Haiku of the moment, Part 2

American poet and editor Scott Mason has produced, in The Haiku Hecameron, another outstanding hard-cover collection to follow his delightful The Wonder Code (2017).

Inspired by the 14th century book The Decameron, a collection of stories told over 10 days by 10 young people who were isolating to escape an outbreak of plague in Florence, Mason offers 100 days’ worth of reading (each day a double-page spread) of work by 100 poets with the subtitle, Gratitude in the time of Covid-19.

full moon
my daughter reads me
a bedtime story

Vanessa Proctor, Australia

While the majority of the collected works are haiku, the book, which is dedicated to English poet Stuart Quine, who died of Covid-19, also contains haibun, linked verse and haiga.

“Attending closely to what is (and who are) immediately around us constitutes our most basic act of respect,” Mason writes in his Introduction. “Gratitude naturally follows.”

even this spring
embracing the drain-spout
a burst of daffodils

Penny Harter, USA

early days –
a lone goose picked up
by the skein

Sandra Simpson, New Zealand

Later, Mason writes: “Ultimately this collection could be read as a time capsule from a highly unusual chapter of our very recent past … For months now we’ve been at sea – all of us in the same boat. These works welcome us home.”

closer & closer
the mountain’s silence coming
into view

Gary Hotham, USA

attic sunshine
there is nothing
we want to get rid of

Marcus Larsson, Sweden

Mason’s Introduction is dated “June 2020” but waymarking emails to contributors shared the rigors of trying to print and dispatch pre-orders around the world with all human endeavour slowed down, if not stopped. However, the post finally came through and my copy arrived in mid-October.

The vast majority of the haiku are about personal experiences that coincided with or were created by the time lockdown offered and although a few overtly mention coronavirus and its associated vocabulary, Mason has, I think, got the ratio nigh on perfect.

do-it-yourself masks
complete strangers sharing
a secret smile

Michele Root-Bernstein, USA

time for a walk
I explain coronavirus
to my dogs

Rosa Clement, Brazil

Until the end of November, Mason is offering a generous deal – buy two copies and receive a third free (all must be shipped to the same address). To place an order visit the website and scroll to the bottom.

Quarantine stories

Haiku poet and editor Scott Mason has been inspired by the 14th century book The Decameron, a collection of stories created during a plague outbreak in Florence, and come up with The Haiku Hecameron which will feature 100 haiku poets whose work reflects a spirit of gratitude for something that remains right (possibly even wondrous) in the world of the poet’s present-day experience.

Submitting poets must have had work appear in an edited haiku journal (print or online) in the last three years. Work must be the author’s own and not previously published (in print or online) or under consideration anywhere else.

Submit: Please send only one submission. A submission may comprise up to a total of three of the following, in any combination: Haiku; Haiku sequence (up to 100 words including title); Haibun (up to 100 words including title); Haiga (minimum resolution 300 dpi). Send submissions by email to Scott Mason with the subject line ‘Haiku Hecameron’. Haiga should be in jpg format as an attachment. All other work should be provided in the body of the email. Include your name, pen-name name (if used), and your location (town or city; state, province or region; country).
Deadline: April 17 (International Poetry Day). Acceptance notifications by May 17.

The goal is to have The Haiku Hecameron available in late July 2020, approximately 100 days after International Haiku Poetry Day.  Contributors and submitting poets will qualify for discounts.

Read about The Decameron and its author Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-75).

* * *

I read Quarantine by Jim Crace years ago but its echoes still hover. Essentially it’s about Jesus and the 40 days he spent alone in the desert, but there’s much more to it than that. Read a synopsis on the author’s website.

Read the author’s description of the circumstances surrounding the creation of what became an award-winning novel.

* * *

Probably painted in the workshop of Gentile Bellini (d. 1507), this canvas shows the Mamluk governor of Damascus granting an audience to a group from Venice. The painting is dated 1511. Image: Wikimedia Commons

The word ‘quarantine’ comes from 14th century Venice and means ‘forty days’, the length of time ships were isolated to prevent people arriving with the bubonic plague. But the practice of isolation for medical reasons goes back much further. Read the fascinating Wikipedia entry on quarantine.

* * *

Karantina is a suburb of Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, and is named for the quarantine station (lazaretto) built in about 1831 (during Ottoman rule) to house and isolate travellers arriving by sea. Between 1700 and 1848, plague raged 41 times in the empire’s Levant province. The empire’s quarantine system pushed the plague back to its frontiers by the 1840s, although from 1821 outbreaks of cholera – equally devastating – began to occur.

Karantina’s more recent history is stained by tragedy. In 1976, early in the Civil War in Lebanon, it was the site of a massacre of some 1500 Palestinian residents – men, women and children – by Christian militia.

Today, the suburb is known for its lively nightclub scene and concert hall. Funny how history gets overwritten, isn’t it?

* * *

Shakespeare apparently had a productive period in quarantine, so here’s hoping we stay well and do too.