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)

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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.

Disappearing photos

Apologies for the disappearing photos on this site – Photobucket, which has been hosting my online images since 2012, has suddenly decided to block ‘third party hosting’ unless I pay $US400 a year for the privilege! As they’re saying on the rest of the net, it sounds like a) a ransom demand and, b) a good way to go out of business …

Apparently I can still download from Photobucket so, given time, this site should be rectified, but it won’t be quickly.

(Third party hosting means the images reside at Photobucket with a link embedded here making them visible.)

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).

Postcard from Iran

Shiraz is one of Iran’s jewels and while in that city we visited the shrine of Khwāja Šamsu d-Dīn Muḥammad Hāfez-e Šīrāzī, the poet better known as Hafez (1326-1390), an honorific bestowed on him after he learned the Koran by heart as a child.

Hafez wrote poems about love which, according to what I’ve read, are almost impossible to translate into English because of their inherent mysticism – however, he is one of Iran’s best-loved poets and people know his poems off by heart. A recording of a dulcet-toned man reading poems (in Farsi) that was being played over loudspeakers in the garden had a beautiful rhythm and I even caught a rhyme or two. (Hafez said of his own poetry, when questioned, that “my poems lift the corners of the mouth – the soul’s mouth, the heart’s mouth …”.)

The Hafez garden in Shiraz. The poet’s sarcophagus is under the dome. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The garden was busy with visitors enjoying the many flowering, potted plants and visiting the poet’s sarcophagus inscribed with calligraphy. We decided to take advantage of the tea-house in the corner of the garden … unfortunately, it was playing loud Iranian pop music. Bit of a mood shatterer. (Our guide told them they should be ashamed of drowning out Hafez poetry with such stuff – they turned it down a slight notch!)

Goethe translated Hafez and, after much study of the Persian’s works, said “Hafez has no peer”! There is a long tradition of consulting Hafez in times of need – even Queen Victoria is said to have done it – with a reader treating his books as an oracle and opening them with a deep wish from their soul for guidance. Read more here in a BBC Culture story.

The sarcophagus of Hafez. Photo: Sandra Simpson

I mentioned to our guide that Omar Khayyam is probably the best-known Persian poet in the West but she said in Iran Hafez, Rumi (1207-1273) and Saadi (c1200-1292) all rank above Omar Kahayyam (1048-1131), who is better known there as a mathematician and astronomer. Saadi, whose tomb is also in Shiraz, has a verse about the unity of all peoples from his 1258 poem Bustan inscribed on the United Nations building in New York – the opening lines are:

The sons of man are limbs of one another,
Created of the same stuff, and none other.

A friendly free library

The Little Free Library movement began in the United States in 2009 when a Wisconsin man built one to honour his late mother who had loved books and, despite some carping by city officials in the Los Angeles and Shreveport areas, it’s still going strong. (I previously posted about finding one in Prairie City, Oregon, and adding my book of haiku.)

I was following the ‘5 Rules of Travel Photography’ suggested by ace Tauranga photographer Kim Westerskov when in Natanz, Iran recently:

  • Photograph what you came to see (the Jame Mosque)
  • Shoot context
  • Shoot detail
  • Shoot people
  • Turn around and see what’s behind you …
natanz-jamemosque

What we came to see: The portal of the Jame Mosque in Natanz is dated 1317 but the rest of the mosque mainly dates from the post-Mongol period of about 1450-1500. Photo: Sandra Simpson

I turned around and saw a red-and-white-sign on a wall announcing in English: Armaghan’s Free Friendly Library. Beneath the sign was a beautifully painted metal cabinet, the sort found in many schools and offices, that when opened contained shelves of books! Well done, that person (or indeed, business) and I’m sorry I can’t tell you any more about it.

Photo: Sandra Simpson

WordPress, by the way, is one of the several sites blocked in Iran, hence a lack of updates as I travelled.