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.

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Three Haiku by Martha Magenta

makou0629 - fallen petals
Photo: makou0629/Creative Commons/Flickr

British poet Martha Magenta gives voice to the reprehensibility of sexual harassment, the after-effects of a mastectomy, and fleeting fertility in three beautiful haiku.

the depth
of pollution
#metoo

What prompts one to think it acceptable to make implicit or explicit sexual demands of someone else? The impulse may or may not be akin to the one that prompts the polluting of a beautiful landscape with an empty potato chip bag, but the results are similar: both victims are left to drown in the filthy residue left behind by those who violate them.

***

last rose of summer –
the loneliness
of a single breast

In the normal course of things, we shed cells throughout our entire lives, such that every several years we effectively have entirely new bodies. So why should it surprise us when a part of our bodies must be removed all at once? It surprises us, of course, because we are gifted with the propensity to envision only our springtime and summers, not our autumns and (heaven forbid) our winters. A lone breast shares this lovely haiku with a late-blooming rose, offering the gentlest possible reminder both of our mortality and of its place, and its special kind of beauty, in the natural order.

***

falling sakura . . .
her yearning
to conceive

What image better conveys the yearning for new life than the sakura – the cherry blossom – that timeless Japanese symbol of the fragility of life? In this poem, the biological clock measures time in cherry petals let loose from the tree, even as the poem’s subject likely marks time in monthly cycles, in squares on the calendar, and in temperature readings. This, too, is life.

Martha Magenta lives in Bristol, England, UK. Her haiku, haibun, senryu, and tanka have appeared in a number of journals, magazines, and anthologies. She was awarded Honourable Mentions for her haiku in The Fifth Annual Peggy Willis Lyles Haiku Awards, 2017, and the 71st Basho Memorial English Haiku Contest, 2017, and for her tanka in UHTS “Fleeting Words” Tanka Contest 2017. She is listed on The European Top 100 haiku authors, 2017.

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Two Haiku by Lee Nash

Joe Shlabotnik - Red Carpet
Photo: Joe Shlabotnik/Creative Commons/Flickr

A kept woman and a white wedding dress find their way into two insightful haiku by Lee Nash.

sugar daddy
the acrid sting
of his tobacco

The kept woman. Wouldn’t it be nice, the idea goes, if a man could provide a woman everything she needs, or – better yet – could spoil her outright, just like her father did when she was a little girl, only with bigger, blingier, costlier gifts? Of course, whatever sum the sugar daddy spends, the woman’s emotional price – her sense of her own inner strength and resourcefulness, her self-respect – is far costlier. The “acrid sting” lands in her soul, while material stuff builds up around her like prison walls.

***

white wedding dress
the intensity
of a sugar rose

Are many weddings these days, euphemistically speaking, white? Sure, the bride’s dress may gleam like the cliffs of Albion, but does the dress still convey virginity, as it did in past eras? One can still “read” a white wedding dress that way, though I suspect most would also consider doing so to be old-fashioned and, frankly, none of their business. Yet, the white dress persists as a bride’s default wedding attire, maybe because of or despite the symbol it once clearly was, or maybe – dare I say it? – just for show. So now compare, as Nash does in her poem, the white wedding dress with not a real rose, but a sickly sweet one made of sugar. And it’s only fair to ask: Which article of the groom’s attire still, even if only in the margins, satisfies social expectations of his sexual status at the altar?

Lee Nash lives in France and works as an editor and proofreader. Her poems have appeared in print and online journals, including Acorn, Ambit, Angle, Magma, Mezzo Cammin, Orbis, Poetry Salzburg Review, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, The Heron’s Nest, and The Lake. Her first poetry chapbook, Ash Keys, is available from Flutter Press. You can find a selection of Lee’s poems on her website: leenashpoetry.com.

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Three Haiku by Marietta McGregor

F D Richards - Alcea rosea, 2017, Single [Hollyhock]
Photo: F. D. Richards/Creative Commons/Flickr
The poignant joy of a girl growing up, the wonder of a child in the womb, and the sorrow lingering long after the death of a special friend all find voice in three wistful haiku by Australian poet Marietta McGregor.

tall pink hollyhocks
daughter swings faster
on the garden gate

As the saying goes, they grow up so quickly. This delightful yet poignant poem conjures the image of a girl who still likes to turn everyday objects – even the garden gate – into playthings. But, as a different saying goes, my, she’s growing like a weed. Or like a hollyhock, which can grow to be quite tall – and quite beautiful.

***

faint new moon
framed in leaves
thirteen-week ultrasound

This tender poem likens the silvery ultrasound image of a child growing in the womb to the hazy glow of the moon. The imagery of darkness and light cloaks the poem in a chiaroscuro fittingly wondrous for the awesome mystery of new life.

***

autumn dusk
the years since we shared
a birthday

This beautiful poem gives voice to the sorrow of losing a loved-one – in this case, one with the special connection of having been born the same day the poetic speaker was – to the final separation caused by death. The poetic speaker and the other person represented by “we” might literally have been twins, or might have been simply “birthmates” unrelated by blood, but they are now separated by death. Even after “the years” since they shared a birthday, the pain of this separation is still fresh, and it is conveyed beautifully in the doubly umbrous image of “autumn dusk.”

Marietta McGregor is a retired botanist and journalist from Canberra, Australia, and a Pushcart-nominated poet. Her award-winning haiku, haibun and haiga appear in international journals and anthologies and have featured on Japanese television. She belongs to the Australian and British Haiku Societies, and the Haiku Society of America.

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Three Haiku by Jessica Malone Latham

wispy clouds
Photo: Indi Samarajiva/Creative Commons/Flickr

Wispy clouds drift over an intimate moment, a frail woman perseveres on a walk through an ancient forest, and the awe in a father’s heart fill three lovely haiku by U.S. poet Jessica Malone Latham.

cloud wisps
the secrets he whispers
in my hair

This beautiful haiku offers a tight shot on a private moment. Music links the poem’s central aspects by way of the sibilants in “wisps,” “secrets,” and “whispers.” That the secrets are whispered in the poetic speaker’s hair, not ear, suggests the untidy sensuality of a deeply intimate relationship.

***

old-growth forest
the stick that holds
her limp

I imagine an older woman limping with walking stick through an ancient forest. Here, subject and setting are linked by worldly experience, by the suggestion that they share the earthy wisdom that comes with years. And while the forest – nature in one of its grandest expressions – is often portrayed as the setting for frightening supernatural events, in this haiku it is a place of comforting solitude, embracing and supporting a late-life journey ever deeper through time.

***

the look in his eyes
as the children fall asleep
night blooming jasmine

Even in dark of night, some flowers blossom. The father figure implied in this lovely haiku is entranced by, and in awe of, his sweetly sleeping children – that, even while asleep, they will grow, blossom, flourish, as will his dreams for them. The poetic speaker observes this moment and shares it with the reader, pulling back the curtain on a domestic scene full of love and wonder.

Jessica Malone Latham, M.A. is a poet, writer, translator, and educator. Her haiku, haibun, senryu, and tanka have appeared in dozens of journals and anthologies. She is the recipient of several awards, including the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Sakura Award (2017), a semi-finalist for the Art of Haiku contest, (May 2017) and runner-up for the Haiku Calendar Competition, where two of her poems were included (2017). She has published three collections: cricket song: Haiku and Short Poems from a Mother’s Heart (Red Moon Press) and chapbooks, clouds of light (wooden nickel press) and all this bowing (buddha baby press).

 

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Two Haiku by John Hawkhead

Ronnie Robertson - moonlight
Photo: Ronnie Robertson/Creative Commons/Flickr

Vivid imagery and brilliant understatement are at work in British poet John Hawkhead’s “Spring moon” and “ink of night” haiku.

Aided by the white light of the moon – that feminine celestial presence – the poetic speaker goes beyond viewing the implied aftereffects of a woman’s lumpectomy or mastectomy and “explores” the “trail” these scars have left on her body. Against the backdrop of spring – the season of renewal and freshness – the chiaroscuro of the moon’s spotlight beaming through dark of night surrounds the telltale signs of a deadly disease. Hawkhead’s “Spring moon” is imbued with life and death, light and darkness. It is a snapshot of the cycle of life itself, every moment at once new and dying.

Spring moon
I explore the lustrous trail
of her breast scars

***

This poem’s opening line – not the typical “dark of night,” but instead “ink of night” – suggests police fingerprint ink and a grim scene leading up to it. Under the nails of the poem’s subject is “the evidence” of some crime. We might assume the woman is a victim who fought back against her attacker, but is that too facile? Hawkhead’s poem leaves just enough room for interpretation to make it tantalizing.

ink of night
under her nails
the evidence

John Hawkhead is a writer and illustrator from the South West of England. His haiku and senryu have been published all over the world and his book, Small Shadows, is available from Alba Publishing.

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Two Haiku by Debbie Strange

Jackie Finn-Irwin - Purple African Violet
Photo by Jackie Finn-Irwin/Creative Commons/Flickr

Launching the 2018 International Women’s Haiku Festival are two gorgeous haiku by Canadian poet Debbie Strange.

Taken together, these two poems convey volumes about women’s experience. In “sisterless . . .” the special relationship that only sisters can share is viewed from the vantage point of its utter lack, and illustrated with the heartrending image of a star falling into permanent darkness in a lake.

“African violets” is a compassionate take on the parts of our lives that we may prefer to leave in the relative safety and comfort of the vagueness of the past. Likening the “fuzzy details” of the past to bold and beautiful (and, yes, fuzzy) African violets acknowledges that even the shadows of one’s past are still, in their own unique ways, beautiful and brilliant.

sisterless . . .
another star falls
into the lake

***

African violets
the fuzzy details
of my past

Debbie Strange (Canada) is an internationally published short form poet, haiga artist and photographer whose creative passions bring her closer to the world and to herself. She is the author of Warp and Weft: Tanka Threads (Keibooks 2015) and the haiku chapbook A Year Unfolding (Folded Word 2017). You are invited to visit her publication archive at http://debbiemstrange.blogspot.ca/.

“jazz brunch” Haiku Named a “Judge’s Favorite” in 2018 Golden Haiku Competition

It was a pleasant surprise to learn that, again this year, one of my haiku will be displayed in the Golden Triangle district in Washington, D.C., as a “Judge’s Favorite” in the 2018 international Golden Haiku Competition.

Here is my haiku, selected from a record 1,700 submissions from around the world:

Hambrick - jazz brunch

Here are my poems selected in the 2017 Golden Haiku Competition.

I love public art and am thrilled that one of my poems has been selected for this major public art project. My thanks to this year’s competition judges, Abigail Friedman, John Stevenson and Kit Pancoast Nagamura.  And hearty congratulations to my fellow poets whose work was also selected.