Just published

Had Presence 55 (UK) waiting for me when I got home and the final edition of Paper Wasp (Australia) arrived soon after I got back.

Very pleased to have a haiku voted ‘best of issue’ for Number 54 by the readers of Presence, “a clear winner”, according to the editors!

stored in her phone the unborn child

– Sandra Simpson,  Presence 54

“The poem seems to play with ideas of electronic immortality but perhaps also offers satirical comment on the increasing involvement of phones in our lives.”

One of my three haiku in Presence 55 is:

summer rain the eel inside me stirs

I was pleased to be able to contribute to the final edition of Paper Wasp as many years ago – 1996 (2:4), the bookshelf reveals – Janice Bostok while guest editor encouraged me in my haiku ways. Other Kiwi names appearing in that 16-page edition included Catherine Mair, Patricia Prime, Ernest J Berry, the late Bernard Gadd and John Allison.

The final volume is only 20 pages but there are many more poems packed into it than the 1996 version. Paper Wasp founders were John Knight (1935-2012), Jacqui Murray and Ross Clark with Jan Bostok (1942-2011) and Katherine Samuelowicz joining the team later. “We kept each issue small, not only to be economical, but also because it embodied the pared down form within,” the editors write in their farewell.

“Our stable of haijin will find publication elsewhere. Other Australian journals of haiku will begin, and (sort of) thrive. As well as this handful of breath we call haiku.”

crabapple harvest –
the best neighbour tells me
he’s moving

– Sandra Simpson, Paper Wasp 20.2

And I’ve work in a new (for me) publication, the online senryu journal, Prune Juice (just be warned that it’s a massive file if you choose to download it).

dictator’s tomb –
rose petals stick
to the bottom of our feet

– Sandra Simpson

Postcard from San Francisco

Well, here it is folks, the final postcard from my North America trip.

Carolyn Hall (see Postcard from Santa Rosa, below) drove with us to San Francisco and was a great guide, pulling us off the highway for lunch at Book Passages (a glorious book store too) near San Rafael.

We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge – is there any better way to enter a city? – and I, for one, was as excited as a little kid (I may have been the only one in the car skipping about on the inside. Carolyn’s done it many times and the driver was, well, driving).

Then she tested our driver’s skill, and nerve, by sending him up one of those terraced streets that San Francisco is renowned for. Every block was either an uncontrolled intersection or lights – you want to be the leading car when you reach the intersection as that’s the only flat place to stop, and not 3 cars back on the steep slope! But we wouldn’t have swapped the experience for the world, and next day, when riding one of the famous cable cars, saw a street – or didn’t see a street – that seemed to disappear off the edge! Filbert Street has a 31.5% grade … Stephen von Worley has written about driving such streets and compiled a list of what he considers to be the 10 steepest.

summer solstice
the measuring tape reels back
into its case

– Carolyn Hall

Carolyn had more haiku fun in store for us with a group gathering at her apartment and then strolling round the corner to a great Thai restaurant.

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Dinner party, from left back: Keith Frentz, Carolyn Hall, Buck Hall, Sandra Simpson and Betty Arnold. From left front, Richard Goldberg, Sharon Pretti, Patricia Machmiller and Richard Bruns. Photo: The waiter

Patricia Machmiller is a well-known name in haiku and I was pleased to sit in on her session at Haiku North America in 2013. She began writing in 1975 with Kiyoshi and Kiyoko Tokutomi, founders of the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society, and was the society’s president from 1978 to 1981, and is currently treasurer. Patricia is also a talented brush painter and has held exhibitions of her work. Her delightful sense of humour came to the fore during our meal and I was amazed to hear that she’s not long recovered from a broken neck, a dreadful injury that occurred when she was hit by a vehicle while out walking.

squash blossoms
the ribbon on her dress
unravelling 

– Patricia Machmiller,  winner of a 2016 THF Touchstone Award
published in Frogpond 38.2

Betty Arnold is editor of the Yuki Tekei’s magazine Geppo, as well as being a member of Haiku Poets of Northern California. She was introduced to haiku by Christopher Herold when he was still living in California and well remembers the serene atmosphere he created for his guests. A retired paediatrician, Betty also enjoys writing tanka but isn’t too bothered about getting her work published. She writes for her own pleasure.

welcome home surprise –
all along the driveway
forget-me-nots

– Betty Arnold

Sharon Pretti, who is a social worker in a care facility for adults, is relatively new to haiku but has already had poems appear in such august publications as Modern Haiku and Frogpond. Her partner, Richard, is a visual artist. See his website here.

in remission
acacia dust brushed
from the windshield

– Sharon Pretti, Second place in the 2015 Porad Haiku Award

Richard Bruns had told me the day before that although he didn’t write much haiku, he was nonetheless interested in it and liked hanging out with haiku folk! His write-up of our visit revealed a little more … he has in fact been interested in haiku since the 1960s and been writing poetry of all sorts off an on ever since! Joining HPNC after he retired in 2012 “forced a complete reassessment of my own work in the face of 21st century haiku standards”. Richard is attempting to meet that challenge and has had some success and is also enjoying writing science fiction poetry.

Thank you to everyone in these postcards who helped make my visit to the US so rewarding. It was a pleasure to spend time with you all!

Postcard from Santa Rosa

Our final haiku connection in our journey was made through Carolyn Hall who was the most fantastic hostess, putting us up in both Santa Rosa (in the Sonoma Valley) and in San Francisco.

Carolyn is an accomplished haiku poet and the winner of many awards. Among her many achievements are editor of Acorn (2008-2012), winning the HPNC Haiku Contest in 2011, winning a Snapshot Press Book Award (resulting in Water Lines published in 2006, which won a Haiku Society of America Book Award), winning The Heron’s Nest Readers’ Choice Poem of the Year in 2015 (and being first runner-up to the Poet of the Year), THN Poet of the Year in 2011, THN Poem of the Year in 2007, while her second book, How to Paint the Finch’s Song, won a Touchstone Distinguished Book Award in 2011. Read a review of that book here.

her death date
I pause the river
in my cupped hands

— Carolyn Hall, The Heron’s Nest Poem of the Year 2015

Carolyn was introduced to haiku about 17 years ago by a friend who was at the time writing haiku himself. “I bought everything I could find with ‘haiku’ in the title. I showed [her friend] my first haiku … I don’t know why he saw any hope in me.”

Carolyn then met Laura Bell and almost immediately started getting her work published “which got me really excited”. Other early support came from Jim Kacian and Christopher Herold.

Haiku is “an addiction I have no desire to break”, she says, and although fears she’s writing fewer haiku as time passes, Carolyn is contemplating a fourth collection.

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Carolyn Hall and her equally sociable husband, Buck. Photo: Sandra Simpson

In Santa Rosa Carolyn invited members of Haiku Poets of Northern California and Yuki Tekei haiku groups to join us poolside for the afternoon and dinner, and we had a delightful time meeting Richard Bruns, Garry Gay, Patrick Gallagher and his friend Kathleen Wall, and Michael Sheffield. Some lived nearby while Patrick and Kathleen had made a 3-and-a-half-hour drive to be with us! Yuki Tekei, by the way, prefers haiku written in 5-7-5 with a kigo.

Many haiku poets in the area belong to both haiku groups as the meetings rarely clash – Yuki Tekei meets monthly and HPNC only four times a year. Patrick is president of Yuki Tekei, while Garry, who was an HPNC founder and its first president, is again leading the organisation with Carolyn as membership secretary. Garry is also a founding (and still active) director of Haiku North America.

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Patrick Gallagher. Photo: Sandra Simpson

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Garry Gay (left) and occasional haiku writer Keith Frentz. Photo: Sandra Simpson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garry, a professional photographer, began writing haiku in the 1970s after meeting Basho’s Narrow Road to the Deep North! “I had been writing longer poetry,” he says, “but the poems kept getting shorter and shorter until they were only 4 lines. I didn’t know what haiku was but I gobbled up everything I could find. HPNC was founded because I was looking for people like me.”

Garry is also the inventor of the rengay form of linked verse, saying that he found the ‘rules’ of renku too restrictive so came up with his own form!

end of the world
I blow apart
a dandelion

— Garry Gay, winner of the 2013 Peggy Willis Lyles Haiku Award

Patrick, on the other hand, was driving his wife Claire (1941-2009) to meetings in San Francisco when he was invited in … and the rest, as they say, is history. Now, his new friend Kathleen is showing a lively interest in haiku (and has already written some) so watch this space!

first meeting you
a flight of balloons
above the summer river

— Patrick Gallagher

Michael, who is apparently something of a hula dancer among many other interests, is a featured guest at this year’s HPNC Two Autumns reading on August 28. “I want to get haiku out to the masses,” he says.

summer’s end
next year’s blossom
in the daylily root

— Michael Sheffield

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From left, Garry Gay, Carolyn Hall, Richard Bruns, Michael Sheffield and Patrick Gallagher. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Richard, who has also been a professional photographer, wrote up our visit as a photo journal for those who attended the dinners, a kindness that was much appreciated.

Postcard from Gualala

Northern California has a strong haiku scene including major groups like Haiku Poets of Northern California and Yuki Tekei (and more about them in another postcard), but is also home to the renowned Jane Reichhold, a poet and editor that I’ve had friendly email dealings with for many years.

We dropped in to see Jane and her husband Werner after first visiting the impressive Gualala Arts Centre where in 2013 Jane instigated a short haiku walk as part of the Global Harmony Sculpture Garden.

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Photo: Sandra Simpson

Jane and Werner edited the online journal Lynx together for 14 years (to 2014) before reluctantly deciding they no longer had the energy for it. Jane’s more recent work includes translating, with Machiko Kobayashi, the 399 tanka in Akiko Yosano’s 1901 collection. A Girl with Tangled Hair (AHA Books, 2014) took a while, Jane says, because she needed the right Japanese translator to work with – her first co-translator of Japanese tanka fell seriously ill and it took time to find someone else with the attributes Jane sought, which included “free and bold” translations.

sa wa iedo
sono hitotoki yo
mabayukariki
natsu no no shimeshi
shirayuri no hana

no matter
what they said at the time
it was dazzling
when the summer field
was taken by white lilies

She believes she and Werner published the first anthology of English-language tanka – Wind Five-Folded – in 1992.

In 2013 Jane published a second volume of her A Dictionary of Haiku (essentially a collected works arranged by season and topic) and brought to fruition her 15-year project of translating all of Basho’s haiku. Basho The Complete Haiku was published by Kondasha.

how loud the surf
filled with moonlight
high and round

– Jane Reichhold, from A Dictionary of Haiku (second edition)

One of the undoubted highlights of her long career in haiku, tanka and renga was a personal invitation from the Emperor and Empress of Japan to attend the 1998 Imperial New Year’s Poetry Party at the palace in Tokyo. “There seemed to be two people waiting to fulfil our every wish,” she recalls. “It was marvellous, if slightly unreal.”

Speaking of slightly unreal, we’d spent the day driving in and out of the fogbanks that are common along this stretch of coast in summer and when we arrived Jane was sitting in a patch of sunlight crocheting, surrounded by shelves of very lifelike dolls! (Bodega Bay, where Hitchcock filmed The Birds is a little further down the coast …)

Turns out, she “repurposes” dolls that are weighted and dressed as if they were infants and then given to dementia patients.

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Jane and Werner Reichhold. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The couple are great fun – Werner spent some 40 or 50 years working as an installation artist and now, at the age of 90, enjoys collages as well as poetry. They were penpals for 4 years before meeting and when Jane decided to go to Germany she suggested they exchanged photographs – without discussing it, they each chose a third grade photo (8 years old) to send. And when they exchanged wedding gifts, it turned out they’d bought each other the same thing!

As we were leaving Jane pressed two small notebooks into my hand, a new project. “Write down what you’re thankful for,” she said. “Send it back and be part of the exhibition at the Gualala Arts Centre … or drop it somewhere and let a stranger do it.”

I’ve kept one notebook and given the other to a haiku poet. My first entry is being thankful for the kindness and generosity of the worldwide haiku community. As Jane would say, blessings!

Read Jane’s My Favourite Haiku selection. Read Werner’s selection of his favourite German haiku (with translations).

Postcard from Prairie City

We stayed just one night in Prairie City in eastern Oregon, but the long drive there from west of Portland was well worth it. Kate, the check-in clerk at the historic Hotel Prairie, was waiting for us and a more enthusiastic and charming young woman it would be hard to find.

The word ‘city’ is a bit misleading as the community numbers 910 (but growing, according to the town’s website).

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A welcome mural. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Was there somewhere to have some dinner? Kate recommended a place down the street but then came right back and said unfortunately it had already closed … but no problem, if we didn’t mind something simple. Hotel owner Donna Merrill rustled us up some drinks and delicious toasted sandwiches – they were on the point of doing food in their nicely fitted out dining room so we were a sort of test run – and put on a great DVD about the John Day Fossil Beds, which we were going to see the next day.

Donna and her partners bought the hotel in 2005, when it was 100 years old, and she has been project managing its restoration ever since. The pressed ceilings in the dining room and lobby are new but based on old patterns, while the wooden floor in the dining area has come from another part of the hotel and been carefully relaid to match the fir and pine timbers.

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The lobby of Hotel Prairie. Photo: Sandra Simpson

After dinner I had a stroll along Prairie City’s main street (Highway 26 but almost entirely devoid of traffic in the long evening), peering in shop windows and enjoying the rich, light on the nearby Strawberry Mountains.

The guy at the gas station said he could live anywhere, “but I like living here”.

When I found a Little Free Library on the main street, I knew what to do. The next morning I added a copy of breath with the hope that at least one person in Prairie City will discover haiku – and maybe even try writing some about their home.

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Prairie City church with the Strawberry Mountains in the background.                       Photo: Sandra Simpson

 

Postcard from Port Townsend

Port Townsend is a beautiful and historic small town on the north coast of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State – and is the home of one of my haiku heroes, Christopher Herold.

We were lucky enough to have coffee with Chris and his wife Carol and I felt privileged to be able to meet face-to-face as Christopher was one of the first overseas editors to publish my work. He was the founding editor of The Heron’s Nest, running it as a monthly paper publication for many years. Eventually, he realised, it was taking over his life (Carol had possibly realised this a little earlier!). The first of the associate editors came on board and the highly respected journal finally morphed into the online quarterly journal that it is today, now under the guiding hand of John Stevenson and his team.

Chris had his interest in haiku fostered by one of America’s great haiku figures, James Hackett (1929-2015) – Chris, who already had a long-time interest in Buddhism, worked as his gardener. He’s turned to other forms of writing more recently but produced a small book of haiku, The Moon Unfazed (Kanshiketsu Press) in 2014.

almost dawn
cupped in the curve of the moon
the rest of the moon

– Christopher Herold

Chris has also had a long-time interest in renku and in 2009 he and Carol won the Haiku Society of America’s Einbond Renku Contest, having previously tied with themselves for first place in an earlier iteration.

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Christopher Herold. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The following haiku was one of the first of Chris’ that I remember reading, and it is still one of my favourites.

foghorns
we lower a kayak
into the sound

– Christopher Herold
second place, Harold G Henderson contest, 1999

Sadly, Chris lost his computer files of haiku written between 2004 and 2014, but has taken a philosophical attitude towards it, an equanimity I get the impression is par for the course.

I hope our paths cross again some time … maybe a Haiku North America in Honolulu, yeah!

Postcard from Juneau

Had the great good fortune yesterday to spend a day with Billie Wilson, in her home town of Juneau, Alaska. Billie and husband Gary kindly cleared their diary for us and were great hosts showing off their picturesque home area, otherwise known as the state capital of “The Last Frontier”. On our side, it was wonderful to spend time with honest-to-goodness locals and hear stories and experiences that only long-time residents can tell. (Three bears on the deck with their snouts pressed against the glass while Billie and Gary were watching TV!)

Billie and I also had time to talk haiku (like that was never going to happen)! Like me, she’s seeking to win back some time for writing (among other things Billie is an associate editor for The Heron’s Nest and Events/Registry editor for The Haiku Foundation). Sitting and thinking, we agreed, are an essential part of the haiku process (at least for us) and we both increasingly feel we have to “schedule” such time, which is exactly what we don’t want to do.

whalebone
from a beach near Savoonga –
winter rain

– Billie Wilson, First place in the Henderson Award, 2003

Savoonga has an interesting history, including a famine from 1878-80 that severely affected the native population. Read more here.

retreating glacier –
how long since we’ve heard
the black wolf’s song

– Billie Wilson
from Haiku in English: The first hundred years (Norton, 2012)

It’s probably difficult to live in Alaska and not have an environmental focus to your work. It’s an amazing place full of stunning vistas and can be surprisingly like New Zealand! Read more of Billie’s work. She may be the only regularly practising haiku poet in Alaska, although Billie has – and continues to try – to foster interest in her community.

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Billie Wilson (left) and Sandra Simpson at the Mendenhall Glacier, near Juneau. Gary mentioned how far the glacier has retreated in the 50 years he’s been living in Alaska – the lake that is now the glacier terminus wasn’t there in 1958. Photo: Keith Frentz

that whale I could have touched
surfaces again
in my mind

– Billie Wilson, from a 2012 Per Diem feature at THF

Something we were out of step on was our coughing – we didn’t once manage to get it going in unison, though goodness knows we tried!