~ Search for Australian Kigo ~
John Bird

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.
* 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.
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

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

john bird

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.

Seasonal Words
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, swimming, cricket

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, football

Haiku. Examples of haiku that use some of these.

water dragons
the babies already
living statues

chain lightning-
house too low for the dog
to crawl under

kite festival
the home-made dragon
drags its tail

I fill my hole
in the Pacific Ocean-
white clouds

a northerly mixes
canopy greens

park cricket
a caterpillar moves
to the next leaf

blues festival
new brothers share
the grass

twilight tinged
with eucalypt woodsmoke
a mother calling...

dawn service-
the bugler-boy licks
his blue lips


a child counts lorikeets
on his fingers

season kick-off
their scrum smells
of mothballs

glimpse of wattle-
our teenager practices
her look

john bird

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