Haiku of solitude

I hope everyone’s keeping their 2m distance from anyone you’re not self-isolating with … See the NZ Government’s Covid-19 information here.

through binoculars
a woman looking at me
through binoculars

Mykel Board
from The Haiku Anthology (1999)

life alone
licking
the ladle

Owen Bullock
from The Heron’s Nest (2010)

a vacant playground
the drinking fountain
runs and runs

Rich Heller
from Modern Haiku (2019)

Despite all the stresses and anxieties – and for many this virus will be the worst thing that could happen, even if they don’t catch it – I hope there will be the odd moment when we all find a simple pleasure. 

a handstand
just to see if I can
honeysuckle

Susan Antolin
from The Wonder Code (2017)

sleeping late
wild lavender pressed
against the window

Ron C Moss
from Broken Starfish (2019)

For the first few days, at least, there has been quite a lot of home improvement work going on in my neighbourhood during the day.

fog-filled harbour
someone somewhere drives
a nail through it

Cyril Childs
from the taste of nashi (2008)

empty nail holes
on the wall that needs painting
autumn sunlight

Craig Kittner
from Cattails (2019)

But really it’s so quiet! If I wake in the night now I can hear nothing from the nearby normally busy-ish road. It’s like being deep in the countryside.

hushed night …
all the universe
in a frog’s croak

Kasturi Jhadav
from naad anunaad, anthology of contemporary world haiku (2016)

the sound
of a blooming rose …
I uncurl my fist

David He
from Presence 63 (2019)

Quarantine stories

Haiku poet and editor Scott Mason has been inspired by the 14th century book The Decameron, a collection of stories created during a plague outbreak in Florence, and come up with The Haiku Hecameron which will feature 100 haiku poets whose work reflects a spirit of gratitude for something that remains right (possibly even wondrous) in the world of the poet’s present-day experience.

Submitting poets must have had work appear in an edited haiku journal (print or online) in the last three years. Work must be the author’s own and not previously published (in print or online) or under consideration anywhere else.

Submit: Please send only one submission. A submission may comprise up to a total of three of the following, in any combination: Haiku; Haiku sequence (up to 100 words including title); Haibun (up to 100 words including title); Haiga (minimum resolution 300 dpi). Send submissions by email to Scott Mason with the subject line ‘Haiku Hecameron’. Haiga should be in jpg format as an attachment. All other work should be provided in the body of the email. Include your name, pen-name name (if used), and your location (town or city; state, province or region; country).
Deadline: April 17 (International Poetry Day). Acceptance notifications by May 17.

The goal is to have The Haiku Hecameron available in late July 2020, approximately 100 days after International Haiku Poetry Day.  Contributors and submitting poets will qualify for discounts.

Read about The Decameron and its author Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-75).

* * *

I read Quarantine by Jim Crace years ago but its echoes still hover. Essentially it’s about Jesus and the 40 days he spent alone in the desert, but there’s much more to it than that. Read a synopsis on the author’s website.

Read the author’s description of the circumstances surrounding the creation of what became an award-winning novel.

* * *

Probably painted in the workshop of Gentile Bellini (d. 1507), this canvas shows the Mamluk governor of Damascus granting an audience to a group from Venice. The painting is dated 1511. Image: Wikimedia Commons

The word ‘quarantine’ comes from 14th century Venice and means ‘forty days’, the length of time ships were isolated to prevent people arriving with the bubonic plague. But the practice of isolation for medical reasons goes back much further. Read the fascinating Wikipedia entry on quarantine.

* * *

Karantina is a suburb of Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, and is named for the quarantine station (lazaretto) built in about 1831 (during Ottoman rule) to house and isolate travellers arriving by sea. Between 1700 and 1848, plague raged 41 times in the empire’s Levant province. The empire’s quarantine system pushed the plague back to its frontiers by the 1840s, although from 1821 outbreaks of cholera – equally devastating – began to occur.

Karantina’s more recent history is stained by tragedy. In 1976, early in the Civil War in Lebanon, it was the site of a massacre of some 1500 Palestinian residents – men, women and children – by Christian militia.

Today, the suburb is known for its lively nightclub scene and concert hall. Funny how history gets overwritten, isn’t it?

* * *

Shakespeare apparently had a productive period in quarantine, so here’s hoping we stay well and do too.

Needing a haircut …

I’ve been wondering what to post in these strange days of lockdown, social distancing, self-isolation and quarantine. Plenty of people are hitting cyberspace with ‘haiku’ they’re writing to stave off boredom/amuse themselves and yet still want to inflict upon others.

So I thought I might try and find some decent poems that are tangentially about the situation many of us find ourselves in. One thing that occurred to me too late was that even if New Zealand’s lockdown lasts only 4 weeks, I’m going to need a haircut in that time – if lockdown lasts 8 weeks or even 12 I’ll be turning into a cavewoman! Haiku Husband has already said he won’t do it, which seems a bit unfair as I’ll be trimming his beard, as I’ve done for almost 40 years!

Still, I have given myself a haircut once before – using nail scissors and the wing mirror of a VW Kombi van parked in a campground in Salamanca, Spain! Needless to say, the next professional I saw said: “Who gave you your last cut?”. The insouciance of youth … and now age!

my child with a cold –
her forelocks almost
her eyebrows

Sugita Hisajo (1890-1946)
from Far Beyond the Field: Haiku by Japanese women

What’s the difference between a bad haircut and a good haircut? About 2 weeks!

Sunday best
a fresh wind styles my hair
more casually

David J Kelly
from Kokako 30 (2019)

last week’s haircut
my DNA
in the phoebe’s nest

Stuart Bartow
from Bones 15 (2018)

Native to North and South America, phoebes (Sayornis) are part of the flycatcher family of birds.

town barberpoll
stops turning:
autumn nightfall

Nicholas Virgilio
from The Haiku Anthology (1999)

evening rain—
I braid my hair
into the dark

Penny Harter
from Haiku North America Contest, 1999

Not having access to hair dye has apparently been a big lockdown issue for some (if you can believe the ‘popular’ press). Fortunately, not a problem for me as I’ve been naturally grey for years!

too young
to look so old —
grey temples 

Julie Bloss Kelsey
from the RH Blyth Award (2019)

Libraries for the ‘ordinary man’

Travelling around the old goldfields in Victoria, Australia last week and the name on a 19th century building caught my eye – Mechanics’ Institute. From the depths of memory I was able to dredge up that the first library in Tauranga was in the Mechanics’ Institute, but what, I wondered, did mechanics have to do with anything?

A few seconds later Haiku Son had the answer from Google. The first Mechanics’ Institute opened in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1821 to provide working class men, not just mechanics, with technical education, revolutionising access to education in science and technology for ‘ordinary men’ – and breaking down the guild system of specialised learning being protected.

In Australia, the first Mechanics’ Institute was in Hobart, Tasmania, opening in 1827, while Melbourne got one in 1839. From the 1850s (and coinciding with the gold rushes), Mechanics’ Institutes spread throughout Victoria wherever a hall, library or school was needed. Over 1200 were built in Victoria but just over 500 remain today, and only six still operate a lending library service. Read more in the Wikipedia entry.

A Mechanics’ Institute and Library building (far left) makes up part of the main street at Sovereign Hill, a re-created gold-mining settlement in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The Tauranga Mechanics’ Institute was founded in 1871, with library membership on an annual subscription basis (the library opened in someone’s home before there was a building) – membership jumped from 20 annual members in 1871 to 106 the next year! The authors of Tauranga 1882-1982 fudge the question of when a stand-alone building was erected, perhaps in 1873, but in the early hours of May 31, 1881 the building was razed by fire in one of the city’s most disastrous events. Onlookers, however, managed to save most of the books.

An architect designed a new building free of charge and this was opened in November 1881. This building also became Tauranga’s first museum when items were donated in 1881 for that purpose. Dear readers please note that in 2020 Tauranga does not have a museum! It has a ‘heritage collection’ which sits in storage and so is not available to the public, but since the City Fathers saw fit to close the displays at the Historic Village in  1998 the city has continually stuttered over the issue of a purpose-built museum.

By 1906 the Mechanics’ Institute library had become the Tauranga Public Library. The 1930 art deco library (and town hall) building, which apparently included some striking stained glass, was demolished in 1987 much to the fury of Ngai Tamarawaho who initiated a land ownership claim and occupied the building.

A new library opened in 1989 but the story doesn’t finish there as the architect-designed building leaked badly during rain (and it can pour down here) so that problem remained the same as in the 1930 building. In 2007 the library was refurbished and a new storey added on top (which solved the leaks) but at the end of 2014 part of the library had to be shut when toxic black mould was found (after staff complaints of illness) in the adjoining Tauranga City Council premises. The affected areas re-opened in early 2015. The main part of the council building was demolished and has yet to be replaced. Nup, nothing happens fast round here.

Coronavirus update, March 23: Tauranga’s libraries closed yesterday afternoon for the foreseeable future.

summer breeze
setting aside the book
to smell her hair

Makarios Tabor
The Heron’s Nest 22.1 (2020)

 

cold chrysanthemums
too late to return
the borrowed book

Bisshie, Presence 64 (2019)

bird by bird
the toddler kisses
her story book

Carol Raisfeld
Australian Haiku Society Spring Kukai (2019)

What is love?

A moving prose poem about love by the ever-erudite Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith, from Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers (Polygon, 2013). His paragraphs are not usually this long!

And it did not matter who or what it was that we loved. Auden said that when he was a boy he loved a pumping engine and thought it every bit as beautiful as the ‘you’ whom he later addressed. We loved people because they were beautiful or witty or smiled in a way that made us smile; we loved them because they spoke or walked in a certain way or because they had a dimple in exactly the right place; we loved them because they loved us or, sadly, because they did not love us; we loved them because they had a way of looking at things, or because there was a certain light in their eyes that reminded us of the sunlight you saw caught in a rock pool on a Hebridean Island; or because they wore a kilt or black jeans or a Shetland sweater or could recite Burns or play the guitar or knew how to make bread or were kind to us and tolerated us and our ways and our stubborn refusal to stop loving them. There were so many reasons for loving somebody else; so many; and it made no sense to sit and think about whether it was a good idea or not because love was like a bolt of lightning that came from a great cumulonimbus cloud that was far too great for us to blow it away; and it struck and we just had to accept it and get on with the business of trying to exist while all the time there was this great wave of longing within us like a swell in the sea, one of those great rolling waves that comes in off the Atlantic and hits Ardnamurchan and cannot be fought against, because fighting love like that is hopeless and you should just go under and let it wash over you and hope that when you come out from under the wave you will still be breathing and that you have not drowned, as people could – they could drown in love, just drown.

Although I don’t bother with the retail aspect of Valentine’s Day, it is nice sometimes to reflect on love, this strangest – and strongest – of emotions and today is as good a day as any.

unfinished sampler
the small hearts
not yet crossed

Holli Rainwater, from Another Trip Around the Sun anthology

Newly in love –
so many things I
refrain from mentioning

Phillip Rowland, from Stepping Stones anthology

harvest dance –
the way I still fit
your arms

Sandra Simpson
from Building a time machine (NZ Poetry Society anthology, 2012)

a shooting star –
in love, not knowing
where it will lead

Madoka Mayuzumi, from Haiku Love anthology

Prolonged heat

Gosh, but it’s hot. A run of daily temperatures over 30°C has come on top of a run of temperatures in the late 20s, and there’s been no rain to speak of for weeks – and none forecast either! The countryside that was so green in December is now a crispy brown. In a terrible twist the coronavirus means our meat isn’t being shipped to China (no one to unload it, let alone buy it) so freezing works are refusing to take animals, right as the drought bites and at a time when farmers traditionally relieve the feed burden on their properties by lowering stock numbers. Hard times ahead.

Yes, it’s summer in New Zealand and we should expect some hot weather but our summers aren’t usually so unbearable … except that last year was as well. And there are still fools denying climate change is a thing. As someone said recently, they tend to be older men who have ended up at a website full of dubious ‘facts’ and shonky ‘research’ and are now convinced humans have nothing to do with world’s weather becoming more extreme and refuse to ‘do their bit’, all the while being utterly unreachable by anyone with a bit of sense. Bah!

Now that’s off my chest, let’s read some haiku.

Another Trip Around the Sun: 365 days of haiku for children young and old, edited by Jessica Malone Latham (Brooks Books US) features a poem for every day of the year (orientated for the northern seasons so I’m transposing them).

January/July 6

smell of the heat –
I snip a little dill
for the cucumbers

Ellen Compton (US)

February/August 3

summer walk
the length of
a fudgesicle

Jacqui Pearce (Canada)

February/August 19

summer garden
taking inventory
one bite at a time

Jeff Hoagland (US)

March /September 1

bursting out
from every hedge –
naked ladies

Sandra Simpson (NZ)

Naked ladies, by the way, are Amaryllis Belladonna, a bulb that flowers without leaves.

A copy of Windfall 8 landed in my letterbox today. This small annual publication is edited by Beverley George and features the work of Australian poets. Subscriptions for outside Australia are $A25 for two issues (ie, two years), payment in Australian currency to Peter Macrow, 6/16 Osborne St, Sandy Bay, TAS 7005, Australia.

Sadly, Australia has been having its own battles with a changing climate this summer.

invisible
in a charcoal landscape
this black snake

Helen Taylor

drought
the scratchings of a cockatoo
on the guttering

Kieran O’Connor

shooting star
a minute’s silence
for the earth

Hazel Hall

I’ll finish with a small selection from the Summer chapter of number eight wire, the fourth New Zealand haiku anthology (only a few copies left, be in quick).

bobbing up the riverbank
the dust of a rabbit
skipping stones

Marion Moxham

blowfly!
being your friend
isn’t easy

Dick Whyte

Pohutukawa tree stamp image courtesy NZ Post

end of summer
scarlet stamens in the folds
of my tent

Elaine Riddell

Merry Christmas & Haiku Wishes

My very best seasonal greetings to all those who pop in to and read this blog – some of you will celebrate Christmas, some won’t, but I hope that if you live somewhere that has a holiday just now that you have a peaceful and safe time, and a healthy, prosperous and productive 2020.

Here is a selection of seasonal haiku which I hope you’ll enjoy.

long wait backstage –
the evil giant reads
a self-improvement book

Catherine Bullock, number eight wire

moonlight
the pear tree
turns to tinsel

Shirley May, number eight wire

Christmas Eve –
the neighbour comes round
to borrow some data

Owen Bullock, number eight wire

number eight wire: the fourth New Zealand haiku anthology was launched in March, one of the highlights of my haiku year (I’m co-editor). We have only a few copies left but we’d love to have no copies so if you’d like to read more haiku by New Zealand writers (70 of them of all ages), please read the ordering details here.

Christmas Eve
searching for the beginning
of the Scotch tape

Alan S Bridges, Another Trip Around the Sun

sleigh bells
the hayloft rustles
with deer mice

Debbie Strange, Another Trip Around the Sun

Another Trip Around the Sun: 365 days of haiku for children young and old, edited by Jessica Malone Latham, was published by Brooks Books in November. Click on the link for further information.

the Christmas
after we told him
artificial tree

Joe McKeon, A New Resonance 10

Christmas light test
trying to untangle
last year

Deborah P Kolodji, A New Resonance 4

The New Resonance poems have been taken from the reading done at this year’s Haiku North America conference – How I Found my Voice Again – which celebrated every poet  in the biennial collections that gather new voices in haiku and are published by Jim Kacian’s Red Moon Press. The reading, which featured some of the poets present and others represented by Julie Warther, was filmed. Click on the link above to see/hear it. The most recent iteration of the series is A New Resonance 11.