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/.
Photo: Free for Commercial Use/www.gratisography.com/Creative Commons/Flickr
31 days. 27 poets. 48 poems.
The first International Women’s Haiku Festival on Inner Voices was a big success. You sent me an overwhelming number of submissions from every corner of the English-speaking world. With deep sensitivity, humor, and skill, your poems covered a broad swathe of women’s experience – the horrors of breast cancer, the nuanced relationships of mothers and daughters, marriage, divorce, domestic violence, singlehood and solitude, the glass ceiling, children, childbirth and motherhood, dementia, body image, age discrimination, cougars, and even the politics of lingerie.
Some of your poems tugged at the proverbial heart strings. Some of them made me giggle. All of them made me think and, I hope, will continue to make others think about the richness that women bring to the world, and about the ways in which the world does – and, in many instances, still does not – appreciate it.
In addition to your submissions, your support for the festival also came in the form of the comments you wrote on the festival’s featured posts, and in the many lovely comments you sent me privately. I appreciate them all.
Thank you for entrusting me to curate your work in this festival. I was an honor.
The poets of the 2017 International Women’s Haiku Festival:
Photo: Christopher Crouzet/Creative Commons/Flickr
Valorie Broadhurst Woerdehoff explores the wonder of childbirth and the unique dynamic between mothers and daughters in today’s feature of the International Women’s Haiku Festival.
around my neck
of Mother’s scarf
What woman doesn’t know this “tightness of Mother’s scarf”? The tightness of the scarf around the “neck,” specifically, suggests the restriction of the poetic speaker’s voice by way of the mother’s enduring influence. Woerdehoff’s metaphor is a powerful one for that extraordinary dynamic, somewhere between too close and not close enough, that so often exists between mothers and daughters.
birthing at dawn
light on the lake
Here, the image of “light on the lake / bending” suggests that the physical world shifts to accommodate the arrival of a new human being by way of refracting or diffracting light, just as the world awakens with the arrival of the sun at dawn. In Woerdehoff’s haiku, all of nature, including the mystery of childbirth, is gathered in a profound expression of wonder and awe.
Valorie Broadhurst Woerdehoff (USA) 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. 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, journals, and anthologies. She has taught courses on publishing and has 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 competitions, including earning her River Arts Association Writer of the Year honors.
Here, cougars lick their chops on the veldt of sexual politics. That Leuck’s “middle-aged women” only “eye” the “younger men” seems to toy with the transgressive notion of a woman of mothering age indulging her sexual appetite with someone possibly young enough to be her child. But when you consider that the “antipasto” is the appetizer one indulges in before the main course, this senryu suggests that the women might do more than “eye” the men as the “meal” progresses.
Angela Leuck’s work has been published in journals and anthologies around the world. An award-winning poet, she is the author of More Grows in a Crooked Row (inkling, 2016), Garden Meditations and A Cicada in the Cosmos (inkling, 2009), and Flower Heart (Blue Ginkgo, 2006). She has also edited numerous anthologies, including Rose Haiku for Flower Lovers and Gardeners (Price-Patterson, 2005), Tulip Haiku (Shoreline, 2004), and, with Maxianne Berger, Sun Through the Blinds: Montreal Haiku Today (Shoreline, 2003). She lives in Hatley, Quebec.
Gardiner writes this introduction to the two haiku featured today:
“These haiku are in celebration of noted environmental activists and their major achievements: banning the use of egret plumes on hats and the campaign for the protection of (California’s) Joshua Tree National Park.”
an egret feather
on the carpet
For Harriet Hemenway, Boston activist
the succulent set on fire
to guide their way
For Minerva Hamilton Hoyt, conservationist of desert plants in California Dr. Tim Gardiner is an ecologist, poet and children’s author from the UK. His first collection of poetry, Wilderness, was published by Brambleby Books in 2015, and his debut children’s book, The Voyage of the Queen Bee, was published by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust in 2016. Tim’s haiku have appeared in literary magazines such as Frogpond, Modern Haiku, and The Heron’s Nest.
rotting on the compost heap
Words do not suffice to describe the injustice of the so-called glass ceiling. A woman’s talents and abilities are stopped in their tracks for no reason other than her sex, which is to say for no reason whatsoever, while the talents of her male counterparts are given opportunity to flourish. Unless she can create her own opportunities, all that ability lies fallow or, worse, is completely wasted, like the “crisp lettuce / rotting on the compost heap” in Hopewell’s poem. While the juxtaposition of images in this haiku is quite overt, there sometimes comes a time and a place for directness. Now is the time, and this festival is the place.
Louise Hopewell is an Australian poet, writer and songwriter whose haiku and senryu have been published in Failed Haiku, Hedgerow, and Creatrix.
winter wind . . .
singing my little sister
Klacsanzky captures a special sibling moment in all its beautiful simplicity. The juxtaposition of the cold “winter wind” with the emotional warmth of the voice singing the lullaby is beyond delightful. One can imagine this sweet moment to have been comforting for the little sister and life-changing for the older brother. And the music of Klacsanzky’s words – the alliteration of “winter wind” and “singing my little sister to sleep” – turns the poem into a lullaby in its own right.
Nicholas Klacsanzky is a widely-published haiku, senryu, and tanka poet, and a technical editor by profession. The editor of Haiku Commentary, he wants to promote haiku as an educational study. He was conferred with a certificate for being one of the top 100 haiku poets in Europe in 2015 and 2016. In addition, he is a mentor for haiku, senryu, and tanka on the online group Poets on Google Plus. He lives in Kyiv, Ukraine.
two young women
with three young children
try to visit
The scenario Oates describes in this delightful poem plays out (literally) in parks, on play dates, and at extended family gatherings everywhere: Two worlds – that of children and that of the adults charged with keeping them safe and teaching them how to behave – collide. With the operative word “try,” Oates hints at the children’s mischief and the women’s frustration – in short, at the pandemonium of family life.
David Oates is the host of “Wordland,” a radio show of spoken word on wuga.org. He is the author of three haiku collections: Shifting with My Sandwich Hand, Drunken Robins and, forthcoming, The Deer’s Bandanna.
With its sharp edges worn smooth by the tumult of the ocean, “sea glass” is a beautiful metaphor for what, ideally, happens to us over the course of our lives. The self-possessed older woman who embodies that special kind of ease in her own skin didn’t necessarily get there easily or overnight. She likely had to comb a lot of beaches and pick up loads of flotsam and jetsam before finding the lovely sea-gems that sit well in her soul. Schaefer’s poem gives us a road map – let the ocean of life smooth out our rough edges – and reveals the wabi-sabi kind of beauty of the works-in-progress that we are.
the edge of lace
still means no
The classic decoration for women’s undergarments, lace is a vivid signifier of feminine sexual intimacy. Intriguingly, “the edge of lace” is serrated like a knife blade and, in Schaefer’s poem, suggests a protective boundary or even a weapon against sexual violence. The lace metaphor here is an extraordinary symbol of a woman’s right to autonomy and a reminder of boundaries that are not to be transgressed.
Michelle Schaefer is a poet-in-progress. She has spent many years learning and writing the art form of haiku. She has been published in various haiku journals and anthologies. Her poetry can be found in Acorn, Frogpond, Modern Haiku, Mariposa and Heron’s Nest. She is also featured in NY Seitkatsu’s online publication as a regular semifinalist in the Ito En Haiku Grand Prix. She has recently won Frogpond‘s Museum of Haiku Literature Award in its most recent volume. She hopes that poetry touches people in extraordinary ways. She lives in Bothell, WA with her husband.