International Women’s Haiku Festival: Two Poems by Valorie Broadhurst Woerdehoff

Chris Staley
Photo: Chris Staley/Creative Commons/Flickr

Mama’s new pair of shoes and Daddy’s obituary star in two poems by U.S. poet Valorie Broadhurst Woerdehoff.

new stilettos
she announces
her divorce

And there she is with her new stilettos, with her new-found independence, with all the concomitant fears and regrets and scars and, unless she’s some kind of stiletto-wearing saint, resentments. The stiletto as the ultimate symbol of female autonomy, of female no-one-owns-me-ness. She’ll wear those shoes like badges of honor. She’s going to need them. I hope they’re flaming red.

***
how quickly
a skipped stone sinks
his obituary

All that life and liveliness that once glanced off the surface of the river of life – now all boiled down to the verbal arroyo of a death notice. Just the facts, just the skeleton of who he was and what he did, all rendered on such a tight deadline. And with his death, the death of a marriage, a siblinghood, a parent-child relationship. All gone in the time it takes not to breathe.

Valorie Broadhurst Woerdehoff holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Loras College in English: Writing and Theology respectively. She is originally from Northern California, but has spent the last 30+ years in Dubuque, Iowa, USA. She has served over 30 years as a higher education professional, and has written poetry since childhood. Over 250 of her poems, including numerous haiku, senryu, and rengay, along with articles have been published in magazines, juried journals, and anthologies. She studied haiku with Bill Pauly, and has taught courses on publishing and judged writing contests at the local and national level. Her writing garnered a grant from the Iowa Arts Council and awards in local and national competition, including earning her River Arts Association Writer of the Year honors.

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Two Poems by dl mattila

pslim - alien cocoon!
Photo: pslim/Creative Commons/Flickr

The private self meets advancing age in two poems by dl mattila.

cocoon . . .
it’s what you don’t see
that defines me

In an age of endless social media confessions, it is important to remember that our selves were not meant to be always – or even ever – broadcast to the world. So often the cocoon is viewed only as a symbol of the butterfly that is to emerge from it. But there is essential beauty in what is inside the cocoon, not just in what is about to come out of it. It commands our respect. If only we’d stop tweeting and blogging long enough to notice.

***

advancing age
in my blind-spot
changing lanes

This sharp little poem leaves us on a cliff-hanger ending, even though Mother Nature has already spoiled the ending for us all. We don’t see age creeping up on ourselves until we try to shift our lives and run smack into it. But even though the younger driver may (really?) have the better reflexes, the older one has potentially more experience, more skill, and, as the character Evelyn Couch noted in the now classic film Fried Green Tomatoes, more insurance.

dl mattila is a lot of things.

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Three Haiku by Sandra Simpson

Susanne Nilsson - Blowing in the Wind
Photo: Susanne Nilsson/Creative Commons/Flickr

New Zealand poet Sandra Simpson packs the inner heat wave of menopause, the piquant flavor of a fourth marriage, and the beautiful death of big dreams into three lovely haiku.

heat wave –
holding the soft part of my wrist
under the tap

The term “heat wave” has a wonderful double resonance as the natural phenomenon of a period of scorching outdoor temperatures and as a metaphor for the hot flashes that often come with the equally natural process of menopause. Either way, one can imagine seeking relief from the external or internal heat by holding the sensitive flesh of the underside of the wrist beneath a trickle of cool water, a common remedy for the discomfort of hot flashes.

***

the water jug
stuffed with mint & lemon –
her fourth husband

Far richer than the purity of the first marriage, the water jug in the first line, which I read as representing the fourth marriage, is packed with stuff – natural, earthy, fragrant, and tasty stuff, but stuff nonetheless. The stuff of a life full of experience – the astringency of previous marital loss, the minty coolness of taking it all in stride. Far from plain old spring water, the water in the jug is infused with the perfume of many lifetimes.

***

blossom wind –
too late now to be
who I wanted to be

The moment when you realize you’ll never play professional baseball. Or become a great chef. Or become a parent. This wistful poem represents that moment as the part of the self that dreams our dreams – which is to say, the deepest part of the self – dying, drifting away like flower petals on a spring breeze. And that breeze – that “blossom wind” – is historically especially good at blowing women in every direction – into and out of marriages, from location to location as trailing spouses, into motherhood, out of careers. At the same time, this poem also transforms that deep and dreamy part of each of us into something it never dared to imagine it could become: the simple, perfect petal of a flower.

Sandra Simpson co-organised the 2012 Haiku Festival Aotearoa (New Zealand) and in 2018 is co-editing the Fourth NZ Haiku Anthology. Sandra is the founding editor of the online Haiku NewZ (2004), has been secretary of the Katikati Haiku Pathway Committee since 2006, and South Pacific editor for the annual Red Moon anthology since 2012. She has won several awards for her haiku and judged international competitions. Sandra published a collection of her haiku, breath, in 2012 and from the same year has had her own haiku blog, also called breath. She grows orchids as a hobby.

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Two Senryu by kjmunro

Todd Dwyer - old dollhouse in travis heights
Photo: Todd Dwyer/Creative Commons/Flickr

Canadian poet kjmunro turns a dollhouse into a hall of mirrors and a scratch on a car into marital disruption in two senryu.

dollhouse window
all I can see
is her eye

Presumably, the poetic speaker is looking into the dollhouse through its window, though can we be sure? Imagine you are the human looking into the dollhouse and can see only one of the doll’s eyes. Or, roles reversed, imagine you are the doll inside the dollhouse and see at your window a giant human eye looking inside. Or imagine that you are a human woman and that in every structure you inhabit or pass through, be it physical (an office building, a board room, a car dealership, even your own house) or metaphorical (a male-dominated hierarchy, a code of conduct or communication), you are seen as somehow smaller than those around you. Or only part of you is seen at all, and the rest of you is cloistered, hidden. And then, because it feels so familiar, you start to believe that you actually are smaller than those around you, and that maybe it’s okay that the world doesn’t really see you. What a tragic pity for the world. And how unjust for you.

***

one scratch
on the car
marital abrasion

How quickly something like a scratch on a car can turn into a wound in a marriage. Of course, in such a scenario, the marriage is already much more deeply wounded long before the sharp edge scraped across the detailing on the Mustang. But the scratch certainly doesn’t help. It digs just below the surface of the paint, deeply enough to cause vexation and to spark a new argument – maybe even an ongoing grudge – but not deeply enough to dig to the root of the problem.

Originally from Vancouver, BC, Canada, Katherine J. Munro (kjmunro) now lives in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. She is Membership Secretary for Haiku Canada and an Associate Member of the League of Canadian Poets. She is active in the local organization Yukon Writers’ Collective Ink, and in 2014 founded ‘solstice haiku,’ a monthly haiku discussion group that she continues to facilitate. She has two leaflets with Leaf Press and co-edited Body of Evidence: a collection of killer ‘ku – an anthology of crime-related haiku. Her work has recently appeared in Vallum, Matrix, and the anthology Sustenance: Writers from BC and Beyond on the Subject of Food. She is currently facilitating a weekly blog feature called ‘Haiku Windows’ for The Haiku Foundation.

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Two Haiku by Eleonore Nickolay

Christian Kadluba - Einblick
Photo: Christian Kadluba/Creative Commons/Flickr

German poet Eleonore Nickolay explores the end of cellulite and the sorrowful end of a pregnancy in two rich haiku.

early summer
an ad announces the end
of cellulite

Are we really that desperate for Photoshop bodies that we would believe an ad announcing the end of cellulite? The ad suggests both that we should be that desperate, and that we’re naïve enough to think some product can make our imperfections go away. And, of course, the timing – right at the start of bikini season – is impeccable.

***

miscarriage
in the empty room the play
of shadows

How those “shadows” haunt the final line of this poignant poem. All the possibilities the pregnancy built up in the mind, all the hopes, dashed by Mother Nature. The death of a human being and the death of a dream, of many dreams, all at once.

Eleonore Nickolay was born in Koblenz, Germany, in 1957 and lives in Vaires sur Marne, France,  east of Paris. She has written haiku since 2013 and is a member of the Deutsche Haiku Gesellschaft and the Association francophone de haïku. She is editor of the French haiku magazine GONG and the German one SOMMERGRAS.

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Two Senryu by Amy Losak

Ines Hegedus-Garcia - another Miami sunset
Photo: Ines Hegedus-Garcia/Creative Commons/Flickr

It’s a visit to a car dealership and with The Golden Girls in two sparkling senryu by Amy Losak.

car salesman
he assures me
there’s no pressure

… as he’s making the high-energy sales pitch. Is there a commercial venue more fraught with the tension of gender dynamics than the car dealership? Salespeople often need to be aggressive, which, in the wrong hands, becomes a close cousin to bullying. And what is the point of telling someone that there’s “no pressure” in the midst of a clearly aggressive sales pitch? Please. Give us some credit.

***

inevitable –
all the Golden Girls
getting younger!

I wonder if television could get away with it today, namely, centering a prime time TV series around four women in their sunset years living together as housemates in Miami. Would anyone in our youth-obsessed culture care? In the late 1980s and early ‘90s, the show was a hit. There is truth in this poem: those “older” ladies do seem to get younger with each passing year. And because there was nothing they could not help each other through, they also seem to grow tougher. They had each other. And cheesecake.

Amy Losak, of Teaneck, NJ, is an experienced publicist specializing in healthcare. She started writing haiku as a tribute to her mother, Sydell Rosenberg. Syd was a charter member of the Haiku Society of America in 1968 and also served as HSA secretary in the 1970’s. Her picture book, H Is For Haiku: A Treasury Of Haiku From A To Z, illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi, will be released on April 10 by Penny Candy Books.

International Women’s Haiku Festival: A One-Line Haiku by Tim Gardiner

pipilongstockings - 1st butterfly of the year EXPLORE
Photo: pipilongstockings/Cretaive Commons/Flickr

In a richly imagistic, one-line haiku, British poet Tim Gardiner pays tribute to an amazing woman born in his native Norfolk, England.

 

comma butterfly on her windowpane fresh diary entry

For Margaret Fountaine, Victorian lepidopterist and diarist, born in Norwich.

How clever it is that a comma can fly from a page of this lepidopterist’s diary and, transformed into the ruggedly beautiful comma butterfly, light on a windowpane. Read the butterfly as the symbol of the emerging woman, and you have a haiku that is at once profound and delightful.

Dr Tim Gardiner is an ecologist, poet and children’s author from Manningtree in Essex, UK. His haiku have been published in literary magazines including Frogpond, Modern Haiku, and The Heron’s Nest. His first collection of haiku, On the Edge, was published in 2017. Tim’s debut children’s book, The Voyage of the Queen Bee, was  published by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust in 2016.

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Two Haiku by Caroline Skanne

Maggie Stephens - snowy twigs
Photo: Maggie Stephens/Creative Commons/Flickr

Observations of a child at play and an exploration of the wounds that haunt us find voice in two beautiful haiku by Caroline Skanne.

a child hums . . .
adding more blue
to the summer sky

This haiku captures a beautiful moment of contentment and creativity in all its simplicity and wonder. A child paints a picture of a warm summer day, happily humming along. And just when you think this moment could not be more perfect, the child, in the full power of his innocence, makes the sky a deeper, truer blue, placing his handiwork, and even himself, firmly in connection with nature. The poem is written with almost journalistic detachment, as though by a parent observing her child at play, but the warmth of the scene itself fills the heart with joy.
***

twisted hazel
so many secrets
so many scars

How easy it is in this life for things to go off course. An old wound, a deeply hidden shame can send everything askew, for fear of stirring up more pain. Once things are off the rails, can they ever be set straight? Is it possible to find true healing and total freedom from what hurts and haunts us? Even a scar is a reminder of what went wrong. But, even though the “twisted hazel” in this poem is a reminder of the things that just didn’t go right, it’s also a symbol of a living thing, continually growing in unexpected ways.

Caroline Skanne was born in Sweden and now lives with her family by the river Medway in Kent, UK. She is the editor of hedgerow: a journal of small poems (https://hedgerowpoems.wordpress.com/) and founder of wildflower poetry press (https://wildflowerpoetrypress.wordpress.com/).  carolineskanne.com

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Two Senryu by Stella Pierides

Picturepest - Vienna - high heels
Photo: Picturepest/Creative Commons/Flickr

Two laser-sharp senryu by poet Stella Pierides explore women’s age dynamics and the eternal question of women’s dress and sexuality.

dressed to kill
she asks
if I’m retired

Well. Why not just ask about her final wishes? The picture is this senryu is crystal clear: a younger woman, in full heat of professional and/or personal ambition and wearing the clothes to prove it, asks the poetic speaker, whom I read to be an older woman, if she’s retired – read: no longer competition, no longer someone to be concerned with. To be charitable, maybe it’s just an observation: the older woman looks older, looks perhaps comfortable in her own skin, and the younger woman just doesn’t get a) that retired doesn’t equal out to pasture, and b) that remarking, even obliquely, on someone’s age is at best insensitive. And what if the poetic speaker actually is retired? Picasso said it best: “It takes a very long time to become young.”

***

knee-length skirt
the extent
of her rebellion

This little senryu is situated perfectly between the rock and the hard place that, eventually, every woman encounters. Look sexy, be sexy, the world instructs. But not too sexy. In this poem, rebellion against the social expectations that a girl or woman be prim and proper results in a shorter skirt. But rebellion against social expectations doesn’t necessarily eliminate the expectations. There is potentially a price to pay – the demise of one’s reputation – for breaking the rules, hence the “extent of her rebellion” is defined by the knees. It could be fear from social pressure that keeps everything north of the knees covered, or it could just be the poem subject’s authentic assessment of her own comfort.

Stella Pierides was born in Athens, Greece, and now divides her time between Neusäss, Germany, and London, England. She is the author of Of This World (Red Moon Press, 2017); In the Garden of Absence (Fruit Dove Press, 2012), for which she received a Haiku Society of America Merit Book Award; and Feeding the Doves (Fruit Dove Press, 2013), among others. Stella serves on The Haiku Foundation board of directors and project manages the Per Diem: Daily Haiku feature for the Foundation. She enjoys reading, gardening, film, music, food, and working long hours.

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Two Haiku by Claire Vogel Camargo

Kin Lane - Cemetery
Photo: Kin Lane/Creative Commons/Flickr

A disenvoiced woman screams on the inside, and a widow explores new-found freedom in two lovely haiku by U.S. poet Claire Vogel Camargo.

the silence
of her acquiescence
a scream

Whatever the subject of the poem is acquiescing to, with whatever wrong or misdeed she is rendered voiceless, a scream resounds inside her. You will likely not hear it – not yet, anyway – but it is there. It is the scream that says this is horribly wrong, you don’t deserve this, no one deserves this, this must stop. “This” could be any number of things – rape, abuse, harassment, discrimination, mansplaining, a good old-fashioned scolding by a male co-worker or spouse. The list goes on. And because personal safety and livelihood may well be at stake, “the silence / of her acquiescence” often goes on, too, despite all the screaming inside.

***

just widowed
all she accomplishes
without him

It’s not necessarily the case that he was a demanding husband. He might have been wonderful and supportive, as many husbands are. But before his death, she shared her space, her time, her life with him. She made his interests hers. She flexed with his schedule. Like Golde in Fiddler on the Roof, she may have washed his clothes, cooked his meals, cleaned his house. It was her house, too, of course. But still. Now, after his death, she is her own woman and, seemingly, well at ease.

Claire Vogel Camargo, author of IRIS OPENING, an ekphrastic collection, wrote her first haiku in 2010, which won 1st place. Her poems appear in journals and anthologies – including Cattails, Hedgerow, Lifting the Sky: Southwestern Haiku & Haiga, Presence, and World Haiku Review. Her 1st place haiku (My Haiku Pond Academy 2017) was the prompt for Carpe Diem Troiku Kukai “in the herb garden” January 2018. She holds degrees in nursing (BSN, MSN) and belongs to the Austin Poetry Society board, British Haiku Society, and Haiku Society of America. She lives with her husband and Great Dane in Texas.