Orchid daze


From my Chinese brush-painting classes I learned that “orchid” – which is one of the first four plants we were taught to paint – signifies spring among the “four gentlemen”.

Artwork: Sandra Simpson

The popular Cymbidiums (I assume we were taught to paint a species type) start coming into bloom here in late winter and, thanks to the variety of plants and hybrid breeding, can produce an ongoing display into summer. We have such a fortunate climate here that we can grow our Cymbidiums outside, in pots or in the ground as they are one of the few terrestrial orchids. A tip I heard from a good grower the other day was to fill the planting hole with bark so good drainage is guaranteed.

The orchid family is the largest plant family in the world – and more are being discovered in the wild all the time. If you so wish you could have some type of orchid in flower for each season – I’ve had Laelia gouldiana (native to the highlands of Mexico), for example, out this winter – while some of them, like my two little Restrepias, flower on and off all year.

The effect of seeing an orchid in flower can be tremendous.

Laelia gouldiana. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Haiyan debris –
a search team spots
an orchid

- Alegria Imperial, A Hundred Gourds 3.2 (2014)

Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines in 2013, one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded.

rain chill
the orchids’ uplifted

- Nathalie Buckland, paper wasp 18.1 (2012)

A Cymbidium blooming among the rocks at Te Puna Quarry Park. Photo: Sandra Simpson

morning prayer …
an orchid absorbs
the sound of bees

- Hansha Teki, Multiverses 1.1

transit of venus –
looking straight
into the orchid’s eye

- Sandra Simpson, A Hundred Gourds, 1.4 (2012)

A Phalaenopsis, or moth, orchid. Photo: Sandra Simpson

earthquake season –
the moth orchid
begins to flutter

- Sandra Simpson, The Heron’s Nest VI: 9

Haiku Calendar praise

Lovely comments from Alan Summers (and his wife Karen Hoy) after receiving a copy of my new calendar.

“It blew me away and mightily impressed my wife, a poet, and haiku writer, and writer for television, so she doesn’t impress easily.

“Very impressive, which I knew already, but still delightfully even more impressed.  High production values, incredible photographs, and fine haiku.

“Honestly, don’t delay, as I don’t know how many copies Sandra has left.  I love mine!   It’s going on the wall as soon as it’s 2015, but will be read many times through the rest of 2014 for pleasure alone.”

Yes, says Sandra, don’t delay! Love to hear from you if you’d like to know more. If you click on the link above, it takes you to an older posting that includes another image and prices.


Spring has brought a number of publications to my letterbox and inbox …

A Hundred Gourds features a loving tribute to Martin Lucas by Matthew Paul, and two of my haiku.

summer solstice -
the flock passes into darkness
one by one

- Sandra Simpson, A Hundred Gourds 3:4

The Heron’s Nest also features two of my haiku, which means I’m in reasonably select company as few have been accorded that honour this time. I’m humbled, as always, to have anything accepted anywhere so to get two each into these fine journals is exciting.

pioneer cemetery -
here and there a name
faces heavenward

- Sandra Simpson, The Heron’s Nest XVI.3

Two of my haiku are to appear in the New Zealand Poetry Society anthology (editor Nola Borrell, launched in November), and Kokako 21 includes four of my haiku.

another lotto loss -
the sparkle of my mother’s
costume jewellery

- Sandra Simpson, Kokako 21

The latest paper wasp arrived by post from Australia today, the penultimate issue of the 20th anniversary series, this one dedicated to senryu and edited by Jacqui Murray, Vuong Pham and Katherine Samuelowicz. Individual issues are $A6 each. (I would link to the website but it appears out of date.)

The editors have shoe-horned the senryu into the 20 pages, no doubt about that. To be fair I should point out that production values are one of my (many) hobby-horses. I’m not sure how successful all the senryu are or why one by Vuong Pham is in twice (not the only proof-reading error). The journal is published four times a year … but is only 16 or 20 pages so I find the proof-reading and layout issues surprising.

I have on my shelf a copy of paper wasp from spring 1996, edited by Janice Bostok and Jacqui Murray which is 16 pages with, generally, five or six poems per page, compared to, generally, 13 or 15 per page for spring 2014.

Okay, that all sounds a bit negative and I’m sorry for that. Every person who edits a haiku journal should receive an award – Knight Companion of the Order of Basho, or somesuch. But, on the other hand, readers of haiku, tanka and haibun journals should be able to expect a minimum standard, evidence of some care.

Too much information?

Did my reading at the Malady Poetry Night at Tauranga Art Gallery last week – hard to know how the haiku went over in amongst all the other wordy poetry that was flying about. Image piling up upon image, countless adjectives and adverbs … and some haiku, stripped back and simple. Glittering ornaments and sea glass.

Did the audience know how to listen to haiku? I did a wee intro but didn’t want to seem like the demanding madam – pin your ears back! – when everyone else had just got up and spouted their wordy poetry, sometimes with wordy introductions. I did consider introducing each haiku, but that seemed like a hiding to nothing, given that most of the introductions would be longer than the poem!

Maybe, by way of introduction, I should have read Introduction to Poetry by the fabulous Billy Collins, but I would have avoided his hilarious The Introduction as it would have been so much better than anything I might have uttered.

I did however, heed the advice of Michelle of the Resistance and read the haiku only once. I came across this, to me, bold move at Haiku North America last year – it makes the listeners, well, listen. Better than twice? Not sure.

Dave Robertson, who was on before me, read some haiku too, sprinkling them in among his lovely poems, one dedicated to each of his three daughters. He read his twice each “as is the tradition”. Huh, I’m not often a non-conformist, but hey!

I tried to read them as slowly as I could and asking for critical feedback from Haiku Husband later, got the comment that maybe I could have paused more between each one. Fair comment and something I will try and remember.

I gave this one a big pause between the end of the second line and the third line and got a murmur from the audience. Yes!

spring morning –
my face breaks into
a cobweb

- Sandra Simpson, Kokako 16, 2012

Soaping Fabulously 3

My year of beautiful soaps continues …

Mailelani Mango Fragrance with Papaya soap was bought while on holiday in Samoa in 2006 and was found recently in the back of a wardrobe (not mine!). I am thrilled the company is still going strong and intrigued to read on the website that because the soaps are made using (organic) coconut oil, they lather in salt water so are useful for boaties, etc. The soap was attractively presented in cellophane with a pandanus tie but the website shows new packaging. What I hope hasn’t changed is the lovely stylised frangipani flower pressed into the top of the soap, took me straight back to the islands and made the bar something decorative to have in the bathroom. The fragrance was pleasant, the soap did leave my skin feeling nice (as per the label) and the bar, considering its size, lasted well. If you can’t get to Samoa, the website offers shopping sites in New Zealand, Australia and Switzerland. Note that the soap is now labelled Fresh Papaya with Mango.

Cost: $7 for 110g. Rating 3.5 stars.

Another one from the back of the wardrobe is The Body Shop’s Spiced Vanilla Soap described on the packet as “a soap sensation, scented with vanilla and a hint of spice”. If you know me then you know that I am a vanilla fiend – I’ve made my feelings known when The Body Shop has twice (twice!) in the past done away with its vanilla range – and if something says it smells of vanilla, it jolly well better smell of vanilla. This didn’t smell of vanilla and had only a vague aroma of spice. Now, that might be because the soap is older (there’s a 2011 copyright notice on the package and it appears to have been a Christmas line for that year) but it’s been stored in a cool, dark environment and its opaque packaging was intact. There was no great whiff of the promised scents when it was opened. The ingredients are what you’d expect from The Body Shop and some include the “Fair Trade” appellation. Completely underwhelming.

Cost: Unavailable for 100g. Rating 1 star (pleasant enough soap but not what it said on the packet).

Read Part 2
Read Part 1

Haiku calendar 2015

Thrilled to announce that I have created my first calendar – combining my own images with my haiku. So without further ado … ta-dah …

The cover image is also the image used for December – the calendar is full colour and another amazing print job from Jane and her team at Kale Print in Tauranga.

Now then, if you think you might like one of these for your own wall or to give away I have some copies available for sale.

Within New Zealand: $15 each + $2.50 P&P = $17.50. You can order up to 4 calendars for the same P&P (ie, 4 calendars come in one envelope so 2 calendars would be $32.50, etc).

Australia: Add $3.50 for P&P = $18.50.

Rest of the World: Add $4 for P&P = $19.

If you would like to purchase by PayPal, please let me know. If you would like to send cash in your local currency let me know and I’ll convert it to that day’s rate. Email me for further details.

I’ve had so much fun putting the calendar together (including identifying some notable dates) that I hope you will enjoy it too.

I’ll leave you with the image from February.