breaking my journey

breaking my journey (Red Moon Press, 87 pages) is the first solo collection from award-winning Australian poet Gregory Piko, and a volume I’m glad to have added to my bookcase.

Cover art by Ron C. Moss.

For me, Greg is a poet on whom I can rely – if I see his name on a haiku, I know it will be worth reading and that a moment of beauty (whether sad, joyous or wistful) will be added to my day.

he drops his marshmallow
into her hot chocolate
pregnant at last

The ambition of a haiku poet is to capture moments of meaning, which can come in many different guises, and which somehow help us grope towards an understanding of life, ours and all those that surround us. In the ordinariness of daily life we try and find the extraordinary.

after my confession
even the galahs
sit quietly

Haiku are sensual poems and poems of observation and Greg has a deft touch with the telling detail and with choosing the right word – novice writers are advised to stay away from adverbs and adjectives but consider how much poorer the following respective haiku would be without ‘softly’ and ‘deeper’.

her cotton skirt
falls softly to the ground
steady rain

a crow at dusk
ink seeps deeper
into the page

Understanding the ‘rules’ of haiku, mastering them and then breaking them to good effect is a sure sign of a poet at the top of his game.

What we ‘see and ‘hear’ in the following haiku adds up to a sunny cheerfulness. But also measure what has been unwritten and we begin to see the strengths that Greg has brought to this collection.

she skips a little
on cresting the hill
beep of a Vespa

He exhibits the same playfulness in referencing other works, which he does with the lightest of touches. The following haiku tips its hat to William Carlos Williams and his 1938 poem, ‘This is Just to Say’.

summer’s end
I take another plum
from the fridge

The haibun ‘Near a Station of the Metro (after Ezra Pound)’ anchors us in the present, and a common dilemma for tourists remember them?), but is rich with the echoes of Pound’s 1913 poem ‘In a Station of the Metro’, which some argue may be the first haiku in English.

breaking
my journey
this pine

breaking my journey comprises 98 haiku, two haibun, and two linked verses. The book, produced to the usual high standard of Red Moon Press, can be purchased there or, if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, direct from the author .

Note: This book was purchased.

Katikati Haiku Contest 2021

After a Covid hiatus last year, the Katikati Haiku Contest returns, just in time to celebrate the 21st birthday of the Katikati Haiku Pathway.

King’s Seeds, a Katikati business, is kindly sponsoring the cash prizes which will see the first-place haiku receive a generous $200, second $100 and third $50 (overseas winners will receive their prize via PayPal). The best haiku by a local writer will receive a nice book prize.

The pathway committee has decided to waive the entry fee this year, both in recognition of the pathway’s milestone and to acknowledge last year’s postponed contest. However, there will be a limit of 2 haiku per entrant to try and keep things manageable for the person receiving the entries and the judge. Enter by email or see above for a postal address. Typed entries much preferred, but otherwise please write clearly.

The contest closes at 5pm on September 19 (New Zealand time). Please see the flyer above for further details.

For beginners, there is a good guide to writing haiku, complete with lesson plans, here.

Haiku Workshop with me!

Consider this your invitation to come along to a workshop and flex your haiku muscles by, hopefully, learning something new and doing some writing exercises. I’m still forming up exactly how it will run but topics touched on will include a brief history of haiku, the joy of close observation, structuring haiku as a poet, and how to read haiku.

When: Saturday, July 24, 1-4pm.
Where: Wesley Church Hall, 13th Ave, Tauranga.
Cost: $10 as a share of hall hire.
Register: By email or phone 07 577 6676.

If you want to make a day of it, Margaret Beverland, co-editor of Kokako haiku journal, is holding a workshop in Katikati that morning. Our nefarious plan is to also to drum up interest for this year’s Katikati Haiku Contest (details here soon).

When: Saturday, July 24, 10am-noon.
Where: Katikati Information Centre, Main Road, Katikati.
Cost: Free.
Register: By email or ph/txt 0275 897 676.

Wasp on the Prayer Flag

Wasp on the Prayer Flag (Alba Publishing, 60 pages) is a selection of the writing of Irish poet Maeve O’Sullivan from 2018-2021, momentous years, as it turned out. The first section of the book is divided into Seasons, with autumn leading the way and including this outstanding haiku:

first autumn storm
my balcony flags
still releasing prayers

The Haiku Sequences offers us the chance to travel with the author as she explores Ireland, a country that was on my to-do list – and with luck and science hopefully may still be.

estuary swim
on a rare sunny day –
this beach’s name means mouth

(from the sequence Kerry Dreamtime)

O’Sullivan’s quiet descriptions give me a good ‘feel’ for her places, which sound much like many I know in New Zealand. Like her, I have been rediscovering my own country and feel richer for it. One silver lining of restricted travel has undoubtedly been that we’ve all looked harder and thought more deeply about ‘near’, rather than rushing to tick off the next exotic surrounding of ‘far’. O’Sullivan is an experienced traveller – as detailed in her 2017 collection Elsewhere – and even manages a sweetly wry senryu about her ‘old life’.

bored with lockdown
I wear the sandals in which
I travelled the world

Finally, there’s a decent-sized selection of senryu, arranged under topic headings including ‘RIP’, ‘Home Sweet Home’ and, inevitably, ‘Pandemic’, the topic that’s had us all in its grasp for the past 18 months.

no human hugs
for seven weeks –
this silver birch will do

I’m glad the senryu were separated out as it allows the humour for which the Irish are famed to sparkle through here and there, even when addressing the bleakest of subjects.

after three funerals
hoping the tiramisù
lives up to its name

Throughout the collection, which is the right size to enjoy at one sitting (if that’s how you take your haiku) are, if you’ll excuse the pun given the following, poems that are breath-taking in their observation and depth of perception.

piper’s in-breath
released in a series of notes –
midsummer

Many of the poems have been published, or broadcast, previously. Pulling them together in this collection is a valuable, and sensible, exercise as O’Sullivan’s publishing credits show that her work finds a home in many and varied outlets, a surprising number of them print-only.

this little moorhen
navigating alone
canal walk

(from the sequence Holy Week Blessings)

Wasp on the Prayer Flag may be ordered through Maeve O’Sullivan’s own website, or from the publisher with whom she’s had a long and fruitful association.

Catching up

Delighted to be notified that my haiku was placed Third in this year’s Robert Spiess Memorial Haiku Award, a contest run by the Modern Haiku journal. You can see all the winning poems on the MH Facebook page, scroll down to June 1.

no headstone –
the rosemary finds
its shape

Sandra Simpson

Two senryu appear in the latest edition of Failed Haiku (#66) – this issue’s contents comprise poems that had been rejected by another journal/editor. Cute theme. Read the issue here (opens as a pdf).

abortion clinic —
red tulips
in reception

Helen Ogden

morning coffee
we listen to a robin
instead of each other


Kristen Lindquist

walking group –
someone new puts
their foot in it

Sandra Simpson

And it’s a fond farewell to much-loved The Heron’s Nest associate editor Scott Mason, being replaced by Tom Painting. The Nest has impeccable taste in its editors! Scott has a rich writing life of his own so hopefully his decision to step away means he has more wonderful work in the wings.

Haiku in the Garden

Honoured to have a haiku selected for Chicago Botanic Garden’s delightful year-long project, Words in Bloom. Nine poem signs were put in the Japanese Garden for winter and now the spring haiku have sprouted in the English Walled Garden and Rose Garden. Read all the spring haiku here.

Photo: Tia Haynes

Thanks to Julie Warther of the Midwest Region of the Haiku Society of America who facilitated this project and selected the poems from thousands of submissions.

One from the earlier crop for Southern Hemisphere readers. Photo: Chicago Botanic Garden

Recent publications

This year is all about co-ordinating and completing a large family history, as well as undertaking any paid work that comes my way over and above the ‘regulars’, so haiku is having to take a bit of a back seat, sadly. Some days I feel like I’ve puffed my way through a marathon, only to look at my to-do list and see I’m not really much further ahead. However, there are a few haiku-related things to report …

Delighted to hear that I’d won Second in the Sharpening the Green Pencil Haiku Contest with:

longest night –
the clay bowl’s
whorls and ridges

Sandra Simpson

Judge Julie Warther said: “Working a tactile sensation into haiku can be a difficult task, but here we can almost feel a lump of clay spinning on a wheel, taking shape in the potter’s hands. It is a slow process and one that requires patience. “Whorls and ridges” could describe the design of the bowl itself or contours of the artist’s fingertips. When fingerprints are found in a finished piece, there is no mistaking its individual nature and the care with which it was created. This alone is a striking image, but a resonance emerges when this image is paired with ‘longest night’ – a time when the seasons themselves turn, taking on more and more light – in the unique nature of time itself.” Click on the link above to see all the winning haiku.

The latest issue of Kokako (34) has arrived featuring an eclectic mix of poets and their work, including three pages of pandemic-theme haiku. The link takes you to submission / subscription details.

Photo: Sandra Simpson

eucalypt breeze
the rattle
of a cicada’s husk

Gavin Austin

eddies of dust
the rooster’s comb blends
into sunrise

Debbie Strange

winter sun –
a pair of waxeyes
chest to chest in mid air

Sandra Simpson

haunted house
the carnie flicks his butt
and waves us in

Greg Schwartz

Gilles Fabre, the editor of seashores journal, sent me a copy of the latest issue (6) as thanks for my essay ‘Cracks in the Pavement’ about urban haiku that appears in the volume. I’ll post the piece here towards the end of the year.

hill walking
whether to get a dog
at our age

John Hawkhead

learning
to accept my baldness
dandelion flight

Adej Agyei-Baah

the silence
of the blinking cursor
winter stars

Jackie Chou

Earlier this year I judged the British Haiku Society’s David Cobb Haiku Award, renamed this year to honour one of the BHS founders (1926-2020). The award has two judges, my colleague being Charles Trumbull in Sante Fe, New Mexico, and we were under strict instructions (which we followed!) not to talk to one another until given the go-ahead by the contest secretary (ie, when she’d received both of our reports).

We did correspond by email once allowed and were delighted to find that we’d each chosen different haiku, although our short lists were pretty near identical. Subjective, much! Read all the winning haiku and our judge’s comments. A useful byproduct of the work was thinking about what I seek in a poem, which also informed my writing for seashores as the two were almost concurrent.

bluebells
carrying the drift
of rain into dusk

Joanna Ashwell (Sandra’s choice for First)

wind in the tamaracks
the sound of a screen door
sixty years past

Earl R Keener (Charlie’s choice for First)

Finally, a delve into the latest copy of the always-readable Presence journal (issue 69).

ebb tide
a limpet returned
to its home scar

Thomas Powell

dry leaves
scattering across the path
quail chicks

Margaret Beverland

woodsmoke –
I am that child
kicking leaves

Susan King

westering sun
a skein of geese banks
into a glide path

Sandra Simpson

Bridge to the past

One of the things I have loved about living in and visiting Britain over the past 40 years has been the many, many layers of man-made history that are still part of the fabric of everyday life. Standing with my hand on the outside wall of Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon was a total buzz for a young woman from the other side of the world.

I’ve been fascinated by the ancient Romans since childhood, hooked by reading Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff, so being able to walk where the legions did through England, visit the cities and towns they founded and even, on my last visit to London in 2018, explore the Mithraeum have been extraordinary opportunities.

But being able to turn these experiences into haiku that evoke either the ancient world or have a timeless air, now that’s a different – and more difficult – enterprise. Here are some poets who have done it well (with one of mine thrown in).

old Roman bridge
we stand mid-span
and listen

Scott Mason
Highly Commended, Martin Lucas Haiku Award 2019

year’s end
crossing the stone bridge
into shadow

Andrew Tracy
Creatrix 28, 2015

stacking a dry stone wall the curve of tomorrow

Ron C Moss
Presence 52, 2015

prolonged heat …
a clapper bridge sinks
into the pasture

Sandra Simpson
 Presence 68, 2020

The clapper bridge I walked across on a summer’s afternoon was in Gloucestershire, not far from the border with Oxfordshire. One of the earliest form of bridges, the name ‘clapper’ comes from the Latin claperius (pile of stones) – and that’s exactly they are, with the deck made from long, thin slabs of stone with large rocks or piles of stone for the supports.

river bridge the distance of my prayer

Paul Chambers
Frogpond 39.2, 2016

Tools of the Trade

Several New Zealand haiku poets (and one Australian) have been involved with the PoARTry Exhibition Tools of the Trade, which is running at Mercy Hospital in Dunedin for the month of March 2021.

Hospital staff provided words around their work that had meaning for them, poets created works inspired by these words, and artists created works inspired by the poems! Another amazing event from the brain of Ruth Arnison, co-ordinator of the Poems in the Waiting Room project. All artworks are for sale with poets, artists and PitWR sharing the proceeds.

Uber-talented Tasmanian poet and artist Ron Moss has created a lovely video to help promote Tools of the Trade.

You can see one of my haiku in the video, a poem which has inspired a beautiful cushion cover by fabric artist Imogen Berwick.

The other haiku of mine that was chosen appears in the hand-made concertina book by craftsman printer John Holmes.

spring morning –
an aura of light pulses  
around the heart monitor

Sandra Simpson

Local & General

From the Wanganui Chronicle, August 2, 1889 – a column of what today would be called ‘briefs’. None carried a headline and the local and overseas snippets were jumbled in one after the other. Some more relevant to readers than others; hopefully contemporary readers knew that Duleep Singh was the last Maharajah of the Sikh Empire, exiled to Britain at age 15 and dying there in 1893. The following appear in the order in which they were printed.

Edward McGlashan, one of the pioneer settlers of Otago, died on Wednesday night, aged 72.

The baby King of Spain is going to the Paris Exposition. He will be the youngest monarch who ever visited that city.

Sarah Bernhardt, who has always smoked cigarettes, has now taken to mild cigars. She remains, as usual, fond of newspaper puffs. [No idea.]

The Queen of England seldom drinks more than one small glass of wine at dinner, and afterwards takes a few drops of good Scotch whisky.

A fatal accident when bushfalling is reported from Inglewood, Henry Marsh being killed by the falling of a tree. No particulars to are hand as yet. [sic]

[A little further down] The salary of Inspector Lee, of the Wellington Education Board, has been altered to £475 a year, with a guinea a day for travelling expenses.

Duleep Singh is a man of medium size, thick set, with a good-humoured, open countenance and courteous manners. His wife is a pretty brunette. [And that’s it, no news about Sir Duleep Singh, just a description in case anyone from the Colony might run into him!]