Four seasons in one day

Changeable spring weather has been to the fore this year – just today I have personally experienced bright sunshine, strong winds, lashing rain, hail, heat and cold. Ah, we think, as the sun breaks through, that’s the rain gone then …

I was standing outside a garden centre café, fortunately under a verandah roof, chatting to a friend I’d bumped into at lunchtime when it started to hail! To the end of August we’d already had more rain than the yearly average (1344mm) so it’s on track to be one of the wettest years since records began in 1898.

Instead of moaning, thought I’d seek out and share some themed haiku from my bookshelf.

cloudburst
the sound of raindrops
changing size

– Susan Constable
(Naad Anunaad, an anthology of contemporary world haiku, 2017)

holding a knife
I feast my eyes
on a rain shower

– Momoko Tsuji (b 1945)
(Far Beyond the Field, haiku by Japanese women, 2003)

left out
in the hailstorm
a pogo stick

– Alan Pizzarelli
(Fire in the Treetops, celebrating 25 years of Haiku North America, 2015)

uncertain sky
the dark centre
of the ram’s eye

– Pamela Brown
(another country, haiku poetry from Wales, 2011)

cold blue sky
coughing up
a couple of clouds

– John Stevenson
(quiet enough, 2004)

shaking
the packet of seeds
asking, are you still alive?

Kiyoko Tokutomi (1928-2003)
(Haiku Mind, 108 poems to cultivate awareness & open your heart, 2008)

spring rain –
speaking of the dead
in a softer voice

– Chad Lee Robinson
(The Deep End of the Sky, 2015)

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Good reads

I’ve been enjoying a couple of good books so thought I would share …

The Deep End of the Sky is Chad Lee Robinson’s award-winning collection from Turtlelight Press (click on the link for ordering details if you’re in North America, otherwise find out about ordering through The Book Depository which includes free shipping). Chad runs a chatty blog with the same name as his book.

The haiku are about the American prairies – Chad is a native of South Dakota – and capture the spaces and silences of the landscapes and lives there.

roadside stand
cornhuskers talk
with their hands

– Chad Lee Robinson

 

The wraparound cover image is perfect and the typeface, paper and internal images give the book something of a vintage feel. The haiku aren’t old-fashioned in the sense that they use well-worn images or the language of past decades. No, they’re old-fashioned in the best sense of having integrity, honesty, character and wisdom.

my body thinner these days I hear more of the wind

– Chad Lee Robinson

I have a soft spot for haiku that express the truths of working on the land so, as you might imagine, I have been thoroughly enjoying this slim volume.

watermelons
the weight of our grunts
breaks an axle

– Chad Lee Robinson

Hard to believe that this is Chad’s first book – I have been admiring his haiku for years. He is a very assured writer.

Roberta Beary, meanwhile, is one of the bravest poets I know. If she sees something she doesn’t like she speaks up but she also doesn’t shy away from examining her own life and writing about what she finds there, or from using traumatic events to create poems – read an interview with Roberta about some of that process in creating Deflection.

Deflection is a new collection of poems, some of which are haiku but all of which are inflected with a haiku sensibility – close observation and pared-back language (see here for purchase details).

with knife in hand
my son’s lover dissects
the last white peach

– Roberta Beary

The collection also includes some haibun (prose + haiku) and these add another layer of perception to a collection about the process of grief and grieving – Roberta lost her mother and nephew in quick succession, and had cared for her mother for 5 years as she had been steadily lost to dementia.

autumn coolness enters a hand long held in mine

– Roberta Beary, from the haibun Nighthawks

Deflection begins with a poem, 57 Varieties, that features a woman for whom “the switch is off”, and ends with What Remains, a haibun that contains this final paragraph:

You leave us with one last story. It is 4 o’clock in the morning. A police car sets its revolving light on a mother’s house. The shadow of two men appear. The front door opens. One man is a policeman. This is where the story ends. The other man is a priest. This is where the story begins.

To which, I can only inadequately say, wow! The choppy sentences perfectly convey what happens when dread and shock knock on the door, how ‘unreal’ reality becomes in a heartbeat, how all the mess and clutter and busy-ness of our daily lives become dust in our mouths and we are left with only elemental pain and grief.

Deflection is full of powerful writing by a poet at the height of her powers, do check it out.

Big data

The latest edition of the Red Moon anthologies is out – 148 poets in the haiku section, plus “linked forms” (renku and haibun) and essays. The annuals purport to contain the best English-language haiku published in any given year and, speaking on my own behalf as the editor for the South Pacific region, editors read widely to source their nominations.

Big Data is $US17, plus postage, available through the Red Moon Press website.

Here’s a sampler from some of the male poets:

distant thunder
whatever else
he was my father

– Dave Russo, US

sky the stars haven’t used
a life longer
than Napoleon’s

– Gary Hotham, US

wondering
who my neighbour murdered
sickle moon

– Brendan Slater, England

Included in the book is a haiku by Ron Moss of Tasmania in Australia. Ron last night launched a new book of his work, the bone carver, at an event in Hobart. It has been published by Snapshot Press and you can find purchase details there. He’s an exceptional poet – and artist – so it would be money well spent.

Another exceptional poet with a book in the pipeline is Chad Lee Robinson of Pierre in South Dakota (also in Big Data). Chad has started a blog, The Deep End of the Sky, which is the name of his forthcoming collection.

The Heron’s Nest runs a reader vote competition each year to decide the favourite poem and favourite poet of the year – yours truly won both titles in 2014 (ahem) – with Ron C Moss (yep, the same fella) taking out both titles this year.

old horses
days of endless rain
in their eyes

– Ron C Moss

Go here to read a commentary on the haiku (scroll down). And go here to read the full list of winners. I made it into the Other Popular Poets list, hurrah. The Heron’s Nest produces a paper copy each April, a volume of all the work that has appeared online the year before. It’s well worth purchasing and you can find the ordering information here.