Reviews: Surridge & Bullock

Two nice volumes have come across my desk recently – one hundred petals, the first collection of haiku by André Surridge (Hamilton), and summer haiku, a collection from Owen Bullock, once of the UK, a long-time resident of the Western Bay of Plenty in New Zealand and now working in Canberra, Australia.

Cover art, a collage, is by Jenny Kippenberger.

First of all, a disclaimer: I wrote the Foreword for André’s collection. So you might think that I would be well disposed towards André and his work, and you’d be right!

One hundred haiku and senryu have been arranged into chapters reflecting the four seasons, a traditional approach from a poet who doesn’t always conform to the traditions of haiku – the non-conformity appears as a fifth (middle) chapter of senryu. André, who began writing haiku in 2002, has won many awards along the way and is  regularly published around the world.

I’ll let his work speak for itself by choosing one of my favourites from each season.

gentle rain a ripple runs along
                                              the foal’s flank

small crack
the albatross chick whistles
inside its shell

(I particularly like the sensory elements in these two haiku above; tiny details, but what impact!)

dark side of the moon
the stepbrother
I never met

autumn sunset:
the double bounce
of a persimmon

by the stile
a heel print
inlaid with ice

Having undergone some serious, and debilitating, treatment, André is facing an uncertain future healthwise, the prompt to gather this collection together. Yet there is no sentimentality in these poems, no self-pity … just an ongoing engagement with the world around him as he moves through it. I particularly like his quiet, but acute, observations in poems like these:

physio
the pillow
still warm

lavender stalk
the weight of one
white butterfly

“My thanks to Cyril Childs who showed me the haiku way and to Patricia Prime for steadying me on that path in those early years,” the author writes.

The 64-page book is printed on recycled paper and costs $20 within New Zealand (includes postage) and $NZ25 elsewhere. To order a copy email André. ISBN 978-0-473-48250-3.

Cover artwork is by Dianne Firth, Canberra Tales III.

Owen keeps up a regular output of books, which is nice to see as most of us seem to work on single-poet collections maybe once in a decade.

A small-format book, Summer Haiku is published by Recent Work Press and follows Owen’s earlier books with the same publisher, Urban Haiku (2015) and River’s Edge (2016). In an email to me this month Owen revealed there are many previously unpublished haiku in this collection giving us plenty fresh to enjoy, among them:

teeth marks
in the soap
hedgehog-sized

yellow butterfly
from piece of air
to piece of air

In his Afterword, Owen explains the collection was written over three summers while camping on land he and his partner own in New Zealand and which they’re developing along permaculture principles – “and one winter sojourn there in our newly built gypsy wagon”.

she calls me cute
tears come easily
this winter holiday

3pm
ducks already folded
into their bodies

Owen has a knack of creating haiku that might seem ordinary at first glance, but that glance becomes a longer look and then one begins to think about the words and images and … Here he perfectly – and calmly, almost wonderingly – describes something I’ve experienced often, but always find frightening until my rational mind can take over.

not a man
but some kind of shadow –
daybreak

And the sound in this haiku is everywhere but, beautifully, is nowhere stated:

farm tour
a llama cleans its teeth
on the wire fence

Summer Haiku, 68 pages, is available from Recent Work Press for $A8.95. ISBN 9780648404279.

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