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

New Haiku Pathway poem: Part 1

Last night’s Katikati Haiku Pathway Committee meeting began with a visit to a brand-new pathway poem, our 44th haiku. Our delight in the organic, yet sophisticated, look of the work is tempered by the fact that poet Jane Reichhold is not alive to have seen it completed.

We had corresponded by email over a period after requesting permission to use her haiku and know that she was honoured and excited to have her poem used on the Pathway.

Haiku Pathway founder Catherine Mair with the new boulder. Photo: Sandra Simpson

As usual, the project has been a community effort. It has been able to go ahead thanks to a donation from the Twilight Concert Committee – the Pathway reserve is now a permanent home for the summer concerts.

The metal plaques inscribed with the poem have been made by Stainless Downunder, a Katikati company, and fitted into the rock by fourth-generation stone mason Paul Gautron who has inscribed many of the pathway’s poem boulders. The boulder was purchased from Carine Garden Centre and lifted into place, free of charge, by Tom of Fotheringhame Contractors who are working on the next-door stage of Highfields.

And none of it would have been possible without the support of Wayne Allchorne, our Western Bay of Plenty District Council parks officer, and his boss Peter Watson.

Photo: Sandra Simpson

Stay tuned for the announcement of the 45th haiku being finished! Read more about the Katikati Haiku Pathway, a free walk that is open every day.