New publications

The first issue of haiku journal Leaf-fall arrived in my letterbox recently, a gift from editor Akira Yagami who invited five poets to submit to the inaugural issue – Eva Limbach, John McManus, Alan Summers, Lucy Whitehead and myself.

after the scan
a dollhouse with
no one inside

Lucy Whitehead, Leaf-fall 1.1

This is from Lucy’s bio at Tinywords: Lucy Whitehead has a BA (hons) in Archaeology and Anthropology and an MA in the History of Art and Archaeology (of Asia). She has worked as an archaeologist and academic editor. She started writing haiku in 2018. Lucy lives in Essex in the UK.

star-spattered sky
the loneliness
we share

Eva Limbach, Leaf-fall 1.1

Eva writes in both English and her native German.You can read more of her work at her blog, Mare Tranquillitatis (Sea of Tranquility). She lives in Saarbrücken, a German town near the French border and has been writing haiku since 2012.

Both the male poets are from England. Read more about John McManus. Alan Summers is a busy haiku bee who writes, teaches and supports various haiku institutions. His website is here.

And me? Well, you know me already!

first cold morning
the unlined face
of my oldest doll

Sandra Simpson

Akira Yagami has sent submission and subscription details for Leaf-fall, which is a print-only journal: April 15-May 15 (estimated publication date in early June); October 15-November 15 (estimated publication date in early December). Annual subscriptions are available: £10 outside UK (postage included) for two issues, beginning with 1.2. All payments via PayPal to akirayagami (at) gmx (dot) com

Cover artwork is also being sought for issue 1.2. All kinds of art considered, but please send only jpeg files to the above email address with the subject line ‘art cover submission’.

The next publication to arrive was NOON: An anthology of short poems (Isobar Press), a collection from the journal of the same name, covering the period 2004 to 2017. From 2004 to 2009 NOON was a print-only journal, before migrating to the web in 2014. ‘Short poem’, by the way, is anything up to 14 lines, so yes, haiku, but other types of work as well.

In his Introduction, editor (of both the anthology and the journal) Philip Rowland says, that, even online, having one poem per page means “each poem [has] the space to ‘breathe’; [but] the poem must also, so to speak, warrant the page”.

In this way the journal’s format has helped open the question: how much can these poems of very few words do, individually and collectively? The challenge is one
of concision – but also connection, for each issue is meant to form a sequence of poems, short enough to be read at a single sitting.

Likewise, the arrangement of poems in this anthology has been a crucial consideration: they have been carefully juxtaposed throughout. Thus it is not simply a ‘best-of’ collection, but rather a new configuration of selected poems – a retrospective special issue, effectively. Given the scarcity of the print issues and the ‘virtual’ form of the later ones, the general aim has been to provide a representative sample of poems from the journal in a more readily available book, offering, it is hoped, a distinctive and wide-ranging selection of contemporary short poetry.

The result, Philip says, is a “renga-like chain of over two hundred poems by almost half as many poets”.

The NOON Anthology isn’t without its challenges for a conservative writer like me, but there’s plenty here for even the moderately adventurous reader – including humour.

art school
the urinal

Helen Buckingham

Read about Marcel Duchamp’s ‘artwork’ Fountain. The Lee Gurga piece below sounds like a snippet from a Billy Collins poem (a compliment, by the way).

mother’s burial dress


Lee Gurga

November wind
the garden reverts
to Latin

Rick Tarquinio

end of the month –
the clatter of a knife
in an empty jar

Sandra Simpson

A review of this anthology is in the pipeline and will be posted here on breath when the author has completed it.

Random bookshelf haiku

I was so impressed by one set of haiku bookshelves I saw on my recent US journey that I decided to pull mine apart and start again … unfortunately, the pulling apart has happened and not much else!

So, just to spur me over into the books, I have decided to post some haiku chosen at random from random books in random piles.

my husband gone –
from the bluest of skies
spring snow falls

– Takeshita Shizunojo, 1887-1951
from Haiku Love, editor (and translator of this haiku) Alan Cummings (The British Museum, 2013)

The poet was born in a rural community in Kyushu and worked as a schoolteacher and, following her husband’s early death, a librarian. Her poetry, the book says, often drew upon images of life in impoverished rural Kyushu.

winter moon the church bell an octave below

– Lorin Ford
Presence haiku journal, number 55 (UK)

Lorin Ford lives in Melbourne, Australia, and was the haiku editor for the recently closed online journal, A Hundred Gourds.

separating itself
from a tangerine
the cabby’s voice

– Michael Fessler
Modern Haiku 45.2, but I met it in the Haiku 2015 anthology, edited by Lee Gurga & Scott Metz (Modern Haiku Press, 2015)

Spend yourself now!
Spring winds blowing
before cherries bloom.

– Noa, 1397-1471
from Haiku Before Haiku
translated by Steven D Carter (Columbia University Press, 2011)

Noa, the book says, was a Buddhist monk, painter, renga master and renga steward at Kitano shrine, curator for the Ashikaga shogunate, and of Sogi’s Seven Sages of Linked Verse.

frost moon
pairing his wool socks
from the dryer

– Carolyn Hall
from her collection Water Lines (Snapshot Press, 2006)

wild boars too
are blown along:
autumn windstorm

– Basho, 1644-1694
from Haiku Animals, editor Mavis Pilbream (The British Museum, 2010)
translated by DL Barnhill

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.