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!

Prolonged heat

Gosh, but it’s hot. A run of daily temperatures over 30°C has come on top of a run of temperatures in the late 20s, and there’s been no rain to speak of for weeks – and none forecast either! The countryside that was so green in December is now a crispy brown. In a terrible twist the coronavirus means our meat isn’t being shipped to China (no one to unload it, let alone buy it) so freezing works are refusing to take animals, right as the drought bites and at a time when farmers traditionally relieve the feed burden on their properties by lowering stock numbers. Hard times ahead.

Yes, it’s summer in New Zealand and we should expect some hot weather but our summers aren’t usually so unbearable … except that last year was as well. And there are still fools denying climate change is a thing. As someone said recently, they tend to be older men who have ended up at a website full of dubious ‘facts’ and shonky ‘research’ and are now convinced humans have nothing to do with world’s weather becoming more extreme and refuse to ‘do their bit’, all the while being utterly unreachable by anyone with a bit of sense. Bah!

Now that’s off my chest, let’s read some haiku.

Another Trip Around the Sun: 365 days of haiku for children young and old, edited by Jessica Malone Latham (Brooks Books US) features a poem for every day of the year (orientated for the northern seasons so I’m transposing them).

January/July 6

smell of the heat –
I snip a little dill
for the cucumbers

Ellen Compton (US)

February/August 3

summer walk
the length of
a fudgesicle

Jacqui Pearce (Canada)

February/August 19

summer garden
taking inventory
one bite at a time

Jeff Hoagland (US)

March /September 1

bursting out
from every hedge –
naked ladies

Sandra Simpson (NZ)

Naked ladies, by the way, are Amaryllis Belladonna, a bulb that flowers without leaves.

A copy of Windfall 8 landed in my letterbox today. This small annual publication is edited by Beverley George and features the work of Australian poets. Subscriptions for outside Australia are $A25 for two issues (ie, two years), payment in Australian currency to Peter Macrow, 6/16 Osborne St, Sandy Bay, TAS 7005, Australia.

Sadly, Australia has been having its own battles with a changing climate this summer.

invisible
in a charcoal landscape
this black snake

Helen Taylor

drought
the scratchings of a cockatoo
on the guttering

Kieran O’Connor

shooting star
a minute’s silence
for the earth

Hazel Hall

I’ll finish with a small selection from the Summer chapter of number eight wire, the fourth New Zealand haiku anthology (only a few copies left, be in quick).

bobbing up the riverbank
the dust of a rabbit
skipping stones

Marion Moxham

blowfly!
being your friend
isn’t easy

Dick Whyte

Pohutukawa tree stamp image courtesy NZ Post

end of summer
scarlet stamens in the folds
of my tent

Elaine Riddell

Reviews: Surridge & Bullock

Two nice volumes have come across my desk recently – one hundred petals, the first collection of haiku by André Surridge (Hamilton), and summer haiku, a collection from Owen Bullock, once of the UK, a long-time resident of the Western Bay of Plenty in New Zealand and now working in Canberra, Australia.

Update: André passed away on December 23, 2019.

Cover art, a collage, is by Jenny Kippenberger.

First of all, a disclaimer: I wrote the Foreword for André’s collection. So you might think that I would be well disposed towards André and his work, and you’d be right!

One hundred haiku and senryu have been arranged into chapters reflecting the four seasons, a traditional approach from a poet who doesn’t always conform to the traditions of haiku – the non-conformity appears as a fifth (middle) chapter of senryu. André, who began writing haiku in 2002, has won many awards along the way and is  regularly published around the world.

I’ll let his work speak for itself by choosing one of my favourites from each season.

gentle rain a ripple runs along
                                              the foal’s flank

small crack
the albatross chick whistles
inside its shell

(I particularly like the sensory elements in these two haiku above; tiny details, but what impact!)

dark side of the moon
the stepbrother
I never met

autumn sunset:
the double bounce
of a persimmon

by the stile
a heel print
inlaid with ice

Having undergone some serious, and debilitating, treatment, André is facing an uncertain future healthwise, the prompt to gather this collection together. Yet there is no sentimentality in these poems, no self-pity … just an ongoing engagement with the world around him as he moves through it. I particularly like his quiet, but acute, observations in poems like these:

physio
the pillow
still warm

lavender stalk
the weight of one
white butterfly

“My thanks to Cyril Childs who showed me the haiku way and to Patricia Prime for steadying me on that path in those early years,” the author writes.

The 64-page book is printed on recycled paper and costs $20 within New Zealand (includes postage) and $NZ25 elsewhere. André is now kindly donating proceeds to Kokako journal. To order a copy please email Elaine including your name, postal address and how you’re paying. Payment for New Zealand orders may be made by bank transfer to Kokako 12 3071 0355785 00 using ‘petals100’ in the reference line. Unfortunately, due to changes in NZ’s banking system cheques cannot be accepted. International orders may be made using PayPal, Elaine will reply with payment details. ISBN 978-0-473-48250-3.

Cover artwork is by Dianne Firth, Canberra Tales III.

Owen keeps up a regular output of books, which is nice to see as most of us seem to work on single-poet collections maybe once in a decade.

A small-format book, Summer Haiku is published by Recent Work Press and follows Owen’s earlier books with the same publisher, Urban Haiku (2015) and River’s Edge (2016). In an email to me this month Owen revealed there are many previously unpublished haiku in this collection giving us plenty fresh to enjoy, among them:

teeth marks
in the soap
hedgehog-sized

yellow butterfly
from piece of air
to piece of air

In his Afterword, Owen explains the collection was written over three summers while camping on land he and his partner own in New Zealand and which they’re developing along permaculture principles – “and one winter sojourn there in our newly built gypsy wagon”.

she calls me cute
tears come easily
this winter holiday

3pm
ducks already folded
into their bodies

Owen has a knack of creating haiku that might seem ordinary at first glance, but that glance becomes a longer look and then one begins to think about the words and images and … Here he perfectly – and calmly, almost wonderingly – describes something I’ve experienced often, but always find frightening until my rational mind can take over.

not a man
but some kind of shadow –
daybreak

And the sound in this haiku is everywhere but, beautifully, is nowhere stated:

farm tour
a llama cleans its teeth
on the wire fence

Summer Haiku, 68 pages, is available from Recent Work Press for $A8.95. ISBN 9780648404279.

Heat and the kitchen

midday nap
placing my feet against the wall
how cool it is

– Matsuo Basho

I’ve just woken from an afternoon nap – tuckered out by a morning of Christmas shopping, present wrapping, the heat and this infernal wind. We had a break yesterday and it was glorious, but it’s back again today, “poking and prodding” as a gardening friend said this week.

Monday
pegging the wind
into our sheets

– Greeba Brydges-Jones, from the taste of nashi (Windrift, 2008)

Tomorrow, I’ve promised myself, is baking day.

As well as a Christmas wreath cake, there will be ricciarelli, almond biscuits from Siena (although I first met them in a tiny village on a mountain pass in Tuscany). This recipe is close to the one I use, except that mine contains only 350g of sugar so you might want to adjust that. Ground almonds are available from the bulk bins of many supermarkets. The biscuits should be pale to be authentic, although mine come out quite golden – when I tasted my first one I thought it was going to be something shortbready because of the colour. How wrong I was!

Christmas recipe –
all the ingredients except
my mother’s hands

– Sandra Simpson, from Ice Diver (New Zealand Poetry Society, 2011)