Taiko performance caps off haiku conference

(Courtesy of Ben Lucas) The massive odaiko, a traditional taiko drum, sits in the Nott Memorial at the Haiku North America conference.

Last weekend, Union hosted the 2015 Haiku North America conference on campus. According to the Union College Chronicle, the festival featured over 100 poets along with panels and lectures by authors, scholars, professors and artists. The event ran from Oct. 14 to 18.

A later event in the lineup was a taiko performance in the Nott Memorial by the Union College taiko group.

Led by Professor Matsue, the taiko concert capped off the bulk of the conference.

After a rhythm-based poetry reading, the performers filed down the stairs and took position behind the mishmash of instruments, among which were the smaller taiko drums and the massive, mounted odaiko.

“We’re going to play a little quieter in here,” she remarked before the remainder of the set.

The concert incorporated contemporary poetry, singing, clapping, dancing, chanting, a piece performed on a reed flute called a shakuhachi and lots of drumming.

In the final ensemble piece, performers took to the aisles, thundering and weaving through tight seating and a pack of busy photographers.

According to their website, Haiku North America is a nonprofit corporation that appoints local, volunteer haiku poets to organize the bi-yearly event. The site describes the HNA as, “a coming together of the tribes—encompassing all the various groups and their approaches to haiku.”

Past HNA events have taken place in San Francisco, Toronto, Chicago and Ottawa. Location of the conference is determined by two of the three directors and is based on the volume of local haiku poets and volunteer support.

The goal is to have an inclusive event led by volunteers that educates people on the importance of haiku.

One of the highlights of the weekend was a talk by Ion Codrescu, a renowned haiga painter whose work is currently on display in the Mandeville Gallery. Other speakers included Red Pine and keynote speaker Randy Brooks, who gave a talk called, “Teaching Haiku in American Higher Education.”

Books were also put out for sale by attendees, most of which looked like they were self-published or, at least, printed independently. Selections included a number of poetry forms outside of haiku. Personally, I flipped through a book of animal limericks (geared towards children, but fun for all!) and considered picking up a collection of poems based on the life and times of Elvis Presley. One author mentioned to me her series about reaching out to her gay son.


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