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  • Writer's picturePenny Harter

Home from Haiku North America, 2009

Update: 8/21/09: Back from a really good visit with my two grandchildren, I’ve now linked to all the photos I intended to use here. Enjoy.

Update: 8/17/09: I’ve added a number of photos from Michael Dylan Welch’s wonderful album of the conference.


It was a wonderful conference. I flew home from Ottawa this afternoon, after having spent a few days visiting with Terry Ann Carter, a dear friend from Ottawa who was co-organizer of HNA. I was grateful for that time to come down from such a high as those five days were.

From the moment I walked into the auditorium for the first event, everyone was so warm and supportive.  Although I felt some bittersweet moments missing Bill, he was there–in spirit, I’m sure–but also in the many heartfelt tributes to him as the days went by: from various publications dedicated to him, to Michael Dylan Welch’s handout of a haiku by Bill from every one of the HNA anthologies; from brief comments honoring him at the various presentations, to John Brandi’s deep tribute to Bill in his keynote speech at the banquet Saturday night. And speaking of the banquet, here I am at our table with a fine group:

Another moving tribute to Bill, which Yumiko Tsunakawa Toma told me about after the boat ride, was her inclusion of the white chrysanthemums in the large ikebana installation she created on the theme of crosscurrents. I was both honored and moved. Here’s a photo of the display:

And then there was the culminating Sunday morning memorial celebration in Bill’s honor. People spontaneously shared their memories of him, and the spirit of the memorial was both  informal and caring.  Many dear friends and acquaintances spoke from the heart about what Bill (and sometimes, both Bill and I) had meant to them personally, as well as to the haiku community.  I sat, along with others, on the edge of the stage, facing the auditorium.

John Stevenson, who had so kindly agreed to  moderate the event, encouraged everyone to move up to the front rows, and I enjoyed interacting with those who spoke, as well as offering my own memories.  I closed by reading the haibun Bill had written eight days before he died, “Well-Bucket Nightfall or New Day.”

In addition to the above, I had fun so much of the time! Following the banquet, a boat ride on the Ottawa River offered a DJ and disco-dancing on the upper deck. Since Bill and I didn’t dance that way, I hadn’t danced “fast” since–well, maybe high school, if then.  I thought I couldn’t do it. But others encouraged me, so I just looked at what folks were doing on the dance floor and leapt out there. And that dancing was wonderful for me, a kind of turning point, further raising my spirits and moving me onward in the grief-healing process. It was a perfect night, warm but breezy, with the moon making a path on the water. All of us dancing seemed to be sharing one joyful energy! Here’s a photo from Michael Dylan Welch’s album of me dancing with Pat Donegan:

With John Brandi:

With Dennis Maloney:

And with myself (grin):

And we hated to leave that boat:

Also, I enjoyed participating in a couple of readings, including a reading of train poems and a reading of poets appearing in The Unswept Path from White Pine Press. Here I am with the other readers at that reading:

Of course I couldn’t get to everything: sometimes event times were changed, or events ran a bit over, and I missed some special things I’d really wanted to get to. But overall, the presentations I attended were outstanding. And I loved seeing old friends and making new ones– even staying out past midnight socializing every night. I’ll have more to tell about in the future, I’m sure. For instance, there was Claudia Coutu-Radmore’s stunning presentation, “Haiku and Art Crosscurrents,”  featuring the paintings she’d done to various of our haiku that, to her, exemplified the theme of “crosscurrents.” Here’s a photo of a piece of one of her paintings with my “distant thunder” haiku on it. I was honored.

And the evening presentations by Robert Sibley (his talk with slides titled, “Basho, Me and the Poetics of Epiphanies”) and  Debbie Danbrook and Catriona Sturton–(extraordinary music with the Carpe Diem Reading) were both very moving.

Before the HNA banquet on Saturday night, Terry Ann, who was running all over the place beforehand, asked me to be her “clone” and welcome people as they came off the elevators. Since the penthouse floor had our banquet  on one side and a wedding on the other, it had gotten a bit confusing before I got there. And the banquet was great–delicious food, lovely music, and a chance to visit with one another even more.  I close with this photo (by Pearl Pirie) of me welcoming folks to the banquet because I love the joy I see shining in me here–and I am grateful to HNA 2009 for being able to feel such joy again.

All for tonight. I need to go unpack and continue adjusting to being home again. It was hard, coming into the empty condo after all that–after having been caught up in such a happy time. But I’m settling in now, and writing this is helping. Onward!

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