~ Search for Australian Kigo ~
A failed attempt to identify Australian season words
In 2001, frustrated with trying to apply Japanese kigo to this hemisphere and continent, I began
searching for words and phrases that designate seasons in Australia.
I reviewed haiku written by Australians and sought suggestions from haijin but also from the likes of
historians and naturalists. I was surprised to find only a handful of seasonal designators
valid for all of Australia and most of these were events in human affairs such as Australia Day,
Anzac Day and Melbourne Cup; references to flora and fauna were valid as season designators in
local areas only. I abandoned the project in favour of finding regional seasonal indicators,
starting with the area where I live.
Prospecting for regional season words
I have been writing haiku in this region since 1997, including three years' of weekly ginko with my
mother and eight years with the local haiku group, Cloudcatchers. See:
the region: its season words and sample haiku
Since 2005 Cloudcatchers has met 32 times, once in each season of every year. Meetings take
the form of a ginko with subsequent on-line workshopping of the best haiku from the ginko.
Most members are experienced haiku poets and their haiku is widely published here and overseas.
From my involvement and close observation of their attitudes to seasonality I concluded:
* Season indicators can be identified for this region, at least more readily than on a national scale.
As a result of these experiences and further study, I revised my whole approach to kigo and seasonal references in Australia.
This coincided with the launch in 2006 of the Haiku Dreaming Australia project
* However Cloudcatchers are not interested in formalising or codifying these indicators.
* Poets feel no obligation to identify within each haiku, any season to which it relates.
* They write about nature as they experience it there and then; if their haikuís context conveys
the season then fine; but if, say, the ginko is held on an exceptionally cold, windy day in mid-summer,
their ginko will reflect the weather on that day.
* If, occasionally, they do feel their haiku needs an indication of season then they will
most likely use the season name ("Spring" etc).
* They would eschew writing haiku as if made in a season other than the current one.
Rethinking kigo and seasonal words
I formed Haiku Dreaming Australia in
reaction to a perceived loss of Australian identity arising from the homogenisation of world
haiku written in English.
In the short essays that are part of Haiku Dreaming Australia I look at how we Australians might reconcile
our 'Australian haiku' with that of a world which largely embraces kigo, and I consider alternatives
to kigo that might bring depth and resonance to our poems.
....... John Bird
Last updated: February, 2014
back to Seasonality: Coming Clean on Kigo
back to Haiku Dreaming Australia
Search for Regional Season Words
the Region, its Season Words and Sample Haiku
I live in the NE corner of the state of New South Wales,
bounded by the Tweed River to the north, the Richmond River to
the south, the Great Dividing Range to the west and the Pacific
Ocean to the east. Sub-tropical mountains, river flatlands, a seashore which
includes Cape Byron, the most easterly point of the Australian mainland.
This is the traditional home of the Bundjalung Nation whose
sacred mountain, Wollumbin, is the extinct volcano within whose caldera we
all live. I was born here.
Although an awkward fit at times, most locals follow the system introduced by European settlers:
Spring -- September, October, November
Summer -- December, January, February
Autumn (Fall) -- March, April, May
Winter -- June, July, August.
Examples of words which designate a specific season in this region:
Spring: burning cane, dragon lizards, Melbourne Cup,
kite flying, lightning [not autumn], hail storm, whales going north
Summer: Australia Day (26th January), beach, cyclone,
haze [not spring], falling gum leaves [not autumn],
mirage, northerly [not winter], sunbathing, surfing,
Autumn: Anzac Day (25th April), blues festival (Byron Bay),
cassia (yellow flowering shrub), clear sky, tailor (saltwater fish), wood fires
Winter: bottlebrush, southerly [not autumn], wattle,
Haiku. Examples of haiku that use some of these.
the babies already
house too low for the dog
to crawl under
the home-made dragon
drags its tail
I fill my hole
in the Pacific Ocean-
a northerly mixes
a caterpillar moves
to the next leaf
new brothers share
with eucalypt woodsmoke
a mother calling...
the bugler-boy licks
his blue lips
a child counts lorikeets
on his fingers
their scrum smells
glimpse of wattle-
our teenager practices
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