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.
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
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.
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
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 archiveat http://debbiemstrange.blogspot.ca/.
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:
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.
I am greatly honored that my haiga “concrete jungle” has been selected for the online exhibition in the World Haiku Association’s 159th Haiga Contest.
Whether you live deep in the heart of a city, or commute to and from an urban area, we are surrounded by the elephants of the modern world – highways, bridges, overpasses, train tracks, skyscrapers, and all other marvels of engineering. They help us get from Point A to Point B in (usually) record time. They help us maximize vertical space in an overcrowded world. And they help us traverse and even inhabit spaces normally friendly only to fish or fowl.
But while these gargantuan structures my seem miraculous, as products of steel and cement – and no small amount of blood, sweat, and tears – they, like us, are destined to decay and disintegrate.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
I shot the photo in my ‘concrete jungle’ haiga beneath an overpass that spans a busy urban thoroughfare. The pile of concrete shards on the ground at the foot of the wall that supports the overpass is a metaphor for the decay that will eventually claim all things born of the human intellect and made of human hands.
I am most grateful to judge Kuniharu Shimizu for selecting my haiga for this honor.
My haiku was one of 15 by U.S. authors recognized with Sakura Awards in this year’s competition. In addition, a single poem was named Top Winner in the U.S. category, and another 25 U.S. poems were given Honourable Mentions.
Of the 41 U.S. poems granted awards, fully six – close to 15 percent – are by poets living and working in my home state of Ohio.
The theme of this year’s Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Invitational was “freedom.” My poem speaks to the world of possibilities that await people of all ages and from all corners of the globe who seek to build their lives in freedom and peace:
an old man
learns two new words
My heartfelt congratulations to the winning poets in all divisions of this year’s competition, and my sincere gratitude to the competition judges, Angelee Deodhar, Billie Wilson, and DeVar Dahl.
We were happy. And at the same time, we were wrecked.
Fifteen years ago, my then brand-new husband and I were walking around beautiful Charleston, South Carolina, on our honeymoon hot and wilted. All the hype and hoopla of our wedding the day before had taken the starch out of us, so we just thought we were dragging from plain old exhaustion.
But we learned later that day the we had actually been walking around Charleston in 104-degree heat. And, given that this was June in Charleston, heaven only knows what the humidity was.
But though we were wrecked, we were happy.
So, on June 2, the fifteenth anniversary of that sweltering day, it was a delight to see my haiku inspired by our honeymoon published in Japan’s leading daily newspaper, The Asahi Shimbun, in a special column devoted to honeymoons. My sincere thanks to editor David McMurray. Here is my haiku:
I love it when a project of unassuming origins takes on a life of its own.
My “paper roses” haiku, which the Italian haiku poet Elisa Allo recently featured and translated into Italian on her blog, Ama no gawa, recently found itself in the middle of such a project. Little did I know that my haiku contains a pun that is impossible to translate into Italian. Elisa presented the haiku with a beautiful graphic and an explanatory note about the translation:
My “paper roses” haiku might not have come about in the first place had it not been for the phenomenal artwork a group of Columbus-area elementary school students and a recent event of the Ohio Poetry Association.
In April, the Ohio Poetry Association published a statewide anthology of ekphrastic poems (poems inspired by other works of art), A Rustling and Waking Within. The anthology was a project many years in the making and was guided into the world with selfless love and generosity by editor Sharon Fish Mooney.
The anthology launch party last month at Columbus’ Wexner Center for the Arts (“the Wex”) featured poets, including myself, from all around Ohio reading aloud poems in the anthology.
In the run-up to the event, I volunteered to acquire flowers to adorn the small reception tables where poets would gather to nosh and sip before and after the readings. Unable to secure a donation of real flowers, I turned to Plan B: paper flowers.
I asked one of my co-workers if her husband, an elementary school art teacher, might think it a good project for some of his art students to make a few dozen paper flowers for the anthology launch party. It just so happened that one of his classes of third graders loves to do origami – so much so that their teacher often has to collect any artwork they create on paper right after they finish it, lest they fold it into something else!
Moreover, my colleague’s husband knew just the right pattern for paper flowers, one which he himself made many times and sold at modest cost. Over the next few weeks, Jon Juravich, the art teacher at Liberty Tree Elementary School in Powell, Ohio, led his students in making three dozen paper flowers, which they then donated to the Ohio Poetry Association for use at the anthology launch party. As you can see from the photo Jon took, the students’ work is simply gorgeous.
But the final presentation was stunning. Jon hot glued the paper “blooms” onto tree twigs he had painted black. I placed one or two stems into each of several tall bud vases and placed a vase on each of the small tables at the Wex. Quite simply, the students’ flowers were a hit.
At the anthology launch, I asked OPA president Chuck Salmons and other organizers of the event to sign a thank-you card for Jon and his students. For my part, I wrote an original haiku – my “paper roses” haiku, which Elisa Allo later featured and translated into Italian – inspired by the students’ phenomenal paper flowers. Jon shared the thank-yous, kudos, and haiku to his students.
On the cover of Beverly’s chapbook, in the center of a swirl of gardenia blossoms, is a picture of one of the vases of the Powell students’ paper roses sitting on one of the tables at the OPA anthology launch party.
So, finding flowers (or rather failing to find flowers) for a major poetry event inspired a creative project for some talented third-graders, which both turned into a haiku inspired by the paper flowers they made and which is now translated into a foreign language on a blog an ocean away, and became cover art for a poet’s chapbook published right here in Ohio.
Somewhere in this story is a lesson about synchronicity. But here’s the most powerful lesson: positive energy begets positive energy, and the creative spirit, when embraced, nurtured, and loved, cannot be stopped.
I thank Elisa Allo for welcoming my “paper roses” so beautifully into the world, and I thank Jon Juravich and the third grade art students at Liberty Tree Elementary School for their talent, generosity, and inspiration.