Postcard from Juneau

Had the great good fortune yesterday to spend a day with Billie Wilson, in her home town of Juneau, Alaska. Billie and husband Gary kindly cleared their diary for us and were great hosts showing off their picturesque home area, otherwise known as the state capital of “The Last Frontier”. On our side, it was wonderful to spend time with honest-to-goodness locals and hear stories and experiences that only long-time residents can tell. (Three bears on the deck with their snouts pressed against the glass while Billie and Gary were watching TV!)

Billie and I also had time to talk haiku (like that was never going to happen)! Like me, she’s seeking to win back some time for writing (among other things Billie is an associate editor for The Heron’s Nest and Events/Registry editor for The Haiku Foundation). Sitting and thinking, we agreed, are an essential part of the haiku process (at least for us) and we both increasingly feel we have to “schedule” such time, which is exactly what we don’t want to do.

from a beach near Savoonga –
winter rain

– Billie Wilson, First place in the Henderson Award, 2003

Savoonga has an interesting history, including a famine from 1878-80 that severely affected the native population. Read more here.

retreating glacier –
how long since we’ve heard
the black wolf’s song

– Billie Wilson
from Haiku in English: The first hundred years (Norton, 2012)

It’s probably difficult to live in Alaska and not have an environmental focus to your work. It’s an amazing place full of stunning vistas and can be surprisingly like New Zealand! Read more of Billie’s work. She may be the only regularly practising haiku poet in Alaska, although Billie has – and continues to try – to foster interest in her community.


Billie Wilson (left) and Sandra Simpson at the Mendenhall Glacier, near Juneau. Gary mentioned how far the glacier has retreated in the 50 years he’s been living in Alaska – the lake that is now the glacier terminus wasn’t there in 1958. Photo: Keith Frentz

that whale I could have touched
surfaces again
in my mind

– Billie Wilson, from a 2012 Per Diem feature at THF

Something we were out of step on was our coughing – we didn’t once manage to get it going in unison, though goodness knows we tried!

News & books

Here we are in the middle of February already and I’m making only my second post for the year. Truth be told, a) it’s been so hot that sitting at a computer has held little attraction and b) I’ve been proof-reading two books which has left me little brain space for thinking about haiku.

The annual Red Moon anthology – a collection of English-language haiku, haibun, sequences and essays published in the previous calendar year – was first off the rank. As you may know, I am also one of the anthology editors (one of 11) so throughout the year am nominating poems and voting for nominations (done blind).

We have a couple of voting rosters at the end of the year to make sure we catch as many poems as possible in the net. The journals that publish on December 1 are okay, but some publish later in the month and if they’re print-only it means hoping they’ll arrive in the letterbox before we cut off.

This year’s volume (for 2015 haiku) is galaxy of dust, as always a terrific collection – and the 20th anniversary publication! Included are 147 poems (haiku and senryu), 16 linked forms (haibun, renku, rengay and sequences), and 4 critical pieces on the reading, writing and study of the genre. Click on the link for ordering information.

Kiwi poets featured in galaxy of dust are Marion Moxham, Elaine Riddell, Sandra Simpson and Barbara Strang; and from Australia Nathalie Buckland, Jo McInerney, Ron Moss, Vanessa Proctor and Jennifer Sutherland. David Terelinck and Hazel Hall (Australia) are two-thirds of a sequence poem, and Els van Leeuwen (Australia) has a haibun included. As the South Pacific editor, I’m always pleased to see a good number of poets from Australasia make it through the voting process.

my breath
takes it away

– Marion Moxham (from scattered feathers, the 2015 NZ Poetry Society anthology)

stacking a dry stone wall the curve of tomorrow

– Ron C Moss (from Presence 52)

The volume takes its name from this excellent haiku by James Chessing of California in the US (from The Heron’s Nest 17.2):

it begins …
a galaxy of dust motes
in the projector’s beam

The other book, which took much more time, is the second edition of Juxtapositions, a somewhat scholarly look at haiku and its related genres from The Haiku Foundation – my ‘Snapshots: Haiku and the Great War’ article will be appearing in it! The first edition came out last year (go here to read it) and will shortly be available as print on demand, while volume 2.1 is due out on the THF website shortly.

As well, I’ve had a look over and commented on a very useful piece of work by Katherine Raine on behalf of the NZ Poetry Society, more about that once it’s available.

Yesterday, salvation arrived in the form of a parcel tied up with string – I haven’t had one of those for a long time. It was an anthology of haiku, a gift from a poet’s widow and something I shall treasure. Already, I’m beginning to sketch a few lines …

Junicho fun at THF

There’s a junicho (12-verse renku) starting at The Haiku Foundation – the call for a hokku (first verse) has just gone out. I’m leading the poem so do please come on over and join in!

There’s an introduction to the junicho form available on the site, so no need to feel shy. The Renku Sessions are designed to be a learning process. Be nice to see some familiar “faces” there.