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

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Recent poems

Lovely surprise this morning – the results of the new European Haiku Prize landed in my inbox. No monetary reward, unfortunately, but I had a haiku selected in the Distinguished Poet category (a Commended?) which will appear in the contest anthology.

tea from a rough bowl
             we open the window to rain

– Sandra Simpson

Tea-time at Eikando Zenrin Temple in Kyoto. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Staying at a traditional Japanese hotel is a lot of fun – especially when it includes an onsen (in Kiwi parlance, hot pools). Fresh tea and a small ‘cake’ is brought immediately after you’ve arrived in your room and served at the low table. My favourite tea ‘cake’ is the chestnut-paste square, known as tochi-mochi (栃もち), which is, naturally, an autumn treat.

Tochi is Japanese for horse chestnut but – as we should all know – horse chestnuts are the ones that can’t be eaten because they’re toxic. The clever Japanese, though, have found a way around and you can read about that here.

This haiku was written last year while staying at the Yumoto Fujiya Hotel in Hakone and is pretty much as it happened.

Farewell to A Hundred Gourds, an online journal that I shall miss greatly. Lorin Ford has been an excellent haiku editor and her final selection is well worth a read – including three of my own humble efforts. The archives will be available for the foreseeable future so do have a look if you don’t already know this publication.

bull kelp
sliding in and out of sight
a fur seal

– Sandra Simpson

Fur seals frolicking in Otago Harbour. Photo: Sandra Simpson

NZ fur seals were almost obliterated by the coming of people to these islands – the few the Maori left were soon hunted down by European sealers after their skins and blubber. Read more here. Fortunately, sanity finally prevailed and in 1978 kekeno became a protected species. They are now the most common seal sighted and their numbers are growing. Read more here.

Finally, two haiku in the latest issue of The Heron’s Nest, a red-letter day!

cumulonimbus —
the slow grind of continents
beneath my feet

– Sandra Simpson

I’ve had this one around for a little while, but couldn’t get any recognition for it so entered it into an online kukai* that I belong to. One of the participants, whose work I admire enormously, said: “Coming from California I have written many haiku on earthquakes and unsteady ground, and even this knowledge of grinding continents. I will stop. L2 and 3 say it perfectly. The contrast between the smooth glide if clouds is wonderful.” Woohoo!

So I sent it off again, and what do you know? The haiku was written while on a ginko** at Te Puna Quarry Park.

*Kukai = peer-judged contest or workshop. Poems are entered anonymously and participants vote for their favourites (you can’t vote for your own), offering constructive comments as to why they like a haiku or why they think something doesn’t work.

**Ginko = a group walk to observe, take notes, make word sketches and write haiku. Often a kukai at the end.

Butterflies, books & glitches

I wrote a post yesterday after I got home from a casual shift at my old work place – a stupendous piece of writing, insightful and witty (says she), but which has been lost to the world thanks to a piece of software. When I started to panic I checked WordPress forums and, sure enough, there were others who thought the automatic “draft saved” message that flashes up every so often would have, well, saved a version to the WordPress server.

Turns out not to be so if you’re using the new version (beep, beep, boop) in which to create your masterpiece – it saves it to your browser, except that for many people it doesn’t! So, here I am, back in the old version of editor because this “unimproved” version does actually save a draft to WordPress.

Right, where was I …

After thinking that we would not raise any monarch butterflies this year, the past 10 days or so have seen at least one hatch every day. Once the predatory wasps changed their diet, around the end of February, we suddenly had little gold-spotted green chrysalis hanging all over the place.

We had tried moving caterpillars to a covered swan plant but they just seemed to disappear, very few made it through to butterfly stage, so wasps must have been getting in and out without being noticed.

Freshly hatched monarchs are such a wonder with their vivid colours and markings – and quite scratchy feet too if you guide one on to your hand to release. Maybe these late-season hatchlings will be the butterflies that overwinter and start the life cycle process again in the spring.

sun-soaked chrysalis
no one sees
the effort

– Julie Warther, from The Heron’s Nest 2014 anthology, volume 16

Photo: Sandra Simpson

snowmelt
a chrysalis unlocks
its code for wings

– Lorin Ford, from the big data anthology for 2014,
originally published in paper wasp

The latest Heron’s Nest anthology arrived in my letter box this week – 176 pages of great reading. As well as collecting all the haiku published throughout 2014, the volume includes the Peggy Willis Lyles Haiku Award winners and judge’s comments, and Readers’ Choice awards.

Here’s another haiku from it, one to mark Easter …

stained glass
the way christ responds
to march sunlight

– Robert Epstein

Kokako 22 also arrived by post recently and is another nicely produced edition. Co-editor Margaret Beverland surprised me at the beginning of the week by saying that New Zealand subscribers are in the minority! This is our only journal dedicated to haiku, tanka, etc – the only place where we don’t have to explain our haiku or add a link – so it’s worrying that Kokako isn’t more strongly supported in New Zealand. Or maybe the problem is that the haiku community in this country is dwindling. Are there new writers coming on? Make yourselves known! Read subscription and submission details for Kokako here.

                ironing after midnight the creases in her face

– Andre Surridge, Kokako 22

I also enjoyed this tongue-in-cheek haiku, boy, haven’t I been here more times than I care to remember!

contest results
golden flowers swirl
down the gutter

– Barbara Strang, Kokako 22

But the drought has broken! I was notified last week that I’ve won this year’s Free XpresSion Haiku Contest (Australia). Skippy jumps and hand claps!

planning her eulogy      jars of carefully labelled seeds

– Sandra Simpson

I’ve also had a few acceptances dating back to around the beginning of the year – A Hundred Gourds (March and the coming June issue), Speed Bump journal (January and the coming April issue), Wild Plum inaugural issue, is/let (March 9 posting) and a forthcoming edition of NOON, among them.

is/let and NOON both look for “progressive” or avant-garde work, which is not a style  that comes naturally, although does happen occasionally, so pleased to have work with both of them.

h  ill   stop
hear  tin  m  years
wind        swords

– Sandra Simpson, is/let

An email at the beginning of February advised that some of my work had been named as a Finalist in the RaedLeaf Haiku Contest in India and would be published in an anthology. Great, except the contest closed on August 6, 2014 so this was a long time to wait for notification – 6 months – and I then had to ask which poem/poems had been selected as they hadn’t said.

The February email says “You may share your works elsewhere a month from the publication date which will be duly notified to you”. And I haven’t heard a word since – and that’s now 9 months, plenty of time for gestation, so here’s one of the haiku.

my mother’s pallbearers
all tall men –
rain just when we need it

– Sandra Simpson, RaedLeaf anthology (forthcoming)

Katikati Haiku Contest results – a judge reflects

They came in a box – all shapes and sizes of paper and card, most typewritten but one or two brave souls relying on their hand-writing. The judging for the Katikati Haiku Contest is done blind – that is each haiku entered is numbered, I see no names.

I sat down, armed with a pair of scissors, and began to read (the scissors were to cut  stand-out poems from a sheet of entries).

I sorted them, sorted them again and then re-read the whole lot for a third time.

I made piles – definite, definite maybes, maybes and, well you get the picture. The piles got shuffled. The piles got shuffled again.

The coffee table, couch and floor were decorated with strips of paper. The strips of paper got moved from one site to another. Well, several of the strips of paper … some of them stayed right where they were for the entire judging process.

Lorin Ford’s winning haiku was in the top four from the start – it’s a complex, profound and mysterious poem.

a last year’s lambskin where mushrooms gather dusk

It’s funny how sometimes there is more than one poem on the same unexpected subject in the same contest. I gave this haiku by Scott Mason a Commended:

rolling fields
    the vocabulary
           of sheep

I was equally enchanted by the Second-place haiku by Beverley George:

train journey …
the young student next to me
reduces stars to graphs

and by this Highly Commended haiku by Gary Hotham:

   floating in calm air
      too much light
for the engineer’s math

Third was Simon Hanson (an interesting statistic – all the top three haiku, three of the four Highly Commendeds and two of the six Commendeds were by Australians):

holding cover
the hare waits
for eye contact

Catherine Bullock of Waihi won the Best Local Haiku award with this great poem:

evening calm –
duck’s wake
the width of the estuary

I also want to mention this Highly Commended haiku by Beverley George – while judging the entries I went out one morning to find the snail bait around the parsley had claimed five (five!) snails overnight. I could really envisage those “stretched necks” during the dark hours:

parsley bed
the stretched necks
of snails

To read the full list of winners, and my judge’s report, go here.

Unfortunately, we had one disqualification due to haiku being entered that had previously been published. It saves red faces all round if poets keep good records and a track of what’s gone where, when and what happened to those poems (ie, while they may not have been prize winners, were they included in a contest anthology?).