Reader Choice voting

With a large storm approaching today it seems like a good time to knuckle down and choose my favourite 10 haiku from the 2017 editions of The Heron’s Nest. As the journal’s got larger, the choice has become more difficult – The Heron’s Nest is a beacon of excellence.

Anyone may vote, you can find the details here (scroll down, deadline January 15).

Here are four of the haiku (one from each edition) appearing on my list – no guarantees they’ll make it through though as I’m still at a top 100 or so!

feeling the silence
sink in —
moose tracks in the snow

Angela Terry, THN 19.1

where an army
swept through wheatfields
hopping sparrows

Michael McClintock, THN 19.2

late autumn
the stillness of blue
miles deep

Jenny Fraser, THN 19.3

enough mint scent
to cross the milky way
high summer begins

Burnell Lippy, THN 19.4

Thinking about haiku deeply enough to feel swayed to cast a vote is a fun way to start the year.

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Haiku doldrums

My writing has taken a back seat lately – and not just the back seat in a car, the back seat in a big bus! – so as the days lengthen I’m trying to kick start the brain and limber up the ‘haiku muscle’ in a variety of ways.

New books

I’ll write something more about the first two soon but can recommend all of them – and in my experience reading good haiku is invaluable towards writing good haiku.

Scott Mason is one of my favourite haiku poets so when he sent a note to say he has a new book out, imagine my delight. But it’s not quite a collection of his own work or at least not only a collection of his own work for Scott has produced a magnificent volume based on his thinking about haiku. If you’re quick The Wonder Code has a special pricing offer available until November 30.

The book is divided into themed chapters about haiku, each with a selection of poems previously published in The Heron’s Nest, followed by a ‘Solo Exhibition’ of his own work.

  slave burial ground
a mourning dove
         we can only hear

– Scott Mason

Carolyn Hall, another of my favourite haiku poets, has produced her fourth collection, Calculus of Daylilies, which doesn’t appear to contain a dud! Wish I knew how she did that – and how she makes many of her haiku so darn relevant.

cockleburs
the court reaffirms
open carry

– Carolyn Hall

Read more about cockleburs (Xanthium strumarium), a plant native to the Americas and eastern Asia.

The last of my new books I discovered by accident, reading something on the net that led to something else where I clicked on … well, I can’t remember now but the upshot was small clouds by Iza Boa Nyx, a 2016 collection of haiku, tanka and prose that is dedicated to her mother Jane Reichhold and which examines Jane’s sudden death and her ensuing grief and mourning.

It would be easy for the book to be maudlin and self-indulgent, the poems primal screams of pain. But the author has produced a slim volume that is essentially a series of linked haibun, although nowhere is it described as such. The prose acts not only as head-notes for poems that would otherwise be untethered on the page but also holds the book together as the story progresses from “At midnight she told me that our mother had killed herself” to “The peace of knowing that this life is all that it will be is echoed in the late summer heat that seems to stupefy even the lizards”.

cumulus, nimbus
cirrus, stratus and fog
all kinds of clouds
in the week of your wake
not knowing what to say

– Iza Boa Nyx

Recent publication

Presence 59 has wound its way from the UK recently and, as always, is packed full of good reading.

right where
the universe goes
fireflies

– Gary Hotham

an owl’s empire
the flecks of light
in snow

– Alan Summers

meteor night –
shaking the star chart
out of its folds

– Richard Tindall

wet spring –
in a box by the fire
a small bleat

– Sandra Simpson

Not so recent, but something I’d not seen until now …  the results of the last Setouchi Matsuyama Photo Haiku Contest include an Award for this combination of my own image with my own haiku (there’s also a section where supplied photos act as prompts for haiku).

waka-ama haiga - Copy

I took the photo standing on the lawn of a friend’s home in Apia, Samoa. The waka-ama guys paddled one way, then the other – and catching sight of me dug deep, then howled with laughter, stopped paddling and waved! Waka-ama, or outrigger canoes, are used throughout the Pacific as sea-going vessels although in Aotearoa New Zealand the outrigger gradually disappeared. These days, waka-ama has also become a team sport.

You have until November 30 to enter this year’s Setouchi Matsuyama Photo Contest so get going!

And I’ve had my first haiku appear in Akitsu Quarterly, a print journal edited by Robin White in New Hampshire, US. Among them is

burn-off season –
riding home on the back
of a grey truck

– Sandra Simpson

Writing with a buddy

We’re going at our own pace and exchanging whatever we have. We can comment, or not, on the other’s haiku, we can chat about the weather, we can leave the exchange for days … the main thing, for both of us, is that we’re actually writing, instead of worrying about not writing. Fingers crossed.

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.