The big, wide world

New Zealand moves to Alert Level 2 on May 14, which gives us more freedoms – shops and cafes can open, we can socialise in groups of up to 10, etc – but it’s still restrictive. I suppose the fear is that if we move to ‘normal’ too quickly a second wave of coronavirus will break over us and we’ll have to go back to our self-isolating bubbles, which might be hard to do once they’re fully popped.

Our political leadership has been exemplary over this period – decisive and clear – but  chaos is creeping in as we move into the lower Alert Levels. Too many people were out and about last weekend, despite Level 3 restrictions not being that different from those of Level 4. People queuing for junk food/coffee too close together, hundreds of people exercising/strolling on public footpaths. Sad and aggravating at the same time.

So not quite freedom, not yet. And now that I’m used to being at home all day and every day I’m finding it hard to get my head into the space beyond my own front gate!

Here are some haiku that celebrate the world outside that gate.

what would it hurt
to open the door

Mimi Ahern
from Windflowers (Red Moon Press, 2020)

bobbing up the riverbank
the dust of a rabbit
skipping stones

Marion Moxham
from number eight wire (Piwakawaka Press, 2019)

the night sky
away from the campfire
our small words

paul m
from Another Trip Around the Sun (Brooks Books, 2019)

lakeside geese –
my map takes off
in the wind

Martha Magenta
from Presence 63 (2019)

Since I chose this haiku of Martha’s to use, I’ve heard of her death from cancer. Hopefully, she’s flying free now too.

field of dandelions
thousands of wishes
go unused

Adelaide B Shaw
from The Wonder Code (Girasole Press, 2017)

herd of deer
my road through
their togetherness

Mary Stevens
from The Heron’s Nest 22.1 (2020)

beach innings
three driftwood stumps
and a dog at mid on

Tony Beyer
from number eight wire

morning glory –
gently the postman
opens the gate

Robert Gilliland
from Another Trip Around the Sun

prairie canola
a hitchhiker cradles the name
of a far port

LeRoy Gorman
from Presence 66 (2020)

Review of Noon: An anthology of short poems

NOON: an anthology of short poems, edited by Philip Rowland (Isobar Press, Tokyo & London, 2019) ISBN 978-4-907359-26-3.

Short poems have received quite a lot of attention (none of it undue) in New Zealand recently, with the publication of Jenny Bornholdt’s Short Poems of New Zealand (Victoria University Press, 2018) and Number Eight Wire: the fourth New Zealand haiku anthology (Piwakawaka Press, 2019), edited by Sandra Simpson and Margaret Beverland. Consequently, this international anthology is a welcome addition to the mix.

NOON: a journal of the short poem appeared in print from 2004 to 2009, then online from 2014 to 2017; with an imminent revival in 2019. The poems in the anthology are selected from the 13 issues so far by the sole editor, Philip Rowland. Because the enterprise as a whole has been an individual project for Rowland, his overview is significant. Rather than focusing on a specific genre of short poem, like haiku or tanka as in several other magazines, NOON has developed a more inclusive approach, aiming at a wider representation of the contemporary short poem. Rowland is correct in denying in his introduction that this representation is comprehensive (how can it be?) but modest in downplaying how generous and wide-ranging the scope of his concept actually is.

Equally intriguingly, Rowland’s introduction goes on to describe the physical production of the hand-bound print issues of NOON in Japan. While more technologically assembled, the anthology itself is a handsome volume. Genres of poetry encompassed include mainstream English-language haiku in one or three lines, translations of 20th-century Japanese haiku, haibun, prose poems, lyrics and satire, and the elegant vispo of Richard Kostelanetz and Philip Terry.

Terry also contributes some finely misunderstood ‘Mistranslations’, which are part of the entertainment of the selection. Experiment might also mean healthy irreverence. The austerity of Roberta Beary’s haiku

day moon –
we windowshop

is balanced by (Philip Terry again!) ‘Larkin Paraphrased’, a prose reconstruction of ‘This be the verse’ which restores some dignity to the ghastly doggerel of the original.

Elsewhere, well-known international poets such as Jeff Harrison, Carrie Etter, Bob Heman, Scott Metz and Rick Tarquinio rub shoulders with Marlene Mountain, Gary Hotham, Lee Gurga, Dietmar Tauchner and George Swede, names more usually associated with the haiku world. It’s refreshing, for example, to find Jim Kacian in an inquisitive mode with his ‘Sonnet for Philip Glass’. Mixed company throughout the anthology is stimulating for the reader and justifies Philip Rowland’s approach in general. As intended, single poems are given space to breathe but are equally part of a more collective voice.

New Zealand is well represented by some typically acute haiku from Sandra Simpson, Wes Lee’s hard-edged stanzas and, via the Tasman, the indefatigable Mark Young. There are rewarding and intelligent poems from considerable writers throughout, among them Morris Cox’s ‘Untitled Poems’, Alan Halsey’s ‘Ars Poetica’ and Bob Arnold’s surprising ‘Sidewalk’. Articulate discourse is moderated by sound in Robert Sheppard’s ‘hammerhead’. Helen Buckingham’s wry haiku complement Jane Hirshfield’s poised lines.

Quotation of too many of these poems would give their game away. If only more anthologies were as diverse and enriching as this one. Philip Rowland has identified and demonstrated a strong vein in contemporary poetry and deserves continuing attention for his commitment to it. Although Basho’s ghost (and his frog) haunts the spirit of this collection, it is excitingly open to what may come next in the always changing condition of creative imagining in words or their shapes or sounds.

– Tony Beyer

Mainstream media coverage

New Plymouth poet Tony Beyer has been interviewed by Taranaki Daily News about his involvement with number eight wire, and the piece has appeared on the Stuff website today. Read it here.

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Poems have been carefully selected to produce a meaningful flow throughout the anthology, creating a cohesive, assured collection. While many of the haiku feature the natural world, which is ever present in New Zealand, there are also many accomplished senryu. The wonderfully quirky New Zealand sense of humour surfaces often in this anthology – Vanessa Proctor, reviewing for Haiku Oz. Read the full review here.

Without doubt, the poets featured here have resourcefully adapted haiku to their own circumstances — those unique and those universal – Paul Miller, reviewing for Modern Haiku

Aside from the wonderful poetry in the book, the hard copy itself is very nicely done and has a real ‘quality’ feel to it – Sian Williams

Number Eight Wire is a splendid effort … Very thorough in coverage of the last decade and all my favourites are there – Tony Beyer