Still life in colour

They were sitting in La Barantine in Bruntsfield, at one of the two tables that gave a good view of the passers-by on the pavement directly outside. It was at such an hour of the morning that the sunlight, slicing over the high roof-tops, cast a square of buttery light on their table. Before them were two steaming cups of milky coffee, their foamy surfaces decorated with a delicate fern-leaf pattern. Vuillard or Bonnard might have painted this scene, thought Isabel: the tables, their covers, the display case of delicacies – it was all a tiny island of colour and comfort that would not have been out of place in an intimiste painting: Man and woman in a cafe, morning, perhaps, or Mme Dalhousie prend du cafe avec M. Stevenson. She liked the titles given to paintings; they could be so pithy and poetic, first lines of an incomplete haiku.

– from The Novel Habits of Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith (Abacus, 2016)

Le journal illustre, now known as Woman Reading, was painted by Impressionist Edouard Manet in Paris in about 1880 and forms part of the Mr and Mrs Lewis Larned Coburn Memorial Collection at the Art Institute Chicago. Image: Art Institute Chicago

winter evening
an unbought brioche
under glass

Jennifer Popolis, The Wonder Code (2017)

early evening rain –
the man at the bar
folds his paper into quarters

Sandra Simpson, The Heron’s Nest 15.3 (2013)

tea ceremony —
it begins & ends
with an empty cup 

Stanford M Forrester, The Signature Haiku Anthology (2020)

Le Déjeuner des canotiers or Luncheon of the Boating Party by Pierre-August Renoir dates from 1881. It is now owned by The Phillips Collection in Washington DC. Image: Wikipedia

the coffee turns
to wine

Tom Clausen, The Wonder Code (2017)

river dripping
from both the oars
one last wish

Sharon Pretti, Another Trip Around the Sun (2019)

near evening …
willow shadows return
to the river

Mohsen Farsani, The Wonder Code (2017)

Lilliput Libraries

A nice piece of serendipity this morning when I heard the irrepressible Ruth Arnison being interviewed on National Radio about Lilliput Libraries – I came across my first one, number 251, recently on Stewart Island / Rakiura.

The Rakiura Lilliput Library is next to Beaks and Feathers in Oban. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Ruth started the Lilliput Library project 8 years ago in Dunedin as a personal endeavour, although has since passed it on to the various communities while still co-ordinating it. Number 302 has just opened in Invercargill, and the project has extended to Queensland. Listen to the interview here (15 mins).

I was delighted to find a book I wanted to read, and even happier to be able to replace it with one I had enjoyed.

Ruth was awarded a Queen’s Service Medal in 2018 for her services to poetry and literature, which includes Poems in the Waiting Room (ended last year) and Step Sisters. The interview includes her thoughts on the importance of reading for children.

I’ve posted about cute community libraries before, after seeing one in Iran and one in the United States.

More recent publications

Kokako 36 has arrived, looking smart with a colour photo by Tim Roberts on the cover – not sure, but it seems more natural to me when I turn it the other way up! A cry from the heart in the editorial by Margaret Beverland.

“The submission guidelines ask that you send 8 pieces only. Most subscribers adhere to this. However, there are one or two who do not, and no matter how hard I try, I cannot get 1 haiku, 7 tanka, 2 sequences and 4 collaborations to add up to 8 …” The trials of being an editor. Under-paid (ie, not at all) and under-appreciated. Read subscription details for Kokako, which is produced twice a year.

Here are some sound-value haiku I like from this edition, plus one of my own.

attuning to lockdown
a lady-bug’s wings
skim the venetians

Graham Bates

summer solstice
the song sparrow side
of the pond

Brad Bennett

still morning –
the plum blossom
loud with bees

Cathie Bullock

headland mansion –
across the estuary
a peacock’s cry

Sandra Simpson

UK journal Presence 72 – double the ‘age’ of Kokako – is another recent arrival. I’ll offer some movement haiku as a selection, plus one of my own from this edition that doesn’t fit the theme. Read subscription details for Presence, which is produced three times a year.

windless morning
dandelion seeds rise
with the big top

Richard Tindall

crows sort the river stones winter sun

Glenn G Coats

charcoal sky –
a hint of restlessness
in the mares

Hazel Hall

summer heat –
in my head I write
your death notice

Sandra Simpson

Recent publication

Delighted to have a haiku on a signboard that is being displayed in the Golden Triangle area of Washington DC until early May. The recent contest drew more than 2,900 haiku with 200 selected to go on signboards. See the winning haiku and, if you want, all the signboards at the website. The theme of this year’s contest was ‘Reboot and Rebloom’.

The results of the 2021 Morioka Haiku Contest (Japan) were announced this year and I was fortunate enough to receive an Honourable Mention.

rolling the pebbles
around in my hand –
magpie song

Sandra Simpson

The winning haiku and their commentaries are here or go to the last two pages here to see all the selected English haiku.

I’ve clearly had magpies and their song on my mind as the following haiku appeared in the summer edition of a fine line, the magazine of the New Zealand Poetry Society.

still no rain –
a magpie lands on the fence
and quardles

Sandra Simpson

If you’re a New Zealander reading this, you might well spot where my inspiration for this second haiku came from – The Magpies by Denis Glover. The Australian magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen) is widespread in New Zealand, a thuggish bird with a beady eye!

A new edition of The Heron’s Nest was released on March 1, and contains one of my haiku.

weeding the garlic
still time
to put things right

Sandra Simpson

I very much like the Editor’s Choice for this quarter, click on this link to read the commentary:

autumn unfolding a plaid shirt in the country store

Barrie Levine

And today the latest Red Moon Anthology, string theory, arrived from the US, not long after it was posted. The international mail service seems to have at long last ungummed, hurrah! A copy is $US20, plus postage.

The anthology, which surveys the best English-language haiku published in 2021, is always a good read and also contains haibun, linked forms and some essays (disclaimer: I am one of the nominating editors). I’m also the proofreader and mention it only because of this clever haiku by Roland Packer of Canada – take your time with it, it’s not an error!

srokte raehb …
teh cregaveir fwolols
hre maennig

The Australian online journal Echidna Tracks 8 has been unfolding by the day from December 1 until March 18. I had two haiku included in this open theme edition, here’s the one that appeared on March 12.

abandoned station –
a jaunty tail
on the dust-drawn cat

Sandra Simpson

How do we tell our story?

Honoured to be invited to join a women’s group last week as they visited the Haiku Pathway and the Mural Trail in Katikati. They all seemed genuinely interested in what I had (briefly) to say about haiku as strolled around part of the pathway. But it made me wonder about how we tell our story of haiku to people who know nothing about this form of poetry.

Some members of the group read one of the boulder poems on the Katikati Haiku Pathway. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Do we tell them too much? Or too little? Do we over-emphasise the ‘seriousness’ of haiku to compensate for the poems seeming trivial because of their brevity? How do we best convey our love for haiku without having our listeners’ eyes glaze over?

I hope I did haiku justice and the women all seemed to be active listeners, judging by the questions they asked as we went round. But I’d like to hear from others about experiences of talking to groups who don’t form part of a workshop and probably have no intention of ever writing a haiku. If you have time, I’d enjoying reading your thoughts, ideas and tips in the Comments section.

Haiku Down Under: Call for proposals

Haiku Down Under is a new, free gathering that will take place online from October 7-9. Until March 31, the organisers (of which I am one, along with Leanne Mumford, Carole Harrison, Sue Courtney and Sherry Grant) are calling for proposals for workshops and presentations.

We’re hoping that presenters will offer something fresh and vibrant to, primarily, the trans-Tasman haiku community, although we expect to have audience members from around the world. However, we want to ensure that haiku writers, new and established, in Australia and New Zealand feel that their experiences, environments, languages and cultures are front and centre in the programme.

Tentative running times for Haiku Down Under events:

  • Presentation/talk: 20-25 minutes, including questions (if the speaker is willing to take them, advise if not)
  • Workshop: 50-55 minutes
  • Prompted writing session: 5-10 minutes.

We are aware of what the time differences across our two nations may mean to those leading a presentation or workshop so are happy to consider pre-recorded items so long as both vision and sound are top-quality.

Presenters will need to be comfortable using Zoom (including sharing a screen if, for example, slides are being shown), have good audio and camera equipment (either built in to a computer or external), and have reliable connectivity. We hope that rehearsals will help catch and fix any last-minute bugs.

While the bulk of proposals we receive will no doubt focus on haiku, we are also open to include events that take in the related written arts of senryu, linked forms, haibun, tanka and haiga, so please consider those topics too.

If you decide to offer a proposal for consideration, please complete this confidential form on our website which asks about your format (workshop/presentation), for a brief description of your content and what you expect the take-away to be for the audience.

Please contact us if you have any questions. The deadline for submission of proposals is by 5pm (your time) March 31, 2022. Visit the Haiku Down Under website.

We look forward to hearing from you – haiku is a life-long learning experience so there’s no reason why newer writers shouldn’t consider this invitation too.

Cracks in the Pavement

by Sandra Simpson

They realised, you see, that I’m a noticing kind of person – Miss Jane Marple

How many are we, do you think? The sort of people who notice particular moments as they tick by in a day – the sound of rain under tyres, the feel of sun-warmed brick under your hand, the taste of canteen tea, the colour of a stranger’s eyes as you pass in the street, the smell from a doorway…

Newcomers to haiku may think they’re up against it if they live in an urban environment, that their country cousins somehow have a greater advantage when it comes to inspirational moments. However, moments are here, there and everywhere in the canyons of the city – if we can develop our talent for noticing them.

The exemplar haiku included here have all been published in the 21st century and are implicitly about man-made environments. In my reading to select poems, it was obvious that many haiku have ‘indeterminate’ settings. That is, the moment could be taking place in a rural or urban context. I have not, however, included haiku about the environmental and human degradations of a city as my hope was to focus on the small, everyday interests of urban life.

taxi horn
a cat-shadow leaps
into its echo

D W Brydon1

summer rain
I bring some
into the bank

paul m2

the wrong way
up the one-way street


John Rowlands3

The impact of Covid-19 and its consequent restrictions on human movement was a personal challenge when it came to writing haiku, as I’m sure it has been for many others in countries with greater restrictions than New Zealand has so far experienced. Instead of the many peaceful hours I thought I would have for my artform during the first lockdown in 2020, I instead found myself at a computer for most of each day, creating and facilitating (unexpected) content for my primary employer, and replying to the many emails that started to arrive, both work and personal.

Some days during that lockdown (March-mid-May 2020) I could feel my thoughts ping-ponging off the walls of my home, as well as around the inside of my head. As the route of my daily walk became commonplace I could feel my mind, and all of my senses, beginning to slide over the scenery. Sometimes on my return, I wondered what I had seen besides the cracks in the pavement.

a crack
in the pavement
yellow freesias

Owen Bullock4

My haiku practice has always included delving into memory to find topics and content for poems, and fortunately I have been a ‘noticing’ sort of child/adult so this was one way of kick-starting some writing during 2020. Mentally tucking away sensations and moments over the years has been as natural to me as breathing, long before I had ever heard the word ‘haiku’.

Sometimes past and present collide in surprising ways as when I discovered the ‘Santa’s Cave’ of my childhood (and my father’s childhood) had been resurrected in a museum. Heading in roughly that direction for a family event at the end of 2020, we made, okay, a rather large detour to visit the exhibit which comes out for Christmas, resulting in a lot of delight and memory surges for me, and amused bemusement for my husband. The Cave, which features several mechanical toys, started enthralling children more than 100 years ago and the young attendant said many people had memories triggered by their visit and she loved hearing about them.

santa cave
the mechanical monkey band
of my childhood

Sandra Simpson5

As a child growing up on a farm, the visit to Santa’s Cave was made all the more memorable because it involved going to town, a place that seemed to my young self to be somewhere special – so many goods on display in so many shops, so many vehicles in the street, so many people … The fact that my parents dressed themselves and us up for these forays underlined that ‘town’ was very definitely different.

Since going to boarding school at the age of 13 – apart from one brief interlude – all of the rest of my life so far has been lived in towns and cities, both in New Zealand and overseas. And the magic of discovering a new town or city has never worn off.

each streetlight
with its own rain –
click of mah-jong tiles

Sandra Simpson6

city sunset
darkness rising
brick by brick

Quendryth Young7

a smell of hops
along the south quays –
last bus home

Maeve O’Sullivan8

But a city isn’t just a central business district, hotels, museums, theatres, etc. Neighbourhoods, the more chic-sounding quartier in French, radiate out from and encircle this hub. These suburbs and districts often operate as a series of villages within the larger whole, complete with their own markets and shopping centres, schools, churches, residential areas, etc.

afternoon nap…
a lawnmower

cuts it short

Dave Read9

a jumble of books
outside the old police station
the odd summer cloud

John Barlow10

rubbish collector
his plaited red beard
tied off with twine

Ron C Moss11

Cities are sometimes themselves overtaken by growth and absorbed into a megalopolis, for example, the San Francisco Bay area (8 million people), Cairo (16 million), Tokyo (37 million), or Mumbai (80 million). Almost all our 21st-century cities have evolved over time and through stages from hamlets. This evolution has, however, been bypassed in the ultra-modern cities of the Gulf States – particularly Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi – which as recently as the mid-20th century were still small towns with few modern features.

Hiroshima Day
10,000 unblinking eyes
at the fish market

Earl R. Keener12

early morning
an archaeological dig
under the skyscraper

Megumi Shibuya13

in the shadow
of a street sign . . .
summer heat

Gregory Piko14

Haiku must engage the senses and while the ‘softer’ environs of the countryside may be thought to offer more opportunities, an urban environment can hold rich pickings if we open ourselves to the experience. Some of the topics are the same as non-urban settings – for example, weather, people, vehicles, trees, birds; and some are unique – for example, retail (shops, cafes), pavements, high-rise buildings, traffic lights, mass transit.

city street
    the briefest touch
        of a stranger’s hand

Vanessa Proctor15

subway car
the baby’s toes jiggle
all the way home

Frank Hooven16

Christmas streets
slowing down near
the chestnut vendor

Lucy Whitehead17

loosing her hair
in the middle of the office –
night falls early

Sandra Simpson18

Cities offer a chance to travel not only along the horizontal plane, but also – thrillingly –   vertically through space, even giving us the chance to experience a bird’s eye view of the man-made maze beneath.

crowded elevator
going up
we all look down

Andy McLellan19

5th floor
how vibrant the city looks
from oncology

André Surridge20

Cities are built within and around many different landscapes – rivers, lakes and harbours, on the coast and at altitude. These landscapes allow for something beyond tarmacadam, bus lanes and urban sprawl and are where interesting collisions can take place.

bushfire smoke
parrots crowd
the suburbs

Owen Bullock21

autumn —
a sheet of paper
drops between buildings

Dr Grant Caldwell22

rush hour –
the honking of geese
on the move

Sandra Simpson23

What interests me most about urban haiku occurs in the space where man-made surroundings and activities intersect with nature’s presence, whether ‘curated’ by way of parks and gardens or by having simply crept in and be doing its own, anarchist thing.

steeping tea
the time it takes
to lose a street to snow

Ben Moeller-Gaa24

balcony planters
a yellow butterfly rises
floor by floor

Anne Burgevin25

a thousand starlings
shape-shift above the high street
wet dusk headlamps

Stuart Handysides26

Long may it continue.

1: First place, British Haiku Society Haiku Award, 2019.
2: Another Trip Round the Sun: 365 Days of Haiku for Children Young and Old, ed. Jessica Malone Latham (Brooks Books, 2019).
3: Wales Haiku Journal, 2018.
4: From the sequence ‘Canberra haiku’, published in These Strange Outcrops: Writing and art from Canberra (Cicerone, 2020).
5: Echidna Tracks 6, 2020.
6: The Heron’s Nest XIII:1, 2011.
7: The Heron’s Nest XX:4, 2018.
8: Prune Juice 29, 2019.
9: The Heron’s Nest XXII:4, 2020.
10: Presence 67, 2020.
11: Kokako 33, 2020.
12: Kloštar Ivanić Haiku Contest, 2012.
13: A Sense of Place, The Haiku Foundation, 2018.
14: Cattails, April 2018.
15: The Dreaming Collection, 2011.
16: Kaji Aso Haiku Contest 2020.
17: A Sense of Place, The Haiku Foundation, 2018.
18: Presence 51, 2014.
19: Haiku in the Workplace, The Haiku Foundation, 2017.
20: Pulse, Jan 5 2018.
21: Presence 67, 2020.
22: Creatrix 50, 2020.
23: breath (Piwakawaka Press, 2011).
24: The Heron’s Nest XV:2, 2013.
25: Golden Triangle Haiku Contest, 2019.
26: Presence 62, 2018.

This piece first appeared in seashores 6, April 2021, but without the illustrations.

Festive greetings & publication round-up

Only a few days short of a six-month time lag since I posted my last news of publication – how did that happen? Some people choose not to submit their haiku for publication, though I can never understand why. How does one’s work improve if one isn’t attempting publication in journals one admires? An editor’s acceptance is a form of validation and the day a poem is accepted is not only a red letter day but also encouragement to keep going, that you’re on the right track.

So my best wishes and festive greetings to all the editors and back-roomers who keep our haiku journals going, keep the standards up and do it all for nowt; and to all the contest organisers and judges, who are also in it for love. I hope your year ends well and begins even better!

The following haiku was Commended in the 2021 NZPS Contest and published in the Kissing a Ghost anthology, one of two of my haiku featured in the book (the other poem was Highly Commended).

offering wintersweet
for my journey …
cemetery gardener

The wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) came courtesy of Susan, a volunteer at Te Henui Cemetery in New Plymouth, New Zealand, as we set out on our journey home. I wrote about the cemetery gardens on my other blog. Read it here. As you might guess from the shrub’s name, it is a sweetly-scented flower that blooms in winter, the sort of plant that’s a blessing.

Four of my haiku were published in the print journal Kokako 35, New Zealand’s only dedicated haiku and related forms journal. Submissions to the next issue close on February 1 with overseas submissions welcome. See the details here.

winter solstice –
my raffle winnings
baked in a pie

I don’t usually win raffle prizes so this was a night to remember as I took home a bag of fresh tamarillos (Solanum betaceum) and another of fresh walnuts. A day or two later some kitchen alchemy turned them into a delicious crumble. (I couldn’t resist ‘baked in a pie’ for the haiku, though.)

Two haiku were selected for the English print journal, Presence 71. The submission window for the next issue closes on January 31. Full details here.

a box of white cheese
at the end of the picnic
nursery-rhyme moon

NOON is an online journal ‘of the short poem’ and I’m always pleased to be included, particularly as my more traditional haiku don’t necessarily sit easily with the stated intention of putting “some of the most interesting English-language haiku in conversation with other innovative short poetry”. Three of my haiku appeared in the most recent issue. The next submission window will be announced next year.

stationary clouds … the librarian checks us in

Yes, it’s another pandemic haiku!

Very pleased to be among the Honourable Mentions in the Autumn Moon haiku contest. Go here to read all the winning poems.

flint corn –
i’ll learn to live
with the diagnosis

Flint corn is also known as Indian corn and is one of the types of maize cultivated by Native Americans. Wikipedia informs me that because each kernel has a hard outer layer to protect the soft endosperm, it is likened to being hard as flint; hence the name.

Many years ago I was enchanted by the coloured cobs arranged on verandahs at the time of Thanksgiving in Ontario, Canada (second Monday in October), stacked in baskets or worked into decorative wreaths and all looking gorgeous in the rich autumn light.

Thanks for reading this far. I hope your haiku journey continues well in 2022.

Haiku North America 2021

Whew, what a weekend that was! For the first time in its 30-year history the biennial Haiku North America conference was entirely online – and with free registration – so anyone, anywhere in the world could attend in these Covid-affected times.

And although that meant rising at 4.30am so I could be logged on for the first session at 5am (9am in Vancouver/Seattle where the event was being hosted), it was an effort I was happy to make.

Taking the conference online had pluses and minuses, the biggest drawback for me being the lack of social interaction, something that’s so much easier face-to-face. But the organisers are to be thoroughly commended for the way they moved from a conference planned for Victoria (Vancouver Island) in British Columbia, Canada to something that was so dependent on technology but which worked almost perfectly all the time.

Lynne Jambor (Vancouver, co-chair), Terry Ann Carter (Victoria, co-chair) and Michael Dylan Welch (Seattle, HNA board member) were the public faces of the volunteer team, but when the credits rolled up at the end, there were a large number of people involved. Hat tip to them all.

The conference theme was ‘Ma’ (roughly translated as ‘the space between’) with presenters coming at the topic from myriad angles to cover haiku, haibun and haiga. Speakers also included people from around the world, such as Adjei Agyeh-Baa (New Zealand/Ghana), Alan Summers (UK), Kala Ramesh (India), Kazuhaki Tanahasi (Germany) and Kris Moon Kondo and Kit Nakamura (Japan).

Some presentations included brief writing workshops – I was introduced to tan-renga and had a try at haibun – but all of them were well worth seeing and listening to. The organisers intend to post YouTube videos (each presentation was recorded) as they have time, so keep an eye out for that.

The Memorial Reading is a lovely part of HNA, honouring those poets who have died since the previous conference. Each gets a slide including a photo and a poem, while the narrators share a little bit about each life.

Hand-overs between those introducing the next speakers, as well as the unseen tech boffins keeping it all running, were smooth and everything ran to time. Audience numbers varied (and I didn’t keep a close eye on them) but for some sessions were more than 180. Questions were generally handled through the ‘chat’ function and relayed to the speaker by the moderator, although for the final panel, Alan Summers allowed live questions, which worked pretty well.

The ‘chat’ function was also where website and email addresses could be posted, as well as comments on talks and thanks to presenters. From what I heard and saw, people were participating on everything from phones to PCs.

The HNA board announced that the next event will go back to being in-person and will be held in Cincinnati, Ohio towards the end of June, 2023. That immediately drew a big ‘chat’ response to make an online option available. No promises were made.

After it was all over, I had the chance to talk to HNA founder Garry Gay for a little bit. After the first conference in California, did he have any inkling the event would still be going 30 years later? “After the first one was over, I thought, ‘I’m never doing that again’,” he said. Garry is rightly proud that his baby is now so well-established and enjoyed by so many people.

When we met at my first HNA conference in 2013 (Long Beach, California), Garry gave me a brass coin, one of a limited set he’d had made to give away at the event. It contains three of his haiku, the name of the event and the date. It’s a very special souvenir. I keep it on my desk so could hold it up to the camera to show him I still had it.

Garry said he’d originally had pens printed with his haiku and gave those away, but he wanted something a bit more unique. Knowing someone who made coins and medals, he decided to try that and was very pleased with the result. Not cheap though, hence the limited numbers.

While we were talking, Roberta Beary in Ireland put a note in chat to say she still had one of his pens; Mimi Ahearn in the US said she uses her coin as a template for circles in her art; another poet said she kept hers on a shelf in her study; Bryan Rickert in the US zipped off and retrieved his coin to show Garry who, I think, was quite touched that we all valued them so much.

He said he’d heard about someone who had traded his coin for a beer in a bar. “Just the one beer?,” was the query. “Yeah,” said Garry. “Ripped off.”

Katikati Haiku Contest winners for 2021

A total of 404 entries from throughout New Zealand and 32 other countries were received in the 2021 Katikati Haiku Contest to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Katikati Haiku Pathway. We were delighted to have some schoolchildren enter even though there was no special category for them this year – we wish you many years of haiku enjoyment. Our grateful thanks to Kings Seeds, a Katikati company, for sponsoring the cash prizes.

Judge’s Comments

It has been an honour to judge the 2021 Katikati Haiku Contest, which is judged blind (no names attached to poems). The overall standard was pleasingly high and made short-listing and ranking the poems a pleasurably difficult task.

A few general comments to the beginners who entered. Haiku is a rich and rewarding art form so don’t be disappointed if you haven’t succeeded this time. I would recommend that newer writers read further about haiku, ensuring you use reputable sources. Educating yourself about haiku will eliminate the errors that included putting titles on haiku, rhyming them, and using personification. Haiku NewZ, part of the NZ Poetry Society website, offers many good essays and articles about the craft of haiku.

One of the things to keep in mind as you read the winning poems below is that the very best haiku are about things, but are also, if you’re inclined to think more deeply, also about other things. These tiny poems can hold worlds. Thank you to all the writers who shared their work with me.

– Sandra Simpson, October 2021

First place

autumn rain…
the desire to become
his urn                                                                      

– Cristina Apetrei, Romania

This powerful haiku suffused with longing is a fitting winner of the 2021 Katikati Haiku Contest. My reading of it, and so the commentary that follows, is of a mother mourning her son – others may see it as a wife grief-stricken for her husband and that is equally valid. One of the marks of an exceptional haiku is that it remains ‘open’ enough for the reader to bring their own experiences and interpretations to the poem.

Initially, the first line seems simple, a scene setting only, but as we read the rest of the haiku, it’s worth circling back to line one to appreciate the heft it brings to the rest of the poem. In autumn leaves lose their ability to photosynthesise, so colour up and fall (die); it is the season of harvest (in this case of a human); the season when the verdant growth of spring and summer withers and decays. From all this, we might deduce we are mourning a man in his prime. And we can certainly read ‘rain’ as literal rain and metaphorical tears. The ellipses, meanwhile, has the effect of slowing us down as we enter the main part of the haiku, as well as graphically representing raindrops/tears.

The body that grew inside the poet’s for nine months, that relied on hers for nourishment and oxygen, is now ashes. And she fervently wishes she could protect and hold him again, as she did before he was born and many times after. It’s not possible to ‘reanimate’ a dead body and the poet has accepted this – she is not longing for her son to come back to life. Instead, her thoughts have led her to a particular desire, the sort we might find in a Greek myth that is as much curse as solution. She would turn herself into a stone womb for her child and be his protector for evermore.

Second Place

pottery class
i remember what
i am made of                                                          

– Alvin B. Cruz, The Philippines 

Abrahamic tradition (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) relates that God created Adam, the first human, from ‘the dust of the ground’. After the disobedience of Adam and Eve, who was formed from one of Adam’s ribs, God curses Adam, and all of humanity, to die and return to the earth from which he was formed.

Here our narrator – who is in the act of creation – is considering the malleable wet clay beneath his fingers, his mind apparently turning, just as his pottery wheel is spinning or as the layers of a hand-built piece of pottery grow, and making the link between the vessel he is building and the vessel of his own body. The hum of several wheels working in the studio-classroom, and the concentration required to make a plate, mug or bowl, may be adding to his meditative state.

There is an echo of ‘feet of clay’ to be enjoyed too – the pot being made, depending upon the skill of the potter, may end up with a fundamental flaw, perhaps reflecting something the potter feels about himself.

The ancient craft of pottery is a humble one, as are many hand-made vessels. The poet acknowledges his place in the web of life with the lower-case repeating ‘i’ emphasising his own humility – he is not placing himself (and his ego) above the clay he is using. The poem’s words have been chosen carefully and the repeating soft ‘m’ sounds support an overall effect of quietude.

A deeply satisfying haiku on many levels.

Third Place

rattling wind chimes
a breath of sea air
begins its journey                                                 

– Barrie Levine, USA

A lovely sensory haiku using sound and touch with ‘rattling’ a grand onomatopoeic start, and with lots of hard and soft sounds within the poem to imitate both the rattling and the gentle puff of air. The poet invites us to make this moment our own by not offering detail about the wind chimes. Are they metal or wood? In a verandah or a tree? We are allowed to hear whatever melodious sound we like before we move on to discover we’re at the beach (so the wind chimes may be home-made from beach finds).

We can intuit that it’s been a hot, still day, ‘not a breath of wind’, and now the merest hint of briny air is ruffling through the chimes and across our skin, signalling the start of a welcome sea breeze. Anyone who has visited or lived in tropical climes will know well the delicious moment when a late afternoon / evening breeze begins – in Western Australia the phenomenon even has its own name, ‘The Doctor’, for the relief it brings.

The science of a sea breeze is that it is caused by the uneven rates at which land and sea heat and cool – during the day a cool breeze flows from the ocean to the land; at night cool air flows from the land offshore. The poetry of this particular sea breeze is that we witness the moment of its birth – able to see it and hear it, thanks to the wind chimes, before it rolls out towards the ocean, gathering strength as it goes, continuing the cycle that is as old as the planet itself.

Highly Commended

blue sky 
you know the rest                                                 

– Tony Beyer, New Plymouth

when sunlight
becomes moonlight
an owl’s echo                                                         

– Brad Bennett, USA

gust of wind I am grass                                        

– Stefanie Bucifal, Germany

in my shadow
a soundless flock
of shadows                                                              

– Scott Wiggerman, USA

ravens on snow
it’s not all
black and white                                                     

– Jay Friedenberg, USA


the birthmark
that grew with me
plum blossoms                   

– Engin Gülez, Turkey

twilight . . .
a heron soars
to the first star                                                       

– Barrie Levine, USA

autumn breeze
ruffles the reeds…
almost birdsong                                                    

– Neena Singh, India

night pond
a buck hooks
the moon                                                                


tree house
the old oak remembers
Matilda by heart                                                    

– Vandana Parashar, India

sun shower passing
a hillside shimmers
into birdsong

– Marietta McGregor, Australia

skipping a chapter
now and then 
summer breeze                                                     

– Helge Harle, Sweden

Best Local Haiku

spring sun      swallows                 and

– Cathie Bullock, Waihi

This haiku delighted me from the moment I read it, with the poet ably translating the darting, skimming movements of the swallows on to paper to create a visual poem, as well as a word poem. The spring sun is welcome after a long winter – I can imagine its warmth on my face as I watch, with the narrator, these delightful birds enjoying a feast on the wing. Haiku are sometimes described as ‘wordless poems’, that is, the words fall away and we, as readers, share (experience) the moment being described. This is a fine example of a ‘wordless poem’.

Highly Commended

Almost spring
Three young sparrows sitting in a line
On a line

– Pat Watson, Katikati