Haiku doldrums

My writing has taken a back seat lately – and not just the back seat in a car, the back seat in a big bus! – so as the days lengthen I’m trying to kick start the brain and limber up the ‘haiku muscle’ in a variety of ways.

New books

I’ll write something more about the first two soon but can recommend all of them – and in my experience reading good haiku is invaluable towards writing good haiku.

Scott Mason is one of my favourite haiku poets so when he sent a note to say he has a new book out, imagine my delight. But it’s not quite a collection of his own work or at least not only a collection of his own work for Scott has produced a magnificent volume based on his thinking about haiku. If you’re quick The Wonder Code has a special pricing offer available until November 30.

The book is divided into themed chapters about haiku, each with a selection of poems previously published in The Heron’s Nest, followed by a ‘Solo Exhibition’ of his own work.

  slave burial ground
a mourning dove
         we can only hear

– Scott Mason

Carolyn Hall, another of my favourite haiku poets, has produced her fourth collection, Calculus of Daylilies, which doesn’t appear to contain a dud! Wish I knew how she did that – and how she makes many of her haiku so darn relevant.

cockleburs
the court reaffirms
open carry

– Carolyn Hall

Read more about cockleburs (Xanthium strumarium), a plant native to the Americas and eastern Asia.

The last of my new books I discovered by accident, reading something on the net that led to something else where I clicked on … well, I can’t remember now but the upshot was small clouds by Iza Boa Nyx, a 2016 collection of haiku, tanka and prose that is dedicated to her mother Jane Reichhold and which examines Jane’s sudden death and her ensuing grief and mourning.

It would be easy for the book to be maudlin and self-indulgent, the poems primal screams of pain. But the author has produced a slim volume that is essentially a series of linked haibun, although nowhere is it described as such. The prose acts not only as head-notes for poems that would otherwise be untethered on the page but also holds the book together as the story progresses from “At midnight she told me that our mother had killed herself” to “The peace of knowing that this life is all that it will be is echoed in the late summer heat that seems to stupefy even the lizards”.

cumulus, nimbus
cirrus, stratus and fog
all kinds of clouds
in the week of your wake
not knowing what to say

– Iza Boa Nyx

Recent publication

Presence 59 has wound its way from the UK recently and, as always, is packed full of good reading.

right where
the universe goes
fireflies

– Gary Hotham

an owl’s empire
the flecks of light
in snow

– Alan Summers

meteor night –
shaking the star chart
out of its folds

– Richard Tindall

wet spring –
in a box by the fire
a small bleat

– Sandra Simpson

Not so recent, but something I’d not seen until now …  the results of the last Setouchi Matsuyama Photo Haiku Contest include an Award for this combination of my own image with my own haiku (there’s also a section where supplied photos act as prompts for haiku).

waka-ama haiga - Copy

I took the photo standing on the lawn of a friend’s home in Apia, Samoa. The waka-ama guys paddled one way, then the other – and catching sight of me dug deep, then howled with laughter, stopped paddling and waved! Waka-ama, or outrigger canoes, are used throughout the Pacific as sea-going vessels although in Aotearoa New Zealand the outrigger gradually disappeared. These days, waka-ama has also become a team sport.

You have until November 30 to enter this year’s Setouchi Matsuyama Photo Contest so get going!

And I’ve had my first haiku appear in Akitsu Quarterly, a print journal edited by Robin White in New Hampshire, US. Among them is

burn-off season –
riding home on the back
of a grey truck

– Sandra Simpson

Writing with a buddy

We’re going at our own pace and exchanging whatever we have. We can comment, or not, on the other’s haiku, we can chat about the weather, we can leave the exchange for days … the main thing, for both of us, is that we’re actually writing, instead of worrying about not writing. Fingers crossed.

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Recent publications

Just a quick update now the Tauranga Arts Festival is over and Haiku NewZ updated …

thundery twilight –
rising above the wallow
water buffalo

– Sandra Simpson, Presence 58 

How long before a haiku works its way to the surface? I saw the scene described on the outskirts of Lahore, Pakistan, in 1988. I’ve tried writing it before, but never very successfully and I’ve never submitted any of the previous versions.

The following ‘photo haiku’ appeared on the NHK Haiku Masters Gallery in October:

The image was taken in Shiraz, Iran in April this year, fittingly in the garden of Hafez, the famous Persian poet. The haiku was written in response to the photo.

Recent publications

I’ve received two Honourable Mentions in the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Invitational, a lovely surprise.

taking his nap outside
my father returns
with blossom in his hair

Te Apiti Wind Farm, Manawatu, New Zealand. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Four haiku appear in Kokako 27 which came out last month.

scudding rain –
the wind turbines
harvest cloud

And one haiku has been published in Frogpond 40.2.

desert rain –
at first the rocks unsure
of the tune

Four seasons in one day

Changeable spring weather has been to the fore this year – just today I have personally experienced bright sunshine, strong winds, lashing rain, hail, heat and cold. Ah, we think, as the sun breaks through, that’s the rain gone then …

I was standing outside a garden centre café, fortunately under a verandah roof, chatting to a friend I’d bumped into at lunchtime when it started to hail! To the end of August we’d already had more rain than the yearly average (1344mm) so it’s on track to be one of the wettest years since records began in 1898.

Instead of moaning, thought I’d seek out and share some themed haiku from my bookshelf.

cloudburst
the sound of raindrops
changing size

– Susan Constable
(Naad Anunaad, an anthology of contemporary world haiku, 2017)

holding a knife
I feast my eyes
on a rain shower

– Momoko Tsuji (b 1945)
(Far Beyond the Field, haiku by Japanese women, 2003)

left out
in the hailstorm
a pogo stick

– Alan Pizzarelli
(Fire in the Treetops, celebrating 25 years of Haiku North America, 2015)

uncertain sky
the dark centre
of the ram’s eye

– Pamela Brown
(another country, haiku poetry from Wales, 2011)

cold blue sky
coughing up
a couple of clouds

– John Stevenson
(quiet enough, 2004)

shaking
the packet of seeds
asking, are you still alive?

Kiyoko Tokutomi (1928-2003)
(Haiku Mind, 108 poems to cultivate awareness & open your heart, 2008)

spring rain –
speaking of the dead
in a softer voice

– Chad Lee Robinson
(The Deep End of the Sky, 2015)

Catching up, mostly

I’ve been drowning in a sea of paper for the past few weeks – actual paper, emails, newspaper clippings, what-have-you – plus trying to replace photos on this site and my other blog, Sandra’s Garden. I’ve felt guilty, fed-up and anxious in about equal measure.

But here we are, it’s Friday afternoon, I’ve met a couple of deadlines and although the temperature is falling quickly, there has been some nice sunshine today.

To help things along this week I’ve received a copy of Presence 58 from the UK, a copy of the anthology Naad Anunaad from India, and a lovely (and very kind) submission prompt from the editor of a large-ish journal. Still to read the printed matter and enjoying the anticipation.

Also, some of my work has seen the light of day – the results of two competitions I judged in June, plus their associated commentary. The New Zealand Poetry Society International Haiku Contest, and the Peggy Willis Lyles Haiku Award were kind enough to invite me to judge their contests but maybe I won’t do two at once again!

I can finally share the news that I received an Honourable Mention in this year’s Robert Spiess Memorial Haiku Award:

summer solstice —
pulling the earth
back round a zinnia

– Sandra Simpson

Plus an Honourable Mention in the AHA Memorial Award:

garden argument —
a hummingbird pokes
its nose in

– Sandra Simpson

I’m not sure if the judge’s report will be published online, so append the comments of Bette Norcross Wappner here:

Typically a garden would be an unlikely place for an argument but this author portrays a real-life occurrence. Is this garden in their backyard or is it in a public garden? Is there just one person in this scene arguing with someone on their cell phone? Perhaps two people have decided to take their argument outdoors unknown to them what might be flying their way! Line two swiftly takes our attention by changing the rhythm from a noisy argument to the silence and stillness of a curious, hovering hummingbird. Is the hummingbird poking its nose into a blossom or a hummingbird feeder? In the last line we can assume the amazing miracle of a tiny bird has stopped the negative energy of an argument. I see two people standing there in a summer garden dumbfounded by the power of mother nature, like the power of our own mother, pointing her finger to stop her children arguing. You may be tempted to associate to that of a nosy neighbour poking their nose into someone’s business, but to the sweet and synchronistic timing of this small creature. Well done!

And I’ve at last caught up with the fact that my Haiku this Photo entry to the NHK Haiku Masters series (Japan) was one of two runners-up!

first date –
we agree to meet
in the open

– Sandra Simpson

This particular episode took place on July 17 at the Yamadera Basho Memorial Museum. For some reason I can’t fathom there is no video available, but the gallery is here.

Blowing up Balloons

Blowing up Balloons by Vanessa Proctor and Gregory Piko ($US15 from Red Moon Press, 2017), 94 pages of haiku. Available from Vanessa or Greg, $A24 (including postage to New Zealand) through PayPal.

Two Australian haiku poets have together produced a delightful collection of haiku and senryu and done some clever marketing with their subtitle, ‘baby poems for parents’, as it won’t alienate anyone who becomes fearful at the terms ‘haiku’ and/or ‘senryu’.

The risk with such a venture is the cloying sentimentality that often surrounds the production of small humans but Proctor and Piko steer clear of the trap with poems that share the moments of joy – and occasional panic and/or tedium –  that make up parenthood.

For some pregnancy is a shock, for others a planned event. But it can often be nine months that veer, for both parents, from contentment to terror as B-Day approaches.

sleepless night
we pack the hospital bag
again

 

he leans the parenting book
                    toward the fairy light

Dr Spock, Penelope Leach and their ilk can teach new parents the why of how to care for a baby but they can’t address the imponderables – what you feel when you hold a fragile being in your arms, how to keep hold of a slippery infant in a bath, who to call on for help (anyone) and when to, well, do anything …

Bedsides all the dramas, large and small, and feelings of inadequacy, any parent (or grandparent) also knows about the unexpected humour that comes from having a tiny person with a sponge for a brain.

mothers’ night out
we all head home
at nine

 

parking ticket
my toddler wants
one too

None of the poems, which are presented one to a page, carry an author name nor are the poems assigned to an author in end notes. At first I found this slightly odd but after dipping in and out realised it may be a way of giving equal weighting to the roles of mother and father, and that both experiences and points of view are valid. And while some poems are gender specific, many are not which gives Blowing Up Balloons (BUB) a nice, cohesive feel.

baby’s balloon
floats above the bed …
were you inside me?

 

breakfast
throwing up
baby names

Cover art and internal colour art (which resemble balloons and separate roughly thematic sections arranged by baby’s development) is by Proctor.

my son
blowing up balloons
just to hear them fart

Some of the haiku/senryu have been published before, but there are also plenty that are being published for the first time.

and yet ….
only breast milk
went in

 

summer clouds
my children see dinosaurs
in everything

While many of the poems are gentle and revel in the magic of babies and childhood, neither of the authors is sentimental about the job of parenting – dirty work, long hours and no (cash) payment.

fresh celery
trying not to snap
at each other

 

before breakfast
pacing the streets
with pram and dog

Both authors are accomplished, award-winning haiku poets and together have produced a collection that will be hard to beat. Blowing Up Balloons is that rare thing, a book firmly rooted in reality that is nonetheless filled with love and is a joy from beginning to end.

It would be a delightful gift for anyone expecting a child or those with young children (so buy two and keep one). I hear you saying that the latter may not have enough time to enjoy it but I reply that among the attractions of haiku are its brevity and portability. Waiting for school to come out? Read a haiku or two. Nap time? Read a haiku or two (then get some kip yourself).

Visit Greg Piko’s website.

Werner Reichhold 1925-2017

Received the sad news yesterday that Werner Reichhold had died on June 21, the summer solstice in the United States. He was the husband of the late Jane Reichhold, who chose to end her life last July and Jane’s daughter Heidi tells me that Werner also chose the time of his passing.

Werner and Jane Reichhold, pictured at their home in July last year. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Werner, who was born in Germany, would have been 92 on July 18. A prisoner of war in Egypt during World War 2, Werner began exhibiting as a sculptor in 1955 (winning awards in the 1960s) with his final participation in an exhibition in 1995. His art work was exhibited throughout Europe, including at the Musee Rodin in Paris, and in Japan, Canada and the US.

He and Jane founded and co-edited Lynx journal (2000-2014), and published one of the first anthologies of English-language tanka – Wind Five-Folded – in 1994. They also explored other genres of poetry, including what they termed ‘symbiotic poetry’ and published anthologies such as A Film of Words (the link takes you to Jane and Werner’s description of the book).

Haiku by Werner Reichhold at the Gualala Arts Centre Haiku Walk. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The couple were penpals for 4 years before meeting and when Jane decided to go to Germany she suggested they exchange photographs – without discussing it, they each chose a third grade photo (9 years old) to send. And when they exchanged wedding gifts, it turned out they’d bought each other the same thing! The couple moved to Gualala, California from Germany in 1987 and lived there until their deaths.

Read Werner’s selection of his favourite German haiku (with translations).