breaking my journey

breaking my journey (Red Moon Press, 87 pages) is the first solo collection from award-winning Australian poet Gregory Piko, and a volume I’m glad to have added to my bookcase.

Cover art by Ron C. Moss.

For me, Greg is a poet on whom I can rely – if I see his name on a haiku, I know it will be worth reading and that a moment of beauty (whether sad, joyous or wistful) will be added to my day.

he drops his marshmallow
into her hot chocolate
pregnant at last

The ambition of a haiku poet is to capture moments of meaning, which can come in many different guises, and which somehow help us grope towards an understanding of life, ours and all those that surround us. In the ordinariness of daily life we try and find the extraordinary.

after my confession
even the galahs
sit quietly

Haiku are sensual poems and poems of observation and Greg has a deft touch with the telling detail and with choosing the right word – novice writers are advised to stay away from adverbs and adjectives but consider how much poorer the following respective haiku would be without ‘softly’ and ‘deeper’.

her cotton skirt
falls softly to the ground
steady rain

a crow at dusk
ink seeps deeper
into the page

Understanding the ‘rules’ of haiku, mastering them and then breaking them to good effect is a sure sign of a poet at the top of his game.

What we ‘see and ‘hear’ in the following haiku adds up to a sunny cheerfulness. But also measure what has been unwritten and we begin to see the strengths that Greg has brought to this collection.

she skips a little
on cresting the hill
beep of a Vespa

He exhibits the same playfulness in referencing other works, which he does with the lightest of touches. The following haiku tips its hat to William Carlos Williams and his 1938 poem, ‘This is Just to Say’.

summer’s end
I take another plum
from the fridge

The haibun ‘Near a Station of the Metro (after Ezra Pound)’ anchors us in the present, and a common dilemma for tourists remember them?), but is rich with the echoes of Pound’s 1913 poem ‘In a Station of the Metro’, which some argue may be the first haiku in English.

my journey
this pine

breaking my journey comprises 98 haiku, two haibun, and two linked verses. The book, produced to the usual high standard of Red Moon Press, can be purchased there or, if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, direct from the author .

Note: This book was purchased.

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.

Presence turns 50

I have spent the past week dipping in and out of the new issue of Presence, a print haiku journal from Britain that was, until his tragic death in April, edited by Martin Lucas.

Matthew Paul and Ian Storr, who have picked up the editorial reins, say in their editorial: “Since so few non-publicly-funded poetry magazines have the kind of longevity that Presence has had, this was to have been a celebratory issue. Martin’s sudden death has cast a dark shadow over what has undoubtedly been one of his major achievements, bringing Presence into existence and developing it into its current position as one of the world’s leading English-language haiku magazines.”

Presence is to continue – Matthew, Ian and Stuart Quine (who rejoins) form the editorial team with Chris Boultwood continuing as webmaster. Read submission and subscription details here.

Issue 50 features a lovely shot of Martin on the cover, contains an obituary for him, plus two articles and two book reviews by him. Despite all the upheaval and grief, the editors have produced a volume of which, I’m sure, Martin would be proud.

uncut meadow
the sun sets
in a rabbit’s ears

– Matthew Morden

where the sun shines
a loose school
of fingerlings

– Greg Piko

There are several works dedicated to Martin and of the two haiku of mine in the journal is this one that, although I didn’t say so, is in memory of Martin, a hugely talented, kind and downright top bloke with a dry sense of humour. (In case you don’t know, birdwatching was one of Martin’s favourite things.)

bleak morning –
the brisk chatter of godwits
turning for home

– Sandra Simpson

Winter holiday

Raining again, and turning cold too after what has so far been a very mild winter. Still, we had time this morning to rake a mess of leaves off the garden and on to the lawn for Haiku Teenager to mow over and throw into the leaf mould bins. Haiku Husband pruned the hydrangeas down to the ground and I set to and weeded the new garden.

We’re all on holiday this week but decided on a “stay-cation” when we saw the weather forecasts – not nice anywhere in the North Island all week. Today’s treat was High Tea at a local, smart hotel. As we left Haiku Husband suggested I should recommend it only to people I didn’t like! So, as nobody here qualifies for that appellation, I shall instead recommend High Tea at Chateau Tongariro and High Tea at Zealong Tea Estate near Hamilton, the former more traditional, the latter more innovative with its use of tea-flavoured food – and both delicious!

Here are some haiku to whisk us away to sunnier climes and warmer times …

all the umbrellas proceed
at the same pace

– Greg Piko (Australia), Modern Haiku 37:2, 2006


                                                                         afternoon breeze 
                                                                         the pace of paddle boats 
                                                                         in the park

– Ben Moeller-Gaa (US), The Heron’s Nest XV:3, 2013


green and black lizard
curled in a stone nostril:
summer in Rome

– Sandra Simpson, winterSPIN, 1995


reef sharks
the black eye
of the hibiscus

– Sandra Simpson, Simply Haiku 4:4, 2006


And a senryu to end on …

After pushing the lawnmower at noontime, the simple taste of water is satisfying

– Anon, from Gardeners’ Pioneer Story (Southern California Gardeners Federation, 2007)

The book’s editor, Sankyaku (Sunny) Seki, spoke about senryu at last year’s Haiku North America conference in Long Beach, California. The book is about the senryu of the Japanese gardeners who at one time dominated as domestic gardeners in Los Angeles and what the poems reveal about their lives through the 20th century from 1907. It was originally published (in Japanese) in Rafu Shimpo, a Japanese-language newspaper in Los Angeles. No author names are attached to the senryu, and all are presented as single lines.

Here is another article about the Southern California Gardeners’ Federation which had thousands of Japanese members when it started.