How do we write? And, importantly, where do we write? Each of the Elwood Writers has their own method, quirky or disciplined. Some are methodical, setting aside regular precious hours to pen papers, while others wait for inspiration to strike and write ‘off the hoof’ – and that would be me. I find Place particularly important – ideas and images come randomly; when I’m out walking, in the middle of a busy cafe, or regularly at 4 am. It’s handy to have a notebook or even a smartphone to capture those fleeting thoughts. It can be a chaotic process.
I write poetry and have just returned from a wonderful, enriching two weeks in Japan, the spiritual home of haiku. Never was a sense of place more powerful to me than being in the land of the rising sun during both Sakura – the spring cherry blossom season – and the last of the winter snowfalls.
Finding myself mentally free from the entrapments of daily chores and routine, I felt creatively open to these unique sensory experiences. In Kyoto I visited the 17th century home of Mukai Kyorai, the great haiku master Basho’s most famous disciple. I even dared to write a Sakura haiku and post it in the dedicated haiku letterbox. The timing was serendipitous, as it was close to International Haiku Day.
Where I live in country Victoria we have a monthly poetry-reading afternoon, Chamber Poets. In the very week when I was trudging through four inches of snow on a mountain pass on the ancient Nakasendo Way, my haiku, which seemed to spring effortlessly into my head day after day, were being read aloud at Chamber Poets as that important day was celebrated. The joy for me was in being able to relay that wondrous sense of place to my fellow poets so many thousands of kilometres away.
Earlier in March I had the privilege of being the featured poet at Chamber Poets. Our meetings are held in the local RSL (Returned Servicemen’s League) Club. I read a short memoir piece about my English grandfather’s experiences in the trenches as a 17-year-old foot soldier in World War 1, and I was both comforted and overwhelmed to share his history in that most appropriate of places.
Poetry and place; the words bind us, wherever we are.