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.


Tauranga Arts Festival writers

The Tauranga Arts Festival is rapidly approaching so thought I’d alert you to the Writers section of the programme (and here’s the disclaimer – I’m both the programmer and the festival publicist).

Writer events take place over two weekends – October 21-23 (Labour Weekend) and October 28-29. Day passes are available for $60, meaning one session is free.

If you do come be sure to make yourself known to me!

October 21
A Secret Life: Australian writer Kate Grenville talks to Kate De Goldi about both her fiction (The Secret River trilogy) and her more recent non-fiction (My Mother’s Story and The Case Against Fragrance).

Acorn Winners: Stephen Daisley (2016, Coming Rain) and Catherine Chidgey (2017, The Wish Child) talk to Kate De Goldi about their books and the prize – at $50,000 the richest prize for literary fiction in New Zealand.

Lives on The Line: Diana Wichtel (Driving to Treblinka) and Phil Jarratt (Life of Brine) talk to Sandra Simpson about their newly published memoirs. Diana’s is about her search for information about her father’s life as a Holocaust survivor and his lonely death in Canada, while Phil’s rollicking read is a no-holds-barred account of a life in newsrooms and on the waves.

Wise Child: Catherine Chidgey and Kate De Goldi talk to Tracey Slaughter about using a child’s point of view to tell a story that deals with the big issues – war, grief, dementia – while maintaining a certain innocence.

October 22
Puddle Jumping: Kate Grenville (Australia), Stephen Daisley (an expat Kiwi who lives in Australia) and Catherine Chidgey (a New Zealander who has lived in Germany) talk to Kate De Goldi about why there is so little interaction in the written arts across the Tasman.

The Sting: Art historian Penelope Jackson takes us on an illustrated tour of New Zealand art crime.

A Dog’s Life: Dame Lynley Dodd talks to Penelope Jackson about a life in picture books – it’s been 34 years since Hairy Maclary stepped out of Donaldson’s Dairy – to mark this month’s publication of her latest, Scarface Claw, Hold Tight!

Alternative Facts: Professor Jonathan Boston (Safeguarding the Future: Governing in an Uncertain World) and business journalists Bernard Hickey and Rod Oram discuss a world where the lines between truth and lies are being deliberately blurred for political gain.

October 23
Sea Fever: Award-winning poet Bob Orr spent most of his working life on the water – last year retiring after 35 years with the Ports of Auckland as a pilot boat master – jotting ideas in his downtime. Australian Phil Jarratt has spent most of his long career in journalism writing about surfing and is a three-time recipient of the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame Media Award.

October 24
The Story Only I Can Tell: Renowned Australian photographer William Yang has turned his documentary photographs into deeply personal visual presentations – this one about his family and his life growing up as a third-generation Australian-Chinese. William is also working with 4 migrants to Tauranga to help them tell their stories.

October 28
The Great War for New Zealand: Historian Vincent O’Malley talks to Guyon Espiner about his seminal work that looks at the 19th century Land Wars in Waikato and the effect they’ve had right up to the 21st century.

Our Place to Stand: Six New Zealanders have 7 minutes each to talk about identity and belonging. Shamubeel Eaqub (born in Bangladesh, raised in Samoa), Helene Wong (raised in Wellington), Que Bidois (Tauranga Moana), Vincent O’Malley (of Irish and Scots descent); Paula Morris (English mother and Maori father); and Jeanette Fitzsimons (lived in Switzerland and co-owns a farm with a family of Israeli migrants).

Scarlet Foxgloves: Karyn Hay and Lindsey Dawson talk to Paula Morris about their historical novels, both published last year, which are both largely set in 19th century Tauranga.

Sleeps Standing: Witi Ihimaera and Hemi Kelly have broken new ground with the fact-fiction Sleeps Standing Moetu, the story of the 1864 Battle of Orakau, near Te Awamutu. Hemi has translated Witi’s novella into te reo Maori and translated Maori eyewitness accounts into English for the first time.
October 29
Memoirs are Made of This: Helene Wong (Being Chinese) and Witi Ihimaera (Maori Boy) talk to Paula Morris about the art of autobiography.

Paved with Good Intentions: Guyon Espiner leads a discussion on the state of our nation with economist Shamubeel Eaqub, former Green Party co-leader and environmental activist Jeanette Fitzsimons and business journalist Rod Oram.

Your Nuts & Bolts: Phil Gifford talks to Tony Wall about his Kiwi men’s health manual published this year – and why men should be waking up to themselves when it comes to their health.

Fiction Boot Camp with Paula Morris: Your chance to polish the skills needed for publication. Paula is an award-winning writer and has taught creative writing in the US, the UK and now in New Zealand.

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.

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)

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.

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


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?


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.