Recent publications

Just a quick update now the Tauranga Arts Festival is over and Haiku NewZ updated …

thundery twilight –
rising above the wallow
water buffalo

– Sandra Simpson, Presence 58 

How long before a haiku works its way to the surface? I saw the scene described on the outskirts of Lahore, Pakistan, in 1988. I’ve tried writing it before, but never very successfully and I’ve never submitted any of the previous versions.

The following ‘photo haiku’ appeared on the NHK Haiku Masters Gallery in October:

The image was taken in Shiraz, Iran in April this year, fittingly in the garden of Hafez, the famous Persian poet. The haiku was written in response to the photo.

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River’s Edge review

River’s Edge by Owen Bullock (Recent Work Press, Australia, 2016).
ISBN 978-0-9944565-2-6. Purchase details.

A new, slim volume of work from Owen Bullock who is rapidly becoming a citizen of the world – born and raised in Cornwall (UK), has lived for decades in the upper North Island of New Zealand and is currently a PhD candidate in Canberra (Australia). 

Many of the poems in the book, which follows his 2015 collection Urban Haiku (Recent Work Press, read a review here), stem from his work in New Zealand as a home caregiver and are more properly senryu, although the author terms the collection ‘haiku’ in his brief introduction. (See Owen’s footnote 1 at the end of this review.)

“I was visiting elderly people in their own homes, which was far more meaningful. They told stories in which their wisdom shone through.”

Bullock is finely tuned to the daily struggles, humilities and joys of the end stage of life and these senryu are touching, without being in the least sentimental or demeaning to either party, and I heartily recommend the book on the strength of these poems alone.

on the piano
photos of the ones
who don’t visit

 

not good news …
he puts the lid back
on the jam

Caregiving must throw up many moments where both the giver and receiver need to grin and bear it (or bare it) and Bullock’s sense of humour doesn’t fail him.

massaging
my male client’s back
in a bloke-ish way

As it is, River’s Edge intersperses caregiving senryu with senryu on other topics and even some ‘maybe’ haiku – poems that have a nature focus, although often without a season word – leading to a somewhat jarring progression. (See Owen’s footnote 2 at the end of this review.)

However, knowing Bullock, I expect this ‘leave and return’ is an intended subtlety, a reflection of the messiness of life where our interests – and the calls on our time – are many and varied. This happens, then that and now we go back to this. After a week of caregiving he has mental space to observe nature, carry out a few chores, then it’s back to work.

fence wire
oscillating blue
the water drop

 

shopping for clothes
wanting to buy
what I’m wearing

Seen as a journal of a period from Bullock’s life River’s Edge becomes a more cohesive whole and, to my mind, a more satisfying read. The author however, offers no nudges in this direction in his introduction (so I may be quite wrong).

The book, which uses good-quality paper, features one poem per page, giving the words of each poem plenty of space to interact, both with each other and within the reader’s mind.

The collection is dedicated to his brother Brian, who died in 2013, and Martin Lucas, long-time editor of Presence haiku journal, who died in 2014. There is also a senryu dedicated to Christchurch poet John O’Connor, who died in 2015.

somewhere
in that mass of cloud
a few of your cells

And for the one or two poems I found myself unable to mine below the surface image:

wave lift
phosphorescent
moonlight

there was one like this on the next page:

ahead the pouring light

I hope Bullock will delve further into his caregiving work and consider a complete themed collection on the subject, perhaps including haibun, another form for which he’s known.

It would be an unusual – and I suspect valuable – collection, especially given Bullock’s eye for detail, his calm observation and clear humanity towards the people for whom he was caring.

dusting
her little vases
this is my devotion

Through his words they have been given a voice and it’s one I suspect they’d rather like.

Sandra Simpson

Owen Bullock writes in reply:

Footnote 1: I can’t be bothered distinguishing too much between senryu and haiku, but when I do try I realise that my definition of haiku is broad and takes in many pieces that others label senryu. To me, the fact that a piece is about a human being doesn’t make it a senryu, because we are also nature. It’s only a senryu when the poem gets into the mind of an individual and directly reflects human perception.

Footnote 2: I’m afraid I don’t and haven’t for a long time seen seasonality as essential to haiku. Partly this was because of my being from Cornwall and then moving to New Zealand, where I began writing haiku. Living in New Zealand, it took me many years to be able to consciously distinguish between seasons enough for that to be reflected in my writing – there simply weren’t seasons in New Zealand, it was basically mostly summer, and I still don’t countenance the idea of winter there (only when I lived in Southland and the pipes froze every day could I perceive winter).

Season of goodwill … & haiku

Merry Christmas to all those who read breath – it’s been a pleasure having you along  over the past year of haiku musings. And my very best wishes for a healthy and productive New Year.

Here are a few seasonal haiku to see us on our way to Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and beyond!

Photo: Menchi, via Wikipedia.

christmas eve
in the taxi cab
a scent of pine

– Tom Painting
bottle rockets 12 (2006)

toll booth lit for Christmas —
from my hand to hers
warm change

– Michael Dylan Welch
Second place, Henderson Haiku Contest (HSA), 1995

birthcry!
          the stars
          are all in place

– Raymond Roseliep
from haiku mind by Patricia Donegan (Shambhala, 2008)

summer solstice –
the flock passes into darkness
one by one

– Sandra Simpson
A Hundred Gourds 3.4 (2014)

Christmas eve
in the courtyard below
a flutter of wings

– Pamela Miller Ness
The Heron’s Nest 3.5 (2001)

Christmas night
the lights on the house opposite
blink      blink blink         blink

– Sandra Simpson
Prune Juice 19, 2016

shaving foam
Santa in my mirror
waits for wishes

– Alexey Andreev
Presence 56 (2016)

Presence & NOON

Presence 56 arrived in the letterbox yesterday containing 4 of my haiku, including

poolside zinnias –
the hummingbirds
stand-offish

– Sandra Simpson, Presence 56

This haiku was written during our visit to the US in June and July. We were kindly hosted by an illustrious haiku writer who had a swimming pool with zinnias planted nearby. The hummingbirds love the zinnias, we were told, but we must have been too noisy or too many or too something because they barely made an appearance while we were there.

Presence is a great publication that has been steady as she goes, despite the untimely death of editor Martin Lucas in 2014. There are, however, some changes afoot. Alison Williams is taking the role of tanka editor, the first time they’ve had a separate editor for that section; the submission window has been reduced to 6 weeks (from 2 months); and new maximum submission limits set (10 haiku or tanka, down from 12). You can also read details of the Martin Lucas Haiku Award (closes December 31) at the website.

This latest issue features Hamilton (NZ) poet Andre Surridge in the Focus section.

suddenly colder a spider comes in with the evening paper

– Andre Surridge, Presence 56

NOON 12 has also appeared, this is an online publication put out by Philip Rowland from Japan who from 2004-09 produced hand-sewn limited edition issues. Online issues begin at NOON 8 and can be seen at the website. I have 2 haiku in the latest issue.

the last sister
escorted to the front pew –
dandelion lawn

– Sandra Simpson, NOON 12

NOON is sub-titled “journal of the short poem” so doesn’t restrict itself to haiku or haiku as you might recognise it. Always an interesting read.

blackout
                      some of the darkness
is us

– Rick Tarquinio, NOON 12

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

Just published

Had Presence 55 (UK) waiting for me when I got home and the final edition of Paper Wasp (Australia) arrived soon after I got back.

Very pleased to have a haiku voted ‘best of issue’ for Number 54 by the readers of Presence, “a clear winner”, according to the editors!

stored in her phone the unborn child

– Sandra Simpson,  Presence 54

“The poem seems to play with ideas of electronic immortality but perhaps also offers satirical comment on the increasing involvement of phones in our lives.”

One of my three haiku in Presence 55 is:

summer rain the eel inside me stirs

I was pleased to be able to contribute to the final edition of Paper Wasp as many years ago – 1996 (2:4), the bookshelf reveals – Janice Bostok while guest editor encouraged me in my haiku ways. Other Kiwi names appearing in that 16-page edition included Catherine Mair, Patricia Prime, Ernest J Berry, the late Bernard Gadd and John Allison.

The final volume is only 20 pages but there are many more poems packed into it than the 1996 version. Paper Wasp founders were John Knight (1935-2012), Jacqui Murray and Ross Clark with Jan Bostok (1942-2011) and Katherine Samuelowicz joining the team later. “We kept each issue small, not only to be economical, but also because it embodied the pared down form within,” the editors write in their farewell.

“Our stable of haijin will find publication elsewhere. Other Australian journals of haiku will begin, and (sort of) thrive. As well as this handful of breath we call haiku.”

crabapple harvest –
the best neighbour tells me
he’s moving

– Sandra Simpson, Paper Wasp 20.2

And I’ve work in a new (for me) publication, the online senryu journal, Prune Juice (just be warned that it’s a massive file if you choose to download it).

dictator’s tomb –
rose petals stick
to the bottom of our feet

– Sandra Simpson

News & books

Here we are in the middle of February already and I’m making only my second post for the year. Truth be told, a) it’s been so hot that sitting at a computer has held little attraction and b) I’ve been proof-reading two books which has left me little brain space for thinking about haiku.

The annual Red Moon anthology – a collection of English-language haiku, haibun, sequences and essays published in the previous calendar year – was first off the rank. As you may know, I am also one of the anthology editors (one of 11) so throughout the year am nominating poems and voting for nominations (done blind).

We have a couple of voting rosters at the end of the year to make sure we catch as many poems as possible in the net. The journals that publish on December 1 are okay, but some publish later in the month and if they’re print-only it means hoping they’ll arrive in the letterbox before we cut off.

This year’s volume (for 2015 haiku) is galaxy of dust, as always a terrific collection – and the 20th anniversary publication! Included are 147 poems (haiku and senryu), 16 linked forms (haibun, renku, rengay and sequences), and 4 critical pieces on the reading, writing and study of the genre. Click on the link for ordering information.

Kiwi poets featured in galaxy of dust are Marion Moxham, Elaine Riddell, Sandra Simpson and Barbara Strang; and from Australia Nathalie Buckland, Jo McInerney, Ron Moss, Vanessa Proctor and Jennifer Sutherland. David Terelinck and Hazel Hall (Australia) are two-thirds of a sequence poem, and Els van Leeuwen (Australia) has a haibun included. As the South Pacific editor, I’m always pleased to see a good number of poets from Australasia make it through the voting process.

snowflake
my breath
takes it away

– Marion Moxham (from scattered feathers, the 2015 NZ Poetry Society anthology)

stacking a dry stone wall the curve of tomorrow

– Ron C Moss (from Presence 52)

The volume takes its name from this excellent haiku by James Chessing of California in the US (from The Heron’s Nest 17.2):

it begins …
a galaxy of dust motes
in the projector’s beam

The other book, which took much more time, is the second edition of Juxtapositions, a somewhat scholarly look at haiku and its related genres from The Haiku Foundation – my ‘Snapshots: Haiku and the Great War’ article will be appearing in it! The first edition came out last year (go here to read it) and will shortly be available as print on demand, while volume 2.1 is due out on the THF website shortly.

As well, I’ve had a look over and commented on a very useful piece of work by Katherine Raine on behalf of the NZ Poetry Society, more about that once it’s available.

Yesterday, salvation arrived in the form of a parcel tied up with string – I haven’t had one of those for a long time. It was an anthology of haiku, a gift from a poet’s widow and something I shall treasure. Already, I’m beginning to sketch a few lines …