Recent haiku

My response to a photo prompt at NHK Haiku Masters has been selected for February’s online gallery – and was selected as haiku master of the week for week 3! Read the judges’ comments here.

late summer – 
the diverging paths
of my children

Sandra Simpson

An Honourable Mention in the IRIS magazine Little Haiku Contest which this year had ‘travel’ as a theme. See all the winning haiku here.

palmyra … camels unfold a red sky morning

Sandra Simpson

(Palmyra, by the way, is an ancient, ruined city in Syria – even more in ruins, thanks to the attentions of a terrorist group. I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited, and stayed there, twice.)

AND I managed to save the world this week … pointed out to a cafe that the sign telling us their sourdough baker was on a ‘bread pilgrimage to San Fransisco’ was spelled incorrectly. The woman behind the till (South American?) immediately agreed but must have already read it unless it went up the instant I walked in at lunchtime! You’re welcome.

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Open house at Jane’s

I am one of Jane Reichhold’s daughters. I am at Jane’s house [between Gualala and Point Arena on the northern California coast] getting it ready for sale and would love to touch base with those who loved Jane.

I will be leaving on Tuesday, January 30 (probably, but no earlier). There is no phone service, but please just pop in if you see the red Subaru Forester in the drive. It has been a long year and a half since Jane’s death and I still am profoundly grateful for the time that I was able to share with such an amazing woman.

Blessings,
Bambi Steiner

I am one of Jane Reichhold’s daughters. I am at Jane’s house [between Gualala and Point Arena on the northern California coast] getting it ready for sale and would love to touch base with those who loved Jane.

I will be leaving on Tuesday, January 30 (probably, but no earlier). There is no phone service, but please just pop in if you see the red Subaru Forester in the drive. It has been a long year and a half since Jane’s death and I still am profoundly grateful for the time that I was able to share with such an amazing woman.

Blessings,
Bambi Steiner

Elsewhere

Irish poet Maeve O’Sullivan set off on what she calls a ‘life-changing world trip’ in late 2016, visiting 13 countries on 4 continents – one of the outcomes of her peregrinations is Elsewhere (Alba Publishing, London, 2017, $US10; click on the link for other currencies), a collection of haiku, haibun and long-form poetry.

In her preface, O’Sullivan says of the decision to mix long-form poetry with haiku in her fourth collection, I also believe that haikai – haiku and related forms – shouldn’t be confined to a quasi-ghetto in the wider poetry world …, an admirable sentiment so here’s hoping the contents find a wide readership.

deep-fried pork:
I await instruction
on how to eat it 

(Japan)

maeve cover

Elsewhere takes the form of a travel journal, although this is no collection of dashed-off shasei (sketches from life) but rather a book that’s more in tune with the Basho tradition of travelogue, rewarding consumption in a linear fashion as we travel alongside our narrator.

Fittingly, it begins and ends at ‘Home’, opening with a haibun that could only have been written in Ireland (I found myself automatically reading the acerbic nun’s words in a Father Ted accent) and including the sweet haibun Closure about clearing out and selling her parents’ home after their deaths, one of the prompts for O’Sullivan’s extended travels.

fifty-something:
the birthday book of my youth
used for deaths now too

(Home)

Flashes of that humorous Irish voice are also to be found in the haibun Dateline Quito and Resettled and these haiku, among others.

an Irish lullaby
for the infant …
kicking throughout

(Dublin)

the tropical fish
that lived in my uncle’s house –
I’m in their tank now

(Galapagos Islands)

The book is divided into four sections – Home, West, East and Envoi: Back Home – and  O’Sullivan has helpfully titled her sets of haiku within these sections to allow us to place a pin in the map as we share the locale with her.

108kms to go          the mule and I share an apple

(Slow Camino)

How difficult it is to travel as a woman alone – at any age. And although not all her trips were solo, most were so my hat’s off to O’Sullivan for stepping out into the wide world, opening up her senses and experiencing everything. My interpretation, or perhaps intuition is, that she set off wanting to be filled with joy and I hope she found enough to have made the travelling worthwhile.

en route from Delhi
the monsoon has yielded
yellow mustard flowers

(Agra)

O’Sullivan was not only writing and editing as she travelled but, thanks to technology, also submitting pieces – and having them accepted for publication – thus giving her a solid core of work for a book by the time she was back in Dublin.

San Diego Bay –
its deep blue darkened
by an aircraft carrier

(Southern California)

rushing to lunch
I pass a homeless woman –
her sparkly sandals

(Colombia)

Elsewhere offers much to be enjoyed and, for me, contains only one tiny ‘flaw’ in that some of the em-dash breaks in the haiku seem to be in the wrong place but I wasn’t sure if this was an editing error or a deliberate choice:

viewing tower
in the rooftop pool below –
a lone swimmer

(Hong Kong)

To me, the natural break is:

viewing tower –
in the rooftop pool below
a lone swimmer

Elsewhere is well produced with three or four haiku per page on a nice weight of paper and the attractive cover image was taken by O’Sullivan at Kompukuji temple, Kyoto, Japan. Armchair travellers, those who have visited these places and those longing to get out and explore will enjoy O’Sullivan’s genuine and honest approach. She has done a grand job of using her fresh, traveller’s eye to bring us thoughtful glimpses of the people she met and the things she saw – and has gifted us the chance us to keep her company on the long journey from Home and back again.

***

I haven’t commented on the long-form poetry as it hasn’t been my field for a good while, but I did wonder why so many are rhymed – have they come back into fashion and no one’s told me? Quite possible.

Read an Irish Times article by O’Sullivan about her travels and the book.

Thirty percent of the profits from sales of this book are to be donated to environmental group Friends of the Earth Ireland.

NHK Haiku Masters Gallery

snow feather

Image & haiku: Sandra Simpson

My ‘photo haiku’ (as NHK Haiku Masters calls them) has been chosen as a runner-up for week 2 this month and Kazuko Nishimura had this to say:

For farmers, the radio weather forecast is a part of daily life that plays a heavy role in deciding how each day unfolds. However, sometimes just looking out the window can be more accurate than any weather report. The word “snow” used in the final line can also refer to the radio static that occurs during a bad storm, when radio reception is hard to come by. This piece has done a great job at presenting a specific slice of life many of us can relate to.

Usually there is no theme, but for this one they wanted something ‘seasonal’ for Christmas-New Year-winter. See the full gallery here.

The image was taken at a close-up photography workshop and is of a peacock feather in a glass container full of heavily salted water, the idea of our tutor Kim Westerskov. I placed my camera lens against the glass and later manipulated the contrast and colours to achieve this effect.

You don’t have to be a photographer to join the fun – NHK Haiku Masters also offers a photo as a prompt for haiku.

Reader Choice voting

With a large storm approaching today it seems like a good time to knuckle down and choose my favourite 10 haiku from the 2017 editions of The Heron’s Nest. As the journal’s got larger, the choice has become more difficult – The Heron’s Nest is a beacon of excellence.

Anyone may vote, you can find the details here (scroll down, deadline January 15).

Here are four of the haiku (one from each edition) appearing on my list – no guarantees they’ll make it through though as I’m still at a top 100 or so!

feeling the silence
sink in —
moose tracks in the snow

Angela Terry, THN 19.1

where an army
swept through wheatfields
hopping sparrows

Michael McClintock, THN 19.2

late autumn
the stillness of blue
miles deep

Jenny Fraser, THN 19.3

enough mint scent
to cross the milky way
high summer begins

Burnell Lippy, THN 19.4

Thinking about haiku deeply enough to feel swayed to cast a vote is a fun way to start the year.

News of the World

Just finished reading this lovely little story by Paulette Jiles (2016, HarperCollins). It is set in 19th century Texas and concerns an elderly man, a veteran of the American Civil War, who travels the state reading newspaper articles to paying audiences. At one stop Captain Kidd takes on the job of returning a 10-year-old girl to her remaining family. The child, who four years earlier was captured by a band of Kiowa raiders who killed her parents and sister, has been raised by the Kiowa, speaks no English and has no wish to return ‘home’.

The point of this post is to share a quote which struck me between the eyes – Captain Kidd has been wounded and is calming himself by thinking of his time as an army messenger, a runner:

Maybe life is just carrying news. Surviving to carry the news. Maybe we just have one message, and it is delivered to us when we are born and we are never sure what it says; it may have nothing to do with us personally but it must be carried by hand through a life, all the way, and at the end handed over, sealed.

I’m pleased to say that, unlike so many novels, the book has a happy ending, at least the happiest it could be given that time doesn’t stand still.