RETREAT RECORD

OCTOBER 2002


 
The haiku sangha is a group whose poems are sourced in meditation practice. It takes its name from Master Ikkyu’s redthread zen: a lively, radical, sexy, unstuffy zen.
 
Jane prepared her lovely old Welsh farmhouse to receive us:

bathing the Buddha –
so much
accumulated dust
(Jane)

We gathered for a long weekend of meditation, poetic talk, food and wine, and walks, arriving one after another:

strange journey
my meditation cushion
left in the waiting room
(Jonathan)

The intrepid Ken led us a nightmarish struggle through bramble thickets, pathless forested slopes, and dense undergrowth culminating in a dead-end rock face. We retraced our steps and emerged at a belvedere built on the peak. We returned through the woods past a walled garden and then across parkland and pasture:

tall thistles
and beneath the oaks
a silent flock
(Ken)
swaying woods –
in a walled garden
a fig tree
(George)

We enjoyed convivial debates. We composed a renga. We listened to Bill Wyatt, who could not come in person, reading his haiku sequences to saxophone accompaniment, and talked about the power of the speaking voice, and the sound settings within which haiku thrive.
 
Helen gave a scholarly paper on the historical background of tanka poetry, which we hope to see published sometime soon, and quoted many fine examples old and new. She has published an excellent collection of her own tanka this year, called The Cold Moon Watching:

overcast
the air heavy
with moisture:
the weight of
loneliness
(Helen)

Jim told of his ramshackle farmhouse in the rural heartland of Longford where he’s trying to restore drainage and rebuild:

in a quagmire
as thunder rumbles in the West
a lost drain gurgles
(Jim)

Ken introduced the poetry of Nagata Koi and a prolonged discussion followed on the issue of surrealist imagery for the central paradoxes:

autumn rain –
the emptiness of the empty glass
overflowing, overflowing
(Nagata Koi)

speaks to all meditators, but does acceptance of paradox mean losing standards of precision and clarity? Is up down? Is inside outside? Can catfish laugh? Does time stop like a flying arrow? Inside can be outside, but only when it clarifies the paradox and sharpens one’s sense of the reality…
 
Sunny early autumn days alternated with cold, wet, early winter days, the last of which we spent on the seafront at Aberdovey:

battered mooring posts
each one stands
in its own reflection
(Ken)

Ken said, “I like posts.” Posts have the human’s upright posture, the tragic hero’s endurance, and the loneliness of scarecrows in Japanese poetry.
 
The participants this year were Jane Whittle, Helen Robinson, Jonathan Buckley, Ken Jones, Jim Norton and George Marsh, with Bill Wyatt sending his voice by post. Any meditators who might like to join us next year are invited to ring Ken Jones on 01970 880603. A short selection of haiku contributed this year:

clouds part:
as stars appear, a snail
falls to the ground
(Jim)
in the wind
of another day
I wander the ancient track
(Ken)
words, words
wind in my hair
fluttering birds’ wings
(Helen)
a yellow leaf
hangs on the rear wiper:
that kiss goodbye
(Jonathan)
a pool where water circles –
in its belly
the river’s cairn
(George)
a swan’s wing feather
what might one not write with it
dipped in lake foam?
(Jim)
out of the silence
a trickle of water
the song of a wren
(Helen)
in a dewy field
calves herded together
hang their heads
(Jim)

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