Reviews: Moss & Austin

Two books from Australian haiku poets this time – Broken Starfish, haiku and ink paintings by Ron C Moss (Walleah Press, 2019) and changing light by Gavin Austin (Alba Publishing, 2018). Both are handsomely produced volumes.

I have long admired Ron’s brush paintings (and his haiku) so to have a volume studded with them is a real treat. With 131 pages of poems and art (all in one section), readers are given a decent helping of Ron’s work in his third major collection.

moss haiku

Ron lives in Tasmania where he’s been a longtime rural volunteer firefighter. He has recently retired from paid employment.

swollen moon
a playtpus swims
belly to the stars

almost home
a barn owl swoops
into the dusk

a firefighter
turns off his headlamp …
autumn moon

shading pencil lines
like my father taught me …
summer clouds

The layout is lovely – with one haiku per page, the poems have room to breathe and be themselves. Every time I dip back into the book, I find something else to like.

muffled voices
mother’s pin cushion
sparkles in the light

austin

Gavin, a resident of Sydney, divides his collection into five sections of varying length, the first three are elemental (land, sea, sky) followed by “Fur & feather” and “Life & death” with one or two poems on a page, again a good choice. My only niggles are that on a few of the left-hand pages the haiku are set too close into the book’s spine to feel comfortable  and that the vast majority of poems have a break after the first line. Neither of these things diminished my enjoyment of the collection, although the latter meant I read the book in bursts, a few haiku at a time, to stop the uniformity of style becoming a negative.

circling bushfire –
a slow death
of daylight

                       morning light
a school of fish suspended
                       between waves

morning drizzle
a wagtail shimmies
on the gatepost

leaden sky
the broodmare’s feed bin
heavy with rain

The collection draws on eight years of work and while the back page blurb claims the haiku are “unashamedly Australian in flavour”, the poems will pose few problems for readers in New Zealand. In reality,  there are many poems that could be set anywhere.

the pale scarf
draped from her throat
wisteria vine

There is much to be enjoyed here.

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