Top of their game

Much excitement this week as two superb books by two superb poets arrived in my letterbox.

First to land was The Bone Carver by Ron Moss of Tasmania, published by Snapshot Press in the UK, and what a fine looking volume it is. Ron is also a talented photographer and painter, and the cover image is one of his own photos – I can’t believe this is his first collection as he seems to have been writing at the top of his game for ages.

Ron Moss. Photo: Sandra Simpson

valley mist …
running my finger over
the curve of a twig

– Ron Moss

It’s that “curve” that elevates this from a good haiku to an excellent haiku, isn’t it? I don’t often ponder word choice when I’m writing but this poem is a good kick on the shins to remind me to pay attention to all aspects of my work. It contains a vivid sensation (running my finger over) and the nice soft (misty) “v” and “f” sounds.

April 17 update: Ron has just emailed to advise The Bone Carver has today been named as the winner of a Touchstone Distinguished Book Award! Well done, that man.

The other book I was delighted to receive yesterday was the doors all unlocked by Carolyn Hall of California, published by Red Moon Press, another poet I admire greatly.

Carolyn Hall. Photo: Sandra Simpson

unlabelled shapes
from the back of the freezer
winter stars

– Carolyn Hall

Anyone who has a freezer should recognise this poem, “unlabelled shapes” is a perfect description of … well, what? Pieces of meat, vegetables, fruit? Something which at the time we thought worthwhile to save and enjoy on another day but, being human, thought we would always recognise or didn’t have a marker pen to hand (or it’s been there so long the marker’s worn off). The “winter stars” leads me back to the package not being a neat rectangle. I like the humour of this.

I thought it might be fun to find haiku on similar themes in both books – for me it’s always interesting seeing what poets do with the same idea – but then I thought, what the heck, let’s just have another from each. Ladies first, this time.

colourless wind
the ashes
that don’t scatter

– Carolyn Hall

from someone’s baby a smile that knows me

– Ron Moss

Both are regularly published in The Heron’s Nest – Ron was voted Poet of the Year for 2014 by readers, with one of his haiku elected as Poem of the Year. Read those results here. Carolyn was Poet of the Year in 2011 and was first runner-up in 2008. In the current issue a haiku by Carolyn is the Editor’s Choice. the doors all unlocked received an honourable mention in the Touchstone Distinguished Book Awards in 2012.

I’ve recently been gifted a copy of fresh paint, the towpath haiku society anthology for 2015, edited by Roberta Beary and published by Red Moon Press. It’s a small book, pocket sized, that is lovingly produced and a nice thing to have, especially as I’m introduced to poets new to me.

merry-go-round all lit up      the galaxy

– Kirsten Deming

waiting room
how this blood test
is a poem

– Jimmy Aaron (Peach)

The towpath haiku society, founded in 1995, is based in the Washington DC area and named for the C & O Canal (Chesapeake & Ohio) that links Washington DC with Cumberland in Maryland – 184 miles (296km) – with the towpath these days a popular walking and cycling trail.

Butterflies, books & glitches

I wrote a post yesterday after I got home from a casual shift at my old work place – a stupendous piece of writing, insightful and witty (says she), but which has been lost to the world thanks to a piece of software. When I started to panic I checked WordPress forums and, sure enough, there were others who thought the automatic “draft saved” message that flashes up every so often would have, well, saved a version to the WordPress server.

Turns out not to be so if you’re using the new version (beep, beep, boop) in which to create your masterpiece – it saves it to your browser, except that for many people it doesn’t! So, here I am, back in the old version of editor because this “unimproved” version does actually save a draft to WordPress.

Right, where was I …

After thinking that we would not raise any monarch butterflies this year, the past 10 days or so have seen at least one hatch every day. Once the predatory wasps changed their diet, around the end of February, we suddenly had little gold-spotted green chrysalis hanging all over the place.

We had tried moving caterpillars to a covered swan plant but they just seemed to disappear, very few made it through to butterfly stage, so wasps must have been getting in and out without being noticed.

Freshly hatched monarchs are such a wonder with their vivid colours and markings – and quite scratchy feet too if you guide one on to your hand to release. Maybe these late-season hatchlings will be the butterflies that overwinter and start the life cycle process again in the spring.

sun-soaked chrysalis
no one sees
the effort

– Julie Warther, from The Heron’s Nest 2014 anthology, volume 16

Photo: Sandra Simpson

snowmelt
a chrysalis unlocks
its code for wings

– Lorin Ford, from the big data anthology for 2014,
originally published in paper wasp

The latest Heron’s Nest anthology arrived in my letter box this week – 176 pages of great reading. As well as collecting all the haiku published throughout 2014, the volume includes the Peggy Willis Lyles Haiku Award winners and judge’s comments, and Readers’ Choice awards.

Here’s another haiku from it, one to mark Easter …

stained glass
the way christ responds
to march sunlight

– Robert Epstein

Kokako 22 also arrived by post recently and is another nicely produced edition. Co-editor Margaret Beverland surprised me at the beginning of the week by saying that New Zealand subscribers are in the minority! This is our only journal dedicated to haiku, tanka, etc – the only place where we don’t have to explain our haiku or add a link – so it’s worrying that Kokako isn’t more strongly supported in New Zealand. Or maybe the problem is that the haiku community in this country is dwindling. Are there new writers coming on? Make yourselves known! Read subscription and submission details for Kokako here.

                ironing after midnight the creases in her face

– Andre Surridge, Kokako 22

I also enjoyed this tongue-in-cheek haiku, boy, haven’t I been here more times than I care to remember!

contest results
golden flowers swirl
down the gutter

– Barbara Strang, Kokako 22

But the drought has broken! I was notified last week that I’ve won this year’s Free XpresSion Haiku Contest (Australia). Skippy jumps and hand claps!

planning her eulogy      jars of carefully labelled seeds

– Sandra Simpson

I’ve also had a few acceptances dating back to around the beginning of the year – A Hundred Gourds (March and the coming June issue), Speed Bump journal (January and the coming April issue), Wild Plum inaugural issue, is/let (March 9 posting) and a forthcoming edition of NOON, among them.

is/let and NOON both look for “progressive” or avant-garde work, which is not a style  that comes naturally, although does happen occasionally, so pleased to have work with both of them.

h  ill   stop
hear  tin  m  years
wind        swords

– Sandra Simpson, is/let

An email at the beginning of February advised that some of my work had been named as a Finalist in the RaedLeaf Haiku Contest in India and would be published in an anthology. Great, except the contest closed on August 6, 2014 so this was a long time to wait for notification – 6 months – and I then had to ask which poem/poems had been selected as they hadn’t said.

The February email says “You may share your works elsewhere a month from the publication date which will be duly notified to you”. And I haven’t heard a word since – and that’s now 9 months, plenty of time for gestation, so here’s one of the haiku.

my mother’s pallbearers
all tall men –
rain just when we need it

– Sandra Simpson, RaedLeaf anthology (forthcoming)

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

wondering
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.

Ruminations

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