Latest publications

The Heron’s Nest is marking its birthday with a beautiful hardback book, Nest Feathers, a selection of 248 haiku from its first 15 years of publication. Founding editor Christopher Herold has written an interesting foreword, including these statistics:

  • 102 issues published (THN was monthly in the beginning)
  • Some 100,000 haiku submitted for consideration
  • Fewer than 8,500 haiku published.

September sun –
a bubble wavers
between salmon bones

  • Cindy Zackowitz (1965-2012), The Heron’s Nest, 4:12 (2002)

So being published in THN means you’re hitting the high notes with your work. I have 2 haiku in Nest Feathers, here’s one:

one egg
rattling in the pot
autumn rain

  • Sandra Simpson, The Heron’s Nest 9:2, 2007

Cover artwork is by Ron C. Moss

spring sky
one twirl before the girl
settles in line

  • Alison Woolpert, The Heron’s Nest 15:2, 2015

Click on the book’s title at the top to read ordering information.

A new issue of UK haiku journal Presence has also landed in my letterbox. Now being published three times a year, the journal is always a great read.

stirring the neighbour’s bull
to midnight bellows,
a petal-coloured moon

  • Sandra Simpson, Presence 53, 2015

her cotton skirt
falls softly to the ground
steady rain

  • Greg Piko, Presence 53

Presence has also rejigged its annual contest which is now the Martin Lucas Haiku Award, named in honour of its editor who died last year.

Don’t forget that there is an up-to-date listing of haiku, tanka and haibun contests at Haiku NewZ. You’re welcome.

Awesome vortex of collectiveness!

New in: A video of our final run through on Saturday.

I spent this morning in a room at Mt Maunganui singing in a language I don’t speak more than a few words of. I spent this morning in a room at Mt Maunganui singing with (mostly) complete strangers of all ages. I spent this morning in a room at Mt Maunganui marvelling at the talent of Ria Hall and her cousin Teraania Ormsby-Teki.

Ria Hall (left) and Teraania Ormsby-Teki. Photo: Sandra Simpson

We had gathered to learn how to perform a waiata (song) written especially to open the Tauranga Arts Festival on Thursday, October 22 – we will perform it at 7am on the waterfront at The Strand so if you’re anywhere near do come. Those present on the day will be invited to join in or are welcome to simply listen.

Te Hokai Takiri Ata has been written by Teraania, while Ria has composed the melody, will lead us in song and is tutoring us to become an instant choir – tenors, altos and sopranos. Both women are involved with kapa haka performance groups and having their insights into the ‘spirit’ of the song, as well as some nuances of meaning was wonderful. Emily Macklow of the Mauao Performing Arts Centre has scored the composition and is also part of the choir (tenor) so was able to respond and adapt the score as we went along.

The waiata is about the faerie people (patupaiarehe) who come out at night and visit their old friend Mauao (Mt Maunganui), fleeing as the sun rises and returning to their forest home, Hautere. Our mission, as the community choir, is to convey the creeping and flying of these magical beings, who aren’t necessarily ‘good’, as they call one another to depart, quietly at first and then with urgency. To be caught by the sun is to die.

“The spirit of the song is there in the breath before you roll into the first word,” Ria advised us, while Teraania added notes about the kind of atmosphere she was trying to create with her words and was excellent at helping the predominantly Pakeha singers with pronunciation.

The backbone of the choir – the alto section (can you tell which section I sing in?). Photo: Sandra Simpson

After 3 hours of hard work had we achieved her ‘awesome vortex of collectiveness’? I think we pretty much had, both in the singing and getting to know one another in the short breaks (thanks to Claire for the chocolate biscuits). Chelsea is an American who has been in New Zealand for only 2 months, there was a young English woman (with a belting voice), some school-age sisters who have a Chinese parent, men and women, Maori and New Zealand-born non-Maori, so we’re all sorts and all the better for it, a real reflection of our community.

We have one more rehearsal on Tuesday and then comes the responsibility of singing to the night, to the sun and to Tauranga’s guardian landform, Mauao – at the same time celebrating our place, our people and our performers.

As Major-General Hall was instructing her troops on what she wanted and how she wanted it we had to laugh. ‘No pressure then.’

Deep breath … tahi, rua, toru, wha

PS: I’m no singer so if I can do it, so can anyone!

Book of remembrance

I have finally got around to reading A Train Hurtles West, a collection of haiku by Irish poet Maeve O’Sullivan – and chose to pick it up on a day when I really needed distracting from my life, a ‘wobbly’ day in other words and one that had taken me unawares.

And right there, on the first page of haiku, she had me:

first anniversary:
we choose not to enter
the Garden of Remembrance

  • Maeve O’Sullivan, from the Remembering Father section

She has divided the book into small sections with only the title at the top of the page to let anyone who’s interested know that you’ve moved to a new theme – however, the poems are arranged so well that it doesn’t matter if you don’t pick up on a theme change. The seasons are there, but so are Interiors, Music and September Affair, among others.

May breeze
blowing this field of dandelions
to one o’clock

  • Maeve O’Sullivan, from the Spring Haiku section


Being Irish is to be born with a quirky sense of humour and that is evident in several poems:

Murano island:
an exchange of glances
reveals a glass eye

  • Maeve O’Sullivan, from the Fruili Dusk section

O’Sullivan’s assurance with the haiku form is contained on every page. However, if I have one criticism of Train it is that I wish O’Sullivan, a founder of Haiku Ireland, had edited the collection just a touch more tightly – there are a couple of haiku that are statements or that use three images instead of two. But it’s a minor quibble in a collection that hangs together well and is a generous helping of the author’s work.

first glimpse of the kingfisher changing the river forever

Maeve O’Sullivan, from the Birds section

The final section gives the book its name, with the collection dedicated to the poet’s mother, who died last year. As a book of remembrance for a life lived and for a life being lived with all its happiness and sadness, quiet corners and rowdy backdrops, flowers and birds, this will do very nicely indeed.

mother dying            a train hurtles west

  • Maeve O’Sullivan

Copies are £10 / €12 / $15 each, plus P+P, with 30% of the profits from sales going to the Rigul Trust which funds healthcare and educational projects in some Tibetan areas of China. See the publisher’s website for details.

Haiku and the Great War

If you’re interested in the beginnings of haiku in the West, you may care to go and read Part 1 of a 2-part article I have written for Haiku NewZ.

This first part covers the beginning of World War 1, the vogue for Japonisme, the emergence of haiku in France, and the authors of early haiku in English.

Read Snapshots: Haiku in the Great War here.

Part 2 is being published to coincide with Armistice Day on November 11.

Recently published

painted snow falling
on painted branches –
a scent of camphor

Sandra Simpson, Presence 52

‘Snow at Zojoji Temple, Shiba’ by Kawase Hasui, 1925.

bamboo cutters
washing in green water –
a scent of tuberose

Sandra Simpson, Wild Plum 1:2

I recently bought some tuberose bulbs so must get out and plant them. A large jar of blooms was just inside the front door of our palatial room in Bali last year, a magnificent scent in the evening. The bamboo cutters were also seen in Bali, washing in a water channel after a day’s work.

prayer circle
the time it takes dust
to settle

Sandra Simpson, The Heron’s Nest 18.3

When I wrote the above haiku I hadn’t consciously appreciated that we are all dust (or waiting to be dust) but it struck me as I read it again now. I was being deep and didn’t even realise it!

mango juice –
a taxi driver updates me
on the cricket

Sandra Simpson, Kokako 23

The cricket haiku was written during a visit to Dubai in March, when the Cricket World Cup was being played in Australia and New Zealand. The Bangladeshi and Pakistani taxi drivers were all glued to games. Great fun talking to them.

Now, the Rugby World Cup is being played in the UK.

That’s the lot for now, although I have had acceptances for another five publications, very exciting!

Zine Craft workshop

My new job as publicist for this year’s Tauranga Arts Festival is going swimmingly and although I don’t intend to use this blog to overly promote that event, I thought I would mention a book-related workshop that may be of interest to people in New Zealand.

Dr Sydney Shep of Victoria University is leading a Zine Craft workshop on Saturday, October 31 from 10am to 3pm. Don’t know what a zine is? Read on …

Take a piece of paper, fold it, write and/or draw on it, photocopy it and, hey presto, you’ve made a zine, one of the world’s most dynamic forms of publishing.

“They started as short magazines, which is where the name comes from,” says Sydney Shep,  the director of Victoria University’s Wai-te-ata Press, “but they’ve become a popular medium that doesn’t require any degree of finesse to produce and have emancipated people in the process.”

Sydney will be leading the Zine Craft workshop at the Tauranga Arts Festival in October and says no prior skill or knowledge of book-making is required to join the class.

“We’re not going to be making a leather-bound book,” she says. “I hope to give participants a few skills so they can conceptualise a number of book forms.”

Although a book is generally “a codex between two boards”, paper can also be used to create concertina, carousel, star and tunnel books that become a part of the story.

A book of haiku made by John Holmes, the 2012 printer-in-residence at Otago University, for the When North Meets South exhibition. Photo: Ruth Arnison

“It’s just paper being folded and bound, but an amazing range of things can be produced. It’s a great opportunity to show the diversity of what a book is and what it means,” Sydney says.

“It’s a chance to make, a chance to think about the making process and a chance to work in forms that people may not know exist.”

Alan Clarke shows his tiny hand-made book of haiku and a proof sheet of pages at Haiku Festival Aotearoa in Christchurch in 2008. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Sydney is also speaking at the festival, joining Harry Ricketts, the long-time editor of the quarterly review New Zealand Books, on November 1 to talk about how books have managed to not only stare down the electronic age, but thrive.

“There are more books being published today than in the 1990s,” she says. “It’s just that publishing is now an industry living in two worlds – there are certain kinds of information we want delivered quickly but we still love books as objects. And I don’t see that changing any time soon.”


For weeks I’ve been like the guy in The Matrix, dodging the bullet of late winter illness. First Haiku Husband went down, then Haiku Teenager, but me, no. Stayed well, stayed active. Until yesterday. Blergh. Today is rainy and dark which suits how I’m feeling.

mizubana ya hanano saki dake kure nokoru

my runny nose –
everywhere but on its dewdrop
the twilight fades

– Ryunosuke, 1892-1927
from The British Museum Haiku (edited by David Cobb), 2002

Ryunosuke is regarded as the father of the Japanese short story. Read more about him here.

An empty sickbed:
An indented white pillow
In weak winter sun

– Richard Wright, 1908-1960
from his entry at the Terebess Asia Online website

But this isn’t a death-bed illness, just some days of feeling miserable and sneezing fit to bust! And maybe a cough setting in. It will pass and I’ll be as good as new again, just have to be patient (heh) and let the darn thing run its course.

signing my will
on my hands a smell
of growing things

– Sandra Simpson
from Building a Time Machine, NZPS anthology, 2012