Ann Harreby

for lease
reflected in the storefront
cherry blossoms

Ann Harreby
Coquitlam, British Columbia

Congratulations on having your haiku selected as the top winner in the Vancouver category in the 2021 Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival’s Haiku Invitational contest, which happened to you before in 2017—so congratulations again. You said then that you first learned about haiku through reading a discarded library book, William J. Higginson’s The Haiku Handbook. What have you learned about haiku since then, and how has this reading (and your winning the 2017 prize) inspired your further explorations of haiku?

Since winning the 2017 prize, I have continued to practice writing haiku. I sometimes bring my camera and carry a small journal to jot down thoughts and ideas that I come across during my daily walks. To clarify my observations, and to refresh my memory, I usually include some prose. I have been exploring haibun during this year’s time of pandemic self-isolation, which has led me to recall events from years gone by. A friend, who has recently published a book of his memoirs, has become interested in writing haiku. It has been my pleasure to suggest reading material and websites to get him started on combining haiku with his prose. His enthusiasm has been contagious.

What was the inspiration for your winning poem?

The inspiration for this poem came about as a result of walking around the streets of Metro Vancouver this past spring. I noticed the many ”For Lease” signs on empty storefronts. Many of these storefronts reflected the passing pedestrians as well as the more permanent fixtures such as planters and trees. On the daily newscasts, I listened to the stories of the owners of the businesses that were forced to close during this time of Covid-19. I was deeply affected by these stories. It reminded me that no matter what is going on in the world, life goes on, flowers bloom, and trees blossom. The poem is a result of that.

Describe the moment when you first learned you had won.

I was really surprised to find the email from VCBF in my inbox. I never expected to win a second time. I was thrilled and immediately told my family. They were excited and happy for me.

Do you have new favourite books or websites relating to haiku that others might benefit from in order to learn haiku as a literary art and to share one’s haiku?

I attended a reading by Marco Fraticelli at the Joy Kogawa House in Vancouver in October of 2019 where he read from his two latest books of haibun: Drifting, excerpts from the diaries of Celesta Taylor (1860–1937), selected and with haiku by Marco Fraticelli, and A Thousand Years: The Haiku and Love Letters of Chiyo-ni (1703–1775). It was a lovely evening listening to Marco read and meeting many local haiku poets. I went home with a copy of both books and have enjoyed and learned much from them. The books were an inspiration to try writing my own haibun. My new favourite books are: Haiku Mind: 108 Poems to Cultivate Awareness and Open Your Heart by Patricia Donegan, and A Net of Fireflies, an anthology of 320 Japanese haiku translated into English by Harold Stewart. This edition features 33 haiku paintings in full colour. I came across these titles browsing in a used book store. I also benefit from my membership in Haiku Canada and look forward to their publications, recommendations, and reviews. The Heron’s Nest is still a favourite website. They publish a quarterly online journal and welcome submissions.

Please tell us more about yourself.

I am retired from working in a public library. I live close by and enjoy browsing the stacks looking for new material. Occasionally a new haiku publication will appear for me to take home. I have stayed close to home this past year and a half and have limited my outings to walks in local parks and along neighbourhood streets and back lanes. Meeting friends outdoors for coffee and picnic lunches has been a welcome break. Some of my favourite activities include drawing, playing piano, strumming my ukulele, and making cards for family and friends (I include a haiku, which is a great way to introduce these little poems to others).

How does where you live and what you enjoy doing affect the way you write haiku?

I am fortunate to live in an area with mountains, ocean and rivers, nature parks, and an endlessly changing sky. I spend as much time outdoors as I can and pay attention to my surroundings. There is always something to observe whether it be people, animals, or the changing seasons. My own garden is a good place to sit quietly and ponder haiku possibilities