Recent publications

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 …

Delighted to hear that I’d won Second in the Sharpening the Green Pencil Haiku Contest with:

longest night –
the clay bowl’s
whorls and ridges

Sandra Simpson

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.

Photo: Sandra Simpson

eucalypt breeze
the rattle
of a cicada’s husk

Gavin Austin

eddies of dust
the rooster’s comb blends
into sunrise

Debbie Strange

winter sun –
a pair of waxeyes
chest to chest in mid air

Sandra Simpson

haunted house
the carnie flicks his butt
and waves us in

Greg Schwartz

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

John Hawkhead

learning
to accept my baldness
dandelion flight

Adej Agyei-Baah

the silence
of the blinking cursor
winter stars

Jackie Chou

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

Thomas Powell

dry leaves
scattering across the path
quail chicks

Margaret Beverland

woodsmoke –
I am that child
kicking leaves

Susan King

westering sun
a skein of geese banks
into a glide path

Sandra Simpson

Dry summer

Not just the heat that settles on us daily and is parching gardens and lawns, or the kind of dry that makes people feel noble because they give up alcohol for a month, but the kind that results in blank pages, unused pens and a creeping feeling of terror.

What if it never comes back again? What if the last haiku I wrote (not very good) is the last haiku I’ll ever write?

Reading my work in two recent publications hasn’t stimulated me much, nor has participating in two kukai. I can only admire the wonderful efforts of others, and wonder what’s happened to my ‘haiku muscle’. Too long unused and it may wither and die.

Meantime the deadlines of two journals I submit to regularly are fast approaching and I haven’t anything new to send. In the past, I’ve been happy enough to go back through my files and see if there’s anything that can be reworked or used as a springboard for a new poem.

Instead, I’m trying to sort out cupboards and store rooms, keep up with the emails that flow in, write some context for a family history project, drinking copious amounts of chilled water, and reading (light fiction) late into the night – and in the shadows are all the things I should have done but haven’t got round to yet.

There doesn’t seem to be any room for haiku, and I’m sorry about that. This should be a season of bush walks, swimming, hammock in the garden … soaking up nature and storing it for sessions with a pen and paper.

Here are three haiku by three New Zealand women – who all live reasonably close to one another – from the latest issue of Presence journal (UK). We all clearly also like the drama of an ellipsis …

the way a storm wave
flings it up …
milky way

Jenny Fraser, Presence 68

spa pool …
soaking in the light
of countless stars

Elaine Riddell, Presence 68

prolonged heat …
a clapper bridge sinks
into the pasture

Sandra Simpson, Presence 68

Some summer haiku from the online Australian journal Echidna Tracks 6, with the theme ‘shelter’.

young pine cone
the tiny hatches
I keep shut

Mira Walker

santa cave . . .
the mechanical monkey band
of my childhood

Sandra Simpson

wedding marquee
the tickle of an ant
over my ankle

Vanessa Proctor

Fingers crossed, the dam will burst – maybe when the rain comes!

Recent publications

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

Catherine Mair

laundry day
pairing the matching socks
wondering why

kjmunro

Embed from Getty Images

shearing day –
the men take turns
with the moccasin needle

Sandra Simpson

flu jab wind whirls the pine needles

Nola Borrell

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

Elaine Riddell

overcast sky
a goldfinch leaves behind
her song

Claire Everett

a jumble of books
outside the old police station
the odd summer cloud

John Barlow

mango season
licking the juice
to my elbow

Adjei Agyei-Baah

Load of bull

beading
in a bull’s eyelashes
spring drizzle

Paul Chambers
from The Heron’s Nest 22.1 (2020)

I’m reading Field Notes from the Edge: Journeys through Britain’s secret wilderness by Paul Evans (Rider Publishing, 2015) and was pleased to be safe in my bed when reading this description of a tense bucolic encounter after the author allowed his attention to wander.

**

He may not have been the biggest bull but he seemed massive to me. A head the size of a washing machine, huge neck and shoulders, long back, all deep russet red and rounded muscle – a brick shithouse of a beast. I looked into his eye.

This eye was unlike the oxeye daisy, which is really a pastoral joke in which the ox is prettified and conforms to a bovine ideal of cud-chewing reverie and disinterested stare. He was also not the snorting, charging, angry bull of cartoons. He was watching me closely with his robin redbreast-coloured eye, perhaps with a flash of gold in it. The eye lay at the forward edge of a body that could flatten a wall, not with a furious charge but with a mindful harnessing of colossal weight and strength of will. He was considering what to do. This bull was dangerous.

He began to eat, ripping up hanks of grass with his tongue whilst walking slowly but never diverting his eye from me. This grazing was subterfuge, getting me to think he was not charging while slyly gaining ground. I had heard of bulls working out how to kill someone and this felt premeditated. Perhaps it was payment for some mistreatment he had experienced; perhaps his hormones were pumped by the cows and his blood was up; perhaps something had woken inside that boulder of a skull, some wild bullness was taking over from thousands of years of domestication. It was going to be existential for both of us.

***

The stand-off fortunately ends peacefully. The author, heart pounding, manages to assert the farmer’s ‘ancient claim’ to authority and sends the bull on his way.

spring fever
the farm gate swung wide
for the bull

Michele L. Harvey
from The Heron’s Nest 19.4 (2017)

This in-your-face haiku was written by Issa in 1812:

山吹にぶらりと牛のふぐり哉
yamabuki ni burari to ushi no fuguri kana

dangling
in the yellow roses
the bull’s balls

Translator David Lanoue says: “Here, as often in Issa, we find a startling juxtaposition. Fearlessly and without self-censorship, he presents what he sees. And also, as often is the case, after the initial shock of the image wears off, we find deeper connections to ponder. The bull’s testicles and the roses, after all, are sex organs.”

While researching for a forthcoming post, I discovered that in Japanese literature ‘yellow roses’ are understood to be yamabuki flowers (Kerria japonica), not a rose at all and without any thorns! (Which was worrying me a bit about the image above …)

vacation’s end
sunlight catches the ring
in a bull’s nostrils

Polona Oblak
from The Heron’s Nest 20.4 (2018)

‘Boy on Ox’ is a woodblock print by Ogata Gekko, made in about 1890-1910. Image: Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Estate of Dr Eleanor Z. Wallace

Like Paul Chambers’ haiku that opens this posting, American poet Richard Wright subverts the typical view of a bull as one of uber-masculinity.

Coming from the woods,
a bull has a lilac sprig
dangling from a horn

Richard Wright (1908-1960)

Japan holds regular bullfights (togyu), held in front of paying crowds, which are a recognised folk custom. Unlike Spain however, there are no matadors and picadors; the bulls simply lock horns with one another and push. The bouts are run along the lines of sumo wrestling matches and no animals are put to death as part of the spectacle. Indeed, it seems the bulls are fed well and treated better. Read more here. The Choju-giga scrolls, painted from the mid-12th century to the end of the 13th century, are the earliest record of bullfighting in Japan.

small country town
the bull’s rosette
in the butcher’s window

Pamela Brown
from another country: haiku poetry from Wales (Gomer, 2011)

noon sun
the bull
in a knife’s reflection

Mary Weiler
from Presence 55 (2016)

Recent publications

It seems I’ve got a bit of catching up to do …

hot night –
the time it takes the rat
to stop screaming

Sandra Simpson, Fourth, NZPS International Haiku Contest 2019

Judge Greg Piko had this to say about the haiku …‘hot night’ asked: What is happening to this rat in the heat of the night? Perhaps this is a rat we wanted dead. Perhaps we feel sorrow for the rat. Either way, this is a strong haiku that highlights the impermanence of life and makes us think about how lives end. Indeed, it can make us think about how our own life might end.

Two other haiku were also selected for publication in the contest anthology, The Perfect Weight of Blankets at Night, edited by Raewyn Alexander.

Five haiku were selected for New Zealand’s haiku journal Kokako 31, which came out last September. Issue 32 has been delayed by Covid-19 restrictions.

blowing raspberries
on her tummy –
the moon’s curve

Sandra Simpson, Kokako 31

gap in the fence  
I poke my head into
a world of sheep

Sandra Simpson, NOON 16 (2020)

Two haiku were selected for March issue of The Heron’s Nest

spring winds –
the falcon’s eye
black to the core

Sandra Simpson, The Heron’s Nest 22.1

The following haiku was selected by the Golden Triangle Haiku Contest for a signboard that is being displayed in this business district of Washington DC. The theme was nature in the city.

road works –
the billow and sag
of a cobweb in the wind

Sandra Simpson

Martin Lucas Haiku Award judge Matthew Paul selected this haiku for a Highly Commended:

harvest moon –
the kitchen table laid
with pieces of gun

Sandra Simpson

The prizewinners, plus another two of my poems, will appear in Presence 66 which was posted from the UK in mid-March.

The final haiku appears in the online exhibition at the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, Masters of Japanese Prints: Haiku (it’s about two-thirds of the way through):

summer heat –
his shaved head glistens
in the lamplight

The UK museum put up a selection of its Japanese woodblock prints and asked for haiku written as a response to the art. This one is matched with Lantern Seller by Utagawa Kunisada I (1786-1864). Kudos to Alan Summers and Karen Hoy of Call of the Page for arranging this interesting project.

Putting together these posts, which someone has described as skiting, does let me see that I am achieving something with my chosen art form. It’s all too easy to not write, not publish and not enter contests. I’d rather keep trying even if it does seem like a bit of an effort sometimes!

And to end, a ripple from the past … an email arrived on December 12 from Richard Oswin, a teacher and composer in Christchurch. Richard was asking permission to use The Gift, one of my longer poems, from Poetry Pudding (Raupo, 2007), a collection of poems for children. I had to find my copy of the book to even recall what the poem was – it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything longer than a haiku!

Richard used the poem as lyrics for a piece of music he’d been commissioned to write as a test piece for the  Auckland leg of the national festival The Kids Sing and duly sent me an mp3 file of his composition which features two vocal parts. Although I haven’t heard voices with the music, it seems quite lovely. And the whole thing is quite extraordinary!

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!

Recent publications

UK haiku journal Presence is always a good read and Presence 63 is no exception with 105 pages of poems, haibun, essays and reviews. It includes the results of the 2018 Martin Lucas Haiku Award, which I can now reveal that I judged!

spring
the dead owl
mostly soil

Brad Bennett, First

Judging contests is easy compared with the ongoing, laborious work of editing a journal. I daresay there’s some fun to be had too, but hearing Stanford M Forrester (editor of bottle rockets press) say he’d changed his posting address to an anonymous box number due to receiving death threats from a disgruntled submitter put a whole new light on what editors have to deal with!

The process of putting together number eight wire, the newly published fourth New Zealand haiku anthology, prompted me to write a (slightly tongue-in-cheek) piece for Haiku NewZ, Learning Better Habits.

breech birth
the old cowhand
unbuckles his belt

Lew Watts

relapse –
through an icy blast
bleat of a lamb

Andre Surridge

linnet

hesitating
in my prayers –
linnet song

Mary White

swapping seats
on an empty train
afternoon sun

Debbi Antebi

cross-country train –
the little place where we stop
being strangers

Sandra Simpson

Creatrix is the online quarterly publication of Western Australia Poets, with the journal being split into two – one link for ‘regular poetry’ (submissions open only to financial members) and another for the haiku section (open to all).

The only odd thing about submitting to Creatrix is that no one tells you if you’ve had anything selected, you have to wait for the journal to appear to find out! Given they have three selectors and a submissions manager that seems a little, well, poor. If anyone knows of a good reason why this happens, I’d be happy to hear it.

first light
gum branches
tangle the mist

Gavin Austin

country cemetery
the last shop in town
boarded up

Louise Hopewell

dandelion

floating dandelion
all the locked windows
at the hospital

Bee Jay

end of summer —
the hurdy-gurdy cries
of gannets

Sandra Simpson

And in the past few days I learned that one of my poems has judged a Haiku of Merit in the RH Blyth Haiku Award (UK). Read all the winning entries here.

Persian garden —
every avenue lined
with bitter oranges

Sandra Simpson

Read more about ‘narenj’, the bitter oranges of Iran, used to scent gardens and flavour food.

Recent success

It felt like I was starting 2019 on the right foot when an email arrived advising I had won the Iris magazine Little Haiku Contest!

twilight —
humming as i weed
around the hive

Organised by the Three Rivers Haiku Association in Croatia, the contest was judged by haiku maestro Jim Kacian. Among his comments, which I’m guessing will be published in the next issue of Iris, Jim says:

What raises this poem above the other haiku here, however, is something more. I think it important to recognize that the poet is not humming to the bees, or imitating the bees. The poet is humming because she is employed in a fruitful and welcome occupation. Bees, after all, do not hum, but we can hear their wingbeats when they fly, or when they vibrate their wing muscles to shake pollen from a flower. While we interpret it as a kind of music, what we actually hear is exertion.

Our poet is wholly engaged in her task, and her humming, too, is the by-product of her effort. And if again we hear this effort as music, then our lives are that much richer for it.

It’s always fascinating to see what other people mine from your work. Yesterday I sent my judge’s comments to the organisers of the Martin Lucas Haiku Award so hope contestants and readers of issue 63 of Presence haiku journal will find them interesting.

beehive

My haiku is based on experiences around the two beehives we have in our suburban garden. This summer has been exceptionally hot and dry and the bees have been making the most of it. The other evening I could feel the vibration coming from the boxes even standing a few metres away! We harvested from one hive this past week – and the honey is sensational, very sweet and caramel this year.

And I have a haiku in the latest (rolling) edition of Wales Haiku Journal.

too fast
to read the station’s name –
buddleia

League of Nations

Presence 62 is the final edition for the year and, as usual, is a thoroughly good read featuring voices from around the world. Read more about the journal (including how to subscribe).

an inchworm’s stretch
                  I pull the next leaf
           towards it

Shrikaanth Krishnamurthy (UK)

setting sun –
in the ashtray the butt
still glowing

Minh-Triet Pham (France)

clouding over
the conversation turns
to cancer

Andre Surridge (NZ)

shotgun blast –
so strangely green
these winter fields

David Bingham (UK)

half-open window
the splatter of raindrops
on a child’s palm

Indra Neil Makala (India)

country village
on each house roof a crow
crowing

Anna Maris (Sweden)

heat in the city
a swallow’s repeated dives
to the riverbank

Polona Oblak (Slovenia)

dust storm
the desert bloodwood
holds its ground

Gregory Piko (Australia)

heroine’s grave –
the screech of seabirds
never-ending

Sandra Simpson (New Zealand)

Recent publications

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

– Owen Bullock

Find out how to subscribe, and submit, to Kokako.

Presence 60, another print journal has also arrived recently. As well as carrying tidings of the 2017 Martin Lucas Haiku Award winners, it also carries a full-length book’s worth of haiku, tanka and haibun. Submission and subscription details here.

thinking autumn holds no more surprises sweet gum

– Beverley Acuff Momoi

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?