How do we tell our story?

Honoured to be invited to join a women’s group last week as they visited the Haiku Pathway and the Mural Trail in Katikati. They all seemed genuinely interested in what I had (briefly) to say about haiku as strolled around part of the pathway. But it made me wonder about how we tell our story of haiku to people who know nothing about this form of poetry.

Some members of the group read one of the boulder poems on the Katikati Haiku Pathway. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Do we tell them too much? Or too little? Do we over-emphasise the ‘seriousness’ of haiku to compensate for the poems seeming trivial because of their brevity? How do we best convey our love for haiku without having our listeners’ eyes glaze over?

I hope I did haiku justice and the women all seemed to be active listeners, judging by the questions they asked as we went round. But I’d like to hear from others about experiences of talking to groups who don’t form part of a workshop and probably have no intention of ever writing a haiku. If you have time, I’d enjoying reading your thoughts, ideas and tips in the Comments section.


Katikati Haiku Contest 2021

After a Covid hiatus last year, the Katikati Haiku Contest returns, just in time to celebrate the 21st birthday of the Katikati Haiku Pathway.

King’s Seeds, a Katikati business, is kindly sponsoring the cash prizes which will see the first-place haiku receive a generous $200, second $100 and third $50 (overseas winners will receive their prize via PayPal). The best haiku by a local writer will receive a nice book prize.

The pathway committee has decided to waive the entry fee this year, both in recognition of the pathway’s milestone and to acknowledge last year’s postponed contest. However, there will be a limit of 2 haiku per entrant to try and keep things manageable for the person receiving the entries and the judge. Enter by email or see above for a postal address. Typed entries much preferred, but otherwise please write clearly.

The contest closes at 5pm on September 19 (New Zealand time). Please see the flyer above for further details.

For beginners, there is a good guide to writing haiku, complete with lesson plans, here.

Pathway visitors

Had a lovely morning wandering/riding the Haiku Pathway in Katikati with a group of locals and some visitors.

From left: Steve Clarkson (Taupo), Shirley May (Tauranga), Ben Clarkson (Dunedin/Taupo), Garry Astle (NSW, Australia), Margaret Beverland (Katikati), Laurel Astle (NSW, Australia) and Bob Edwards (Katikati). Front: Catherine Mair and her racing machine! Photo: Sandra Simpson

Lovely weather for a stroll, followed by a lovely lunch and throughout all interesting conversation! Can’t ask for more.

The Haiku Pathway will next year celebrate its 20th birthday. Read about its  development here,

Haiku, a visitor & an explanation!

I am very excited to have my haiku featuring on the Mann Library Daily Haiku website, one a day for the month of August. Click on the link to read the current one, and then ‘previous’ or ‘next’.

For more than 10 years Tom Clausen, the instigator of the Mann Library Daily Haiku series, posted a daily haiku in the elevator of the old Mann building at Cornell University (Ithaca, New York state). Since his retirement, he posts them online. Featured poets are by invitation only, so it’s an honour to be included.

Tom’s essay, A Haiku Way on Life, featured on Haiku NewZ in 2007. Click on the title to read it.

Presence 64 has arrived from the other side of the world (UK) and includes three of my poems.

winter palace –
a light rain falls
on the bridal party

– Sandra Simpson

As you might guess this one was written after visiting St Petersburg last year and was pretty much a scene from Palace Square. The melancholy of Russian history – and what a history it is – seemed to filter quickly into my consciousness.

Canadian poet Michael Dudley is visiting New Zealand and was in Katikati last week where a few of us joined him for a walk round the Haiku Pathway. It was a delight to have him share his insights into the poems we met – his acuity and sensitivity to the words and surroundings enriched our outing considerably. Read about Michael and his extensive recent travels in this piece from an English-language Montenegro newspaper (February 12, 2019).

Visiting the Haiku Pathway in Katikati are, from left, Bob Edwards, Margaret Beverland and Michael Dudley. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Michael asked me why my boulder poem

wading birds
mark low tide with
chinese characters

used lower case for the word ‘chinese’ (and it’s not unknown for editors to inquire as to why I use lower case on proper nouns). So … I believe we humans and our activities should be viewed on a par with ants and trees and birds. We should not think we stand any higher and, in fact, our propensity to see ourselves as ‘rulers’ of the Earth has caused, is causing and will cause immeasurable damage and problems for all the inhabitants of this beautiful blue planet.

US poet Scott Mason this week sent a link to this great interview (43 minutes) he did for public television in America and, I was delighted to hear, he thinks much the same way about our place in the world (though I don’t know where stands on capital letters!). If you don’t yet have a copy of Scott’s great book on haiku, The Wonder Code, immediately purchase one!

Roving Ambassador Roberta Beary

It’s not often I have an ambassador to stay at Chez Haiku (in fact, never) but a visit this week from Roberta Beary (and her husband Frank Stella) was exactly that. Roberta is the inaugural Haiku Foundation Roving Ambassador – and even has diplomatic credentials (well, okay, a visiting card, but still …)!

Roberta and Frank arrived in Auckland from the US by cruise ship on January 27 and will spend about 3 weeks in Aotearoa doing all the usual sight-seeing with Roberta making contact with haiku poets and editors wherever she can. The couple are travelling for most of this year and have plans to base themselves in Ireland for a bit rather than being constantly on the move. From New Zealand they go to Australia and then, probably, Singapore. It seems a bit ‘fly by wire’ but I think they’re looking forward to some spontaneity after a busy time before they left the US.

We spent Friday in Katikati touring the 45 poems on the Haiku Pathway with a small group, all then toddling off to an extremely nice lunch together.

Roberta took the opportunity to make a photo record of every poem on the Katikati Haiku Pathway. Photo: Sandra Simpson

She was delighted to see this haiku by her good friend Jim Kacian. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Out to lunch (clockwise from front left) are Jenny Fraser (Mt Maunganui), Roberta Beary, Frank Stella, Bob Edwards (Katikati), Catherine Mair (Katikati), Catherine Bullock (Waihi), Margaret Beverland (Katikati) and Sandra Simpson (Tauranga). Photo: A really helpful waitress at Café Nineteen (Fairview Golf Course).

If you’d like to contact Roberta to see if a visit is possible, please use the email address on her visiting card. As well as being an award-winning haiku poet, Roberta is also haibun editor for Modern Haiku and will continue in this role during her zig-zagging across the planet, thanks to the magic of email.

On the radio

Won myself a chat with the delightful Jesse Mulligan this week, on his Summer Days slot on RNZ National. At my end the interview flew by and I thought it must have been about 5 minutes long – when I listened to it on podcast, turned out to be 10 minutes!

The basis of the interview was the Katikati Haiku Pathway but Jesse asked lots of questions about haiku in general and even started the interview with a haiku about the pathway that he’d written. Unfortunately, I wasn’t patched in and didn’t hear it which is why I don’t comment on it, not even to acknowledge his effort, shame.

Listen to the interview here.

Had some fun feedback too … an email this morning from Margaret Beverland, chairwoman of the Haiku Pathway Committee, who was contacted by a woman from Christchurch – and former resident of Katikati – who heard the interview. She’s off to Japan with 16 others on a Friendship Force International trip and they have decided to have a go at writing haiku before they leave. Excellent.

New Haiku Pathway poem: Part 2

It’s a pleasure to be able to announce the completion of the 45th poem on the Katikati Haiku Pathway – hopefully plenty of holiday visitors have already discovered this delightful haiku, especially with the first of the summer’s concerts having taken place.

Photo: Sandra Simpson

The poem is by Ron C. Moss of Tasmania and the plaque adorns a boulder behind the year-old stage built by the Twilight Concert Committee – the committee not only made a cash donation to the pathway project after last year’s summer concerts but also provided the rock for the poem and have planted around the stage.

outdoor concert
the toddler asleep
kicking stars

– Ron C. Moss

As with the other boulder completed in this 2-haiku project, the metal plaque inscribed with the poem has 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.

Ron hails from Tasmania in Australia (with Kiwi connections in his immediate family) and is a talented – and award-winning – poet, photographer and artist. See some of his artwork here. Ron’s first book-length collection of haiku, The Bone Carver, was published by Snapshot Press (UK) in 2014.

He works as a reprographic services technician at the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office, as well as being a volunteer firefighter. Ron was awarded the Tasmania Fire Service Volunteer Medal (for diligent service) in 2010 and the National Medal in 2013.

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.

Katikati Haiku Contest

The biennial Katikati Haiku Contest is open for entries!

Thanks to the good people at Kings Seeds, there are cash prizes on offer – $NZ100 for first, $NZ50 for second and $NZ25 for third. Plus, the contest offers a book prize for the Best Local Haiku. The junior section (17 & under) is offering $50 for first, $25 for second and $10 for third. All proceeds go to the Katikati Haiku Pathway project.

I’m judging the senior contest – in case you’re wondering, the entries go elsewhere to be sorted and judging is done ‘blind’ – and Catherine Mair the junior section.

Here are the rules:

  • Poems should preferably be typewritten, otherwise clearly handwritten. Several poems on one sheet are fine.
  • Submit 2 copies of each haiku with 1 only including your name, address, phone number (NZ only), e-mail address, and for the junior section only, age.  Junior entrants should be 17 or under on October 31.
  • Haiku should not have been previously published (including on the web or broadcast).
  • Entry fees: Senior, within NZ: $5 for every 3 haiku or $2 for 1 haiku. Overseas: $US5 for every 3 haiku or $2 for 1. Email Margaret for how to enter using PayPal. In the event that winners are from overseas, cash prizes will be transferred via PayPal.
    Junior, within NZ: $1 for up to 2 haiku. Please do not decorate or illustrate entries. Schools are welcome to send bulk entries.
  • Any entry not accompanied by the correct entry fee will be disqualified. Entrants send cash at their own risk. Make cheques payable to: Katikati Haiku Pathway Committee. No cheques drawn on banks outside New Zealand will be accepted.
  • Entries in hand by October 31. Post to: Katikati Haiku Contest, PO Box 183, Katikati 3166, New Zealand. Results announced in November.

If you’re new to haiku or are a teacher wanting to learn more for the classroom there is the excellent Learning to Write Haiku booklet prepared by Katherine Raine for the NZ Poetry Society.

If you’d like to read more deeply and/or brush up your skills, I recommend Haiku Techniques by Jane Reichhold, Guidelines for Editing Haiku by Lee Gurga and the practical advice of How to Write Haiku by Jim Kacian. There are many more useful essays in  Archived Articles at Haiku NewZ.

No excuses, get out there and write!

Katikati Haiku Contest

Yes, folks, the Katikati Haiku Contest is back on this year – and you have to be in it to win it! (I’m sure there’s a rugby analogy I should be using as per our Prime Minister’s example but, no.)

Kings Seeds, a great Katikati company that has recently gained BioGro certification and stocks New Zealand’s largest range of organic seed, sponsors the cash prizes – $175 for the senior section (18 and over) and $85 for the junior section (17 and under).

To enter:

  • Send two copies of each haiku, with one only including your name, address, phone number (not mobile), e-mail address and age, if entering the junior section.
  • Poems should be typewritten or clearly handwritten. Junior entrants should avoid decorating or illustrating their entry.
  • Entry fees are: Senior: $5 for every 3 haiku or $2 for 1. Junior: $1 for every 2 haiku.
  • Post haiku to Katikati Haiku Contest, PO Box 183, Katikati 3166, New Zealand. If you are entering from overseas, email the competition secretary for details on using PayPal for the entry fee.

Entries close on September 26. The judge for the senior section is … me!

Proceeds from the contest go towards the pathway project so please do think about entering.

If you haven’t tackled a haiku before, maybe these notes will be helpful.

An Introduction to Haiku

  • Haiku are one to three lines long; three is a good place for beginners to start
  • Haiku are written in the present tense – a haiku is what is happening now, it captures this moment
  • They contain at least one of the five senses – haiku that include more than just a visual picture, think about taste, sound, feel and smell, are often stronger
  • Try to write about a real moment, something you have experienced
  • Haiku should focus on the particular, not the general (ie, not the wide, sandy beach but a shell on the beach) – be a camera zooming in
  • Haiku are about nature, at least partly (including human nature)
  • They should be able to be said in one breath (about 20 syllables)*
  • They are written in two parts (see next note) with a pause between the ideas/images
  • They can contrast 2 images; surprise readers with the link (don’t write a “list” of 3 images, this is not a haiku)
  • Show, don’t tell – write just enough to make the reader want to know more; haiku are not an explanation
  • Avoid descriptions of emotion
  • Use everyday language, but avoid cliché or “poetic” words (ie, tranquil, o’er)
  •  Avoid simile or metaphor; use few, if any, adjectives and adverbs
  • Haiku are unrhymed
  • There is no need to use punctuation or capital letters; keep articles to a minimum.

*The 5-7-5 construction of haiku is now generally not used in English.

Further reading:

Ask at your local library for books on haiku, especially the taste of nashi, the 2008 anthology of New Zealand haiku.

Visit the Katikati Haiku Pathway. Buy a copy of the pathway guidebook (available at Katikati Information Centre, Katikati Craft Shop, and Books A Plenty, Tauranga).

Visit Haiku NewZ and read the archived articles (left-hand menu), especially Guidelines for Editing Haiku by Lee Gurga (May 2006), The Secret of Writing Haiku by Paul Miller (February 2014), although there are many useful essays there.