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

Katikati Haiku Contest results – a judge reflects

They came in a box – all shapes and sizes of paper and card, most typewritten but one or two brave souls relying on their hand-writing. The judging for the Katikati Haiku Contest is done blind – that is each haiku entered is numbered, I see no names.

I sat down, armed with a pair of scissors, and began to read (the scissors were to cut  stand-out poems from a sheet of entries).

I sorted them, sorted them again and then re-read the whole lot for a third time.

I made piles – definite, definite maybes, maybes and, well you get the picture. The piles got shuffled. The piles got shuffled again.

The coffee table, couch and floor were decorated with strips of paper. The strips of paper got moved from one site to another. Well, several of the strips of paper … some of them stayed right where they were for the entire judging process.

Lorin Ford’s winning haiku was in the top four from the start – it’s a complex, profound and mysterious poem.

a last year’s lambskin where mushrooms gather dusk

It’s funny how sometimes there is more than one poem on the same unexpected subject in the same contest. I gave this haiku by Scott Mason a Commended:

rolling fields
    the vocabulary
           of sheep

I was equally enchanted by the Second-place haiku by Beverley George:

train journey …
the young student next to me
reduces stars to graphs

and by this Highly Commended haiku by Gary Hotham:

   floating in calm air
      too much light
for the engineer’s math

Third was Simon Hanson (an interesting statistic – all the top three haiku, three of the four Highly Commendeds and two of the six Commendeds were by Australians):

holding cover
the hare waits
for eye contact

Catherine Bullock of Waihi won the Best Local Haiku award with this great poem:

evening calm –
duck’s wake
the width of the estuary

I also want to mention this Highly Commended haiku by Beverley George – while judging the entries I went out one morning to find the snail bait around the parsley had claimed five (five!) snails overnight. I could really envisage those “stretched necks” during the dark hours:

parsley bed
the stretched necks
of snails

To read the full list of winners, and my judge’s report, go here.

Unfortunately, we had one disqualification due to haiku being entered that had previously been published. It saves red faces all round if poets keep good records and a track of what’s gone where, when and what happened to those poems (ie, while they may not have been prize winners, were they included in a contest anthology?).

Friday haiku, autumn

A couple of weeks ago I went to a low-key poetry reading in a local bar – one eminent national poet and a local poet reading a few pieces each. Part-way through I realised how long the poems were, which made me smile and think, I love haiku.

Why?

  • It’s not a book but it’s a story worth hearing
  • There’s room for imagination
  • It knows when to be quiet
  • It understands the power of a single word
  • It doesn’t outstay its welcome.

There are more ideas that can be added to this list, but you get my drift.

Over on Haiku NewZ there is an occasional feature called My Favourite Haiku where various poets and editors choose (some of) their favourites and write a little about them. The following haiku was in the selection of Beverley George, an Australian writer and editor.

sowing seeds
I open my hand
to the autumn wind 

– Maria Steyn

If I was to make a selection today this would surely be in it

reminding me I am dust this shaft of sunlight

– Andre Surridge, Fear of Dancing (Red Moon anthology, 2014)

Good news! Melissa Allen is again blogging her haiku and haibun at Red Dragonfly. Melissa is one heck of a writer and I suggest you check her work out. Here’s her selection of favourites on Haiku NewZ.

the sound of geese through the crosshairs

– Melissa Allen, Fear of Dancing

I’ve been loaned the Japanese Haiku 2001 anthology, edited by the Modern Haiku Association. It’s hard to know how true these English haiku are to their originals but reading any contemporary haiku from Japan is a gift.

eating a persimmon
darkness builds inside me

– Rinka Ono (1904-1982)

In a brief bio note, Mr Ono is credited with mentoring many haiku poets who became major figures in Japan.

someone’s silhouette
on the bathroom door –
a cyclamen

– Hakko Yokoyama (1899-1983)

Mr Yokoyama was director of a hospital, owned a private clinic and was an elected city councillor, as well as being president of the Modern Haiku Association.

And, finally, an autumn haiga by Ron Moss of Tasmania. View it here. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, a haiga is a combination of haiku (or tanka) with art – these days that can be anything from a traditional brush and ink painting to a computer-generated digital image. Ron also makes art to go with selected haiku in each edition of A Hundred Gourds.