And then there was a cyclone!

The upper North Island of New Zealand has had a record-breaking summer for all the wrong reasons – and now Cyclone Gabrielle has wreaked yet more havoc. Formed in the Coral Sea, Gabrielle bore down on the North Island on February 12, causing flooding and landslips from the next day, heaping further misery on those places that were devastated by flooding caused by an ‘atmospheric river’ from January 27. Tauranga has been affected by both events, but escaped relatively lightly compared to other places.

The late afternoon sky over Waikato on February 12, 2023 as Cyclone Gabrielle approached. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Gabrielle’s reach extended all the way down the North Island and flicked back up the west coast of the island, although as the centre of the storm moved eastwards, parts of the South Island were affected too. The Prime Minister has called it the worst weather event to hit the country so far this century and a national state of emergency was declared.

the leaves coming down in it –
the cat’s fur parted
to the skin

Gary Hotham
The Haiku Seasons (1996)

fields flooded
beneath the surface, somewhere
the river bends

Christopher Herold
Woodnotes 17 (1993)

looks like the rough sea
on the sweet potato field –
a storm rages

Tsuji Momoko
Far Beyond the Field (2003)

New Zealand’s prime growing area for kumara (sweet potato) has now been badly hit twice with flooding, just one of many food crops devastated, along with plenty of pasture.

tornado siren
the wind lifts a sneaker print
from home plate

Chad Lee Robinson
The Heron’s Nest 20.2 (2018)


The sound of haiku

We are surrounded by sound all our waking (and sleeping) hours, some of it pleasant (birdsong), some of it discordant (emergency sirens). These haiku seem to me to use sound in interesting and sometimes inventive ways.

cello solo the owls in my bones

Tanya McDonald
from Wishbone Moon (Jacar Press, 2018)

morning sneeze
the guitar in the corner

Dee Evetts
from Montage (The Haiku Foundation, 2010)

pissing into a steel trough the muted boom of the bar

Stuart Quine
from Stepping Stones: a way into haiku (BHS, 2007)

the skins of wild damsons
darkening in the rain

Caroline Gourlay
from Stepping Stones (BHS, 2007)

furu oto ya mimi mo su-nara ume no ame

a falling sound
that sours my ears
plum rain

Basho, tr Jane Reichhold
from Basho: The complete haiku (Kodansha, 2008)

The translator’s note for this haiku, written in 1666, is: What the Japanese call ‘ume’ is most often translated as ‘plum’ … but the fruit more closely resembles the apricot. Because the fruit ripens from mid-June to mid-July the rains of this time are called ‘ume no ame’ (‘plum rains’). Even ripe the fruit is inedible until it has been preserved in salty, sour liquid, similar to olives.

the slow drip of rain
on the nursery roof

Vanessa Proctor
from Wishbone Moon

summer solstice
the measuring tape reels back
into its case

Carolyn Hall
from Montage

setsugen ya majiwarazu shite wadachiato

autumn night –
the sound of two white plates

Yoshiko Yoshino, tr. unknown

through my stethoscope
the rumble
of the 8:15

Jon Iddon
from Stepping Stones

foghorns –
we lower a kayak
into the sound

Christopher Herold
from Montage

my ears have lost
the creek

Sandi Pray
from Wishbone Moon

late-rising moon
each rock in the stream
has its own sound

Burnell Lippy
from Montage

Postcard from Port Townsend

Port Townsend is a beautiful and historic small town on the north coast of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State – and is the home of one of my haiku heroes, Christopher Herold.

We were lucky enough to have coffee with Chris and his wife Carol and I felt privileged to be able to meet face-to-face as Christopher was one of the first overseas editors to publish my work. He was the founding editor of The Heron’s Nest, running it as a monthly paper publication for many years. Eventually, he realised, it was taking over his life (Carol had possibly realised this a little earlier!). The first of the associate editors came on board and the highly respected journal finally morphed into the online quarterly journal that it is today, now under the guiding hand of John Stevenson and his team.

Chris had his interest in haiku fostered by one of America’s great haiku figures, James Hackett (1929-2015) – Chris, who already had a long-time interest in Buddhism, worked as his gardener. He’s turned to other forms of writing more recently but produced a small book of haiku, The Moon Unfazed (Kanshiketsu Press) in 2014.

almost dawn
cupped in the curve of the moon
the rest of the moon

– Christopher Herold

Chris has also had a long-time interest in renku and in 2009 he and Carol won the Haiku Society of America’s Einbond Renku Contest, having previously tied with themselves for first place in an earlier iteration.


Christopher Herold. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The following haiku was one of the first of Chris’ that I remember reading, and it is still one of my favourites.

we lower a kayak
into the sound

– Christopher Herold
second place, Harold G Henderson contest, 1999

Sadly, Chris lost his computer files of haiku written between 2004 and 2014, but has taken a philosophical attitude towards it, an equanimity I get the impression is par for the course.

I hope our paths cross again some time … maybe a Haiku North America in Honolulu, yeah!

Latest publications

The Heron’s Nest is marking its birthday with a beautiful hardback book, Nest Feathers, a selection of 248 haiku from its first 15 years of publication. Founding editor Christopher Herold has written an interesting foreword, including these statistics:

  • 102 issues published (THN was monthly in the beginning)
  • Some 100,000 haiku submitted for consideration
  • Fewer than 8,500 haiku published.

September sun –
a bubble wavers
between salmon bones

– Cindy Zackowitz (1965-2012), The Heron’s Nest, 4:12 (2002)

So being published in THN means you’re hitting the high notes with your work. I have 2 haiku in Nest Feathers, here’s one:

one egg
rattling in the pot
autumn rain

– Sandra Simpson, The Heron’s Nest 9:2, 2007

Cover artwork is by Ron C. Moss

spring sky
one twirl before the girl
settles in line

– Alison Woolpert, The Heron’s Nest 15:2, 2015

Click on the book’s title at the top to read ordering information.

A new issue of UK haiku journal Presence has also landed in my letterbox. Now being published three times a year, the journal is always a great read.

stirring the neighbour’s bull
to midnight bellows,
a petal-coloured moon

– Sandra Simpson, Presence 53, 2015

her cotton skirt
falls softly to the ground
steady rain

– Greg Piko, Presence 53

Presence has also rejigged its annual contest which is now the Martin Lucas Haiku Award, named in honour of its editor who died last year.

Don’t forget that there is an up-to-date listing of haiku, tanka and haibun contests at Haiku NewZ. You’re welcome.

Cool morning in the garden

Evenings and mornings are noticeably cooler now, starting right from March 1, although the middle of the day is still hot and little rain is forecast for the month.

I’ve been out watering my orchids, bromeliads, hoyas and things in pots this morning. A  pleasant job and very contemplative.

morning drizzle
my wife bends an orchid
to her will

Christopher Herold from his excellent 2010 collection Inside Out.
Read a review of the book here.


end of summer
the rust on my scissors
smells of marigolds

— Margaret Chula, from her 2004 collection the rust on my scissors
Read a commentary on this haiku here.


roadside stand
the last lilies
before sunset

                                                                     — Sandra Simpson
 published 2006 in the NZ Poetry Society magazine