Recent publications

Echidna Tracks issue 9: Journeys has now finished publishing. My haiku published on August 19 was dedicated to my Scottish great-great-great grandparents Jean and William Risk. They and two of their children, including my 6-year-old great-great-grandmother Mary, emigrated to Australia in 1841.

Sadly, it seems Victoria’s goldfields were not bountiful for them as William, Jean and their two sons are buried in these unmarked graves in Maldon cemetery. Photo: Sandra Simpson

We’d gone to the local archives where we’d been told we could get information about the cemetery. ‘Oh yes,’ the brisk woman said, ‘we have a map so we can send you right to the spot. What were their names?’ She ran her finger down the alphabetical list and ‘… ah’. All buried in unmarked graves. She could still send us ‘right to the spot’ though so I went and stood there and felt sorry for them.

goldfield cemetery —
my ancestors in the section
with no headstones 

Sandra Simpson
Echidna Tracks 9

Mary, by the way, was a widow with two young children by the age of 21. Five years later she married my great-great-grandfather, an Englishman, in Maldon. They and their family emigrated to New Zealand some time from 1875-1877.

I took a pottery class earlier this year, something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time and, despite having to wear masks (and so occasionally having steamed-up glasses), at the end of the 6 weeks I had some things I could take pride in — two bowls, two jugs and a small planter pot, all glazed. It was a hand-building class, using slab and coil techniques, so now I’m keen to try working on a wheel.

first pottery class …
finding the jug
inside the clay

Sandra Simpson
The Heron’s Nest 24.3

maybe Covid-positive …
the day’s first shadow
bird shaped 

Sandra Simpson
Kokako 37

autumn gales –
setting tonight’s fire
with acorns

Sandra Simpson
Kokako 37

The Asahi Haikuist Network was founded in 1995 by David McMurray, a Canada-born professor at the International University of Kagoshima in Japan, who still puts it together. It originally appeared in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper every week, but more recently has been posted every fortnight on the paper’s website.

David made a call for Southern Hemisphere-themed haiku and I’ve had a few selected for publication beyond the theme edition. The following haiku was written exactly as it happened, the spot being Tangimoana on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand, while the second one recalls a visit to a church, which I seem to think was in Paihia in Russell, an historic settlement in the Bay of Islands.

the road comes
to a ragged end…
tasman sea

Sandra Simpson
Asahi Haikuist Network, August 19

whalers’ church –
all the hassocks
hand embroidered

Sandra Simpson
Asahi Haikuist Network, September 16

The centre of Tauranga has been a building site for years — first all the earthquake strengthening work that had to be carried out after the 2011 Christchurch quake sparked law reforms, then big, new buildings going up that were slowed by Covid, and we’re even having some big ones deconstructed with something new still to go on the sites. Scaffolding everywhere!

cobweb clouds …
scaffolders shout
from floor to floor

Sandra Simpson
Presence 73


Haiku Down Under, an Historic Event

‘Historic.’ It was American poet and editor Michael Dylan Welch who put things in perspective for those of us at last weekend’s online Haiku Down Under. The four organisers – Leanne Mumford and Carole Harrison (Australia), and Sue Courtney and Sherry Grant (New Zealand) – had, in 51 weeks after attending last year’s online Haiku North America, created the first trans-Tasman haiku event that, thanks to Zoom, was actually held in neither country.

But that wasn’t the only historic moment. Sue Courtney, inspired by the 2019 hit album Waiata/Anthems that featured well-known New Zealand songs rerecorded in te reo Māori, selected haiku, some of them previously unpublished, for a project that saw poet Vaughan Rapatahana (Te Ātiawa) translate the haiku into te reo. In the presentation for Haiku Down Under, a slide containing both versions was shown with the poet or Sue reading the haiku in English and Vaughan in te reo. 

The background image was taken at sunset by Sue Courtney on Tiritiri Matangi, a bird sanctuary island off the coast of Auckland.

Each haiku slide was introduced by a map of Aotearoa New Zealand showing where the poet lives and, if the place has an English name, also giving its Māori name. Vaughan noted some of the issues he faced with the translations, including that te reo has fewer consonants than English and doesn’t use the same constructions.

The weekend featured presenters from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States and England, with David McMurray joining us from Kagoshima, Japan for the final panel discussion. Over the course of the event, there were also viewers from India, Sri Lanka and Germany, and possibly Greenland, although I wasn’t clear if she was on that island or in Australia at the time. The highest number of log-ins I saw was just on 90.

Presentations were almost all live, the only exceptions being videos from Jim Kacian and Owen Bullock, and the technology worked pretty seamlessly. There’s always someone in the audience who forgets to mute and has muffled conversations about groceries or the dog or somesuch, but that was only once or twice and people were pretty good at remembering to re-mute after saying something. One presenter couldn’t make it at short notice, but the organisers kept calm and carried on and we hardly noticed. One panel speaker didn’t show up until after the talk had finished, but he had a horrible time difference to contend with and there were already four people on the panel so, again, it hardly mattered, and we did hear a brief talk from him when he logged in.

I was a member of the final panel discussing ‘Opportunities for Regional Haiku Voices’, along with David McMurray, curator for the Asahi Haikuist Network column and professor at the International University of Kagoshima, teaching haiku courses and supervising graduate seminars; Lyn Reeves, vice-president of the Australian Haiku Society, co-curator of Echidna Tracks collection of Australian haiku; and Rose van Son, co-selector of haiku for Creatrix Haiku, a journal of WA Poets Inc.

I’m not sure that we progressed the topic much further, except to agree that we need to keep pushing at the door in the northern hemisphere in terms of having our vernacular and keywords accepted by editors. With search engines at our fingertips, investigating unfamiliar words or names is the work of less than a moment. Heck, I do it for American flora, fauna and place names. It’s no bother, I learn something and it enriches my understanding of a poem.

There were old hands in the audience and complete beginners, and everyone seemed to go away inspired and happy. Can’t say better than that. Kia ora, happy haiku trails and well done to the HDU team.

Down Under haiku news

The Haiku Down Under team have put together an exciting programme for the online event that takes place from October 7-9 so pop over to the website and have a look – and while you’re there make sure you register for this FREE set of talks and workshops. It’s a wonderful chance, especially if you’re in New Zealand or Australia, to strengthen community bonds, network, learn and, given the subtitle of ‘poetry from the edge’, do something different.

A journal with a notable Australian focus is Echidna Tracks which is currently issuing, day by day, its ninth edition with the theme ‘journeys’.

scattering sunset
a wedge
of black swans

Gavin Austin

curled up
in a kingfisher’s peep
the river’s weave

Nathan Sidney

a blizzard of petals —
we all laugh
in the same language

Sandra Simpson, published today (Aug 7)

I enjoyed this ‘Australiana’ tip of the hat to Robert Frost, while shivering at the thought of a snake, particularly a dangerous one.

coastal taipan . . .
I backtrack along a road
best not taken

Lorin Ford

The Australian Museum says about the coastal taipan snake that it is often regarded as the most dangerous snake in Australia. They are extremely nervous and alert snakes, and any movement near them is likely to trigger an attack. Read more here. New Zealand, like Ireland, is snake free so to me all snakes are threatening.

The results of the NZ Poetry Society International Haiku Contest are out and I was delighted to receive a Commended award in a strong field. See all the chosen haiku and comments by judge an’ya here.

parish churchyard —
words for eternity
lost to a thrush

Scott Mason (US), First

spring nesting
a streak of straw
across the sky

Anne Curran (NZ), Highly Commended

waning moon
no longer sure where the end
of my tether is

Sandra Simpson (NZ), Commended

autumn crocus
I’ll always regret I was away
the day you bloomed

Julie Schwerin (US), Commended

Dry summer

Not just the heat that settles on us daily and is parching gardens and lawns, or the kind of dry that makes people feel noble because they give up alcohol for a month, but the kind that results in blank pages, unused pens and a creeping feeling of terror.

What if it never comes back again? What if the last haiku I wrote (not very good) is the last haiku I’ll ever write?

Reading my work in two recent publications hasn’t stimulated me much, nor has participating in two kukai. I can only admire the wonderful efforts of others, and wonder what’s happened to my ‘haiku muscle’. Too long unused and it may wither and die.

Meantime the deadlines of two journals I submit to regularly are fast approaching and I haven’t anything new to send. In the past, I’ve been happy enough to go back through my files and see if there’s anything that can be reworked or used as a springboard for a new poem.

Instead, I’m trying to sort out cupboards and store rooms, keep up with the emails that flow in, write some context for a family history project, drinking copious amounts of chilled water, and reading (light fiction) late into the night – and in the shadows are all the things I should have done but haven’t got round to yet.

There doesn’t seem to be any room for haiku, and I’m sorry about that. This should be a season of bush walks, swimming, hammock in the garden … soaking up nature and storing it for sessions with a pen and paper.

Here are three haiku by three New Zealand women – who all live reasonably close to one another – from the latest issue of Presence journal (UK). We all clearly also like the drama of an ellipsis …

the way a storm wave
flings it up …
milky way

Jenny Fraser, Presence 68

spa pool …
soaking in the light
of countless stars

Elaine Riddell, Presence 68

prolonged heat …
a clapper bridge sinks
into the pasture

Sandra Simpson, Presence 68

Some summer haiku from the online Australian journal Echidna Tracks 6, with the theme ‘shelter’.

young pine cone
the tiny hatches
I keep shut

Mira Walker

santa cave . . .
the mechanical monkey band
of my childhood

Sandra Simpson

wedding marquee
the tickle of an ant
over my ankle

Vanessa Proctor

Fingers crossed, the dam will burst – maybe when the rain comes!