inclusive silences.

Issa. Shiki. Buson. Bashõ.

Few words and with no rhetoric.

Enclosed by silence

as is the thrush’s call.’

With the words of Judith Wright, writing about haiku in 1985 in her poem Brevity, the third annual Words and Water Dragons readings began on a perfect Brisbane winter’s morning in the Japanese garden at Brisbane Botanic gardens, Mt Coot-tha.

On Sunday 3rd August some 30 or more people came to celebrate Australian writers’ creative mastery of the ancient Japanese forms. This year, drawing a couple of inspirational poems by Judith Wright, the poetry and music was all original contemporary work inspired by our own environment, including the gardens themselves.

The programme began with improvisational and original music by Ann Bermingham, the gardens’ 2007 Artist in Residence, with Helen Rowe. These two accomplished musicians set the tone perfectly for what was to follow. Unfortunately, the bubble of enthusiastic talk in the break prevented us hearing them properly in their final bracket, but even here, to the accompaniment of the gentle water sounds, they created a wonderful atmosphere for the readings to follow. Ross Clark, Quendryth Young and Jacqui Murray gave us a varied and enjoyable program which illustrated the depth and breadth of contemporary Australian haiku writing and contained just enough explanation of forms and guiding principles to keep even the most enthusiastic novice happy.

After the break came the opportunity for anyone in the audience who would like to get up and read their own short-form Japanese-style work. Again this year the highlight for the organisers was a number of ‘world premier’ moments. Of the thirteen who read, some eminent peots amongst them, were six people who had never read before but who were prepared to take the challenge issued in Ross Clark’s Mt Ommaney library workshop. They presented haiku full of promise, sensitivity and gentle laughter.

This year’s MC, Ynes Sanz, in stepping aside from running this event, thanked the Queensland Poetry Festival who have sponsored and funded it for the last three years. She recorded her thanks to the gardens’ Frances Blines who helped her set up the first morning in 2006, and to Margot MacManus, the present Visitor Services Coordinator, for her creative and resourceful support, her help with promotion and her suggestions for such fitting musicians in the last two years. Thanks were recorded in particular to Gardens’ Curator Ross McKinnon, who responded so enthusiastically to the idea when it was first suggested to him and who has supported our presence each year.

In the promotion of a field like poetry it’s a real bonus to be able to work with people who share a belief in, and practice, the ‘art of the possible.’