NZPS Contest Update


The 2018 NZPS anthology is not only out – it has sold out! But there may be a reprint of The Unnecessary Invention of Punctuationread more here. So I can now share the haiku that was placed First and won the Jeanette Stace Memorial Award:

cloud lichen …
too late now
to learn the tango

Sandra Simpson

This was written well before I began a six-week course of ballroom dance lessons … turns out it might also be too late to learn how to foxtrot!

roadside blackberries –
the book I wore out reading
to my brother

Sandra Simpson, Commended


by the time he says kingfisher –

Sandra Simpson, Highly Commended


League of Nations

Presence 62 is the final edition for the year and, as usual, is a thoroughly good read featuring voices from around the world. Read more about the journal (including how to subscribe).

an inchworm’s stretch
                  I pull the next leaf
           towards it

Shrikaanth Krishnamurthy (UK)

setting sun –
in the ashtray the butt
still glowing

Minh-Triet Pham (France)

clouding over
the conversation turns
to cancer

Andre Surridge (NZ)

shotgun blast –
so strangely green
these winter fields

David Bingham (UK)

half-open window
the splatter of raindrops
on a child’s palm

Indra Neil Makala (India)

country village
on each house roof a crow

Anna Maris (Sweden)

heat in the city
a swallow’s repeated dives
to the riverbank

Polona Oblak (Slovenia)

dust storm
the desert bloodwood
holds its ground

Gregory Piko (Australia)

heroine’s grave –
the screech of seabirds

Sandra Simpson (New Zealand)

Fourth NZ Haiku Anthology

It’s getting closer, folks. My co-editor Margaret Beverland and I have been working away steadily at this new volume and are now quite close to engaging with the print process.

Haiku have been selected and shuffled into some sort of narrative flow; biographical notes have been collected (alas, there’s a couple still dragging the chain); an ISBN number has been applied for; fore and aft papers created; permission gained for the re-use of illustrations on section separators; and a title selected.

Once we have a quote we feel happy with, then begins the process of cover design, choosing a paper weight and colour, typeface, perhaps an adjustment of the type sizes we’ve chosen, page numbering style and, doubtless, a few other things I’ve forgotten about.

In about September we gave ourselves permission not to have to have it out by Christmas and I think that has helped the process immeasurably. If it’s being feted somewhere on February 6, that would seem about right (Waitangi Day, the closest New Zealand comes to a national day).

Waitangi Day squall –
         the Governor-General’s representative
              grips his necktie

Eric Mould, winner of the 2002 NZPS Haiku Contest
published in A Savage Gathering (NZPS, 2002)

By the way, our anthology surveys New Zealand haiku from 2008-2018 so this haiku won’t be part of it … but we are very excited about the poems we do have. More anon.

Armistice centenary

We split up yesterday to mark the centenary of the end of World War 1. Haiku Husband and I were in Wellington (where the weather was absolutely, positively gorgeous) and Haiku Son was in Tauranga.

I went to a LitCrawl session at the National Library: The Eleventh Hour on The Eleventh Day, where writers young and old – and including two teenage Syrian refugee brothers – responded to the topic.

Haiku Husband headed off to the National Ceremony at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park and came back speaking of it in glowing terms, and with an official programme.

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The cover of the beautifully produced programme.

The inside back cover records the plant material used to make the Wreath of Remembrance: Olive, pohutukawa, Turkey oak (Quercus cerris), northern rata, a native fern (it doesn’t specify which one), Chinese elm (Ulmus parvifolia), eucalyptus, kōwhai, rosemary, and mānuka flowers.

sprigs of rosemary
something about the tea urn
makes me cry

– Beverley George, from Pearl Beach Village Hall April 25, 2006, a haiku sequence (Blithe Spirit 16.2, 2006).

Haiku Son was minding the hacienda and went to a Tauranga screening of They Shall Not Grow Old, Peter Jackson’s compilation of documentary footage from London’s Imperial War Museum that has been cleaned up and colourised.

It doesn’t start or end in colour, instead it’s only when the soldiers get to France that it becomes colour. He described it as informative, thought-provoking and very moving. (I’m going tonight.)

In case you have an interest in reading about Haiku in the Great War, please click on the link to visit a 2015 article I wrote on the topic.

Des croix de bois blanc
Surgissent du sol,
Chaque jour, ça et là.

– Julien Vocance (1878-1954), read more of his haiku (in French).

white wooden crosses
bursting from the soil,
each day, here and there 

Wishbone Moon

Wishbone Moon, edited by Roberta Beary, Ellen Compton and Kala Ramesh (Jacar Press, 2018), 104 pages.

This anthology of women’s haiku features 108 poets from around the world – eight from New Zealand (including me) – and is dedicated to the memory of pioneer American haiku poet and feminist Marlene Mountain (1939-2018).

The editors themselves nicely span the globe and all are highly esteemed poets and editors – Roberta Beary (living in Ireland, American by birth), Ellen Compton (US) and Kala Ramesh (India) – while contributors come from five continents.

A brief “editors’ introduction” appears on the back cover of the book and explains that the poets appearing in the anthology were invited to submit work for consideration – there was no open call. “We asked the nominees to send us their very best work. We did not suggest a theme or topic. We wanted to showcase work representing the haiku aesthetic at its best…”

Wishbone Moon is billed as an “a groundbreaking anthology of haiku by women”, but it seems to me that it’s groundbreaking only in the sense this the first women-only haiku anthology. The poems themselves, while of a high standard and very readable, aren’t particularly experimental (with a couple of exceptions) nor “in your face” feminist.

Critics may well argue that an anthology of women writing about any old thing might as well be an anthology of writers of any gender. Do women intrinsically have a shared view of the world – no matter where they come from, their age, education or economic class? Do women have insights that other genders don’t possess?

There are plenty of haiku in Wishbone Moon to prove that, naturally, women write on any topic. (Try covering up the names in any quality haiku journal and see if you can discern the author’s gender with any certainty.)

communal riots –
trying to find myself
in the ruins

Iqra Raza (India)

a yellowing
of leaves on the oak …
I turn fifty

Anne Curran (NZ)

some part of me
still wild

Annette Y Makino (US)

evening dusk
geese above the meadow
on the way to somewhere

Riet De Bakker (Belgium)

But there are also plenty of haiku that detail women’s life experiences.

casual embrace –
suddenly conscious
of my breasts

Harriot West (US)

my little girl
names her sister

Marianne Paul (Canada)

now we can talk 
of what might have been –

Geethanjali Rajan (India)

the surgeon’s word massive
in my mouth

Ruth Yarrow (US)

I’m always happy to read outstanding work and Wishbone Moon has that in spades by both new (to me, anyway) and established names.

tasting the word husband for the first time

Agnes Eva Savich (US)

petition for divorce
the period 
in every sentence

Anna Mazurkiewicz (Poland)

cello solo the owls in my bones

Tanya McDonald (US)

full moon –
the singers’ faces
turn skywards

Amanda Bell (Ireland)

However, I find the layout of the book unfortunate and wish it had been otherwise as the paper is a lovely weight and has an attractive silky feel, while the cover is a model of understatement.

There are three poems per page but they don’t have room to breathe, being concentrated in the top half to two-thirds of the page with, oddly, the rest of the page left blank. It feels unnecessarily crammed, especially as the author name, em dash and country of residence below each haiku is the same size as the poem. The other odd choice was to right justify all the right-hand pages. It works all right for single-line haiku but this isn’t the way they would have originally been written.

the leap
that pulls a muscle …

Elaine Andre (US)

Each contributor has a bio note, but there’s no index to show which authors appear where (I don’t mind this – perhaps it was intended as a democratising effect or to make sure readers actually read every page rather than heading to a particular name).

So don’t buy Wishbone Moon for its looks but do buy it for its contents. The poems are honest, sometimes startling, sometimes funny, sometimes wistful – but always top-notch.

the slow drip of rain
on the roof

Vanessa Proctor (Australia)


A mosaic haiku

Received the lovely news last night that mosaic artist Greta Doo has been inspired by one of my haiku to create a piece of new work which will be shown at the second A Palette of Poetry exhibition in Dunedin, October 14-28, at the Resene Colour Shop in Crawford St. (Click on this link to see what Greta did last year.)

Funds raised from the exhibition will go towards the Poems in the Waiting Room (NZ) project which every quarter creates trifold poetry pamphlets – about 7000 of them – and distributes them to medical centres, hospitals, rest-homes, hospices and prisons. People can read them while they wait or or take them away. Ruth Arnison, the moving force behing PitWR and the exhibition, received a Queen’s Service Medal for services to poetry and literature in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.

The haiku which inspired Greta to create Autumn Table is

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

– Sandra Simpson, The Heron’s Nest 13.2 (2011)

Greta says about the choice of this haiku: “It all started when I grew my first cucumber last year in the new glasshouse. I was so proud of it I put it on the kitchen table with a tomato to show off the size, plus some other produce that made a good arrangement for a photo shoot. I revisited the photo after reading Sandra’s haiku and they resonated together to form the artwork.”

greta doo

Autumn Table by Greta Doo. Image: Greta Doo

Autumn Table is 1.1m long and 0.5m high. It comprises 3 panels glued and screwed together to emulate the leaves of a dining table, thus the middle panel is slightly raised. The work should be hung flat upon a wall.

The exhibition opens at 2pm on Saturday, October 14.

Brilliant bookshops & a statue

One of the fun things about travelling is popping into bookshops and browsing – we took some second-hand books bought at market stalls and book fairs to read and leave, but ended up bringing back more books than we’d left with!

Partly this is unavoidable because I love buying souvenir books from places like The Hermitage in St Petersburg and Hidcote Manor garden in Gloucestershire, so the weight starts to stack up from there.

But let me loose in a good bookshop and it’s hard to leave without something. Let’s follow our trail through bookstore purchases …

Haiku Husband ploughed through Northmen: The Viking Saga, purchased in Bergen, Norway – the book starts in 793, the year of the bloody raid on Lindisfarne (Holy Island) just off the northeast coast of England. As we were planning to visit Lindisfarne, it seemed a nice dovetail. The helpful young man behind the counter (red hair!) offered several Viking histories in English for us to choose from.

The fabulous NK department store in Stockholm also has a range of English books – we snagged a Michael Connelly thriller for the equivalent of $NZ12, very cheap for us (in New Zealand we pay about $35 for a new paperback). Established in 1915, the store is well worth visiting for the architecture alone, if not the ‘build-your-own-Magnum icecream stand! (We didn’t, the queue was too long.)

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The Maigret statue in Delfzijl, northern Netherlands. Georges Simenon and four of the actors who had played Maigret on television attended the unveiling in 1966. Photo: Sandra Simpson

In the small coastal town of Delfzijl in the northern Netherlands we chanced upon a statue of Maigret, the famous detective from the Quai des Orfevres in Paris. His creator, Georges Simenon, had stayed in Delfzijl in 1929 while his boat was being repaired and published Maigret in Holland 2 years later. In 1966 the Dutch publisher Bruna commissioned the statue for Delfzijl. Read more about Simenon and the Delfzijl statue.

Although Hatchard’s in London (booksellers since 1797) didn’t have A Crime in Holland (as it’s now been published in English), the helpful staffer checked her computer stock list and sent me a few metres down Picadilly to Waterstone’s.

When I lived in London in 1980s I went to a night class about the history of the city – our teacher Wilf was a taxman by day and a fount of arcane knowledge about the city the rest of the time. Most of the people in the class, including my work buddy Anita who introduced me to it, had been going for years. How to Read London by Chris Rogers (Ivy Press, 2017) is a guide to some of the city’s architecture, while London’s Oddities by Vicky Wilson (Metro Publications, 2018) does what it says on the tin – and answered a question after we’d seen a dingy sign for ‘Roman Baths’ in a side street. Not Roman at all, but an 18th century entrepreneur wanting to cash in! (The Bryant and May series of crime novels by Christopher Fowler contain many things I learned from Wilf and many other strange facts and pieces of almost-forgotten history about London.)

We also stumbled in to Stanford’s in Longacre one evening, thrilled to purchase a road atlas for England just a day or two before we took charge of a vehicle (which came with a SatNav – never mind, we probably did half and half).

Barter Books is a treasure trove of secondhand books housed in an old railway station in Alnwick, Northumberland, that comes complete with unfolding literary quotes and a model railway running round above your head! It’s also the home of the re-emergence of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster (and everything else). Read more about that here.

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Barter Books in Alnwick, Northumberland. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Burford is a beautiful small town in the heart of the Cotswolds (shame about the permanent traffic jam in the main street, but beauty comes at a price) – and home to the Madhatter Bookshop.

The assistant said the owner, Sara Hall, was looking for something to do with the extra floor space “and Burford has enough tea rooms” (it does!). Sara’s daughter reminded her that her great-grandmother had been a milliner so why not combine the bookshop with a hat shop? All the hats are made by British manufacturers.

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The hat section of the Madhatter Bookshop in Burford, Oxfordshire. The books are in a room to the right. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Our final stop was Weybridge in Surrey where the friends we were staying with pointed us to The Weybridge Bookshop. Despite its independent-sounding name, it’s actually a branch of Waterstone’s. The staff were very helpful, there was a great selection of books (yes, we purchased) and THEY WERE ALL CHEAPER THAN NEW ZEALAND. Paperbacks for about $NZ20. Did I mention we pay upwards of $35?

Why is the price so different? Because Britain doesn’t impose a tax (VAT) on printed books while New Zealand does (GST). Britain is also civilised enough not to charge VAT on fruit and vegetables and children’s clothing.