Sammamish haiku expert leads trek through woods Saturday

Local poet Michael Dylan Welch stands in front of Beaver Lake, where on Saturday he will lead a haiku-themed walk through the woods.  - Kevin Endejan/Issaquah & Sammamish Reporter
Local poet Michael Dylan Welch stands in front of Beaver Lake, where on Saturday he will lead a haiku-themed walk through the woods.
— image credit: Kevin Endejan/Issaquah & Sammamish Reporter

Anyone who has gone through the American public school system has probably written a haiku poem  —  or at least thought they had.

Sammamish resident Michael Dylan Welch doesn’t necessarily agree.

“One thing that’s often taught in schools is that haiku is a 5-7-5 syllable form, and that’s not really accurate,” said Welch, vice president of the Haiku Society of America. “I would call it an urban myth and yet it continues to be taught that way.”

Welch  —  an author, guest editor and translator for more than 50 haiku books  —  will share his expertise in the ancient Japanese poetry this Saturday during “Haiku in the Woods” at Beaver Lake Park.

A life-long poet, Welch became serious about writing haiku in the mid-1980s. He bought books on translation and anthologies of English language haiku, shortly after becoming a member of the Haiku Society of America. He followed by co-founding Haiku North America, a biannual conference, and also co-founded the American Haiku Archives at the California State Library in Sacramento  —  the largest public haiku archives outside of Japan.

Adding to his list of credentials, Welch just had one of his translated haiku printed on the back of United States Postal Service cherry blossom stamp.

The local poet said one of the common misconceptions about haiku is that its counted by syllables. The traditional Japanese method counts by sounds.

“It’s as misleading as believing 100 yen is equal to 100 dollars,” Welch said.

He also noted that there are often important elements left out, like the kigo, a season reference, and kireji, a cutting word that divides the poem into two parts.

Welch will hit on the key concepts of haiku starting at 10:30 a.m., in a presentation at Beaver Lake Lodge. He will follow with a guided walk through the woods, a poetry session and sharing of haiku, ending at 2:30 p.m.

The free event sponsored by the Sammamish Arts Commission and Sammamish Walks, is being held in honor of national poetry month and is aimed at families, teachers and those generally interested in learning more about haiku.

“Above all, the title ‘Haiku in the Woods’ is meant situate haiku in a natural setting and to give people a new way to appreciate nature by writing poems about what you experience,” Welch said.

Those interested can register at the city of Sammamish website, Space is limited.

“This program meets all the criteria that the Arts Commission strives for  —  to engage, involve, inspire and inform,” said Daphne Robinson, chair of the Sammamish Arts Commission. “We are honored to have a poet of Mr. Welch’s calibre to lead this program.”

For those who miss out on Saturday’s event, Welch is teaching another free haiku class from 5 to 7 p.m., April 18 at the Sammamish Teen Center. Contact Meaghan Jowdy at 425-250-4783 or, for more information.

Saturday's schedule

At Beaver Lake Park

10:30 - Welcome and presentation

12:00- Lunch break

12:30- Guided haiku walk

1:30 - Reconvene to share/discuss poems

2:30- Conclusion

Register online at the city of Sammamish website, The event is free to the public.



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