Presence & NOON

Presence 56 arrived in the letterbox yesterday containing 4 of my haiku, including

poolside zinnias –
the hummingbirds

– Sandra Simpson, Presence 56

This haiku was written during our visit to the US in June and July. We were kindly hosted by an illustrious haiku writer who had a swimming pool with zinnias planted nearby. The hummingbirds love the zinnias, we were told, but we must have been too noisy or too many or too something because they barely made an appearance while we were there.

Presence is a great publication that has been steady as she goes, despite the untimely death of editor Martin Lucas in 2014. There are, however, some changes afoot. Alison Williams is taking the role of tanka editor, the first time they’ve had a separate editor for that section; the submission window has been reduced to 6 weeks (from 2 months); and new maximum submission limits set (10 haiku or tanka, down from 12). You can also read details of the Martin Lucas Haiku Award (closes December 31) at the website.

This latest issue features Hamilton (NZ) poet Andre Surridge in the Focus section.

suddenly colder a spider comes in with the evening paper

– Andre Surridge, Presence 56

NOON 12 has also appeared, this is an online publication put out by Philip Rowland from Japan who from 2004-09 produced hand-sewn limited edition issues. Online issues begin at NOON 8 and can be seen at the website. I have 2 haiku in the latest issue.

the last sister
escorted to the front pew –
dandelion lawn

– Sandra Simpson, NOON 12

NOON is sub-titled “journal of the short poem” so doesn’t restrict itself to haiku or haiku as you might recognise it. Always an interesting read.

                      some of the darkness
is us

– Rick Tarquinio, NOON 12

The Mamba arrives

Had a nice surprise yesterday morning when the latest issue (number 2) of The Mamba arrived in my inbox. I’d submitted to the pdf journal put out by the Africa Haiku Network from Ghana, had my submission acknowledged and never heard any more – and found three of my haiku had been included. Yay!

To go on the mailing list to see future issues, email the editors (Adjei Agyei-Baah and Emmanuel Jessie Kalusian). They kindly allow submissions from poets living outside Africa, but do ask that haiku reflect an African experience in some way. Find submission details here.

“We must quickly add that the first issue indeed had not only been an inspiration to haijins at home alone, but abroad as well, compelling writers from USA, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, Ireland etc. to share their experiences through haiku in this 2nd issue, when they came to Africa as visitors, tourists, teachers, aid workers and researchers. We need put it on record necessarily that, this has outrightly enriched this particular issue in hearing African experiences told from the other sides of the globe,” the editors say as part of their introduction to this issue.

It was a nice exercise to cast my mind back in an effort to try and write something relevant from visits to Kenya (1982) and Gambia (1985). Haiku Husband also spent 6 weeks working in rural areas in a Nigerian province in 1981 but as yet I haven’t tapped into his stories.

undulating through elephant grass the day’s first water jars

– Sandra Simpson, The Mamba 2

As well as doing a safari tour of Kenya – in the back of an old Bedford truck and led by an Australian – and going up the coast to stay in Malindi and Lamu, we also hired a (small) car and made a day trip to Kericho, the tea-growing area. The haiku above came from that, sometimes hair-raising, experience driving amid massive tankers and trucks. They say that it rains in Kericho every day at 3pm. It did for us, fortunately we were sitting on a verandah having a cup of tea!

It’s always interesting how some memories stay fresh and vivid, no matter how many years have passed, while others fade, crumble and disappear. I think Kenya has stayed with me so strongly because it made such an impact after just over a year of living in London. It wasn’t until I arrived in Kenya that I realised what I had been missing about New Zealand – big skies and long horizons. Somehow, I felt very comfortable there even while my senses were being overwhelmed by everything that was different. It seems Africa does that to people.

jacaranda season —
the young hawker carries
his oversize shoes

– Sandra Simpson, The Mamba 2

Read more about jacarandas here. (In Nairobi we stayed at the Jacaranda Hotel – the street trees were all jacarandas.)

One of the nicest things about The Mamba is meeting poets who are writing interesting and assured haiku. If you’d like to see The Mamba, email me and I’ll forward the pdf on.

weaver birds …
the bombed market
echoes back to life

– Chibuihe-Light Obi, Nigeria

dry land
the dung reaper
picks the span of the barn

– Ayisi Gordon Gullanyi, Ghana


an old novel —
the skeleton of an ant
stuck on a page

– Patrick Wafula Wanyama, Kenya

Errors made

I’m repeating a posting I’ve made this morning at Haiku NewZ, because I think it’s an important issue.

The Apokalipsa Haiku Contest (Slovenia) has disqualified one of the three haiku that judges had selected as First equal. After the awards had been made on September 24, it was discovered that the haiku by Ernest J Berry of New Zealand was a very slightly modified version of one of his which had won the James W Hackett contest (run by the British Haiku Society) in 2008 and been published in white lies, the Red Moon anthology of 2009.

family bible
a wisp of baby hair
in genesis

– First equal Apokalipsa contest 2016; disqualified

family bible
a wisp of baby hair
in Revelation

– First place, James W Hackett Award 2008, published white lies, 2009

The judges say (in translation): “The commission unanimously believes that it is the same haiku, although [there is a] word change … in the third line, so unfortunately it cannot be taken into account. The other two first prizes remain unchanged.”

The two poets who share First prize are Marinko Kovačević of Croatia and Dimitrij Škrk of Slovenia. Ernie also had 4 Commended haiku.

I’ll also note another similar, recent example I’ve come across.

spring sunset
the breath of a fawn
ripples the pond

– Ramesh Anand, First place, European Haiku Society Contest 2016 (announced in April and for which he won €700)

spring dawn
the breath of a fawn
ripples the pond

– Ramesh Anand, Paper Wasp 22.2, 2016 (submissions closed at the end of May)

As it was the final issue of Paper Wasp, the editors were disappointed but not inclined to follow up.

I draw no conclusions about the motivations (if any) of these poets but note this isn’t the first time Ernie has been caught out like this.

Such examples should be a warning to us all to keep meticulous records of published and unpublished work – and to be very clear on what constitutes acceptable writing practice. Read my thoughts in the essay Cleaning up our Act and Michael Dylan Welch’s response to that, Plagiarism and Deja-ku.

Postscript: It never rains but it pours …

Word has just reached me that The Living Haiku Anthology Contest which announced its prizes this week has “vacated” first place after discovering the haiku had already been published! All other prizes will stand.

starry night
I carve the constellations
on his skin

– Diksha Sharma, First place, Living Haiku Anthology contest 2016, disqualified

Published as a single-line haiku in Asahi Haikuist Network, September 2, 2016.

starry night —
I trace the constellations
on his skin

– Diksha Sharma, published cattails haiku journal, May 2016

Second postscript: Another reader has pointed me to this:

starry night —
I carve the constellations
on his skin

– Diksha Sarma, published Sharpening the Green Pencil e-anthology (Romanian Kukai Group), April 2016

So this haiku was published a whopping three times before the author entered it in the Living Haiku Anthology contest! It seems obvious, but maybe the point needs to be made that contest entry rules should be read carefully. Most of them say “unpublished and not under consideration elsewhere” …

An editor’s choice!

Lovely to be included in the Editor’s Choices for the latest issue of The Heron’s Nest. Amazingly enough – to me anyway – this is the first dragonfly haiku I’ve had published!

torpid heat the small breeze a dragonfly makes

– Sandra Simpson, The Heron’s Nest, 18.3

Another nice surprise came through the ether all the way from Angelee Deodhar in India, who created this haiga:

Beautiful photo, isn’t it? My attempts at dragonfly photography are very mediocre by comparison.

The appearance of a dragonfly in Japanese haiku tradition is a signifier of autumn but as you can see from my poem, I haven’t necessarily bothered about that. It might be high summer, it might be an Indian summer, you figure it out!

a round melon
   in a field of round melons
          – resting dragonfly

– Robert Spiess (1921-2002)
from Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years

Number one on a list of 14 ‘fun facts’ about dragonflies is this: Dragonflies were some of the first winged insects to evolve, some 300 million years ago. Modern dragonflies have wingspans of only two to five inches (5-12cm), but fossil dragonflies have been found with wingspans of up to two feet (61cm). Read the rest of the list here.

the dragonfly
on mother’s gravestone
something of her

– Jane Reichhold (1937-2016)
from A Dictionary of Haiku: Second Edition

We have a ‘giant’ dragonfly in New Zealand (Uropetala carovei) which has a yellow and black body that can be up to 86mm (3.4 inches) long, with a wingspan up to 130mm (5 inches). Read more about it here and listen to a radio talk about it and our other large dragonfly here (11 minutes 30, not all dragonfly). And no, I’ve never seen one.


tombô no hako shite iru ya kiku no hana

the dragonfly
takes a crap …

– Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828)
translated by David Lanoue and from his website Haiku of Kobayashi Issa

Another Issa haiku to finish – the cartoon by talented Canadian Jessica Tremblay from her Old Pond Comics collection.

The storks of Kinosaki Onsen

Kokako 25 landed in my mailbox at the weekend – cover art courtesy of yours truly.

Image: Sandra Simpson

I took the photo – which has been manipulated into black and white and slightly touched up – in Konsaki Onsen, a town on Japan’s west coast which is renowned for its bath houses.

Near the town are the wetlands of Toyooka, which provide an important habitat for the oriental white stork. The bird became extinct in the wild in the 1970s after its habitat had been changed by modern farming practices. However, it was decided to try and bring the birds back and a captive breeding programme was started – with the  first chick born in 1989. In 2005 five captively bred storks were released, which then bred successfully in the wild. As of June 2015 there were 72 wild oriental white storks in Toyooka.

But the birds have a special link to Kinosaki. It is said that the location for the town’s oldest bath house – presumably the building beneath this metal sculpture – was discovered when a stork was seen bathing its wounds in a hot spring.

Natural hot springs supply a number of public bath-houses and hotel onsens and the relaxed atmosphere is enhanced by people wandering from bath-house to bath-house in their yukata robes (which might otherwise equate a dressing gown!).

Casual dress is just fine in Kinosaki Onsen. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Some bird haiku from Kokako 25:

parting clouds
a pair of cranes startle
from the barn roof

– Gavin Austin

crane silhouettes
i practice the kanji
for my name

– Debbie Strange

losing my way
in the rushes
runnels of birdsong

– Mark Miller

Kokako is raising its subscription price to cover the increased cost of postage within New Zealand – $NZ30 / $A30 / $US30 for 2 issues a year. Over the past 5 years, the journal has grown from 60 to 80 pages per issue so we mustn’t feel like it’s all bad news!

Send subscriptions to Kokako, 42 Flanshaw Rd, Te Atatu South, Auckland 0610 (New Zealand). For Kokako 26 send submissions – up to 8 pieces per poet – between November 1 and February 1 in the body of an email.

National Poetry Day

August 26 is National Poetry Day in New Zealand – I’m not attending anything today or tonight so was excited to have a Poems in your Pocket booklet given to me by Linda at Books A Plenty when I popped in at lunchtime. It’s a photocopied page of 4 poems folded into a booklet (instructions in the middle) but I’ve had it in my pocket until a moment ago. This is the second stanza of the first poem I read when I opened it:


one of the most linguistically difficult things i did in japan
was to memorise how to say in japanese i am so sorry
to hear about your son jun dying and here is 3000 yen
for flowers for his grave

– Johanna Aitchison, from her book Miss Dust (Seraph Press, 2015)

Here are some haiku by New Zealanders you may not have met before, some poems for your pocket.

winter morning
the lame goose lagging a little
behind its gaggle

– Cyril Childs (1941-2012)

morning chill –
the dog curls
into a perfect circle

– Aalix Roake

summer heat
overripe plums
spill into a bowl

– Anne Curran

magnolia shade
in both ears

– Tony Beyer

Random bookshelf haiku

I was so impressed by one set of haiku bookshelves I saw on my recent US journey that I decided to pull mine apart and start again … unfortunately, the pulling apart has happened and not much else!

So, just to spur me over into the books, I have decided to post some haiku chosen at random from random books in random piles.

my husband gone –
from the bluest of skies
spring snow falls

– Takeshita Shizunojo, 1887-1951
from Haiku Love, editor (and translator of this haiku) Alan Cummings (The British Museum, 2013)

The poet was born in a rural community in Kyushu and worked as a schoolteacher and, following her husband’s early death, a librarian. Her poetry, the book says, often drew upon images of life in impoverished rural Kyushu.

winter moon the church bell an octave below

– Lorin Ford
Presence haiku journal, number 55 (UK)

Lorin Ford lives in Melbourne, Australia, and was the haiku editor for the recently closed online journal, A Hundred Gourds.

separating itself
from a tangerine
the cabby’s voice

– Michael Fessler
Modern Haiku 45.2, but I met it in the Haiku 2015 anthology, edited by Lee Gurga & Scott Metz (Modern Haiku Press, 2015)

Spend yourself now!
Spring winds blowing
before cherries bloom.

– Noa, 1397-1471
from Haiku Before Haiku
translated by Steven D Carter (Columbia University Press, 2011)

Noa, the book says, was a Buddhist monk, painter, renga master and renga steward at Kitano shrine, curator for the Ashikaga shogunate, and of Sogi’s Seven Sages of Linked Verse.

frost moon
pairing his wool socks
from the dryer

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

wild boars too
are blown along:
autumn windstorm

– Basho, 1644-1694
from Haiku Animals, editor Mavis Pilbream (The British Museum, 2010)
translated by DL Barnhill