The Haiku Pathway

The Haiku Pathway

By Mel Goldberg


HaikuPathway“When you travel to New Zealand, be sure to visit the Haiku Pathway.”  These words were emailed to me by Beverley George, the editor of the Australian haiku magazine Eucalypt in which several of my haiku have been published.  

As the author of a book of haiku, I was intrigued and discovered that the Haiku Pathway exists in the Mural Town of Katikati, about one hundred miles southeast of Aukland where I would be at the end of my six week journey.

Several years ago, as part of its participation in the Millennium Project, the Haiku Pathway was established in Katikati, voted New Zealand’s most beautiful town in 2005 because of the murals painted on walls by the town’s artists.  The pathway is a paved walk lined with boulders inscribed with haiku along the Uretara Stream.

The Millennium Project, founded in 1996 with the cooperation of the Smithsonian Institution, the United Nations University, and other groups, is an independent non-profit global participatory group connecting individuals and institutions around the world. 

The Haiku Pathway, opened in 2000 and the only one in the southern hemisphere, is a peaceful, quiet walk along the Uretara Stream.  The walk begins at the north end of Katikati.  Visitors may wind their way along the tranquil stream, cross the specially designed footbridge, and meander along the other side of the stream reading the haiku inscribed on the boulders.  This is the largest collection of haiku stones outside of Japan.  The boulders are local volcanic andesite, each chosen for its suitability for haiku inscription.  

Once a boulder is placed along the pathway, a haiku is chosen to suit the particular setting.  Each haiku is individually hand chiseled by a professional engraver. As visitors walk along the tranquil stream, they may pause and read each inscribed boulder.  Each haiku may take several readings to grasp its full meaning and the walk may take from an hour to several hours.

The pathway along the stream was conceived by Catherine Mair, a well-known New Zealand haiku poet. Her idea became a reality in 2000.  In addition to the boulders, haiku contests are held periodically and winning haiku are set in stone along the pathway.

Many international writers visit the pathway.  One well-known international writer to visit the pathway was George Swede, the first Canadian appointed as editor of the Journal of the Haiku Society of America.

My three and a half hour bus trip from Aukland through sheep land and coastline put me in Katikati about 11:30 in the morning.  I immediately crossed the street and found the steep log steps leading to the stream where I saw the sign for the Haiku Pathway.  A few feet along the path brought me to a boulder with the following haiku by New Zealand poet Jeanette Stace:

at each end

of the park bench

a man     a woman

All haiku are selected from international, peer-reviewed literary journals and represent excellence in the art of writing haiku.  Many of the writers have received international awards.  The authors range from ancient Japanese to contemporary writers from New Zealand, Australia, Britain, Canada, and the United States. As I continued on the path, I discovered this haiku by USA poet Michael Dylan Welch, editor of several books of haiku and tanka and editor/publisher of Tundra: The Journal of the Short Poem:

beneath the moon

the heron’s slow step

towards frog-sound

          As I walked and read each haiku, I paused, took a deep breath, and felt a sense of peace and tranquility.  The placid setting and the serene stream, with benches provided for people to sit and reflect, offered an untroubled and relaxed atmosphere.

After walking for more than an hour reading and photographing the haiku boulders, I was rewarded by seeing a kawau (a black shag, member of the cormorant family) warming its wings in the sun.  Then I crossed the bridge back to the world of cars and people.  I ate lunch and boarded the bus for the trip back to Aukland, which took another three and a half hours.  Although I spent only a short time in Katikati, it was an awe-inspiring trip for a writer of haiku.



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