The Tenth Anniversary Celebrations for the Katikati Haiku Pathway, New Zealand

by Vanessa Proctor

The Katikati Haiku Pathway in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty is an attractive embodiment of haiku, where the abstract becomes concrete. A total of 42 haiku are inscribed onto boulders along the Uretara Stream. Each poem has been carefully selected by a committee to reflect its surroundings, and to walk along the pathway is to literally take a trip into the world of poetry. The brainchild of Catherine Mair, the Pathway was one of New Zealand’s Millennium Projects and recently celebrated its tenth anniversary.

I was fortunate enough to attend the celebrations on New Zealand Queen’s Birthday long weekend, along with my family. There was an excellent turn out of poets and supporters, including the Japanese Consul to New Zealand and his wife, and we enjoyed viewing an impressive selection of bonsai as well as ikebana inspired by poems on the pathway. Sandra Simpson, Secretary of the Katikati Haiku Pathway Committee, announced the winners of the Katikati Haiku Competition. Particularly striking was the quality of the entries in the junior section. Two Japanese students demonstrated how to wear a yukata, the traditional summer dress of Japanese women, and there was a rousing Taiko drum performance by Wai Taiko.

Then we all ventured out into the rain for the dedication of my boulder, one of the eleven new boulders added to the pathway for its tenth anniversary. Under umbrellas, three Maori elders blessed the rock, which I found to be especially moving. It was a very special feeling to be able to share my poem with others in this public domain. Monarch butterflies were then placed on Paul MacNeil’s boulder ‘seated shadow/a butterfly pauses/on my hat’ and were then promptly placed back into their box due to the conditions. After the blessing, Catherine Mair hosted afternoon tea at her home and it was a real pleasure to see old friends and new and renew my connection with New Zealand.

I can thoroughly recommend a visit to the Pathway for visitors to New Zealand as a place where poetry literally becomes part of everyday life. It is a place of beauty, reflection and the embodiment of the human spirit.