Recent successes

Delightful surprise yesterday when I saw the results of the Martin Lucas Haiku Award – Second place! Apparently my letter of congratulations is still in the post (true statement, it seems they really have mailed the results).

Christmas eve –
the pop-up book’s manger
missing its baby

– Sandra Simpson

Judge Vanessa Proctor had this to say about my haiku: ‘Christmas eve’ presents the reader with a familiar domestic scene. It’s the night before Christmas when family members pull out those special Christmas books to read before the big day. Pop-up books are particularly magical, but this particular book is missing baby Jesus who is central to the story. How easily things can be lost. The wider message here is that in many ways the true meaning of Christmas has been lost too.

I’d almost decided not to enter many more contests, my results having been poor over the past couple of years so this result has helped boost my confidence.

And I’ve had a haiku published in a journal I haven’t tried before – Right Hand Pointing, an online US publication which has put out a couple of winter haiku editions collated by Eric Burke.

holiday cottage  –
the empty fruitbowl
at dusk

– Sandra Simpson

And the latest Red Moon anthology is out – dust devils – which includes three of my haiku published in 2016. As you may recall, I’m a nominating editor for the Red Moon anthologies so what happens when it comes to editors’ own work is: The haiku we vote on are without names or publication points (so judged ‘blind’) and we may not vote for our own work. The work of editors must receive at least 5 votes from the other 9 editors to merit inclusion – meaning our own work is held to a slightly higher standard than general nominations which need at least 5 votes from 10 editors.

All three of my haiku in dust devils have already been featured on this blog so I won’t bore you by repeating them. Instead let me include this one by a fellow Kiwi:

I would have given up
so many times …
we mend the tent

– Owen Bullock, Second place, Betty Drevniok Award (Canada) 2016

Winners & a loser

Heartiest congratulations to my mate Vanessa Proctor, winner of this year’s NZPS International Haiku Contest with:

all that I am mountain spring

I’ve just finished reading the report by judge John O’Connor and right at the end he mentions my name followed by the words “one of our leading haiku poets”. Gulp. Thing is, I haven’t won a brass razoo in this year’s contest! No mention of any sort, except that fulsome praise. Bet you can you all see my red face from where you are.

So here’s an earlier one that has done well – winning the 2008 Kokako Haiku Contest. This haiku also appears in breath and is featured on the Katikati Haiku Pathway.

pausing also
at the sacred matai …
a wood pigeon

– Sandra Simpson

Matai, or black pine, is a conifer native to New Zealand. Read more here.

The wood pigeon or kereru is a beautiful bird, but is also a greedy and rather stupid bird that will eat until it can no longer fly which made it easy game for Maori and early settlers. Apparently it’s quite good eating, my grandmother (born about 1903) could recall having it in a pie when she was young. Some of the trees in our native forest rely on the kereru to distribute seeds so it plays a unique role in forest regeneration.

A kereru in a kowhai. Photo: Sandra Simpson

This link tells you a bit about the spot beside Lake Rotoiti that inspired the haiku.

John Carley, RIP

News has come that John Carley (born 1955) has died in England, on January 1. John had had a serious illness for four years, something he bore with good humour and fortitude. I feel privileged to have known John, even if only by email and through shared writing online.

His communication skills were second to none and he was one of the best teachers I have met. Thanks to him, my interest in renku is ongoing. He was also the best sabaki (renku leader) I have come across, patient, thoughtful and with the ability to see the whole poem even as we worked through its mysteries. His decisions were invariably sound and based in an expert knowledge of renku.

His love of linked verse saw him invent the four-verse yotsumono, and he celebrated the form with a collection written with several authors, myself included, in The Little Book of Yotsumonos (Darlington Richards, 2012). The same publisher is bringing out the hard-copy edition of The Renku Reckoner, John’s life work, and taken from his now-defunct website of the same name. Thanks to a pdf version being available earlier, Vanessa Proctor has reviewed TRR on Haiku NewZ.

I have looked this morning for John’s free e-book of haiku, nothing but the wind. Sadly, it seems to have disappeared along with its erstwhile host, Gean Tree Press.  Update January 30, 2014: The free ebooks, including John’s, published by Gean Tree Press have appeared back online. Find them here.

At my invitation John led a small team of us to write a 20-verse nijuin for entry into last year’s Einbond Award. We were up against a tight deadline and a trying period health-wise for him – he not only led us right through the poem but in his summing up said: “This is far and away the best poem I’ve ever been involved in. And all those thousands of words of renku theory are worth less than one good exemplar. If I have a style, this is it. Thank you. J”

No, thank you John … and we won! (Icing on the cake, as he reckoned he’d taken some risks with verse choices considering it was a competition entry, and an American competition at that.) Early Morning Heat is in the new issue of Frogpond.

There are several articles by John on Basho, renku, kigo and other topics available online (Haiku NewZ, A Hundred Gourds, etc) and I urge you to seek them out and read them.

I feel like I’ve lost a mentor, a guiding light and a dear friend. I can’t imagine what his family must be feeling (typical John, though, he arranged for an email to be sent to advise of his death) and my thoughts and good wishes are with them and with the others, like me, who mourn him.

new year’s day –
a single shaft of sunshine
across the penines

(for JEC)

– Sandra Simpson