Words that flow

I had occasion this week to paraphrase Martin Lucas, the late editor of Presence, while critiquing one of my own haiku at a group session, saying something like “I’ve made a weather report of the first line”, dissatisfied because I knew I was wasting the line.

Here is what Martin actually said, from his essay Haiku as Poetic Spell (click on the link to read the whole thing, well worth it):

The internationally accepted formula runs something like this (expressed here in 5-7-5 for my own amusement, though 5-7-5 is now outmoded as far as the arbiters of taste are concerned):

seasonal ref’rence —
then two lines of contrasting
foreground imagery

Seen in isolation, any one of these haiku can be impressive. Taken in quantity, the effect is numbing.

And towards the end of the essay, he describes what he wants in haiku: Words that chime; words that beat; words that flow. And once you’ve truly heard it, you won’t forget it, because the words have power. They are not dead and scribbled on a page, they are spoken like a charm; and they aren’t read, they’re heard.

Sometimes it does me good to remind myself of what I should be striving for, especially as the ‘dry’ spells become longer and more frequent.

This is not to say we shouldn’t use a seasonal reference in our haiku, just that they should be carefully chosen – the single-line ‘fragment’ carries just as much weight in a haiku as the two-line ‘phrase’; it’s not a throw-away scene-setter.

Here are some haiku from my bookshelf, ones that use a ‘weather report’ first line to great advantage, in my opinion. The first poem I shared with the group and it was one of those wonderful moments when everyone in the room reacted … by laughing.

mild winter day
the neighbour’s dog barking
till I’m hoarse

– Carolyn Hall
from Water Lines (Snapshot Press, 2006)

midsummer morning –
the dead tree’s shadow
stretches upstream

– Adele Kenny
from The Haiku Hundred (Iron Press, 1992)

outgoing tide
my mother’s togs
a year looser

Catherine Mair
from incoming tide (Quail Press, 2016)

twilight: across the lake
distant reeds take the shape
of a bittern

– Martin Lucas
from Wing Beats: British Birds in Haiku (Snapshot Press, 2008)

And to finish, an actual weather report haiku!

weather forecast
searching the sky
for an isobar

Jeanette Stace
from A to Zazen (Zazen Haiku Group) 2004

Random bookshelf haiku

I was so impressed by one set of haiku bookshelves I saw on my recent US journey that I decided to pull mine apart and start again … unfortunately, the pulling apart has happened and not much else!

So, just to spur me over into the books, I have decided to post some haiku chosen at random from random books in random piles.

my husband gone –
from the bluest of skies
spring snow falls

– Takeshita Shizunojo, 1887-1951
from Haiku Love, editor (and translator of this haiku) Alan Cummings (The British Museum, 2013)

The poet was born in a rural community in Kyushu and worked as a schoolteacher and, following her husband’s early death, a librarian. Her poetry, the book says, often drew upon images of life in impoverished rural Kyushu.

winter moon the church bell an octave below

– Lorin Ford
Presence haiku journal, number 55 (UK)

Lorin Ford lives in Melbourne, Australia, and was the haiku editor for the recently closed online journal, A Hundred Gourds.

separating itself
from a tangerine
the cabby’s voice

– Michael Fessler
Modern Haiku 45.2, but I met it in the Haiku 2015 anthology, edited by Lee Gurga & Scott Metz (Modern Haiku Press, 2015)

Spend yourself now!
Spring winds blowing
before cherries bloom.

– Noa, 1397-1471
from Haiku Before Haiku
translated by Steven D Carter (Columbia University Press, 2011)

Noa, the book says, was a Buddhist monk, painter, renga master and renga steward at Kitano shrine, curator for the Ashikaga shogunate, and of Sogi’s Seven Sages of Linked Verse.

frost moon
pairing his wool socks
from the dryer

– Carolyn Hall
from her collection Water Lines (Snapshot Press, 2006)

wild boars too
are blown along:
autumn windstorm

– Basho, 1644-1694
from Haiku Animals, editor Mavis Pilbream (The British Museum, 2010)
translated by DL Barnhill

Postcard from San Francisco

Well, here it is folks, the final postcard from my North America trip.

Carolyn Hall (see Postcard from Santa Rosa, below) drove with us to San Francisco and was a great guide, pulling us off the highway for lunch at Book Passages (a glorious book store too) near San Rafael.

We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge – is there any better way to enter a city? – and I, for one, was as excited as a little kid (I may have been the only one in the car skipping about on the inside. Carolyn’s done it many times and the driver was, well, driving).

Then she tested our driver’s skill, and nerve, by sending him up one of those terraced streets that San Francisco is renowned for. Every block was either an uncontrolled intersection or lights – you want to be the leading car when you reach the intersection as that’s the only flat place to stop, and not 3 cars back on the steep slope! But we wouldn’t have swapped the experience for the world, and next day, when riding one of the famous cable cars, saw a street – or didn’t see a street – that seemed to disappear off the edge! Filbert Street has a 31.5% grade … Stephen von Worley has written about driving such streets and compiled a list of what he considers to be the 10 steepest.

summer solstice
the measuring tape reels back
into its case

– Carolyn Hall

Carolyn had more haiku fun in store for us with a group gathering at her apartment and then strolling round the corner to a great Thai restaurant.

sanfran

Dinner party, from left back: Keith Frentz, Carolyn Hall, Buck Hall, Sandra Simpson and Betty Arnold. From left front, Richard Goldberg, Sharon Pretti, Patricia Machmiller and Richard Bruns. Photo: The waiter

Patricia Machmiller is a well-known name in haiku and I was pleased to sit in on her session at Haiku North America in 2013. She began writing in 1975 with Kiyoshi and Kiyoko Tokutomi, founders of the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society, and was the society’s president from 1978 to 1981, and is currently treasurer. Patricia is also a talented brush painter and has held exhibitions of her work. Her delightful sense of humour came to the fore during our meal and I was amazed to hear that she’s not long recovered from a broken neck, a dreadful injury that occurred when she was hit by a vehicle while out walking.

squash blossoms
the ribbon on her dress
unravelling 

– Patricia Machmiller,  winner of a 2016 THF Touchstone Award
published in Frogpond 38.2

Betty Arnold is editor of the Yuki Tekei’s magazine Geppo, as well as being a member of Haiku Poets of Northern California. She was introduced to haiku by Christopher Herold when he was still living in California and well remembers the serene atmosphere he created for his guests. A retired paediatrician, Betty also enjoys writing tanka but isn’t too bothered about getting her work published. She writes for her own pleasure.

welcome home surprise –
all along the driveway
forget-me-nots

– Betty Arnold

Sharon Pretti, who is a social worker in a care facility for adults, is relatively new to haiku but has already had poems appear in such august publications as Modern Haiku and Frogpond. Her partner, Richard, is a visual artist. See his website here.

in remission
acacia dust brushed
from the windshield

– Sharon Pretti, Second place in the 2015 Porad Haiku Award

Richard Bruns had told me the day before that although he didn’t write much haiku, he was nonetheless interested in it and liked hanging out with haiku folk! His write-up of our visit revealed a little more … he has in fact been interested in haiku since the 1960s and been writing poetry of all sorts off an on ever since! Joining HPNC after he retired in 2012 “forced a complete reassessment of my own work in the face of 21st century haiku standards”. Richard is attempting to meet that challenge and has had some success and is also enjoying writing science fiction poetry.

Thank you to everyone in these postcards who helped make my visit to the US so rewarding. It was a pleasure to spend time with you all!

Postcard from Santa Rosa

Our final haiku connection in our journey was made through Carolyn Hall who was the most fantastic hostess, putting us up in both Santa Rosa (in the Sonoma Valley) and in San Francisco.

Carolyn is an accomplished haiku poet and the winner of many awards. Among her many achievements are editor of Acorn (2008-2012), winning the HPNC Haiku Contest in 2011, winning a Snapshot Press Book Award (resulting in Water Lines published in 2006, which won a Haiku Society of America Book Award), winning The Heron’s Nest Readers’ Choice Poem of the Year in 2015 (and being first runner-up to the Poet of the Year), THN Poet of the Year in 2011, THN Poem of the Year in 2007, while her second book, How to Paint the Finch’s Song, won a Touchstone Distinguished Book Award in 2011. Read a review of that book here.

her death date
I pause the river
in my cupped hands

— Carolyn Hall, The Heron’s Nest Poem of the Year 2015

Carolyn was introduced to haiku about 17 years ago by a friend who was at the time writing haiku himself. “I bought everything I could find with ‘haiku’ in the title. I showed [her friend] my first haiku … I don’t know why he saw any hope in me.”

Carolyn then met Laura Bell and almost immediately started getting her work published “which got me really excited”. Other early support came from Jim Kacian and Christopher Herold.

Haiku is “an addiction I have no desire to break”, she says, and although fears she’s writing fewer haiku as time passes, Carolyn is contemplating a fourth collection.

santarosa2

Carolyn Hall and her equally sociable husband, Buck. Photo: Sandra Simpson

In Santa Rosa Carolyn invited members of Haiku Poets of Northern California and Yuki Tekei haiku groups to join us poolside for the afternoon and dinner, and we had a delightful time meeting Richard Bruns, Garry Gay, Patrick Gallagher and his friend Kathleen Wall, and Michael Sheffield. Some lived nearby while Patrick and Kathleen had made a 3-and-a-half-hour drive to be with us! Yuki Tekei, by the way, prefers haiku written in 5-7-5 with a kigo.

Many haiku poets in the area belong to both haiku groups as the meetings rarely clash – Yuki Tekei meets monthly and HPNC only four times a year. Patrick is president of Yuki Tekei, while Garry, who was an HPNC founder and its first president, is again leading the organisation with Carolyn as membership secretary. Garry is also a founding (and still active) director of Haiku North America.

patrick

Patrick Gallagher. Photo: Sandra Simpson

garry

Garry Gay (left) and occasional haiku writer Keith Frentz. Photo: Sandra Simpson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garry, a professional photographer, began writing haiku in the 1970s after meeting Basho’s Narrow Road to the Deep North! “I had been writing longer poetry,” he says, “but the poems kept getting shorter and shorter until they were only 4 lines. I didn’t know what haiku was but I gobbled up everything I could find. HPNC was founded because I was looking for people like me.”

Garry is also the inventor of the rengay form of linked verse, saying that he found the ‘rules’ of renku too restrictive so came up with his own form!

end of the world
I blow apart
a dandelion

— Garry Gay, winner of the 2013 Peggy Willis Lyles Haiku Award

Patrick, on the other hand, was driving his wife Claire (1941-2009) to meetings in San Francisco when he was invited in … and the rest, as they say, is history. Now, his new friend Kathleen is showing a lively interest in haiku (and has already written some) so watch this space!

first meeting you
a flight of balloons
above the summer river

— Patrick Gallagher

Michael, who is apparently something of a hula dancer among many other interests, is a featured guest at this year’s HPNC Two Autumns reading on August 28. “I want to get haiku out to the masses,” he says.

summer’s end
next year’s blossom
in the daylily root

— Michael Sheffield

santarosa

From left, Garry Gay, Carolyn Hall, Richard Bruns, Michael Sheffield and Patrick Gallagher. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Richard, who has also been a professional photographer, wrote up our visit as a photo journal for those who attended the dinners, a kindness that was much appreciated.

Top of their game

Much excitement this week as two superb books by two superb poets arrived in my letterbox.

First to land was The Bone Carver by Ron Moss of Tasmania, published by Snapshot Press in the UK, and what a fine looking volume it is. Ron is also a talented photographer and painter, and the cover image is one of his own photos – I can’t believe this is his first collection as he seems to have been writing at the top of his game for ages.

Ron Moss. Photo: Sandra Simpson

valley mist …
running my finger over
the curve of a twig

– Ron Moss

It’s that “curve” that elevates this from a good haiku to an excellent haiku, isn’t it? I don’t often ponder word choice when I’m writing but this poem is a good kick on the shins to remind me to pay attention to all aspects of my work. It contains a vivid sensation (running my finger over) and the nice soft (misty) “v” and “f” sounds.

April 17 update: Ron has just emailed to advise The Bone Carver has today been named as the winner of a Touchstone Distinguished Book Award! Well done, that man.

The other book I was delighted to receive yesterday was the doors all unlocked by Carolyn Hall of California, published by Red Moon Press, another poet I admire greatly.

Carolyn Hall. Photo: Sandra Simpson

unlabelled shapes
from the back of the freezer
winter stars

– Carolyn Hall

Anyone who has a freezer should recognise this poem, “unlabelled shapes” is a perfect description of … well, what? Pieces of meat, vegetables, fruit? Something which at the time we thought worthwhile to save and enjoy on another day but, being human, thought we would always recognise or didn’t have a marker pen to hand (or it’s been there so long the marker’s worn off). The “winter stars” leads me back to the package not being a neat rectangle. I like the humour of this.

I thought it might be fun to find haiku on similar themes in both books – for me it’s always interesting seeing what poets do with the same idea – but then I thought, what the heck, let’s just have another from each. Ladies first, this time.

colourless wind
the ashes
that don’t scatter

– Carolyn Hall

from someone’s baby a smile that knows me

– Ron Moss

Both are regularly published in The Heron’s Nest – Ron was voted Poet of the Year for 2014 by readers, with one of his haiku elected as Poem of the Year. Read those results here. Carolyn was Poet of the Year in 2011 and was first runner-up in 2008. In the current issue a haiku by Carolyn is the Editor’s Choice. the doors all unlocked received an honourable mention in the Touchstone Distinguished Book Awards in 2012.

I’ve recently been gifted a copy of fresh paint, the towpath haiku society anthology for 2015, edited by Roberta Beary and published by Red Moon Press. It’s a small book, pocket sized, that is lovingly produced and a nice thing to have, especially as I’m introduced to poets new to me.

merry-go-round all lit up      the galaxy

– Kirsten Deming

waiting room
how this blood test
is a poem

– Jimmy Aaron (Peach)

The towpath haiku society, founded in 1995, is based in the Washington DC area and named for the C & O Canal (Chesapeake & Ohio) that links Washington DC with Cumberland in Maryland – 184 miles (296km) – with the towpath these days a popular walking and cycling trail.

Red piano & others

I made the post below with the picture of Michael Parekowhai’s red piano and woke up this morning and remembered this haiku:

ants out of a hole —
when did I stop playing
the red toy piano?

– Fay Aoyagi, from In Borrowed Shoes (Blue Willow Press, San Francisco) 2006.

Fay’s haiku are always interesting as she ploughs a course different to most with her work. Read her blog, Blue Willow World, where she daily translates a haiku from Japanese into English.

And then this one … (red in her father’s face perhaps)

piano practice
in the room above me
my father shouting

– Roberta Beary, from The Unworn Necklace (Snapshot Press, UK, 2007)

And because it seems right to have haiku in threes, here’s another.

rain at last!
I ask the piano salesman
to riff a little Bach

– Carolyn Hall, The Heron’s Nest XVI: 2 (2014)

It was my pleasure to meet each of these talented poets in Long Beach last year.