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Community poetry highlights 29th Hiroshima-Nagasaki Remembrance

The 29th annual Hiroshima-Nagasaki Remembrance Vigil on Ashland’s Plaza will take a special twist Wednesday through Saturday with an invitation for the public to write haiku poems, a traditional Japanese art form, and stick them on the branches of a madrone tree.

The simple and elegant verse, using three lines of five, seven and five syllables, is designed to draw in opinions from across the spectrum while asking all people for their thoughts on how to live in a world with nuclear weapons and nuclear power, said haiku poet and event organizer Nina Egert of Ashland.

The public will also be invited to contribute to a “linked poem,” called hokku no renga, by adding some lines to an ongoing poem, which can get very long, says Egert. The poems will be sent to lawmakers, preserved on the Peace House website and perhaps published in a book or on YouTube, she adds. Some will be read on the Plaza in a ceremony ending the vigil.

“This project is meant to serve as a counterbalance to some of the divisive language used by radio talk show hosts and others,” notes Egert. “That the citizens of the Rogue Valley can use simple poetry to peacefully and politely express a broad range of perspectives, to listen to one another and, ultimately, to show the rest of the country that a community can come together as a unit, even though there might be a variety of opinions on the matter.”

Egert is the author of the 2010 book “Noguchi’s California: Poetic Visions of a 19th Century Dharma Bum.” It celebrates the work of Yone Noguchi, who brought haiku to America after World War II, in a flow of cross-enculturation between Japan and the U.S. after the war.

The poetry likely will shed light on the deep divisiveness of the country, in which some believe leaders would be foolish to stop developing a nuclear arsenal while others believe they'd be fools to use it.

“We’re laying it out for the public to say what they think about the spectrum of possibilities,” she says.

The vigil, created by Peace House of Ashland and now put on by the local Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, features an introduction to haiku on a drop-in basis from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday and Friday in the Plaza.

The vigil begins with an educational maze on the Plaza, with information about the dangers of nuclear technology, as colorful origami peace cranes dance in the breeze.

Vigil events include:

Wednesday

(day corrected): Opening ceremony, officiated by the Rev. Paul Sohl of Ashland’s United Church of Christ, 8 a.m.; a moment of silence as the memorial candle is lit in remembrance, 8:15 a.m., the time of the bombing; performance by vocalist Masako Cross of Tokyo and harpist Phoebe Knowles; stories and dances by Brent Florendo of the Wasco band of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs of Oregon and others, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; origami crane folding instruction, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; songs by vocalist Heather Hutton, former director of Rogue Valley Peace Choir, 6 p.m.

Aug. 7: Peace Rock trio, featuring Rob Lowry, director of Peace Choir; Kim Griswell on vocals; and Neil Holland on guitar, rock and peace songs, 6 p.m.

Aug. 8: Masako Cross, cross-genre spirituals, world music, with harpist Phoebe Knowles, Spirit Flow: Original and Traditional Music of Japan and Ireland, 6 p.m.

Aug. 9: Closing ceremony, upper Japanese Garden, Lithia Park, 7 p.m. The Japanese Association of Southern Oregon choir will sing. Initially formed to support victims of the 2011 Fukushima earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster, it also promotes local cross-cultural exchanges. The Rev. Norma Burton of Unity Church will officiate. Everyone will be invited to float a sunflower, an international symbol of the abolition of nuclear weapons. Richard Raven Williams plays the shakuhachi, a traditional bamboo flute.

Unless otherwise noted, all events are in the Plaza.

This year’s theme is “Stop The Madness: Create a S.A.N.E. World,” in recognition of legislation in Congress to cut $100 billion from nuclear weapons modernization programs, without jeopardizing national security.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at

jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Nina Egert of Ashland is adding haiku poems as a new element to the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Remembrance Vigil that will be held at the Plaza Wednesday. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch