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Haiku for Parkinson’s: Catherine Mair and The Katikati Haiku Pathway

 

 

Jim Kacian, President and Founder of The Haiku Foundation, has visited New Zealand twice, and on both occasions has been able to spend time with Catherine Mair, one of the most significant figures in New Zealand haiku. During the Aotearoa Festival in 2012, he interviewed her in her capacity as past chairwoman of The Katikati Pathway Focus Committee. Catherine was awarded a Queen’s Service Medal for her services to Poetry and the Community in 2008, for spearheading this project and bringing it to fruition.

In Jim’s video, The Katikati Haiku Pathway, Catherine recounts how she came to haiku and what prompted her to conceive and establish what remains one of the most significant physical landmarks dedicated to the practice of haiku outside Japan. Jim writes:

Catherine has been an inspiration to haiku poets around the world, to her fellow North Islanders, and even more now to people striving to cope with medical challenges. All haiku poets know of the Katikati Haiku Pathway, an achievement that required vision, judgment, persuasiveness, patience and persistence to see through to a satisfactory conclusion. It is no surprise that she has met her challenge with Parkinson’s Disease with all these same qualities, and has managed to continue a life in the arts that a lesser spirit might have forsaken.

The realization of The Katikati Haiku Pathway is a major achievement of her life’s creative work. While Parkinson’s Disease is thought to shrink the world (physically, socially, etc.) of those living with it, Catherine has opened a pathway to haiku for others.

In Favourite Haiku by Catherine Mair, Catherine wrote:

I believe that haiku should remain centred on a moment which moved the observer to feel amusement or sorrow or some personal response. Writing and reading haiku sharpens awareness and is like switching on a light in a dark room.

Readers will find that Catherine’s poetry switches on lights in many dark corners. You can sample her work in The Haiku Foundation Digital Library, for example in her early chapbook railriders, and, more pertinently to our topic at hand, her more recent chapbook of poetry, keeping my head above water. In the latter, Catherine confronts her PD diagnosis and symptoms in the most straightforward manner possible, allowing no sentimentality to cloud her clear focus on the task at hand.

Catherine’s biography and poems showcased in the New Zealand Poetry Society

Catherine Mair. incoming tide. Uretara Press, 2015.

Catherine Mair. railriders. The Haiku Foundation Digital Library 2004.

Catherine Mair. keeping my head above water. The Haiku Foundation Digital Library 2015.

Catherine Mair with Patricia Prime, interview, collaborative poetry. “in close proximity”. Lynx 2013.

Catherine Mair with Patricia Prime, collaborative poetry. “Early Spring” and “Teapots”. Lynx XXVI:3, 2011.

Catherine Mair. “Favourite Haiku by Catherine Mair”. New Zealand Haiku Society.

Stella Pierides is a writer and poet. Her books include "Of This World" (2017) and "In the Garden of Absence" (2012), both HSA Merit Book Award recipients. Her article “Parkinson’s Toolbox: The Case for Haiku” appeared in Juxtapositions: A Journal of Research and Scholarship in Haiku, issue 8, 2022.

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