Reviews: Reeves & Cooper

field of stars is the second collection from Tasmanian poet Lyn Reeves, the former longtime associate editor of Famous Reporter, and now editor of the online journal of Australian haiku, Echidna Tracks.

Having previously stated that she’s interested in ‘writing about place’, Lyn has put together a collection that is at once personal, loving and quietly observant of the world around her. Some of the poems are, naturally, those of Australia and its unique flora and fauna, but just as many are universal.

in sparse scrub
the honeyeater’s wing
flashes yellow

overcast sky
the light
from a single dandelion

field of stars doesn’t have any chapter separations, yet there is a gentle narrative flow that makes turning the pages easy. The poems include a selection from collaborations Lyn has had with two visual artists, Luke Wagner and Megan Walch, although these aren’t separately identified.

I very much like the layout of the book with the haiku getting plenty of room to breathe – alternating pages contain two poems or a single haiku – which also gives the reader space to ponder and let the poems settle in.

on the lawn
four striped deck chairs
taking the sun

wildlife park
the echidna
paces its cage

This collection contains examples, and adroit ones at that, of haiku mined from both the smallest of ‘indoor’ habits set against what is at times a more ‘masculine’ outdoors.

in the boiling kettle
a rumble
of distant waves

red sunrise
the bulldozer’s engine
revs up

Lyn has a perceptive eye and is to be congratulated for bringing to fruition such a solid set of haiku that will be enjoyed around the world.

winter creek
a rumour
of platypus

Fellow Tasmanian haiku poet Ron C Moss writes on the back cover: “This is a collection to be kept close and cherished for the many celebrations of what it is to be a part of nature.”

field of stars is available from publisher Walleah Press, or via online book outlets. My copy was supplied to me by the author. ISBN 978-1-877010-91-0

moon music is Bill Cooper’s sixth collection of haiku published through Red Moon Press and is a typical example of Red Moon’s smaller-size books. My disclaimer with this book is that I was asked to provide a blurb for the back cover and did so.

Bill has divided his collection into ‘nodding terms’, ‘slow carousel’, ‘trombone smile, ‘entering Bogalusa’ and ‘a looping strand’.His poems are a mixture of haiku and senryu, set out as in the book above, and some of them very sharply observed indeed.

clouds the tug of a mating horseshoe crab

 

dawn fog
an egret sharpens her beak
on a rock

His sense of humour is never far from the surface, sometimes hearty, sometimes wry.

steam room
thinking less and less
about less

mid-gargle
a shift in pitch
breaking news

Bill is an emeritus professor and has published books and articles on cognitive science, international relations and higher education. When it comes to his haiku and senryu he wears his learning lightly and the poems are all the better for it.

after neurology
comparing thin slices
of strawberry

slow river
a mallard circles the rim
of a cooling tower

One of the other contributors to the back cover is Ce Rosenow: “Through … an unflinching commitment to write what is and not what we wish could be, Bill Cooper reminds us of haiku’s emotional power.”

ISBN 978-1-947271-45-6.

Reviews: Moss & Austin

Two books from Australian haiku poets this time – Broken Starfish, haiku and ink paintings by Ron C Moss (Walleah Press, 2019) and changing light by Gavin Austin (Alba Publishing, 2018). Both are handsomely produced volumes.

I have long admired Ron’s brush paintings (and his haiku) so to have a volume studded with them is a real treat. With 131 pages of poems and art (all in one section), readers are given a decent helping of Ron’s work in his third major collection.

moss haiku

Ron lives in Tasmania where he’s been a longtime rural volunteer firefighter. He has recently retired from paid employment.

swollen moon
a playtpus swims
belly to the stars

almost home
a barn owl swoops
into the dusk

a firefighter
turns off his headlamp …
autumn moon

shading pencil lines
like my father taught me …
summer clouds

The layout is lovely – with one haiku per page, the poems have room to breathe and be themselves. Every time I dip back into the book, I find something else to like.

muffled voices
mother’s pin cushion
sparkles in the light

austin

Gavin, a resident of Sydney, divides his collection into five sections of varying length, the first three are elemental (land, sea, sky) followed by “Fur & feather” and “Life & death” with one or two poems on a page, again a good choice. My only niggles are that on a few of the left-hand pages the haiku are set too close into the book’s spine to feel comfortable  and that the vast majority of poems have a break after the first line. Neither of these things diminished my enjoyment of the collection, although the latter meant I read the book in bursts, a few haiku at a time, to stop the uniformity of style becoming a negative.

circling bushfire –
a slow death
of daylight

                       morning light
a school of fish suspended
                       between waves

morning drizzle
a wagtail shimmies
on the gatepost

leaden sky
the broodmare’s feed bin
heavy with rain

The collection draws on eight years of work and while the back page blurb claims the haiku are “unashamedly Australian in flavour”, the poems will pose few problems for readers in New Zealand. In reality,  there are many poems that could be set anywhere.

the pale scarf
draped from her throat
wisteria vine

There is much to be enjoyed here.