What is love?

A moving prose poem about love by the ever-erudite Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith, from Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers (Polygon, 2013). His paragraphs are not usually this long!

And it did not matter who or what it was that we loved. Auden said that when he was a boy he loved a pumping engine and thought it every bit as beautiful as the ‘you’ whom he later addressed. We loved people because they were beautiful or witty or smiled in a way that made us smile; we loved them because they spoke or walked in a certain way or because they had a dimple in exactly the right place; we loved them because they loved us or, sadly, because they did not love us; we loved them because they had a way of looking at things, or because there was a certain light in their eyes that reminded us of the sunlight you saw caught in a rock pool on a Hebridean Island; or because they wore a kilt or black jeans or a Shetland sweater or could recite Burns or play the guitar or knew how to make bread or were kind to us and tolerated us and our ways and our stubborn refusal to stop loving them. There were so many reasons for loving somebody else; so many; and it made no sense to sit and think about whether it was a good idea or not because love was like a bolt of lightning that came from a great cumulonimbus cloud that was far too great for us to blow it away; and it struck and we just had to accept it and get on with the business of trying to exist while all the time there was this great wave of longing within us like a swell in the sea, one of those great rolling waves that comes in off the Atlantic and hits Ardnamurchan and cannot be fought against, because fighting love like that is hopeless and you should just go under and let it wash over you and hope that when you come out from under the wave you will still be breathing and that you have not drowned, as people could – they could drown in love, just drown.

Although I don’t bother with the retail aspect of Valentine’s Day, it is nice sometimes to reflect on love, this strangest – and strongest – of emotions and today is as good a day as any.

unfinished sampler
the small hearts
not yet crossed

Holli Rainwater, from Another Trip Around the Sun anthology

Newly in love –
so many things I
refrain from mentioning

Phillip Rowland, from Stepping Stones anthology

harvest dance –
the way I still fit
your arms

Sandra Simpson
from Building a time machine (NZ Poetry Society anthology, 2012)

a shooting star –
in love, not knowing
where it will lead

Madoka Mayuzumi, from Haiku Love anthology

Prolonged heat

Gosh, but it’s hot. A run of daily temperatures over 30°C has come on top of a run of temperatures in the late 20s, and there’s been no rain to speak of for weeks – and none forecast either! The countryside that was so green in December is now a crispy brown. In a terrible twist the coronavirus means our meat isn’t being shipped to China (no one to unload it, let alone buy it) so freezing works are refusing to take animals, right as the drought bites and at a time when farmers traditionally relieve the feed burden on their properties by lowering stock numbers. Hard times ahead.

Yes, it’s summer in New Zealand and we should expect some hot weather but our summers aren’t usually so unbearable … except that last year was as well. And there are still fools denying climate change is a thing. As someone said recently, they tend to be older men who have ended up at a website full of dubious ‘facts’ and shonky ‘research’ and are now convinced humans have nothing to do with world’s weather becoming more extreme and refuse to ‘do their bit’, all the while being utterly unreachable by anyone with a bit of sense. Bah!

Now that’s off my chest, let’s read some haiku.

Another Trip Around the Sun: 365 days of haiku for children young and old, edited by Jessica Malone Latham (Brooks Books US) features a poem for every day of the year (orientated for the northern seasons so I’m transposing them).

January/July 6

smell of the heat –
I snip a little dill
for the cucumbers

Ellen Compton (US)

February/August 3

summer walk
the length of
a fudgesicle

Jacqui Pearce (Canada)

February/August 19

summer garden
taking inventory
one bite at a time

Jeff Hoagland (US)

March /September 1

bursting out
from every hedge –
naked ladies

Sandra Simpson (NZ)

Naked ladies, by the way, are Amaryllis Belladonna, a bulb that flowers without leaves.

A copy of Windfall 8 landed in my letterbox today. This small annual publication is edited by Beverley George and features the work of Australian poets. Subscriptions for outside Australia are $A25 for two issues (ie, two years), payment in Australian currency to Peter Macrow, 6/16 Osborne St, Sandy Bay, TAS 7005, Australia.

Sadly, Australia has been having its own battles with a changing climate this summer.

invisible
in a charcoal landscape
this black snake

Helen Taylor

drought
the scratchings of a cockatoo
on the guttering

Kieran O’Connor

shooting star
a minute’s silence
for the earth

Hazel Hall

I’ll finish with a small selection from the Summer chapter of number eight wire, the fourth New Zealand haiku anthology (only a few copies left, be in quick).

bobbing up the riverbank
the dust of a rabbit
skipping stones

Marion Moxham

blowfly!
being your friend
isn’t easy

Dick Whyte

Pohutukawa tree stamp image courtesy NZ Post

end of summer
scarlet stamens in the folds
of my tent

Elaine Riddell

Merry Christmas & Haiku Wishes

My very best seasonal greetings to all those who pop in to and read this blog – some of you will celebrate Christmas, some won’t, but I hope that if you live somewhere that has a holiday just now that you have a peaceful and safe time, and a healthy, prosperous and productive 2020.

Here is a selection of seasonal haiku which I hope you’ll enjoy.

long wait backstage –
the evil giant reads
a self-improvement book

Catherine Bullock, number eight wire

moonlight
the pear tree
turns to tinsel

Shirley May, number eight wire

Christmas Eve –
the neighbour comes round
to borrow some data

Owen Bullock, number eight wire

number eight wire: the fourth New Zealand haiku anthology was launched in March, one of the highlights of my haiku year (I’m co-editor). We have only a few copies left but we’d love to have no copies so if you’d like to read more haiku by New Zealand writers (70 of them of all ages), please read the ordering details here.

Christmas Eve
searching for the beginning
of the Scotch tape

Alan S Bridges, Another Trip Around the Sun

sleigh bells
the hayloft rustles
with deer mice

Debbie Strange, Another Trip Around the Sun

Another Trip Around the Sun: 365 days of haiku for children young and old, edited by Jessica Malone Latham, was published by Brooks Books in November. Click on the link for further information.

the Christmas
after we told him
artificial tree

Joe McKeon, A New Resonance 10

Christmas light test
trying to untangle
last year

Deborah P Kolodji, A New Resonance 4

The New Resonance poems have been taken from the reading done at this year’s Haiku North America conference – How I Found my Voice Again – which celebrated every poet  in the biennial collections that gather new voices in haiku and are published by Jim Kacian’s Red Moon Press. The reading, which featured some of the poets present and others represented by Julie Warther, was filmed. Click on the link above to see/hear it. The most recent iteration of the series is A New Resonance 11.

Reviews: Reeves & Cooper

field of stars is the second collection from Tasmanian poet Lyn Reeves, the former longtime associate editor of Famous Reporter, and now editor of the online journal of Australian haiku, Echidna Tracks.

Having previously stated that she’s interested in ‘writing about place’, Lyn has put together a collection that is at once personal, loving and quietly observant of the world around her. Some of the poems are, naturally, those of Australia and its unique flora and fauna, but just as many are universal.

in sparse scrub
the honeyeater’s wing
flashes yellow

overcast sky
the light
from a single dandelion

field of stars doesn’t have any chapter separations, yet there is a gentle narrative flow that makes turning the pages easy. The poems include a selection from collaborations Lyn has had with two visual artists, Luke Wagner and Megan Walch, although these aren’t separately identified.

I very much like the layout of the book with the haiku getting plenty of room to breathe – alternating pages contain two poems or a single haiku – which also gives the reader space to ponder and let the poems settle in.

on the lawn
four striped deck chairs
taking the sun

wildlife park
the echidna
paces its cage

This collection contains examples, and adroit ones at that, of haiku mined from both the smallest of ‘indoor’ habits set against what is at times a more ‘masculine’ outdoors.

in the boiling kettle
a rumble
of distant waves

red sunrise
the bulldozer’s engine
revs up

Lyn has a perceptive eye and is to be congratulated for bringing to fruition such a solid set of haiku that will be enjoyed around the world.

winter creek
a rumour
of platypus

Fellow Tasmanian haiku poet Ron C Moss writes on the back cover: “This is a collection to be kept close and cherished for the many celebrations of what it is to be a part of nature.”

field of stars is available from publisher Walleah Press, or via online book outlets. My copy was supplied to me by the author. ISBN 978-1-877010-91-0

moon music is Bill Cooper’s sixth collection of haiku published through Red Moon Press and is a typical example of Red Moon’s smaller-size books. My disclaimer with this book is that I was asked to provide a blurb for the back cover and did so.

Bill has divided his collection into ‘nodding terms’, ‘slow carousel’, ‘trombone smile, ‘entering Bogalusa’ and ‘a looping strand’.His poems are a mixture of haiku and senryu, set out as in the book above, and some of them very sharply observed indeed.

clouds the tug of a mating horseshoe crab

 

dawn fog
an egret sharpens her beak
on a rock

His sense of humour is never far from the surface, sometimes hearty, sometimes wry.

steam room
thinking less and less
about less

mid-gargle
a shift in pitch
breaking news

Bill is an emeritus professor and has published books and articles on cognitive science, international relations and higher education. When it comes to his haiku and senryu he wears his learning lightly and the poems are all the better for it.

after neurology
comparing thin slices
of strawberry

slow river
a mallard circles the rim
of a cooling tower

One of the other contributors to the back cover is Ce Rosenow: “Through … an unflinching commitment to write what is and not what we wish could be, Bill Cooper reminds us of haiku’s emotional power.”

ISBN 978-1-947271-45-6.

Pathway visitors

Had a lovely morning wandering/riding the Haiku Pathway in Katikati with a group of locals and some visitors.

From left: Steve Clarkson (Taupo), Shirley May (Tauranga), Ben Clarkson (Dunedin/Taupo), Garry Astle (NSW, Australia), Margaret Beverland (Katikati), Laurel Astle (NSW, Australia) and Bob Edwards (Katikati). Front: Catherine Mair and her racing machine! Photo: Sandra Simpson

Lovely weather for a stroll, followed by a lovely lunch and throughout all interesting conversation! Can’t ask for more.

The Haiku Pathway will next year celebrate its 20th birthday. Read about its  development here,

Haiku rant on The Spinoff

Peeved by the ‘haiku’ The Spinoff website ran in March as a Friday Poem – how many poets submit for that slot and how many are rejected, and they print 11 short poems, some of them quite shouty, that bear no relation to haiku – I approached the Books editors about writing something to redress the balance.

To my delight, they were welcoming. The piece has been published today (I don’t think the fact that it’s Halloween has any meaning) with the author of the original ‘haiku’ having right of reply.

Read my piece here, which includes a link to the original poems. I must say my rant has been building for some time so it feels good to have it out there!

The right of reply has been posted and it’s about as dismissive as I expected and seemed not to get the point at all. Ah well.

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.