Marietta McGregor

NaHaiWriMo daily writing prompter for June 2017

1. How did you get started with haiku?

Writing haiku for me has been an organic, incremental process, undertaken later in life. These “poems in a breath” with their objectivity and observation of the natural world appealed to the botanist in me. I loved poetry as a child, particularly the story-tellers—Longfellow, Scott, Tennyson, Masefield, and Coleridge. After having my first Romantics-inspired poems published in our high school magazine at age 11, I surprised my French and English teachers by opting for university science. After I retired, I wrote “haiku” to drop into a book of my photographs from a workshop in Cuba. This photobook was for my own pleasure, which was just as well because whatever my three-line verses were, they weren’t haiku! I began to read widely, discovering lots of challenging material on the Internet. In an Asian bookstore I found Makoto Ueda’s translation of Bashō, then Jane Reichhold’s book, Writing and Enjoying Haiku: A Hands-on Guide. Over our southern summer in early 2015 I hoovered up essays by Richard Gilbert, Martin Lucas, Jim Kacian, Michael Dylan Welch, Charles Trumbull, Marlene Mountain, Bruce Ross, and many others. My first haiku was published in Frogpond in early 2015. Encouraged, I kept writing, experimenting with haibun, senryu, and later, shahai (photo-haiku). A major milestone was the gentle encouragement of Michael Dylan Welch to attend the Haiku North America Conference held in Schenectady, New York, in September 2015. For the first time I met real-life haiku poets who could not have been more welcoming and inclusive! Later, Alan Summers’s online course helped draw together disconnected threads.

2. Tell us more about yourself.
I’m a Tasmanian-born science writer and have lived in Canberra with my husband and family for more than four decades. My first degree (in Hobart back in the ’60s) was in the life sciences, with honours in plant physiology and palynology. A fourth-generation Tasmanian in love with my wild island’s austral montane heathland, I hiked or flew by light plane or helicopter to remote parts of the southwest wilderness, collecting peat cores from post-Pleistocene bogs for analysis of their pollen flora, which gave insights into regional vegetation since the last glaciation. These days, such work has implications for knowledge of climate change. I left research while my three children were little to design private gardens for ten years, then worked as a parliamentary guide, desktop publisher/editor, science journalist, and writing tutor. After working in educational tourism at Mount Stromlo Optical Observatory and for some years writing research grant applications for Australian National Wildlife Collection, run by CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation), I retired to enjoy our home, grandchildren, beachcombing at our coast cottage, writing, creative photography, tai chi, and international travel with my husband. As well as having haiku friends around the world, I have Canberra-region poet friends and we meet regularly to talk haiku.

3. What does NaHaiWriMo mean to you?
NaHaiWriMo for me is about forging poetic connections around the world. First of all, there’s the anticipation of a new daily prompt to get the juices flowing, then there’s the fun of reading how everyone else responds to the same stimulus. Individual poets’ voices begin to emerge, light and humorous or serious and deep. The discipline of writing to a daily prompt for one month or more a year is good haiku practice.

4. What one piece of advice would you offer to those who are new to writing haiku?
Key attributes for a beginning haiku writer are, I think, taking time to observe simple things and slowing down to become more attuned to the world around us. I would say read widely, classic and modern English-language haiku collections. It’s also good to keep in touch with what people around the world are writing about haiku, with the help of sites such as Graceguts and the Haiku Foundation.

5. Please share three of your favourite or best haiku.

backlit by the morning star blackbird song
        Tinywords #17.1, April 2017

a wedding ring
changes hands
autumn dusk
        Acorn #37, Fall 2016

war memorial
the names buried
under red poppies
        Bottle Rockets #35, 2016

Thank you for taking time to read this, and I do hope you enjoy my prompts for the month.