Dreaming Discoveries


The Dreaming Collection arose from a desire to mitigate perceived loss of local identity arising from the globalisation of haiku. [see Homogenous Haiku] While still serving that purpose the Collection has shown potential as a vehicle for discovering and studying aesthetics and techniques applicable to Australian haiku.

Current Considerations

Areas of study include:
     An Australian Seasoning
     Depth and allusion in Australian haiku - keywords
     Definition of English-language haiku
Some tentative areas of interest which might prove worthy of study:
     Migration of Japanese haiku aesthetics
     Literary allusion - honkadori
     Australian slang
     Australian poetry of place - Utamakura
     An Aborigine haiku path?

Below are brief notes expanding on these headings.

An Australian Seasoning
the fall / of gum leaves / spring
Perhaps one has to live in the southern hemisphere to understand Australians’ frustration with kigo. We aspire to write haiku that is poetry and most of us see ‘nature’ or seasonality as basic to it, but we can not sensibly adopt or adapt the Japanese kigo system. An Australian Seasoning discusses the irrelevance in Australia of Japanese season topics (kidai) and season words (kigo). It argues that we are unlikely to ever have an Australian equivalent of a saijiki, a list of words that designate Australian seasons. It discusses how we might otherwise indicate seasons and how we might reconcile our haiku with that of a world which largely embraces kigo.

Depth and allusion in Australian Haiku
The depth and connotations of kigo are not, as argued in An Australian Seasoning and summarised above, available to Australian haiku poets. Thus we need a system, perhaps one based on keywords, that will allow our small poems the depth and resonance they need to succeed as poetry. Such a system may take many years to evolve but it is in prospect.

Definition of English-language haiku
The Australian Haiku Society appointed me to advise on definitions of English-language haiku it might adopt. I concluded that AHS should forgo a definition and, instead, point those who need a definition to what leading haiku editors were currently accepting for publication. An extension of this conclusion is that The Dreaming Collection itself is potentially a part of the evolving definition of haiku.

Aesthetics - Migration from the Japanese
Early efforts to identify and foster those Japanese haiku aesthetics which might successfully migrate into English-language haiku seem to have fizzled out. I see little evidence that haiku-in-English has gained identity from the Western literary canon. Increasingly, wit and brevity characterise our haiku-epigrams. For many, haiku is simply what one ends up with after following a list of writing guidelines. Is this acceptable? If not then I suspect any resolution will involve giving haiku a purpose and direction (not definition) at the local rather than the global level.

Literary allusion – honkadori
In recent years I’ve introduced into The Dreaming Collection some haiku that contain allusions to Australian literary classics. They have gone largely unrecognised, or at least unremarked, and, as measured by peer reviews, these haiku have been poorly received. It seems many newcomers to haiku do not have litererary backgrounds. Or perhaps this form of allusion simply doesn't resonate with Australians. Some experimentation with more overt honkadori may be useful before that device is abandoned.

Australian slang as understatement / concision / disjunction / kakakoto?
I’m from the bush and my ear is tuned to rural slang. In its concision, its laconic understatement and irregular syntax, in its presumption that things left unsaid will nevertheless be understood as "givens", I see parallels with haiku. A particular example is the conversational use of expressions such as "eh" and "eh?" and "but" to act like kireji. Linguists may find this is fertile ground for exploration.

Australia and ‘The Poetry of Place’
Utamakura is the Japanese use of "poetic words", usually place names, to bring depth to their poetry. Would allusion to Uluru or Hanging Rock or inland sea bring something to our haiku? "Spirit of place" features in our literature, as do "discovery" and "exploration" in white-Australian history and psyche. Places, sacred and otherwise, are at the heart of Aborigine Dreaming and identity. In submissions to The Dreaming Collection some authors avoid all place names, perhaps to ensure universal understanding (Haikuland?); others insist on them when even sympathetic readers can’t grasp their relevance. This probably merits wider study.

An Aborigine haiku path?
Interest is sparked by some Japan-Australia parallels. On one hand there is the rural environment and the influences of Shinto and animism within which haiku evolved in Japan. On the other hand there is the Aborigine Dreaming, culture, oral history, affinity with the land, and a one-world view that integrates people, land, fauna and flora. This is a sensitive area but one where haiku, particularly The Dreaming Collection with its haiku-supporting notes and images, might enhance Aborigine expression and appreciation. In the process, haiku would be richly rewarded.

A Blessing

I wish those attracted to these concerns the thrill of the search and an audience for their discoveries.

           John Bird
Editor, Haiku Dreaming Australia

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