Recent publications

Gusting wind and rain have made this an inside sort of day – after some beautiful autumn weather this past week it’s a bit of a shock to have the light on at 3pm!

Kokako 28 is out, featuring a cover image I took in an autumnal Kyoto garden in 2016. It shows a woman in tabi (one-toe socks), Japanese-style Jandals (flip-flops) and the bottom part of a kimono with a maple-leaf pattern.

The journal features four of my haiku, including:

empty sky –
the lambs kneel to drink
what’s left

bedtime story –
we skip the issues
of patriarchy

I was particularly struck by this following haiku, partly because I can never make up my mind to do this:

coral bleaching
I erase another name
from my address book

– Seren Fargo

While the one below makes me feel like I’ve walked part-way into a story that could go either way, a definite whiff of Tom Waits:

the man with pencilled eyebrows
orders a triple shot

– Owen Bullock

Find out how to subscribe, and submit, to Kokako.

Presence 60, another print journal has also arrived recently. As well as carrying tidings of the 2017 Martin Lucas Haiku Award winners, it also carries a full-length book’s worth of haiku, tanka and haibun. Submission and subscription details here.

thinking autumn holds no more surprises sweet gum

– Beverley Acuff Momoi

We’re not this far into autumn yet, but slowly, slowly we’re heading towards peak colour. Last year we planted a dwarf Liquidamber (for that’s what a sweet gum is) called ‘Gum Ball’ but I don’t think we’re going to get much colour off it this year after the dry summer bled into autumn.

summer heat
the click of beetles
on the lino

– Andre Surridge

In December we spent the weekend with friends at a 60th birthday, lots of fun, lots of talk and plenty of recreation, including petanque (boules).

sixtieth birthday —
the sheen of petanque balls
tossed into the night

– Sandra Simpson

Years ago I played doubles petanque in The Netherlands with a friend who played competitively, against his regular playing partner and Haiku Husband. Great fun and something I’ve always fancied taking up. Better get cracking, eh?


Martin Lucas Haiku Award

Excited beyond belief to learn that not only have I won the Martin Lucas Haiku Award but have also been placed Third equal and received a Commended! Many thanks to the organisers and to judge Simon Chard for supporting my haiku and his comments.

skylark song – 
the name on her headstone
almost gone

– Sandra Simpson, 1st

harriet simpson grave - Copy

The grave of my great-great grandmother Harriet Simpson inspired the winning haiku. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Read the judge’s comments on all the winning poems.

sickle moon –  
somewhere, his name
on the Menin Gate

– Sandra Simpson, 3rd equal

Oddly, it was only after I saw the results that I realised these two haiku were so close in tone and content! I’m going to visit the Menin Gate this year, and will try and find one headstone in Ypres/one name on the Menin Gate among the many. Although my family has no  blood connection to this man, he named one of my great-grandmothers as his next-of-kin and we have kept the black-edged telegrams and his medals. I’m not sure he would have had anybody else visit.

thunder close by – 
a shearer holds his comb
to the emery wheel

– Sandra Simpson, Commended

So pleased that this one was picked out, it’s a memory-packed haiku for me and one that I’ve been writing in my head for years, although – amazingly – this was my first attempt at writing it down. If you don’t know what it looks like when a shearer holds a metal comb to an emery wheel, have a look here. A comb is fitted into the handpiece and is what clips the fleece. Important to keep it sharp.

International Women’s Haiku Festival

The multi-talented Jennifer Hambrick – classical musician, singer, radio host, poet and photographer – is running the second International Women’s Haiku Festival on her blog, Inner Voices and posted three of my haiku for the March 20 entry. Her commentaries  are insightful and sensitive so I am grateful to have been included.

This haiku has been rejected previously – by male editors. Jennifer understands exactly what I was saying and which life stage I was at!

heat wave –
holding the soft part of my wrist
under the tap

Sandra Simpson

The term “heat wave” has a wonderful double resonance as the natural phenomenon of a period of scorching outdoor temperatures and as a metaphor for the hot flashes that often come with the equally natural process of menopause. Either way, one can imagine seeking relief from the external or internal heat by holding the sensitive flesh of the underside of the wrist beneath a trickle of cool water, a common remedy for the discomfort of hot flashes.

– Jennifer Hambrick

Here’s another on the topic that was published in NOON 13 (Japan) last year. The editor of this journal is a man so I wondered if he’d experienced this from the other side! The build-up to menopause is recognised as a condition all on its own (perimenopause) and certainly there were times when I’m sure no jury would have convicted me. Demented was about right!

a swan hisses

Sandra Simpson

Those Women who Write Haiku by Jane Reichhold is available as a free download and is well worth a read. In it, she surveys the earliest known women writing haiku in Japan through to 1990 and English-language poets.

my work in the sink
voice of the uguisu

Chigetsu (1632-1708), translated by RH Blyth (uguisu is a bush warbler bird)

Chigetsu’s son was a student of Basho and she was able to meet the master over a period of about 2 years. Uko was married to one of Basho’s closest friends, the doctor and haiku poet Boncho.

the fancy hairpins
along with the combs useless now
camellia flowers fall

Uko (died in the 18th century), translated by Blyth

summer   beneath my breasts

Marlene Mountain, published 1977

And finally, a tribute to Marlene Mountain (b 1939), who died earlier this week. Born Marlene Morelock, this distinctive and unique voice in haiku was married to haiku poet John Wills (1921-1993). She changed her surname to Mountain to celebrate the mountains of her home state of Tennessee. An activist feminist, Marlene began writing haiku in the 1960s and her work was experimental from then until her death – she was one of, if not the, earliest practitioner of one-line haiku in English. Read her work here. Her first book was old tin roof, published in 1976. Read an essay by Jack Galmitz in appreciation of her work.

old turtle pushes her shadow to sea

Marlene Mountain, published 1976

Recent haiku

My response to a photo prompt at NHK Haiku Masters has been selected for February’s online gallery – and was selected as haiku master of the week for week 3! Read the judges’ comments here.

late summer – 
the diverging paths
of my children

Sandra Simpson

An Honourable Mention in the IRIS magazine Little Haiku Contest which this year had ‘travel’ as a theme. See all the winning haiku here.

palmyra … camels unfold a red sky morning

Sandra Simpson

(Palmyra, by the way, is an ancient, ruined city in Syria – even more in ruins, thanks to the attentions of a terrorist group. I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited, and stayed there, twice.)

AND I managed to save the world this week … pointed out to a cafe that the sign telling us their sourdough baker was on a ‘bread pilgrimage to San Fransisco’ was spelled incorrectly. The woman behind the till (South American?) immediately agreed but must have already read it unless it went up the instant I walked in at lunchtime! You’re welcome.

Open house at Jane’s

I am one of Jane Reichhold’s daughters. I am at Jane’s house [between Gualala and Point Arena on the northern California coast] getting it ready for sale and would love to touch base with those who loved Jane.

I will be leaving on Tuesday, January 30 (probably, but no earlier). There is no phone service, but please just pop in if you see the red Subaru Forester in the drive. It has been a long year and a half since Jane’s death and I still am profoundly grateful for the time that I was able to share with such an amazing woman.

Bambi Steiner

I am one of Jane Reichhold’s daughters. I am at Jane’s house [between Gualala and Point Arena on the northern California coast] getting it ready for sale and would love to touch base with those who loved Jane.

I will be leaving on Tuesday, January 30 (probably, but no earlier). There is no phone service, but please just pop in if you see the red Subaru Forester in the drive. It has been a long year and a half since Jane’s death and I still am profoundly grateful for the time that I was able to share with such an amazing woman.

Bambi Steiner


Irish poet Maeve O’Sullivan set off on what she calls a ‘life-changing world trip’ in late 2016, visiting 13 countries on 4 continents – one of the outcomes of her peregrinations is Elsewhere (Alba Publishing, London, 2017, $US10; click on the link for other currencies), a collection of haiku, haibun and long-form poetry.

In her preface, O’Sullivan says of the decision to mix long-form poetry with haiku in her fourth collection, I also believe that haikai – haiku and related forms – shouldn’t be confined to a quasi-ghetto in the wider poetry world …, an admirable sentiment so here’s hoping the contents find a wide readership.

deep-fried pork:
I await instruction
on how to eat it 


maeve cover

Elsewhere takes the form of a travel journal, although this is no collection of dashed-off shasei (sketches from life) but rather a book that’s more in tune with the Basho tradition of travelogue, rewarding consumption in a linear fashion as we travel alongside our narrator.

Fittingly, it begins and ends at ‘Home’, opening with a haibun that could only have been written in Ireland (I found myself automatically reading the acerbic nun’s words in a Father Ted accent) and including the sweet haibun Closure about clearing out and selling her parents’ home after their deaths, one of the prompts for O’Sullivan’s extended travels.

the birthday book of my youth
used for deaths now too


Flashes of that humorous Irish voice are also to be found in the haibun Dateline Quito and Resettled and these haiku, among others.

an Irish lullaby
for the infant …
kicking throughout


the tropical fish
that lived in my uncle’s house –
I’m in their tank now

(Galapagos Islands)

The book is divided into four sections – Home, West, East and Envoi: Back Home – and  O’Sullivan has helpfully titled her sets of haiku within these sections to allow us to place a pin in the map as we share the locale with her.

108kms to go          the mule and I share an apple

(Slow Camino)

How difficult it is to travel as a woman alone – at any age. And although not all her trips were solo, most were so my hat’s off to O’Sullivan for stepping out into the wide world, opening up her senses and experiencing everything. My interpretation, or perhaps intuition is, that she set off wanting to be filled with joy and I hope she found enough to have made the travelling worthwhile.

en route from Delhi
the monsoon has yielded
yellow mustard flowers


O’Sullivan was not only writing and editing as she travelled but, thanks to technology, also submitting pieces – and having them accepted for publication – thus giving her a solid core of work for a book by the time she was back in Dublin.

San Diego Bay –
its deep blue darkened
by an aircraft carrier

(Southern California)

rushing to lunch
I pass a homeless woman –
her sparkly sandals


Elsewhere offers much to be enjoyed and, for me, contains only one tiny ‘flaw’ in that some of the em-dash breaks in the haiku seem to be in the wrong place but I wasn’t sure if this was an editing error or a deliberate choice:

viewing tower
in the rooftop pool below –
a lone swimmer

(Hong Kong)

To me, the natural break is:

viewing tower –
in the rooftop pool below
a lone swimmer

Elsewhere is well produced with three or four haiku per page on a nice weight of paper and the attractive cover image was taken by O’Sullivan at Kompukuji temple, Kyoto, Japan. Armchair travellers, those who have visited these places and those longing to get out and explore will enjoy O’Sullivan’s genuine and honest approach. She has done a grand job of using her fresh, traveller’s eye to bring us thoughtful glimpses of the people she met and the things she saw – and has gifted us the chance us to keep her company on the long journey from Home and back again.


I haven’t commented on the long-form poetry as it hasn’t been my field for a good while, but I did wonder why so many are rhymed – have they come back into fashion and no one’s told me? Quite possible.

Read an Irish Times article by O’Sullivan about her travels and the book.

Thirty percent of the profits from sales of this book are to be donated to environmental group Friends of the Earth Ireland.

NHK Haiku Masters Gallery

snow feather

Image & haiku: Sandra Simpson

My ‘photo haiku’ (as NHK Haiku Masters calls them) has been chosen as a runner-up for week 2 this month and Kazuko Nishimura had this to say:

For farmers, the radio weather forecast is a part of daily life that plays a heavy role in deciding how each day unfolds. However, sometimes just looking out the window can be more accurate than any weather report. The word “snow” used in the final line can also refer to the radio static that occurs during a bad storm, when radio reception is hard to come by. This piece has done a great job at presenting a specific slice of life many of us can relate to.

Usually there is no theme, but for this one they wanted something ‘seasonal’ for Christmas-New Year-winter. See the full gallery here.

The image was taken at a close-up photography workshop and is of a peacock feather in a glass container full of heavily salted water, the idea of our tutor Kim Westerskov. I placed my camera lens against the glass and later manipulated the contrast and colours to achieve this effect.

You don’t have to be a photographer to join the fun – NHK Haiku Masters also offers a photo as a prompt for haiku.