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.

Reviews: Reeves & Cooper

field of stars is the second collection from Tasmanian poet Lyn Reeves, the former longtime associate editor of Famous Reporter, and now editor of the online journal of Australian haiku, Echidna Tracks.

Having previously stated that she’s interested in ‘writing about place’, Lyn has put together a collection that is at once personal, loving and quietly observant of the world around her. Some of the poems are, naturally, those of Australia and its unique flora and fauna, but just as many are universal.

in sparse scrub
the honeyeater’s wing
flashes yellow

overcast sky
the light
from a single dandelion

field of stars doesn’t have any chapter separations, yet there is a gentle narrative flow that makes turning the pages easy. The poems include a selection from collaborations Lyn has had with two visual artists, Luke Wagner and Megan Walch, although these aren’t separately identified.

I very much like the layout of the book with the haiku getting plenty of room to breathe – alternating pages contain two poems or a single haiku – which also gives the reader space to ponder and let the poems settle in.

on the lawn
four striped deck chairs
taking the sun

wildlife park
the echidna
paces its cage

This collection contains examples, and adroit ones at that, of haiku mined from both the smallest of ‘indoor’ habits set against what is at times a more ‘masculine’ outdoors.

in the boiling kettle
a rumble
of distant waves

red sunrise
the bulldozer’s engine
revs up

Lyn has a perceptive eye and is to be congratulated for bringing to fruition such a solid set of haiku that will be enjoyed around the world.

winter creek
a rumour
of platypus

Fellow Tasmanian haiku poet Ron C Moss writes on the back cover: “This is a collection to be kept close and cherished for the many celebrations of what it is to be a part of nature.”

field of stars is available from publisher Walleah Press, or via online book outlets. My copy was supplied to me by the author. ISBN 978-1-877010-91-0

moon music is Bill Cooper’s sixth collection of haiku published through Red Moon Press and is a typical example of Red Moon’s smaller-size books. My disclaimer with this book is that I was asked to provide a blurb for the back cover and did so.

Bill has divided his collection into ‘nodding terms’, ‘slow carousel’, ‘trombone smile, ‘entering Bogalusa’ and ‘a looping strand’.His poems are a mixture of haiku and senryu, set out as in the book above, and some of them very sharply observed indeed.

clouds the tug of a mating horseshoe crab

 

dawn fog
an egret sharpens her beak
on a rock

His sense of humour is never far from the surface, sometimes hearty, sometimes wry.

steam room
thinking less and less
about less

mid-gargle
a shift in pitch
breaking news

Bill is an emeritus professor and has published books and articles on cognitive science, international relations and higher education. When it comes to his haiku and senryu he wears his learning lightly and the poems are all the better for it.

after neurology
comparing thin slices
of strawberry

slow river
a mallard circles the rim
of a cooling tower

One of the other contributors to the back cover is Ce Rosenow: “Through … an unflinching commitment to write what is and not what we wish could be, Bill Cooper reminds us of haiku’s emotional power.”

ISBN 978-1-947271-45-6.

Pathway visitors

Had a lovely morning wandering/riding the Haiku Pathway in Katikati with a group of locals and some visitors.

From left: Steve Clarkson (Taupo), Shirley May (Tauranga), Ben Clarkson (Dunedin/Taupo), Garry Astle (NSW, Australia), Margaret Beverland (Katikati), Laurel Astle (NSW, Australia) and Bob Edwards (Katikati). Front: Catherine Mair and her racing machine! Photo: Sandra Simpson

Lovely weather for a stroll, followed by a lovely lunch and throughout all interesting conversation! Can’t ask for more.

The Haiku Pathway will next year celebrate its 20th birthday. Read about its  development here,

Haiku rant on The Spinoff

Peeved by the ‘haiku’ The Spinoff website ran in March as a Friday Poem – how many poets submit for that slot and how many are rejected, and they print 11 short poems, some of them quite shouty, that bear no relation to haiku – I approached the Books editors about writing something to redress the balance.

To my delight, they were welcoming. The piece has been published today (I don’t think the fact that it’s Halloween has any meaning) with the author of the original ‘haiku’ having right of reply.

Read my piece here, which includes a link to the original poems. I must say my rant has been building for some time so it feels good to have it out there!

The right of reply has been posted and it’s about as dismissive as I expected and seemed not to get the point at all. Ah well.

Reviews: Moss & Austin

Two books from Australian haiku poets this time – Broken Starfish, haiku and ink paintings by Ron C Moss (Walleah Press, 2019) and changing light by Gavin Austin (Alba Publishing, 2018). Both are handsomely produced volumes.

I have long admired Ron’s brush paintings (and his haiku) so to have a volume studded with them is a real treat. With 131 pages of poems and art (all in one section), readers are given a decent helping of Ron’s work in his third major collection.

moss haiku

Ron lives in Tasmania where he’s been a longtime rural volunteer firefighter. He has recently retired from paid employment.

swollen moon
a playtpus swims
belly to the stars

almost home
a barn owl swoops
into the dusk

a firefighter
turns off his headlamp …
autumn moon

shading pencil lines
like my father taught me …
summer clouds

The layout is lovely – with one haiku per page, the poems have room to breathe and be themselves. Every time I dip back into the book, I find something else to like.

muffled voices
mother’s pin cushion
sparkles in the light

austin

Gavin, a resident of Sydney, divides his collection into five sections of varying length, the first three are elemental (land, sea, sky) followed by “Fur & feather” and “Life & death” with one or two poems on a page, again a good choice. My only niggles are that on a few of the left-hand pages the haiku are set too close into the book’s spine to feel comfortable  and that the vast majority of poems have a break after the first line. Neither of these things diminished my enjoyment of the collection, although the latter meant I read the book in bursts, a few haiku at a time, to stop the uniformity of style becoming a negative.

circling bushfire –
a slow death
of daylight

                       morning light
a school of fish suspended
                       between waves

morning drizzle
a wagtail shimmies
on the gatepost

leaden sky
the broodmare’s feed bin
heavy with rain

The collection draws on eight years of work and while the back page blurb claims the haiku are “unashamedly Australian in flavour”, the poems will pose few problems for readers in New Zealand. In reality,  there are many poems that could be set anywhere.

the pale scarf
draped from her throat
wisteria vine

There is much to be enjoyed here.

Reviews: Surridge & Bullock

Two nice volumes have come across my desk recently – one hundred petals, the first collection of haiku by André Surridge (Hamilton), and summer haiku, a collection from Owen Bullock, once of the UK, a long-time resident of the Western Bay of Plenty in New Zealand and now working in Canberra, Australia.

Update: André passed away on December 23, 2019.

Cover art, a collage, is by Jenny Kippenberger.

First of all, a disclaimer: I wrote the Foreword for André’s collection. So you might think that I would be well disposed towards André and his work, and you’d be right!

One hundred haiku and senryu have been arranged into chapters reflecting the four seasons, a traditional approach from a poet who doesn’t always conform to the traditions of haiku – the non-conformity appears as a fifth (middle) chapter of senryu. André, who began writing haiku in 2002, has won many awards along the way and is  regularly published around the world.

I’ll let his work speak for itself by choosing one of my favourites from each season.

gentle rain a ripple runs along
                                              the foal’s flank

small crack
the albatross chick whistles
inside its shell

(I particularly like the sensory elements in these two haiku above; tiny details, but what impact!)

dark side of the moon
the stepbrother
I never met

autumn sunset:
the double bounce
of a persimmon

by the stile
a heel print
inlaid with ice

Having undergone some serious, and debilitating, treatment, André is facing an uncertain future healthwise, the prompt to gather this collection together. Yet there is no sentimentality in these poems, no self-pity … just an ongoing engagement with the world around him as he moves through it. I particularly like his quiet, but acute, observations in poems like these:

physio
the pillow
still warm

lavender stalk
the weight of one
white butterfly

“My thanks to Cyril Childs who showed me the haiku way and to Patricia Prime for steadying me on that path in those early years,” the author writes.

The 64-page book is printed on recycled paper and costs $20 within New Zealand (includes postage) and $NZ25 elsewhere. André is now kindly donating proceeds to Kokako journal. To order a copy please email Elaine including your name, postal address and how you’re paying. Payment for New Zealand orders may be made by bank transfer to Kokako 12 3071 0355785 00 using ‘petals100’ in the reference line. Unfortunately, due to changes in NZ’s banking system cheques cannot be accepted. International orders may be made using PayPal, Elaine will reply with payment details. ISBN 978-0-473-48250-3.

Cover artwork is by Dianne Firth, Canberra Tales III.

Owen keeps up a regular output of books, which is nice to see as most of us seem to work on single-poet collections maybe once in a decade.

A small-format book, Summer Haiku is published by Recent Work Press and follows Owen’s earlier books with the same publisher, Urban Haiku (2015) and River’s Edge (2016). In an email to me this month Owen revealed there are many previously unpublished haiku in this collection giving us plenty fresh to enjoy, among them:

teeth marks
in the soap
hedgehog-sized

yellow butterfly
from piece of air
to piece of air

In his Afterword, Owen explains the collection was written over three summers while camping on land he and his partner own in New Zealand and which they’re developing along permaculture principles – “and one winter sojourn there in our newly built gypsy wagon”.

she calls me cute
tears come easily
this winter holiday

3pm
ducks already folded
into their bodies

Owen has a knack of creating haiku that might seem ordinary at first glance, but that glance becomes a longer look and then one begins to think about the words and images and … Here he perfectly – and calmly, almost wonderingly – describes something I’ve experienced often, but always find frightening until my rational mind can take over.

not a man
but some kind of shadow –
daybreak

And the sound in this haiku is everywhere but, beautifully, is nowhere stated:

farm tour
a llama cleans its teeth
on the wire fence

Summer Haiku, 68 pages, is available from Recent Work Press for $A8.95. ISBN 9780648404279.

Happy NZ Poetry Day!

August 23 is National Poetry Day in New Zealand. Thanks to the indefatigable Ruth Arnison of Dunedin patients in the city’s Mercy Hospital will today receive a PoARTry card on the tray with their lunch.

Ruth has co-ordinated 10 local artists to create works in response to 10 poems/haiku and she’s had photos of the artworks made up as postcards with the poems on the reverse side. The original artworks will be on display and for sale at Mercy Hospital for a two-week period.

“Mercy Hospital is sponsoring the Poems in the Waiting Room poetry cards for four editions so this is my way of saying thanks to them,” Ruth tells me.

Laura Gregory has taken up one of my haiku and created a lively Market Lady (painting on MDF board).

‘Market Lady’ by Laura Gregory. Photo: Ruth Arnison

end of harvest
we pull out the leaves
on the dining table

– Sandra Simpson

This is the same haiku that last year inspired a mosaic by Greta Doo. Read more here.