A New Year!

Along my journey
through this transitory world,
new year’s housecleaning

– Matsuo Basho

Many sajiki (dictionary of Japan season words) have five seasons, the fifth being “new year” (from The Haiku Seasons by William J Higginson, Kodansha International, 1996). Bill goes on to say that: “In Basho’s day the New Year roughly coincided with the beginning of spring; when Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar [in 1873] the two-week-long New Year celebration came to be treated separately.”

Along with many other traditions associated with the new year (special tea, etc), the first dream of the year was/is considered particularly important in Japan, and you can read more about that here.

For us in the West, it’s about looking back and looking forward at the same time, about making resolutions to stand us in good stead for the coming year – and, if you’re Scottish, having a dark-haired man be the first to step through the front door on January 1, carrying a lump of coal, whisky, small cakes and a coin! First-footing, as it’s called, apparently dates back to the days of Viking raids on the east coast of Scotland – a fair-haired man stepping into your home would be very bad luck indeed!

New Year’s Day:
some breaths are long,
some breaths are short.

– Stuart Quine (from The Haiku Seasons)

toasting the new year –
a puriri moth
hits my glass

– Sandra Simpson (Kokako 6, 2007)

My haiku is as the moment happened, I haven’t changed a thing. Puriri moths, native to New Zealand, are large (15cm wingspan) and green; striking, so to speak … and mostly emerge between October and December.  See some photos here.

And read a blog post by poet and outdoorsman Barry L Smith about his encounter with the moths.


2013 Red Moon anthology

The 2013 Red Moon anthology – fear of dancing – is well into production with a planned delivery date of February 1. Having read all the works included more than once (I’m a volunteer proof-reader, as well as a member of the editorial team), I can say that it is going to be a darn fine collection.

The annual publication aims at collecting “the best” haiku published in English in any calendar year, as decided by the vote of the group of editors. It’s quite a complex business that is managed impeccably by overseeing editor and Red Moon owner Jim Kacian.

I’m happy to report that there are seven New Zealanders in the collection this year – and they are there because their work is outstanding. I’ll post more when the volume is available, this is just to whet your appetite!

Meri Kirihimete

Season’s greetings to all – hope you have a great Christmas,
south or north,  summer or winter!

summer afternoon …
losing the Superball
on the first bounce

                                            – Stanford M Forrester
from Haiku in English, the First Hundred Years

Christmas eve shopping          the seagulls going to town

                                                              – Sandra Simpson, previously unpublished

still heading out

still heading out
telling my track
by the Southern Cross

– John Knight (1935-2012)

still heading out is an anthology of Australian and New Zealand haiku writers put together as a memorial for John Knight, a poet, publisher and co-founder of the paper wasp group. It has arrived in my letterbox today (Christmas Eve) so counts as a gift!

The 78-page book is edited by paper wasp members Jacqui Murray and Katherine Samuelowicz, and is a who’s who of haiku poets on both sides of the Tasman (although I see my old mate Ron Moss is missing). Owen Bullock and Lorin Ford, who both had books of haiku published by John’s PostPressed, are represented and there are some Australian names new to me so I shall take a glass of rhubarb cordial and soda water and find a nice spot for reading.

Copies are $A20 each (Australia and New Zealand) and $US20 (rest of the world). For more information email Jacqui Murray.

orange sky –
the taste of summer peeling
back the day

– Carole Harrison, NSW

spattering rain the pulse in a sparrow’s throat

– Sandra Simpson

Heat and the kitchen

midday nap
placing my feet against the wall
how cool it is

– Matsuo Basho

I’ve just woken from an afternoon nap – tuckered out by a morning of Christmas shopping, present wrapping, the heat and this infernal wind. We had a break yesterday and it was glorious, but it’s back again today, “poking and prodding” as a gardening friend said this week.

pegging the wind
into our sheets

– Greeba Brydges-Jones, from the taste of nashi (Windrift, 2008)

Tomorrow, I’ve promised myself, is baking day.

As well as a Christmas wreath cake, there will be ricciarelli, almond biscuits from Siena (although I first met them in a tiny village on a mountain pass in Tuscany). This recipe is close to the one I use, except that mine contains only 350g of sugar so you might want to adjust that. Ground almonds are available from the bulk bins of many supermarkets. The biscuits should be pale to be authentic, although mine come out quite golden – when I tasted my first one I thought it was going to be something shortbready because of the colour. How wrong I was!

Christmas recipe –
all the ingredients except
my mother’s hands

– Sandra Simpson, from Ice Diver (New Zealand Poetry Society, 2011)

Presence award

A friend said the other day that she had enjoyed reading my successes on this blog, but I wondered if there was a hidden message there, like stop skiting! (It does no good to worry away at words in email, they actually tell you very little.) It may be tedious for you to read only my good news, but it’s hardly thrilling for me to post about my failures …

So here’s a little bit of both.

I have submitted this haiku to a couple of my favourite journals and it was turned down each time. However, I believed in it and knew it would be loved one day. That day has arrived, dear readers.

the moon’s apostrophe –
everything I know
learned from books

has been placed Second in the Haiku Presence Award (UK) and co-judge Matthew Paul has written a thoughtful and detailed commentary for it. I am using my winnings – 25 squid – to renew my subscription to Presence, which is itself a thoughtful journal. I also received a Commended.

Pamela Brown’s winning haiku is a beauty (and one I won’t reveal here as the winning poems will be published shortly in Presence #49). One of the joys of Presence is reading Pamela’s work, which is always rewarding – closely observed and genuine.

upland pasture …
sometimes a harebell
sometimes a hare

– Pamela Brown, Presence #47, chosen as one of the best three haiku in that edition by popular vote.

Born in England, she moved to Wales in 1980 to work as a shepherd, ending up with her own breeding flock. Pamela is retired now and doesn’t have email! (Some of this detail is from the bio notes in Another Country, haiku poetry from Wales, published by Gomer Press in 2011.)

at the tip
of the slateworker’s chisel
an equal world

– Pamela Brown, Presence #46

crescent moon:
the clink of the bull’s ring
along the gate

– Pamela Brown, from Another Country

Summer rain

A real downpour for most of the day in Tauranga – but just what we needed! I’ve found a few minutes to go through my books and find some appropriate haiku that you may enjoy.

short cut;
splashing through the water
of summer rains

– Buson

my old ears:
summer rains
in the downpipe

– Buson

(I have rearranged the translation I found online to read more naturally.)

Buson’s haiku leads neatly on to this contemporary haiku – I heard Eve read it at Haiku North America in August and my ears understood it, while my eyes had not so try saying out loud and see if you “get” it.

in tune with

– Eve Luckring (apologies to Eve as this is not how it’s set out exactly but the best I could within the confines of WordPress).

umbrella-sharing –
the one more in love
gets wet

– Keisanjin

which really is a spring haiku, but I couldn’t resist it.