Words that flow

I had occasion this week to paraphrase Martin Lucas, the late editor of Presence, while critiquing one of my own haiku at a group session, saying something like “I’ve made a weather report of the first line”, dissatisfied because I knew I was wasting the line.

Here is what Martin actually said, from his essay Haiku as Poetic Spell (click on the link to read the whole thing, well worth it):

The internationally accepted formula runs something like this (expressed here in 5-7-5 for my own amusement, though 5-7-5 is now outmoded as far as the arbiters of taste are concerned):

seasonal ref’rence —
then two lines of contrasting
foreground imagery

Seen in isolation, any one of these haiku can be impressive. Taken in quantity, the effect is numbing.

And towards the end of the essay, he describes what he wants in haiku: Words that chime; words that beat; words that flow. And once you’ve truly heard it, you won’t forget it, because the words have power. They are not dead and scribbled on a page, they are spoken like a charm; and they aren’t read, they’re heard.

Sometimes it does me good to remind myself of what I should be striving for, especially as the ‘dry’ spells become longer and more frequent.

This is not to say we shouldn’t use a seasonal reference in our haiku, just that they should be carefully chosen – the single-line ‘fragment’ carries just as much weight in a haiku as the two-line ‘phrase’; it’s not a throw-away scene-setter.

Here are some haiku from my bookshelf, ones that use a ‘weather report’ first line to great advantage, in my opinion. The first poem I shared with the group and it was one of those wonderful moments when everyone in the room reacted … by laughing.

mild winter day
the neighbour’s dog barking
till I’m hoarse

– Carolyn Hall
from Water Lines (Snapshot Press, 2006)

midsummer morning –
the dead tree’s shadow
stretches upstream

– Adele Kenny
from The Haiku Hundred (Iron Press, 1992)

outgoing tide
my mother’s togs
a year looser

Catherine Mair
from incoming tide (Quail Press, 2016)

twilight: across the lake
distant reeds take the shape
of a bittern

– Martin Lucas
from Wing Beats: British Birds in Haiku (Snapshot Press, 2008)

And to finish, an actual weather report haiku!

weather forecast
searching the sky
for an isobar

Jeanette Stace
from A to Zazen (Zazen Haiku Group) 2004

Recent successes

Delightful surprise yesterday when I saw the results of the Martin Lucas Haiku Award – Second place! Apparently my letter of congratulations is still in the post (true statement, it seems they really have mailed the results).

Christmas eve –
the pop-up book’s manger
missing its baby

– Sandra Simpson

Judge Vanessa Proctor had this to say about my haiku: ‘Christmas eve’ presents the reader with a familiar domestic scene. It’s the night before Christmas when family members pull out those special Christmas books to read before the big day. Pop-up books are particularly magical, but this particular book is missing baby Jesus who is central to the story. How easily things can be lost. The wider message here is that in many ways the true meaning of Christmas has been lost too.

I’d almost decided not to enter many more contests, my results having been poor over the past couple of years so this result has helped boost my confidence.

And I’ve had a haiku published in a journal I haven’t tried before – Right Hand Pointing, an online US publication which has put out a couple of winter haiku editions collated by Eric Burke.

holiday cottage  –
the empty fruitbowl
at dusk

– Sandra Simpson

And the latest Red Moon anthology is out – dust devils – which includes three of my haiku published in 2016. As you may recall, I’m a nominating editor for the Red Moon anthologies so what happens when it comes to editors’ own work is: The haiku we vote on are without names or publication points (so judged ‘blind’) and we may not vote for our own work. The work of editors must receive at least 5 votes from the other 9 editors to merit inclusion – meaning our own work is held to a slightly higher standard than general nominations which need at least 5 votes from 10 editors.

All three of my haiku in dust devils have already been featured on this blog so I won’t bore you by repeating them. Instead let me include this one by a fellow Kiwi:

I would have given up
so many times …
we mend the tent

– Owen Bullock, Second place, Betty Drevniok Award (Canada) 2016

Roving Ambassador Roberta Beary

It’s not often I have an ambassador to stay at Chez Haiku (in fact, never) but a visit this week from Roberta Beary (and her husband Frank Stella) was exactly that. Roberta is the inaugural Haiku Foundation Roving Ambassador – and even has diplomatic credentials (well, okay, a visiting card, but still …)!

Roberta and Frank arrived in Auckland from the US by cruise ship on January 27 and will spend about 3 weeks in Aotearoa doing all the usual sight-seeing with Roberta making contact with haiku poets and editors wherever she can. The couple are travelling for most of this year and have plans to base themselves in Ireland for a bit rather than being constantly on the move. From New Zealand they go to Australia and then, probably, Singapore. It seems a bit ‘fly by wire’ but I think they’re looking forward to some spontaneity after a busy time before they left the US.

We spent Friday in Katikati touring the 45 poems on the Haiku Pathway with a small group, all then toddling off to an extremely nice lunch together.

Roberta took the opportunity to make a photo record of every poem on the Katikati Haiku Pathway. Photo: Sandra Simpson

She was delighted to see this haiku by her good friend Jim Kacian. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Out to lunch (clockwise from front left) are Jenny Fraser (Mt Maunganui), Roberta Beary, Frank Stella, Bob Edwards (Katikati), Catherine Mair (Katikati), Catherine Bullock (Waihi), Margaret Beverland (Katikati) and Sandra Simpson (Tauranga). Photo: A really helpful waitress at Café Nineteen (Fairview Golf Course).

If you’d like to contact Roberta to see if a visit is possible, please use the email address on her visiting card. As well as being an award-winning haiku poet, Roberta is also haibun editor for Modern Haiku and will continue in this role during her zig-zagging across the planet, thanks to the magic of email.

On the TV

Had an email from NHK television in Japan to let me know that my ‘photo haiku’ was featuring in episode 10 of the Haiku Masters series. I was able to live stream it during broadcast on January 31, but it’s now available on demand on the website until February 27. Go here to have a look. My piece isn’t one that’s discussed but is shown at 20:41. The photo shows an elm flower and was taken in my backyard.

all-day-photo-haiku2

Photo & haiku: Sandra Simpson

Submissions for episode 11 are open until February 13 – either send a photo haiga or submit a haiku to a photo on the website.

On the radio

Won myself a chat with the delightful Jesse Mulligan this week, on his Summer Days slot on RNZ National. At my end the interview flew by and I thought it must have been about 5 minutes long – when I listened to it on podcast, turned out to be 10 minutes!

The basis of the interview was the Katikati Haiku Pathway but Jesse asked lots of questions about haiku in general and even started the interview with a haiku about the pathway that he’d written. Unfortunately, I wasn’t patched in and didn’t hear it which is why I don’t comment on it, not even to acknowledge his effort, shame.

Listen to the interview here.

Had some fun feedback too … an email this morning from Margaret Beverland, chairwoman of the Haiku Pathway Committee, who was contacted by a woman from Christchurch – and former resident of Katikati – who heard the interview. She’s off to Japan with 16 others on a Friendship Force International trip and they have decided to have a go at writing haiku before they leave. Excellent.

New Haiku Pathway poem: Part 2

It’s a pleasure to be able to announce the completion of the 45th poem on the Katikati Haiku Pathway – hopefully plenty of holiday visitors have already discovered this delightful haiku, especially with the first of the summer’s concerts having taken place.

Photo: Sandra Simpson

The poem is by Ron C. Moss of Tasmania and the plaque adorns a boulder behind the year-old stage built by the Twilight Concert Committee – the committee not only made a cash donation to the pathway project after last year’s summer concerts but also provided the rock for the poem and have planted around the stage.

outdoor concert
the toddler asleep
kicking stars

– Ron C. Moss

As with the other boulder completed in this 2-haiku project, the metal plaque inscribed with the poem has been made by Stainless Downunder, a Katikati company, and fitted into the rock by fourth-generation stone mason Paul Gautron who has inscribed many of the pathway’s poem boulders.

Ron hails from Tasmania in Australia (with Kiwi connections in his immediate family) and is a talented – and award-winning – poet, photographer and artist. See some of his artwork here. Ron’s first book-length collection of haiku, The Bone Carver, was published by Snapshot Press (UK) in 2014.

He works as a reprographic services technician at the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office, as well as being a volunteer firefighter. Ron was awarded the Tasmania Fire Service Volunteer Medal (for diligent service) in 2010 and the National Medal in 2013.

Honey harvest

The beekeeper arrived, unannounced on December 19, and harvested honey for us, leaving it in a big bucket for us to dispense into jars which Haiku Son and I duly did, Haiku Husband being away for a couple of days (he’d done it by himself last year).

As a two-person operation it all went quite smoothly – he operated the dispensing nozzle while I held the jars underneath and called ‘stop’. We finished with a couple of empty jars to spare, whew, and not too much sticky mess to clean up.

sunlit jar
the beekeeper’s gift
on the doorstep

– Carmen Sterba
The Heron’s Nest 3:6 (2001)

Photo: Sandra Simpson

on the honey
a slight scent of the forest — 
lengthening daylight

– Tsugawa Eriko, tr Kato Koko
A Vast Sky: An anthology of contemporary world haiku (Tancho Press, 2015)

I spent a couple of days tasting the honey, trying to work out what it tasted of, if anything in particular, but no such luck. A bit of a fizz on the tongue, though, that’s about the best specific I can do.

Oh, yes, 10kg, same as last year!

honey bee –
at last the budding weeds
have meaning

– Ben Moeller-Gaa
Mystic Illuminations 3 (2016)

The bees are smoked to quieten them before the comb is removed. Photo: Sandra Simpson

on hold with the help desk a sound of bees swarming 

– Sandra Simpson
Presence 51 (2014)

end of a love
honey hardens
in the jar

– Polona Oblak
Notes from the Gean 3:4 (2012)

Botan shibe fukaku wakeizuru hachi no nagori kana

A bee
staggers out
of the peony.

– Matsuo Basho, tr Robert Hass
Basho’s haiku originally from Skeleton in the Fields (Nozarashi kiko)
a travel journal of 1684-5

Another translation is:

from deep within 
the peony pistils — withdrawing
regretfully the bee