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

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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?

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.

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