The taste of haiku

Finding myself with some time on my hands I thought I would explore haiku that deal with our senses beyond sight. So there will be a themed post once a week for the next four weeks. I’ve had fun finding and selecting these poems, so I hope you’ll enjoy reading them.

Taste and scent are and likely the most difficult senses to weave into a haiku. I catch myself writing ‘the taste of …’  far too often so then must stop and figure out another way of saying exactly that. It’s been fun discovering or re-discovering taste-sense haiku where the authors have found ways of making their poem bold, fresh and vivid.

sweetness
oozing from a fig
indian summer

Harriot West
from The Wonder Code (Girasole Press, 2017)

mononofu no daikon nigaki hanashi kana

warriors
the bitterness of pickles
in the talk

Basho, tr Jane Reichhold
from Basho: The complete haiku (Kodansha, 2008)

The translator’s note for this haiku written in 1693 says Basho has chosen to pair ‘daikon’, a large radish that is often pickled, with ‘nigaki’, meaning ‘bitter’. Both the pickles and the military men’s stories left a bitter taste. She believes the haiku also references the Japanese proverb, ‘the ambitious man eats strong roots’.

shimmering pines
a taste of the mountain
from your cupped hands

Peggy Willis Lyles
from Montage (The Haiku Foundation, 2010)

wood smoke
a little something extra
in the tea

Adelaide B Shaw
from Another Trip Around the Sun (Brooks Books, 2019)

Valentine’s Day –
a cherry tomato
bursts in my mouth

Michael Dylan Welch
from Haikuniverse, Feb 14, 2017

carnival day
candy-floss kiss
on the ghost train

Ron C Moss
from the ‘Freshly Caught’ sequence, Kokako 2 (2004)

im-mi-grant
the way English tastes
on my tongue

Chen-ou Liu
from naad anunaad: an anthology of contemporary world haiku
(Viswakarma Publications, 2016)

no longer friends
the aftertaste
of imported ale

Polona Oblak
from A New Resonance 9 (Red Moon Press)

lovacore market
notes of diesel
in the chilled cherries

Lew Watts
from a hole in the light (Red Moon Press, 2019)

我味の柘榴に這す虱かな
waga aji no zakuro ni hawasu shirami kana

this pomegranate
tastes like me
enjoy it, little louse!

Issa

Translator David Lanoue says: In the prescript to this 1820 haiku, Issa recalls the legend of a mother demon who went about eating children. The Buddha recommended  she switch to a diet of pomegranates, which supposedly taste the same as human flesh. See R. H. Blyth, Haiku (Hokuseido, 1949-1952/1981-1982). In this hard-to-translate haiku, Issa catches one of his lice, and, instead of killing it, places it on his surrogate, the pomegranate.

Reviews: Moss & Austin

Two books from Australian haiku poets this time – Broken Starfish, haiku and ink paintings by Ron C Moss (Walleah Press, 2019) and changing light by Gavin Austin (Alba Publishing, 2018). Both are handsomely produced volumes.

I have long admired Ron’s brush paintings (and his haiku) so to have a volume studded with them is a real treat. With 131 pages of poems and art (all in one section), readers are given a decent helping of Ron’s work in his third major collection.

moss haiku

Ron lives in Tasmania where he’s been a longtime rural volunteer firefighter. He has recently retired from paid employment.

swollen moon
a playtpus swims
belly to the stars

almost home
a barn owl swoops
into the dusk

a firefighter
turns off his headlamp …
autumn moon

shading pencil lines
like my father taught me …
summer clouds

The layout is lovely – with one haiku per page, the poems have room to breathe and be themselves. Every time I dip back into the book, I find something else to like.

muffled voices
mother’s pin cushion
sparkles in the light

austin

Gavin, a resident of Sydney, divides his collection into five sections of varying length, the first three are elemental (land, sea, sky) followed by “Fur & feather” and “Life & death” with one or two poems on a page, again a good choice. My only niggles are that on a few of the left-hand pages the haiku are set too close into the book’s spine to feel comfortable  and that the vast majority of poems have a break after the first line. Neither of these things diminished my enjoyment of the collection, although the latter meant I read the book in bursts, a few haiku at a time, to stop the uniformity of style becoming a negative.

circling bushfire –
a slow death
of daylight

                       morning light
a school of fish suspended
                       between waves

morning drizzle
a wagtail shimmies
on the gatepost

leaden sky
the broodmare’s feed bin
heavy with rain

The collection draws on eight years of work and while the back page blurb claims the haiku are “unashamedly Australian in flavour”, the poems will pose few problems for readers in New Zealand. In reality,  there are many poems that could be set anywhere.

the pale scarf
draped from her throat
wisteria vine

There is much to be enjoyed here.

New Haiku Pathway poem: Part 2

It’s a pleasure to be able to announce the completion of the 45th poem on the Katikati Haiku Pathway – hopefully plenty of holiday visitors have already discovered this delightful haiku, especially with the first of the summer’s concerts having taken place.

Photo: Sandra Simpson

The poem is by Ron C. Moss of Tasmania and the plaque adorns a boulder behind the year-old stage built by the Twilight Concert Committee – the committee not only made a cash donation to the pathway project after last year’s summer concerts but also provided the rock for the poem and have planted around the stage.

outdoor concert
the toddler asleep
kicking stars

– Ron C. Moss

As with the other boulder completed in this 2-haiku project, the metal plaque inscribed with the poem has been made by Stainless Downunder, a Katikati company, and fitted into the rock by fourth-generation stone mason Paul Gautron who has inscribed many of the pathway’s poem boulders.

Ron hails from Tasmania in Australia (with Kiwi connections in his immediate family) and is a talented – and award-winning – poet, photographer and artist. See some of his artwork here. Ron’s first book-length collection of haiku, The Bone Carver, was published by Snapshot Press (UK) in 2014.

He works as a reprographic services technician at the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office, as well as being a volunteer firefighter. Ron was awarded the Tasmania Fire Service Volunteer Medal (for diligent service) in 2010 and the National Medal in 2013.

Big data

The latest edition of the Red Moon anthologies is out – 148 poets in the haiku section, plus “linked forms” (renku and haibun) and essays. The annuals purport to contain the best English-language haiku published in any given year and, speaking on my own behalf as the editor for the South Pacific region, editors read widely to source their nominations.

Big Data is $US17, plus postage, available through the Red Moon Press website.

Here’s a sampler from some of the male poets:

distant thunder
whatever else
he was my father

– Dave Russo, US

sky the stars haven’t used
a life longer
than Napoleon’s

– Gary Hotham, US

wondering
who my neighbour murdered
sickle moon

– Brendan Slater, England

Included in the book is a haiku by Ron Moss of Tasmania in Australia. Ron last night launched a new book of his work, the bone carver, at an event in Hobart. It has been published by Snapshot Press and you can find purchase details there. He’s an exceptional poet – and artist – so it would be money well spent.

Another exceptional poet with a book in the pipeline is Chad Lee Robinson of Pierre in South Dakota (also in Big Data). Chad has started a blog, The Deep End of the Sky, which is the name of his forthcoming collection.

The Heron’s Nest runs a reader vote competition each year to decide the favourite poem and favourite poet of the year – yours truly won both titles in 2014 (ahem) – with Ron C Moss (yep, the same fella) taking out both titles this year.

old horses
days of endless rain
in their eyes

– Ron C Moss

Go here to read a commentary on the haiku (scroll down). And go here to read the full list of winners. I made it into the Other Popular Poets list, hurrah. The Heron’s Nest produces a paper copy each April, a volume of all the work that has appeared online the year before. It’s well worth purchasing and you can find the ordering information here.