In Memoriam Reflection by Lorin Ford

Vale Janice M. Bostok

After reading the sad news that Jan Bostok had passed away, I sat down and reflected on the strange but true story of how we didn’t meet back in the early 60s. This story came to light not long before the Second Australian Haiku Anthology went to press. Jan, with an uncanny perspicacity, had noted ‘something American’ about my haiku. This, she later told me, was because her own haiku beginnings had been encouraged by American haiku writers such as Marlene Mountain and Bill Higginson and she’d recognized something of a common style, but at the time I wrote back giving the details of where I was born and where I’d lived, hoping to prove I really was Australian and my work would be considered for the anthology.

Jan wrote back, “The hair on my neck is standing on end! Did you know my husband, Silvester?”

Attached to the email was a wedding photo. There was Silvester, foreman of one of the Cann River timber mills, whom I’d known in that small town where my father ran the pub and everyone knew everyone. But I didn’t know Jan, or for that matter, Silvester’s surname. I’d moved down to Melbourne when I was fourteen and a half, Jan had married and moved to Cann River within the next few months. Though I went back for short holidays for several years, we’d never met.

Jan’s memories of the place were sad and harrowing. She lost her first child there. We shared stories of the place and the people. Jan said that Cann River was the last place in the world she expected anyone who wrote haiku to come from, but that it was also where she began to write stories for the Women’s Weekly. Through Jan, I was able to contact a ‘lost’ schoolmate and spend time with her in Tasmania.

It was wonderful to finally meet Jan at the 4th Pacific Rim Haiku Conference, in Terrigal. We’d missed crossing paths, in younger years, in a very isolated community, by barely a whisker. We shared many memories, nevertheless… a bush town, a winding road that followed the old bullock trails, a river that flows into an estuary. By coincidence I’d stumbled onto the haiku path that Jan had been the pioneering spirit of for decades and as haiku editor for Stylus, Jan had encouraged me to continue.

My first contact with Jan was a time for remembering. Again, on hearing of her passing, it’s a time for remembering and for being thankful that life did somehow arrange that we meet.

incoming tide
the width of the river
(by Janice M. Bostok, from ‘Amongst the Graffiti’, Post Pressed 2003)

Lorin Ford, haiku editor
a hundred gourds