Big data

The latest edition of the Red Moon anthologies is out – 148 poets in the haiku section, plus “linked forms” (renku and haibun) and essays. The annuals purport to contain the best English-language haiku published in any given year and, speaking on my own behalf as the editor for the South Pacific region, editors read widely to source their nominations.

Big Data is $US17, plus postage, available through the Red Moon Press website.

Here’s a sampler from some of the male poets:

distant thunder
whatever else
he was my father

– Dave Russo, US

sky the stars haven’t used
a life longer
than Napoleon’s

- Gary Hotham, US

who my neighbour murdered
sickle moon

- Brendan Slater, England

Included in the book is a haiku by Ron Moss of Tasmania in Australia. Ron last night launched a new book of his work, the bone carver, at an event in Hobart. It has been published by Snapshot Press and you can find purchase details there. He’s an exceptional poet – and artist - so it would be money well spent.

Another exceptional poet with a book in the pipeline is Chad Lee Robinson of Pierre in South Dakota (also in Big Data). Chad has started a blog, The Deep End of the Sky, which is the name of his forthcoming collection.

The Heron’s Nest runs a reader vote competition each year to decide the favourite poem and favourite poet of the year – yours truly won both titles in 2014 (ahem) – with Ron C Moss (yep, the same fella) taking out both titles this year.

old horses
days of endless rain
in their eyes

- Ron C Moss

Go here to read a commentary on the haiku (scroll down). And go here to read the full list of winners. I made it into the Other Popular Poets list, hurrah. The Heron’s Nest produces a paper copy each April, a volume of all the work that has appeared online the year before. It’s well worth purchasing and you can find the ordering information here.

Junicho fun at THF

There’s a junicho (12-verse renku) starting at The Haiku Foundation – the call for a hokku (first verse) has just gone out. I’m leading the poem so do please come on over and join in!

There’s an introduction to the junicho form available on the site, so no need to feel shy. The Renku Sessions are designed to be a learning process. Be nice to see some familiar “faces” there.

Petals in the wind

One Wednesday earlier in January, the port at Mt Maunganui hosted three cruise ships at once – so I decided that it was a good day to carry out a few random acts of kindness and get rid of the final few of my 2015 Haiku Calendars.

Passengers from the cruise ships that call in to the Port of Tauranga have numerous options for filling in their day with tours of all sorts on offer. Some, however, choose to spend their time in Tauranga’s shopping area and so I decided to give away some calendars to say “thanks” for spending their cash here.

I handed calendars to people with Australian, American and English accents. Everyone  seemed delighted and/or bemused, but were pleasant about the offer. The ships were Voyager of the Seas, Seabourn Odyssey and Seven Seas Mariner. If any of you look into this website, please do leave a comment. I’d love to know how far afield the calendars got.

Two couples from Christchurch replied they weren’t off the ship, but could they have one anyway (of course) and another lady, also not from a cruise ship, was very excited to be offered one and asked for another for her friend, from Argentina and a poet!

The image for January 2015, NZ fur seals beside the Royal Albatross Centre, Taiaro, Otago Peninsula, South Island.


Changing calendars is a good time to think about the year gone and the one to come – when I look back over 2014 I feel like I didn’t achieve much with my haiku so it has been good to look through my record of poems that got published.

January: Frogpond (1); Haiku and Humour, a collection by Rangitawa Press (3). March:  A Hundred Gourds (3); The Heron’s Nest (2). April: Kokako (3, no website); Frogpond (1). June: A Hundred Gourds (2); Presence (2); The Heron’s Nest (1). September: A Hundred Gourds (2); The Heron’s Nest (2); Kokako (4). November: New Zealand Poetry Society’s anthology, Take Back Our Sky (2). December: A Hundred Gourds (1); Presence (4, still coming, due date was December) = 33.

January 2015: Speedbump Journal (1) and cattails (2).

Coming up: Modern Haiku (1); A Hundred Gourds (2); Wild Plum (1) with a couple of submissions still out there …

An Honourable Mention in the Betty Drevniok Award (Haiku Canada) was my only contest result, although I was named Poet of the Year and had the Poem of the Year at The Heron’s Nest! (A pretty big honour but I have to note that this was for work published in 2013.) This year I also had a photo selected in The Heron’s Nest illustration contest for the annual anthology.

water rising
to my thighs and beyond –
gamelan music

– Sandra Simpson, from Speedbump Journal

See and hear a Balinese gamelan performance here.

Meanwhile, the final selections have been made for big data, the Red Moon anthology for 2014 (I’m the South Pacific editor). The work of three New Zealanders is included and six Australians from a total of 148 poets.

I intend to try and write more this year and to work my way back through my unpublished folder and do some editing, which will be good for the soul, if nothing else!

Year of soaping fabulously – the end!

And so it’s come to an end, my year of soaping fabulously – and with impeccable timing my most recent soap is wearing wafer thin. Not sure that I’ll go back to supermarket bars (or maybe I can’t go back) but maybe I won’t be so adventurous in my soap hunting either.

summer twilight
a woman’s song
      mingles with the bath water

– Patricia Donegan
from Haiku Poetry Ancient & Modern (2002)

I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey, and here are my final three reviews …

New Zealand Chardonnay Fine Wine Soap from Banks & Co Botanicals comes in a luxurious lidded box with the round, generously-sized soap sitting in a fitted sleeve. The soap is part of the company’s Vineyard Collection that also includes Australian “flavours” and, on the box at least, has an over-reliance on capital letters. The website promises fragrance notes of passionfruit and honey lingering long after use but I can’t say I noticed that. The scent of the soap when new was delicious and occasionally the scent re-emerged. The round soap is large, too large for my hands, but once it had shrunk a bit was fine. Very pleasant, long lasting and felt luxurious.

Cost: $15.50 (I bought mine on sale for $12.50) for 200g. Rating: 4 stars.

Visiting Bali was a chance to pick up a soap – the one that I kept for myself was Outrageous Orange purchased at the newest Sari Organik store and restaurant in Ubud (the link to Sari Organik’s own website doesn’t work). Soap maker Island Mystk uses “saponified” coconut oil in its products but I notice palm oil in the ingredients too – the palm oil industry causes environmental concern for several reasons, not least the burning of virgin jungle to plant a monoculture. Although the Island Mystk website doesn’t show Outrageous Orange, it is packaged like Island Spice, except in orange hand-made paper. The soap also contains rice milk, honey, orange and essential oils. This soap has a beautiful scent, lasted well and was pleasant to use.

Cost: $3 (Rp30,000) $1.50 for 120g. Rating: 4 stars. (I found the receipt after posting this, it was Rp30,000 for two bars!)

Browsing the stands at the Feilding Farmers Market (well worth a visit if you’re in Manawatu on a Friday) I decided to make my final soap purchase of the year – a bar of coconut soap from The Soapman. The soap contains only coconut oil, coconut pieces and coconut cream yet for all that doesn’t smell at all coconutty, one of my favourite scents. The pieces give the soap a nice abrasive quality and although it doesn’t lather up much, it still feels like it’s doing a nice job.

Cost: $3.50 for 100g. Rating: 3 stars (would have been 4 except for the scent thing).

Read Part 4
Read Part 3
Read Part 2
Read Part 1

Happy New Year


Haiku writers in Japan have five seasons to choose from when writing their poetry – with New Year’s Day being considered a season all of its own. William J Higginson in his 1996 book The Haiku Seasons (Kodansha International) has this to say:

“In the old calendar [New Year’s Day] was about the beginning of spring, and considered a doubly auspicious day. Now moved to January 1 as a result of the new calendar, New Year’s Day is still treated as the beginning of spring by some haikai poets.”

April is such a busy time in Japan – cherry blossom viewing, the start of the new school year, people changing jobs and homes – and before 1873 it was also the start of the year! (Spring seems a much more logical time to celebrate a new year, doesn’t it?)

In readiness for New Year’s Day Japanese people clean their houses (oosoji / susuharai):

極月や箱階段の薄埃   石田経治

gokugetsu ya hako kaidan no usubokori

            year-end month —
            thin layer of dust
            on the box steps

                     –  Keiji Ishida
from Blue Willow Haiku World, translator Fay Aoyagi

New Year’s Day
dawns clear, and sparrows
tell their tales

Hattori Ransetsu, 1654-1707
from The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse, translators Geoffrey Bownas & Anthony Thwaite

Yuzu is a kind of citrus that in Japan is not only used for culinary purposes but on the winter solstice whole fruit are a vital ingredient … in a hot bath, whether at a public onsen (hot spring) or at home. The aromatic oils released from the skin of the fruit are not only said to protect from colds and flu, but are also good for chapped skin. Read more here.

Or you could try the annual New Year’s Day ice bath held at a shrine in Tokyo – although the photos in the link show men only, women also participate while wearing a thin, white robe.

The first sunrise of the new year is believed to have special significance and praying at sunrise for health and happiness is widespread.

it’s play for the cranes
flying up to the clouds
the year’s first sunrise …

- Chiyo-ni, 1703-75
from The British Museum Haiku, translator David Cobb

Japanese attach special significance to the first of many things they do in a new year. Some traditional firsts that are notable are kakizome (first writing), hatsuyume (first dream), hatsumōde (first shrine visit), hakizome (first house cleaning), and hatsuburo (first bath). Read more about the many traditions here.

the first dream of the year —
I keep it a secret
and smile to myself

–  Sho-u
from The British Museum Haiku, translator by R H Blyth

Dondoyaki (about January 15) ends the New Year observances when people take last year’s talismans and New Year decorations to their local shrine where they are burned (so no symbolic fir/pine trees hanging around until April!).

  • This posting is dedicated to the memory of two lovely men lost to the world of haiku and renku in these past 12 months – John Carley and Martin Lucas, both of Lancashire in England.

remembering those gone
thankful to be here —
pond of purple iris

- Margaret Chula
from Haiku Mind by Patricia Donegan

Horikiri iris garden by Hiroshige, 1857 (Wikimedia)

Flash sale!!

For anyone who is a registered “follower” of this blog – as a thanks to you for your support over the year – my calendar will be $NZ10 plus P&P (and as an extra deal for followers in New Zealand, I’ll make the postage up to Fastpost).

Price details and a sample image in the post below.

Email me or phone 07 577 6676 to place an order.

(If you sign up as a follower now, you can also get the discount. Just hit the “follow” button on the top of the screen and I’ll receive an alert with your details.)