And, as we look forward to gift-giving, here’s a second seasonal haiku to end our Advent series (I couldn’t resist it). Thanks for reading along, I hope you’ve had as much pleasure as I had in putting it together.
four in the morning it begins with hooves on the roof
Alan Summers Presence 74, 2022
Best wishes to all readers and their families for a safe and peaceful 2023.
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.
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
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, 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
I effectively lost 2 weeks last month due to Covid. Firstly, having to start isolation when Haiku Husband tested positive, and then coming down with it myself a few days later. While HH’s illness was fairly bad, mine was mild. I was relating all this to a haiku friend overseas who answered that I must have written some new haiku. Wrong! The couple I managed over my few days in bed resemble a fever dream so odd are they.
journal closed I fall asleep to steady rain
Ferris Gilli from Gratitude in the Time of Covid-19 The Haiku Hecameron (2020)
a thunderstorm & then you hear the kitchen clock
John Martone from NOON: An Anthology of Short Poems (2019)
moonlight on the sickroom wall the shadow of leaves
Sandra Simpson from Kokako 5 (2006)
The Covid variant most New Zealanders are experiencing now is highly transmissible so although we were isolating from one another inside the house, Haiku Son eventually tested positive too … and, perhaps because he’s young and strong, was barely ill with it. Fortunately, we’d had time to stock up on tinned soup, eggs, frozen meals, pain relief, etc before we were all ill, and HH’s work dropped off extra RAT kits. When we felt like eating again we didn’t have to do much to make something that could pass for a meal.
starlings in her voice a winter’s worth of worry
Francine Banwarth from Wishbone Moon anthology (2018)
As the older occupants of the house slowly began to recover, we discovered we were both left with low energy levels, which are still impacting us a bit, and a ‘flat’ feeling. Almost a month later I still have a wracking cough, which HH and HS didn’t get.
Haiku poet and editor Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) lived with the tuberculosis that killed him from about 1888, spending the last 6 years of his life largely bed-ridden. In early May 1902, 4 months before his death, Shiki began writing an essay series, ‘Byosho Rokushaku’ (‘Six-Foot Sickbed’), which was serialised in the newspaper Nippon:
A six-foot sickbed – this is my world. And this sickbed six feet long is too big for me. Sometimes I have only to stretch my arm a bit to touch the tatami, but at other times I can’t even relax by pushing my legs outside the covers. In extreme cases, I am relaxed but am tormented by such terrible pain that I’m unable to move my body so much as an inch or even half an inch. Racked by pain, anguish, shrieks, morphine, I search for a way out, helplessly craving a little peace on a road that leads to death.Read the full article by Ren Ino this piece is excerpted from (Journal of Philosophy and Ethics in Health Care and Medicine, No. 13, 2019).
Again and again from my sickbed I ask ‘how deep is the snow’?
Masaoka Shiki from The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse (1964)
Kokako 36 has arrived, looking smart with a colour photo by Tim Roberts on the cover – not sure, but it seems more natural to me when I turn it the other way up! A cry from the heart in the editorial by Margaret Beverland.
“The submission guidelines ask that you send 8 pieces only. Most subscribers adhere to this. However, there are one or two who do not, and no matter how hard I try, I cannot get 1 haiku, 7 tanka, 2 sequences and 4 collaborations to add up to 8 …” The trials of being an editor. Under-paid (ie, not at all) and under-appreciated. Read subscription details for Kokako, which is produced twice a year.
Here are some sound-value haiku I like from this edition, plus one of my own.
attuning to lockdown a lady-bug’s wings skim the venetians
summer solstice the song sparrow side of the pond
still morning – the plum blossom loud with bees
headland mansion – across the estuary a peacock’s cry
UK journal Presence 72 – double the ‘age’ of Kokako – is another recent arrival. I’ll offer some movement haiku as a selection, plus one of my own from this edition that doesn’t fit the theme. Read subscription details for Presence, which is produced three times a year.
windless morning dandelion seeds rise with the big top
crows sort the river stoneswinter sun
Glenn G Coats
charcoal sky – a hint of restlessness in the mares
summer heat – in my head I write your death notice
This year is all about co-ordinating and completing a large family history, as well as undertaking any paid work that comes my way over and above the ‘regulars’, so haiku is having to take a bit of a back seat, sadly. Some days I feel like I’ve puffed my way through a marathon, only to look at my to-do list and see I’m not really much further ahead. However, there are a few haiku-related things to report …
Judge Julie Warther said: “Working a tactile sensation into haiku can be a difficult task, but here we can almost feel a lump of clay spinning on a wheel, taking shape in the potter’s hands. It is a slow process and one that requires patience. “Whorls and ridges” could describe the design of the bowl itself or contours of the artist’s fingertips. When fingerprints are found in a finished piece, there is no mistaking its individual nature and the care with which it was created. This alone is a striking image, but a resonance emerges when this image is paired with ‘longest night’ – a time when the seasons themselves turn, taking on more and more light – in the unique nature of time itself.” Click on the link above to see all the winning haiku.
The latest issue of Kokako (34) has arrived featuring an eclectic mix of poets and their work, including three pages of pandemic-theme haiku. The link takes you to submission / subscription details.
eucalypt breeze the rattle of a cicada’s husk
eddies of dust the rooster’s comb blends into sunrise
winter sun – a pair of waxeyes chest to chest in mid air
haunted house the carnie flicks his butt and waves us in
Gilles Fabre, the editor of seashores journal, sent me a copy of the latest issue (6) as thanks for my essay ‘Cracks in the Pavement’ about urban haiku that appears in the volume. I’ll post the piece here towards the end of the year.
hill walking whether to get a dog at our age
learning to accept my baldness dandelion flight
the silence of the blinking cursor winter stars
Earlier this year I judged the British Haiku Society’s David Cobb Haiku Award, renamed this year to honour one of the BHS founders (1926-2020). The award has two judges, my colleague being Charles Trumbull in Sante Fe, New Mexico, and we were under strict instructions (which we followed!) not to talk to one another until given the go-ahead by the contest secretary (ie, when she’d received both of our reports).
We did correspond by email once allowed and were delighted to find that we’d each chosen different haiku, although our short lists were pretty near identical. Subjective, much! Read all the winning haiku and our judge’s comments. A useful byproduct of the work was thinking about what I seek in a poem, which also informed my writing for seashores as the two were almost concurrent.
bluebells carrying the drift of rain into dusk
Joanna Ashwell (Sandra’s choice for First)
wind in the tamaracks the sound of a screen door sixty years past
Earl R Keener (Charlie’s choice for First)
Finally, a delve into the latest copy of the always-readable Presence journal (issue 69).
ebb tide a limpet returned to its home scar
dry leaves scattering across the path quail chicks
woodsmoke – I am that child kicking leaves
westering sun – a skein of geese banks into a glide path
Kokako 33 landed in my letterbox yesterday – 76 pages of good reading. The editors have recently changed to PayPal to receive overseas payments for journal subscriptions so a year’s sub (2 copies) now costs $NZ36 for Australia and $NZ40 for the rest of the world, airmail post included. Contact Margaret for details.
winter the snow white sheets in the ambulance
laundry day pairing the matching socks wondering why
shearing day – the men take turns with the moccasin needle
flu jab wind whirls the pine needles
As well as haiku, there are tanka, linked verse, haibun and book reviews.
Presence 67 is another recent arrival, this time from the other side of the world so the image of a frigate bird on the cover – the photo by managing editor Ian Storr – seems entirely appropriate. This is another journal that contains a wide variety – haiku, tanka, linked verse, haibun and book reviews, plus a featured poet in each issue and short articles.
This issue of Presence also includes a tribute to Stuart Quine, the English poet who died of Covid-19, with underlying health complications, in March.He was 57. Kokako notes his passing as well, in the context of Stuart having a boulder poem on the Katikati Haiku Pathway.
always alone the white-faced heron in the river
overcast sky a goldfinch leaves behind her song
a jumble of books outside the old police station the odd summer cloud
Kokako 30 landed just before I headed off to Japan, a good read as always. If you’re reading this in New Zealand and don’t subscribe to Kokako, what are you waiting for? Find details here.
The first issue of Kokako appeared in 2003, under the helm of (the late) Bernard Gadd and Patricia Prime, who is still co-editor, now with Margaret Beverland. Kokako grew out of winterSPIN, an annual publication of SPIN poetry journal and focusing on the Japanese genres and short poetry. SPIN editor pnw donnelly encouraged Catherine Mair to edit winterSPIN from 1995-2001 with Bernie helping out from 1998. From 2003-2006 Kokako appeared once a year, then moving (by popular demand) to twice a year.
In her editorial to mark the thirtieth edition, Margaret notes that in the beginning most of the submissions to Kokako came from within New Zealand, but now most come from overseas.
If you’re interested in reading more on the history of haiku in New Zealand, click on the link to read an essay, prepared by me for The Haiku Foundation and published in 2016.
Here is a selection of haiku by New Zealand authors from Kokako 30.
flight of a fantail … we each scatter his ashes between spells of rain
Kirsten Cliff Elliot (Hamilton)
Photo: Sandra Simpson
family sorrow the yellow kowhai pays no attention
Tony Beyer (New Plymouth)
not speaking the cherry on the fence line in full bloom
Barbara Strang (Christchurch)
marae concert a small hole in the cellist’s sock
Sandra Simpson (Tauranga)
6am flight! watching the sun take off on its own journey
Gusting wind and rain have made this an inside sort of day – after some beautiful autumn weather this past week it’s a bit of a shock to have the light on at 3pm!
Kokako 28 is out, featuring a cover image I took in an autumnal Kyoto garden in 2016. It shows a woman in tabi (one-toe socks), Japanese-style Jandals (flip-flops) and the bottom part of a kimono with a maple-leaf pattern.
The journal features four of my haiku, including:
empty sky – the lambs kneel to drink what’s left
bedtime story – we skip the issues of patriarchy
I was particularly struck by this following haiku, partly because I can never make up my mind to do this:
coral bleaching I erase another name from my address book
– Seren Fargo
While the one below makes me feel like I’ve walked part-way into a story that could go either way, a definite whiff of Tom Waits:
airport the man with pencilled eyebrows orders a triple shot
We’re not this far into autumn yet, but slowly, slowly we’re heading towards peak colour. Last year we planted a dwarf Liquidamber (for that’s what a sweet gum is) called ‘Gum Ball’ but I don’t think we’re going to get much colour off it this year after the dry summer bled into autumn.
summer heat the click of beetles on the lino
– Andre Surridge
In December we spent the weekend with friends at a 60th birthday, lots of fun, lots of talk and plenty of recreation, including petanque (boules).
sixtieth birthday — the sheen of petanque balls tossed into the night
– Sandra Simpson
Years ago I played doubles petanque in The Netherlands with a friend who played competitively, against his regular playing partner and Haiku Husband. Great fun and something I’ve always fancied taking up. Better get cracking, eh?