Haiku doldrums

My writing has taken a back seat lately – and not just the back seat in a car, the back seat in a big bus! – so as the days lengthen I’m trying to kick start the brain and limber up the ‘haiku muscle’ in a variety of ways.

New books

I’ll write something more about the first two soon but can recommend all of them – and in my experience reading good haiku is invaluable towards writing good haiku.

Scott Mason is one of my favourite haiku poets so when he sent a note to say he has a new book out, imagine my delight. But it’s not quite a collection of his own work or at least not only a collection of his own work for Scott has produced a magnificent volume based on his thinking about haiku. If you’re quick The Wonder Code has a special pricing offer available until November 30.

The book is divided into themed chapters about haiku, each with a selection of poems previously published in The Heron’s Nest, followed by a ‘Solo Exhibition’ of his own work.

  slave burial ground
a mourning dove
         we can only hear

– Scott Mason

Carolyn Hall, another of my favourite haiku poets, has produced her fourth collection, Calculus of Daylilies, which doesn’t appear to contain a dud! Wish I knew how she did that – and how she makes many of her haiku so darn relevant.

cockleburs
the court reaffirms
open carry

– Carolyn Hall

Read more about cockleburs (Xanthium strumarium), a plant native to the Americas and eastern Asia.

The last of my new books I discovered by accident, reading something on the net that led to something else where I clicked on … well, I can’t remember now but the upshot was small clouds by Iza Boa Nyx, a 2016 collection of haiku, tanka and prose that is dedicated to her mother Jane Reichhold and which examines Jane’s sudden death and her ensuing grief and mourning.

It would be easy for the book to be maudlin and self-indulgent, the poems primal screams of pain. But the author has produced a slim volume that is essentially a series of linked haibun, although nowhere is it described as such. The prose acts not only as head-notes for poems that would otherwise be untethered on the page but also holds the book together as the story progresses from “At midnight she told me that our mother had killed herself” to “The peace of knowing that this life is all that it will be is echoed in the late summer heat that seems to stupefy even the lizards”.

cumulus, nimbus
cirrus, stratus and fog
all kinds of clouds
in the week of your wake
not knowing what to say

– Iza Boa Nyx

Recent publication

Presence 59 has wound its way from the UK recently and, as always, is packed full of good reading.

right where
the universe goes
fireflies

– Gary Hotham

an owl’s empire
the flecks of light
in snow

– Alan Summers

meteor night –
shaking the star chart
out of its folds

– Richard Tindall

wet spring –
in a box by the fire
a small bleat

– Sandra Simpson

Not so recent, but something I’d not seen until now …  the results of the last Setouchi Matsuyama Photo Haiku Contest include an Award for this combination of my own image with my own haiku (there’s also a section where supplied photos act as prompts for haiku).

waka-ama haiga - Copy

I took the photo standing on the lawn of a friend’s home in Apia, Samoa. The waka-ama guys paddled one way, then the other – and catching sight of me dug deep, then howled with laughter, stopped paddling and waved! Waka-ama, or outrigger canoes, are used throughout the Pacific as sea-going vessels although in Aotearoa New Zealand the outrigger gradually disappeared. These days, waka-ama has also become a team sport.

You have until November 30 to enter this year’s Setouchi Matsuyama Photo Contest so get going!

And I’ve had my first haiku appear in Akitsu Quarterly, a print journal edited by Robin White in New Hampshire, US. Among them is

burn-off season –
riding home on the back
of a grey truck

– Sandra Simpson

Writing with a buddy

We’re going at our own pace and exchanging whatever we have. We can comment, or not, on the other’s haiku, we can chat about the weather, we can leave the exchange for days … the main thing, for both of us, is that we’re actually writing, instead of worrying about not writing. Fingers crossed.

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Werner Reichhold 1925-2017

Received the sad news yesterday that Werner Reichhold had died on June 21, the summer solstice in the United States. He was the husband of the late Jane Reichhold, who chose to end her life last July and Jane’s daughter Heidi tells me that Werner also chose the time of his passing.

Werner and Jane Reichhold, pictured at their home in July last year. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Werner, who was born in Germany, would have been 92 on July 18. A prisoner of war in Egypt during World War 2, Werner began exhibiting as a sculptor in 1955 (winning awards in the 1960s) with his final participation in an exhibition in 1995. His art work was exhibited throughout Europe, including at the Musee Rodin in Paris, and in Japan, Canada and the US.

He and Jane founded and co-edited Lynx journal (2000-2014), and published one of the first anthologies of English-language tanka – Wind Five-Folded – in 1994. They also explored other genres of poetry, including what they termed ‘symbiotic poetry’ and published anthologies such as A Film of Words (the link takes you to Jane and Werner’s description of the book).

Haiku by Werner Reichhold at the Gualala Arts Centre Haiku Walk. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The couple were penpals for 4 years before meeting and when Jane decided to go to Germany she suggested they exchange photographs – without discussing it, they each chose a third grade photo (9 years old) to send. And when they exchanged wedding gifts, it turned out they’d bought each other the same thing! The couple moved to Gualala, California from Germany in 1987 and lived there until their deaths.

Read Werner’s selection of his favourite German haiku (with translations).

New Haiku Pathway poem: Part 1

Last night’s Katikati Haiku Pathway Committee meeting began with a visit to a brand-new pathway poem, our 44th haiku. Our delight in the organic, yet sophisticated, look of the work is tempered by the fact that poet Jane Reichhold is not alive to have seen it completed.

We had corresponded by email over a period after requesting permission to use her haiku and know that she was honoured and excited to have her poem used on the Pathway.

Haiku Pathway founder Catherine Mair with the new boulder. Photo: Sandra Simpson

As usual, the project has been a community effort. It has been able to go ahead thanks to a donation from the Twilight Concert Committee – the Pathway reserve is now a permanent home for the summer concerts.

The metal plaques inscribed with the poem have been made by Stainless Downunder, a Katikati company, and fitted into the rock by fourth-generation stone mason Paul Gautron who has inscribed many of the pathway’s poem boulders. The boulder was purchased from Carine Garden Centre and lifted into place, free of charge, by Tom of Fotheringhame Contractors who are working on the next-door stage of Highfields.

And none of it would have been possible without the support of Wayne Allchorne, our Western Bay of Plenty District Council parks officer, and his boss Peter Watson.

Photo: Sandra Simpson

Stay tuned for the announcement of the 45th haiku being finished! Read more about the Katikati Haiku Pathway, a free walk that is open every day.

An editor’s choice!

Lovely to be included in the Editor’s Choices for the latest issue of The Heron’s Nest. Amazingly enough – to me anyway – this is the first dragonfly haiku I’ve had published!

torpid heat the small breeze a dragonfly makes

– Sandra Simpson, The Heron’s Nest, 18.3

Another nice surprise came through the ether all the way from Angelee Deodhar in India, who created this haiga:

Beautiful photo, isn’t it? My attempts at dragonfly photography are very mediocre by comparison.

The appearance of a dragonfly in Japanese haiku tradition is a signifier of autumn but as you can see from my poem, I haven’t necessarily bothered about that. It might be high summer, it might be an Indian summer, you figure it out!

a round melon
   in a field of round melons
          – resting dragonfly

– Robert Spiess (1921-2002)
from Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years

Number one on a list of 14 ‘fun facts’ about dragonflies is this: Dragonflies were some of the first winged insects to evolve, some 300 million years ago. Modern dragonflies have wingspans of only two to five inches (5-12cm), but fossil dragonflies have been found with wingspans of up to two feet (61cm). Read the rest of the list here.

the dragonfly
on mother’s gravestone
something of her

– Jane Reichhold (1937-2016)
from A Dictionary of Haiku: Second Edition

We have a ‘giant’ dragonfly in New Zealand (Uropetala carovei) which has a yellow and black body that can be up to 86mm (3.4 inches) long, with a wingspan up to 130mm (5 inches). Read more about it here and listen to a radio talk about it and our other large dragonfly here (11 minutes 30, not all dragonfly). And no, I’ve never seen one.

.とんぼうのはこしているや菊の花

tombô no hako shite iru ya kiku no hana

the dragonfly
takes a crap …
chrysanthemum

– Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828)
translated by David Lanoue and from his website Haiku of Kobayashi Issa

Another Issa haiku to finish – the cartoon by talented Canadian Jessica Tremblay from her Old Pond Comics collection.

Jane Reichhold 1937-2016

It is with great sadness that I report the death of Jane Reichhold – poet, editor, translator and much more besides.

Jane’s body was found on a beach near her home between Gualala and Point Arena on the northern California coast on July 28. Her husband, Werner, says she took her own life as symptoms of her fibromyalgia worsened. He has been quoted as saying  (scroll down to find the entry for Jane) that she wished to depart this life at a time of her choosing and had written her own obituary 2 months ago.

jane reichhold

Jane Reichhold, photographed at her home on July 9, 2016. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Read about my recent visit to Jane in Postcard from Gualala and read a well-written (apart from the misspelling of Lynx) 2015 profile of her from the Ukiah Daily Journal – she has done so much in her life that it’s difficult to understand just how much she has achieved in, for instance, haiku so needs must this is a personal appreciation.

Jane had worked with the Ukiah Haiku Festival for many years and a couple of years ago the festival renamed its international section the Jane Reichhold Prize. In the 2016 booklet of prizewinners, judges and committee members were each represented by a haiku.

romance
in a humdrum life
the orchid

– Jane Reichhold, 14th ukiaHaiku festival, 2016

Jane was also a popular and busy figure around the Gualala Arts Centre where she instigated a short haiku walk (see the Postcard for more) and, since 2006, had operated and moderated the online AHAForum where poets could meet and discuss their work. She and husband Werner established AHA Poetry in 1996 and although the site is still active, it is now an archive, last updated in 2014 when they decided to close their journal Lynx.

Read some of Jane’s haiku that she chose to demonstrate her thoughts on haiku principles. Read a set of Jane’s favourite haiku by other people with her commentary. In 2009 Jane spoke to the Commonwealth Club of California about haiku – watch the video here (1:03) – and she kindly allowed me to transcribe portions of the text and form it into an article for Haiku NewZ, Building an Excellent Birdcage. You can find several other articles by Jane in the Archived Articles section of Haiku NewZ (put ‘jane’ into the page search).

She was a generous poet who deliberately didn’t copyright any of her work so it could be shared freely. It was also her ambition to have haiku and mainstream poetry ’embrace one another’ and she was happy, she told me, to have mainstream poets write haiku ‘their way’. She didn’t want a situation such as in Japan where haiku poets and tanka poets don’t mix and, she said, where tanka poets look down on those who write haiku.

Jane made her lesson plans freely available as the Bare Bones School of Haiku, Bare Bones School of Renga and Wind Five-Folded School of Tanka.

I’ve been trying to write a memorial haiku since I heard the news of Jane’s death yesterday evening but don’t believe I have managed it. However, I did come up with something that is directly based on my meeting with her, so that will have to do for now. The first line is taken from one of Jane’s own poems in her 2013 A Dictionary of Haiku (second edition) which is a large collection of her work presented in sajiki form. I’ll add her poem to this when I find it again!

black ink painting of the moon –
she rests her chin
on his shoulder

– Sandra Simpson

Jane always signed her emails ‘blessings’, so that’s what I’ll leave you with too.

Postcard from Gualala

Northern California has a strong haiku scene including major groups like Haiku Poets of Northern California and Yuki Tekei (and more about them in another postcard), but is also home to the renowned Jane Reichhold, a poet and editor that I’ve had friendly email dealings with for many years.

We dropped in to see Jane and her husband Werner after first visiting the impressive Gualala Arts Centre where in 2013 Jane instigated a short haiku walk as part of the Global Harmony Sculpture Garden.

Haiku by Werner Reichhold. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Jane and Werner edited the online journal Lynx together for 14 years (to 2014) before reluctantly deciding they no longer had the energy for it. Jane’s more recent work includes translating, with Machiko Kobayashi, the 399 tanka in Akiko Yosano’s 1901 collection. A Girl with Tangled Hair (AHA Books, 2014) took a while, Jane says, because she needed the right Japanese translator to work with – her first co-translator of Japanese tanka fell seriously ill and it took time to find someone else with the attributes Jane sought, which included “free and bold” translations.

sa wa iedo
sono hitotoki yo
mabayukariki
natsu no no shimeshi
shirayuri no hana

no matter
what they said at the time
it was dazzling
when the summer field
was taken by white lilies

She and Werner published one of the first anthologies of English-language tanka – Wind Five-Folded – in 1994.

In 2013 Jane published a second volume of her A Dictionary of Haiku (essentially a collected works arranged by season and topic) and brought to fruition her 15-year project of translating all of Basho’s haiku. Basho The Complete Haiku was published by Kondasha.

how loud the surf
filled with moonlight
high and round

– Jane Reichhold, from A Dictionary of Haiku (second edition)

One of the undoubted highlights of her long career in haiku, tanka and renga was a personal invitation from the Emperor and Empress of Japan to attend the 1998 Imperial New Year’s Poetry Party at the palace in Tokyo. “There seemed to be two people waiting to fulfil our every wish,” she recalls. “It was marvellous, if slightly unreal.”

Speaking of slightly unreal, we’d spent the day driving in and out of the fogbanks that are common along this stretch of coast in summer and when we arrived Jane was sitting in a patch of sunlight crocheting, surrounded by shelves of very lifelike dolls! (Bodega Bay, where Hitchcock filmed The Birds is a little further down the coast …)

Turns out, she “repurposes” dolls that are weighted and dressed as if they were infants and then given to dementia patients.

Jane and Werner Reichhold. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The couple are great fun – Werner spent some 40 or 50 years working as an installation artist and now, at the age of 90, enjoys collages as well as poetry. They were penpals for 4 years before meeting and when Jane decided to go to Germany she suggested they exchanged photographs – without discussing it, they each chose a third grade photo (8 years old) to send. And when they exchanged wedding gifts, it turned out they’d bought each other the same thing!

As we were leaving Jane pressed two small notebooks into my hand, a new project. “Write down what you’re thankful for,” she said. “Send it back and be part of the exhibition at the Gualala Arts Centre … or drop it somewhere and let a stranger do it.”

I’ve kept one notebook and given the other to a haiku poet. My first entry is being thankful for the kindness and generosity of the worldwide haiku community. As Jane would say, blessings!

Read Jane’s My Favourite Haiku selection. Read Werner’s selection of his favourite German haiku (with translations).

Swans in winter

using the headlines
to practise origami –
swans in Fukushima

– Sandra Simpson, NOON 11 (March 2016), Japan

Haiku Husband noticed the “goodie box” headline in The Japan News delivered to our hotel room in Hiroshima on November 20, 2015. Swans herald winter, it said. “Swans have been spotted in Lake Inawashiro in Fukushima Prefecture, marking the arrival of winter. A conservation group representative says they arrived a week earlier than usual.” Read the full story here. It ends by saying there would be about 3000 swans at the lake by the end of February.

Bewick’s swan. Photo: Dick Daniels, Wikimedia Commons

On October 12, 2015 the Gloucester Citizen newspaper in the UK reckoned the early arrival of swans from Siberia foretold a bitter winter, saying the Bewick’s swan (Cygnus bewickii) sets off with the raw Arctic cold hot on its tail – the first swan arrived 25 days earlier than in 2014. Read that story here.

a moment before sunrise –
     ice singing
            beneath the swans’ feet

–  Martin Lucas (UK), winner of the Katikati Haiku Contest, 2010

a full moon
resting on hoar-frost meadows
tundra swans

– Jane Reichhold (US), from her AHA website

I’m slowly reading Basho: The Complete Haiku translated and edited by Jane Reichhold but the index of haiku content shows nothing for swans! Read more about the book here.

mute swan
at the base of its neck
a tracking device

– Kathleen O’Toole (US), Honourable Mention, Turtle Light Press Contest 2010

A mute swan in flight. Photo: Pjt56, Wikimedia Commons

To complete this sampling of swan haiku I consulted Wing Beats: British Birds in Haiku (Snapshot Press, 2008) edited by John Barlow and Matthew Paul.

snow light …
meltwater falls
from a swan’s bill

– John Barlow

This is the other excellent swan haiku in the book, which I couldn’t resist, despite being in the ‘wrong’ season. Both haiku are about mute swans (Cygnus olor).

summer clouds –
two swans passing
beat for beat

– John Crook