Goosey, goosey …

The latest edition of The Heron’s Nest has been published and includes this haiku of mine:

low-flying geese sunlight on every leading edge

– Sandra Simpson, The Heron’s Nest 19.1

This was a real scene that I laboured to get right, partly in acknowledgement of all the great goose haiku that have gone before. Here is just a small sampling of the many that I like (by the way, New Zealand doesn’t have migratory geese which rather puts us behind in haiku terms). I’ve posted the first two before, back in 2014, but still love them.

stopt to allow geese crossing some idiot honks

– Janice Bostok (1942-2011)

Alan Summers has pointed out (see Comments) that my original posting using ‘stopped’ in Jan’s haiku was incorrect. In White Heron, her 2011 biography by Sharon Dean, Jan says:

“Everyone tries to correct me … I actually used the old-fashioned past participle stopt instead of stopped because to me it sounds more sudden, and I didn’t want to break the flow of the haiku for too long with an exclamation mark. Somehow that stopt allows the haiku to read shorter and quicker… In using stopt I wanted to convey to the reader that I was very definitely stopped – firmly stopped. I even had the car engine turned off.”

the sound of geese through the crosshairs

– Melissa Allen, Modern Haiku 44.1

river fog …
the sound of geese
coming in from the sea

– John Barlow, Wingbeats: British Birds in Haiku (Snapshot Press, 2008)

the first flakes of snow
drifting down the wetlands
Canada geese

– Billie Wilson, The Heron’s Nest 4.11

‘Wild Geese Returning to Katata’, one of Hiroshige’s Eight Views of Omi. Image: Wikipedia

somewhere
between bitter and sweet
migrating geese

– Michele L. Harvey, The Heron’s Nest 18.4

行雁がつくづく見るや煤畳
yuku kari ga tsuku-zuku miru ya susu tatami

the travelling geese
check it out thoroughly…
sooty mat

– Issa, written in 1807
from The Haiku of Kobayashi Issa

Translator David Lanoue offers this comment: The mat is a tatami mat made of woven straw. The fact that it is sooty implies that it belongs to “beggar” Issa.

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)

An editor’s choice!

Lovely to be included in the Editor’s Choices for the latest issue of The Heron’s Nest. Amazingly enough – to me anyway – this is the first dragonfly haiku I’ve had published!

torpid heat the small breeze a dragonfly makes

– Sandra Simpson, The Heron’s Nest, 18.3

Another nice surprise came through the ether all the way from Angelee Deodhar in India, who created this haiga:

Beautiful photo, isn’t it? My attempts at dragonfly photography are very mediocre by comparison.

The appearance of a dragonfly in Japanese haiku tradition is a signifier of autumn but as you can see from my poem, I haven’t necessarily bothered about that. It might be high summer, it might be an Indian summer, you figure it out!

a round melon
   in a field of round melons
          – resting dragonfly

– Robert Spiess (1921-2002)
from Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years

Number one on a list of 14 ‘fun facts’ about dragonflies is this: Dragonflies were some of the first winged insects to evolve, some 300 million years ago. Modern dragonflies have wingspans of only two to five inches (5-12cm), but fossil dragonflies have been found with wingspans of up to two feet (61cm). Read the rest of the list here.

the dragonfly
on mother’s gravestone
something of her

– Jane Reichhold (1937-2016)
from A Dictionary of Haiku: Second Edition

We have a ‘giant’ dragonfly in New Zealand (Uropetala carovei) which has a yellow and black body that can be up to 86mm (3.4 inches) long, with a wingspan up to 130mm (5 inches). Read more about it here and listen to a radio talk about it and our other large dragonfly here (11 minutes 30, not all dragonfly). And no, I’ve never seen one.

.とんぼうのはこしているや菊の花

tombô no hako shite iru ya kiku no hana

the dragonfly
takes a crap …
chrysanthemum

– Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828)
translated by David Lanoue and from his website Haiku of Kobayashi Issa

Another Issa haiku to finish – the cartoon by talented Canadian Jessica Tremblay from her Old Pond Comics collection.

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.

whalebone
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

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!

Recent poems

Lovely surprise this morning – the results of the new European Haiku Prize landed in my inbox. No monetary reward, unfortunately, but I had a haiku selected in the Distinguished Poet category (a Commended?) which will appear in the contest anthology.

tea from a rough bowl
             we open the window to rain

– Sandra Simpson

Tea-time at Eikando Zenrin Temple in Kyoto. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Staying at a traditional Japanese hotel is a lot of fun – especially when it includes an onsen (in Kiwi parlance, hot pools). Fresh tea and a small ‘cake’ is brought immediately after you’ve arrived in your room and served at the low table. My favourite tea ‘cake’ is the chestnut-paste square, known as tochi-mochi (栃もち), which is, naturally, an autumn treat.

Tochi is Japanese for horse chestnut but – as we should all know – horse chestnuts are the ones that can’t be eaten because they’re toxic. The clever Japanese, though, have found a way around and you can read about that here.

This haiku was written last year while staying at the Yumoto Fujiya Hotel in Hakone and is pretty much as it happened.

Farewell to A Hundred Gourds, an online journal that I shall miss greatly. Lorin Ford has been an excellent haiku editor and her final selection is well worth a read – including three of my own humble efforts. The archives will be available for the foreseeable future so do have a look if you don’t already know this publication.

bull kelp
sliding in and out of sight
a fur seal

– Sandra Simpson

Fur seals frolicking in Otago Harbour. Photo: Sandra Simpson

NZ fur seals were almost obliterated by the coming of people to these islands – the few the Maori left were soon hunted down by European sealers after their skins and blubber. Read more here. Fortunately, sanity finally prevailed and in 1978 kekeno became a protected species. They are now the most common seal sighted and their numbers are growing. Read more here.

Finally, two haiku in the latest issue of The Heron’s Nest, a red-letter day!

cumulonimbus —
the slow grind of continents
beneath my feet

– Sandra Simpson

I’ve had this one around for a little while, but couldn’t get any recognition for it so entered it into an online kukai* that I belong to. One of the participants, whose work I admire enormously, said: “Coming from California I have written many haiku on earthquakes and unsteady ground, and even this knowledge of grinding continents. I will stop. L2 and 3 say it perfectly. The contrast between the smooth glide if clouds is wonderful.” Woohoo!

So I sent it off again, and what do you know? The haiku was written while on a ginko** at Te Puna Quarry Park.

*Kukai = peer-judged contest or workshop. Poems are entered anonymously and participants vote for their favourites (you can’t vote for your own), offering constructive comments as to why they like a haiku or why they think something doesn’t work.

**Ginko = a group walk to observe, take notes, make word sketches and write haiku. Often a kukai at the end.

Recent publications

The quarterly issues of A Hundred Gourds and The Heron’s Nest are out, with the news that AHG is to cease publication after its June issue which will mark 5 years. Sad news as from its inception A Hundred Gourds has been a benchmark publication, not an easy thing to achieve. But editors have lives too and running a large publication, whether online or in print, demands a time commitment that not everyone is willing to give. In other words, they’ve earned a lie down and a cuppa!

deep in the fjord I no longer

– Sandra Simpson, A Hundred Gourds 5.2

Managing editor Lorin Ford assures readers and contributors that the AHG archives will remain available once publication ends, which is excellent.

half my life gone the violence of mating butterflies 

– Sandra Simpson, The Heron’s Nest 18.1

I don’t think I’m writing more one-liners than usual so the appearance of two at the same time is just a coincidence. But to keep the vibe going …

Leaving the Red Zone is an anthology of poetry written after and about the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 and was launched on February 29, a week after the fifth anniversary of the deadly quake that shattered lives and the city of Christchurch. The cover image is of one of the footbridges across the Avon river, buckled by the second quake.

Edited by James Norcliffe and Joanna Preston, the book has been published by Clerestory Press. The book is large format (172mm x 245 mm) softcover, 180 pages, with the work of 87 contributors from across New Zealand, with a few offshore as well. You can read some snippets of poems on Helen Lowe’s blog. Or you can hear the editors talking to Radio NZ’s Wallace Chapman (14:52).

getting in everywhere the dust of everything

– Sandra Simpson, Leaving the Red Zone (2016)

I was so pleased the editors accepted this one, which was first published in a fine line, the magazine of the NZ Poetry Society in March 2012. The late John O’Connor reckoned it was one of the best poems about the earthquakes that he’d read!

In the broadcast linked to above Joanna says that she and James were searching for ‘poetic truth’ and that some quite good poets with poems that were ‘perfectly okay’ had been left out because there was no ‘little electrical spark to make you sit up’.

To purchase a copy, go here to find an order form, bank transfer details and the publisher’s contact details. The book costs $39.95 with free delivery within New Zealand. All profits go to the Mayor’s Earthquake Relief Fund.

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.

snowflake
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 …