The sound of haiku

We are surrounded by sound all our waking (and sleeping) hours, some of it pleasant (birdsong), some of it discordant (emergency sirens). These haiku seem to me to use sound in interesting and sometimes inventive ways.

cello solo the owls in my bones

Tanya McDonald
from Wishbone Moon (Jacar Press, 2018)

morning sneeze
the guitar in the corner

Dee Evetts
from Montage (The Haiku Foundation, 2010)

pissing into a steel trough the muted boom of the bar

Stuart Quine
from Stepping Stones: a way into haiku (BHS, 2007)

the skins of wild damsons
darkening in the rain

Caroline Gourlay
from Stepping Stones (BHS, 2007)

furu oto ya mimi mo su-nara ume no ame

a falling sound
that sours my ears
plum rain

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

The translator’s note for this haiku, written in 1666, is: What the Japanese call ‘ume’ is most often translated as ‘plum’ … but the fruit more closely resembles the apricot. Because the fruit ripens from mid-June to mid-July the rains of this time are called ‘ume no ame’ (‘plum rains’). Even ripe the fruit is inedible until it has been preserved in salty, sour liquid, similar to olives.

the slow drip of rain
on the nursery roof

Vanessa Proctor
from Wishbone Moon

summer solstice
the measuring tape reels back
into its case

Carolyn Hall
from Montage

setsugen ya majiwarazu shite wadachiato

autumn night –
the sound of two white plates

Yoshiko Yoshino, tr. unknown

through my stethoscope
the rumble
of the 8:15

Jon Iddon
from Stepping Stones

foghorns –
we lower a kayak
into the sound

Christopher Herold
from Montage

my ears have lost
the creek

Sandi Pray
from Wishbone Moon

late-rising moon
each rock in the stream
has its own sound

Burnell Lippy
from Montage

Presence turns 50

I have spent the past week dipping in and out of the new issue of Presence, a print haiku journal from Britain that was, until his tragic death in April, edited by Martin Lucas.

Matthew Paul and Ian Storr, who have picked up the editorial reins, say in their editorial: “Since so few non-publicly-funded poetry magazines have the kind of longevity that Presence has had, this was to have been a celebratory issue. Martin’s sudden death has cast a dark shadow over what has undoubtedly been one of his major achievements, bringing Presence into existence and developing it into its current position as one of the world’s leading English-language haiku magazines.”

Presence is to continue – Matthew, Ian and Stuart Quine (who rejoins) form the editorial team with Chris Boultwood continuing as webmaster. Read submission and subscription details here.

Issue 50 features a lovely shot of Martin on the cover, contains an obituary for him, plus two articles and two book reviews by him. Despite all the upheaval and grief, the editors have produced a volume of which, I’m sure, Martin would be proud.

uncut meadow
the sun sets
in a rabbit’s ears

– Matthew Morden

where the sun shines
a loose school
of fingerlings

– Greg Piko

There are several works dedicated to Martin and of the two haiku of mine in the journal is this one that, although I didn’t say so, is in memory of Martin, a hugely talented, kind and downright top bloke with a dry sense of humour. (In case you don’t know, birdwatching was one of Martin’s favourite things.)

bleak morning –
the brisk chatter of godwits
turning for home

– Sandra Simpson

A New Year!

Along my journey
through this transitory world,
new year’s housecleaning

– Matsuo Basho

Many sajiki (dictionary of Japan season words) have five seasons, the fifth being “new year” (from The Haiku Seasons by William J Higginson, Kodansha International, 1996). Bill goes on to say that: “In Basho’s day the New Year roughly coincided with the beginning of spring; when Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar [in 1873] the two-week-long New Year celebration came to be treated separately.”

Along with many other traditions associated with the new year (special tea, etc), the first dream of the year was/is considered particularly important in Japan, and you can read more about that here.

For us in the West, it’s about looking back and looking forward at the same time, about making resolutions to stand us in good stead for the coming year – and, if you’re Scottish, having a dark-haired man be the first to step through the front door on January 1, carrying a lump of coal, whisky, small cakes and a coin! First-footing, as it’s called, apparently dates back to the days of Viking raids on the east coast of Scotland – a fair-haired man stepping into your home would be very bad luck indeed!

New Year’s Day:
some breaths are long,
some breaths are short.

– Stuart Quine (from The Haiku Seasons)

toasting the new year –
a puriri moth
hits my glass

– Sandra Simpson (Kokako 6, 2007)

My haiku is as the moment happened, I haven’t changed a thing. Puriri moths, native to New Zealand, are large (15cm wingspan) and green; striking, so to speak … and mostly emerge between October and December.  See some photos here.

And read a blog post by poet and outdoorsman Barry L Smith about his encounter with the moths.