There is a growing poetry movement on the Island, helped in no small part by View Royal’s own Terry Ann Carter, president of Haiku Canada. Despite only living here since 2011, Carter has thrown herself headfirst into the poetry community and been instrumental in gathering creatives together over the last year.
After leaving a well-connected haiku community in Ottawa, she struggled at first finding a niche on the Island. It was when she taught three highly successful haiku and bookmaking workshops at Royal Roads University that she was introduced to a group of people who shared her passion.
Carter quickly founded Haiku Arbutus, a group for haiku poets to meet and share, and take in the splendour of nature that so frequently features in the short works. The group meets at the Coast Collective, a locale that Carter says is most inspiring.
“We’re so close to nature. There’s such a great love of sea, wind and sky,” she says.
She adds that their approach to haiku is flexible, and includes observations on human nature as well as the natural world. Whether describing the flash of a heron’s wing as it lifts, or the deeply personal and moving moments of being human, haiku covers the entire spectrum. And it’s important not to get caught up in the five-seven-five syllable rule that everyone seems to learn in grade school. Carter says that strict format was likely a mistake in translation.
“What you’re aiming for is the moment and not counting syllables. We aim for less than five, less than seven, less than five,” she says. “Removing the syllable count frees the poet up to feel that moment. You can say ‘moon,’ and not ‘moon up in the sky.’”
Carter has been studying haiku since the early ‘90s, when she attended a poetry conference at the University of Toronto and heard a Japanese haiku poet speak. Even though she couldn’t understand the language, the musicality of his reading and the emotion behind it moved her.
“My heart just sort of stopped,” she says. “This understanding, this praise of nature. It was very elemental.”
She was fortunate to have a mentor in her developing years – renowned New York poet William Higginson – and says that she’s moved to give back to her students now. “When you’ve had that help, you know what it’s like to have someone spend some time with your poetry.”
Carter adds that haiku in particular is a challenging form.
“It’s hard to be so simple,” she says. “Haiku is a very different doorway that you walk through.”
She’s been asked to return to Royal Roads and will teach four haiku and bookmaking workshops this winter, and she says her spring students are in for a treat. “For our Spring workshop we’re actually going to use the Japanese garden that’s attached to Royal Roads.”
Next May, Haiku Canada will host their annual conference in Victoria, bringing poetry enthusiasts from all over the world, including keynote speaker Gabriel Rosenstock, Ireland’s premier haiku poet who works in both English and Irish.
Carter is thrilled with the growth and interest in haiku since she moved to View Royal, and adds that it’s a wonderful way for poets – and aspiring poets – to connect with their surroundings.
“There are so many wonderful poets here,” she says. “I think (haiku) is sanity. To write this kind of haiku, you have to slow down. You have to unplug, and look and taste and hear.
Haiku is poetry of the moment.”