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: 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: 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.

A Poetry Commission and an Exciting New Project from the Johnstone Fund for New Music

Toshiyuki Imai Music Sheet httpswww.flickr.comphotosmatsuyuki4317930373inphotolist-7zywgp-Udcg8Q-8xrsLM-aXqoHp-dxRJv8-8xrsSX-8xrsCM-7
Photo: Toshiyuki Imai/Creative Commons/Flickr

I am extremely excited to announce my most recent poetry commission and an invitation to participate in an innovative project to catalyze the creation of new musical works with poetry.

The Big SCORE, a project created and funded by the Johnstone Fund for New Music, pairs six Columbus poets with six Columbus composers, each pair tasked to collaborate on the creation of a new work for chamber ensemble and spoken or sung text.

I am thrilled to be one of The Big SCORE’s invited poets and to have been paired with the phenomenal composer and percussionist Mark Lomax. The other artists invited to contribute to the project are poets Louise Robertson, Jeremy Glazier, Barbara Fant, Dionne Custer Edwards, and Scott Woods, and composers Jennifer Merkowitz, Linda Kernohan, Jennifer Jolley, Michael Torres, and Charlie Wilmoth.

The new works will be premiered in Columbus in spring 2019. I am deeply grateful to Zoe Johnstone for inviting me to participate in this extraordinary project.

“Dementia Unit Art Gallery” Published in The American Journal of Poetry

- free download from pixabay-dot-com

I am deeply honored that my poem “Dementia Unit Art Gallery” has been published in the most recent issue of The American Journal of Poetry.

Dementia is a theme I revisit frequently in my work.  I have not yet found a way to communicate the full scale of devastation that all forms of dementia bring about. So while I despair of the reality of dementia itself, I keep trying to convey the profound feelings of horror, loss, and sorrow that dementia brings about in those whose lives it touches.

In imagistic language and an experimental graphic format, “Dementia Unit Art Gallery” casts a cold eye on the childlike state of cognition and creativity to which dementia relegates its victims.

I am deeply grateful to editor Robert Nazarene for bringing this poem out into the world.

“nautilus” Haiga Earns Honors from NHK World TV Haiku Masters Series

runner-up for Haiku Master of the Week 12 Dec 2017
“finding the way back” © 2017 Jennifer Hambrick. All rights reserved. First published on NHK World TV’s Haiku Masters at  https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/tv/haiku_masters/gallery201712.html?week=2

I am honored to have been named runner-up for Haiku Master of the Week recently on NHK World TV’s Haiku Masters series for my haiga “finding the way back.”

I took the photo for this haiga while descending a rock staircase on a pueblo in New Mexico. The spiral staircase reminded me of the spiral shape of a chambered nautilus, an amazing creature that, as its flesh grows to fill the existing chambers inside, actually creates new chambers to accommodate future growth.

I was intrigued by the idea of growing into oneself as a metaphor for the journey of life. And while the spiral staircase in the photo actually leads outward to light, I read that light as a metaphor for the true enlightenment of coming to know oneself deep within. From my vantage point looking down into them, the spiral steps that lead into the light move clockwise, so I placed the text of the poem on the image so as to move the eye counterclockwise around the image. The haiga, thus, unites text and image in interlocking swirls.

Here are Haiku Masters judge Kazuko Nishimura’s comments on my haiga:

A nautilus grows to fill up the space in its shell, with an interior that can resemble a spiral staircase. This work does a wonderful job of representing the author’s drive to center oneself by returning to one’s origin. The way the text in the photo is written in the shape of a nautilus’ shell is also very well-done,  successfully bringing the photo, text and haiku into one cohesive work.

I am most grateful to Ms. Nishimura for these comments and for bestowing this honor on my work.

A Short Walk Inside a Haiga: “synapse” Before and After

Hambrick - synapse ACCEPTED FOR PUB IN DAILY HAIGA
“synapse” first published in DailyHaiga 27 Oct. 2017  http://www.dailyhaiga.org/haiga-archives/2165/synapse-by-jennifer-hambrick-usa.  “synapse” poem & image © Jennifer Hambrick 2017. All rights reserved.

Anyone who creates on a regular basis knows that the process that leads to a creation is almost always as original as the creation itself. In the case of my haiga “synapse,” published recently in the beautiful online journal DailyHaiga, I thought a before-and-after might be of interest.

It was actually the edited version of the photograph in “synapse” that inspired the haiku that now accompanies it. The edited image is above; here is the unedited photograph:

DSCF2029
© Jennifer Hambrick 2017. All rights reserved.

In the unedited, photo it’s a bit more clear that the light yellow network of fibrous tentacles is actually a meandering aquatic plant floating in water – in this case, a pond – just beneath the surface.

In editing the photo, I wanted to bring out the contrast between the yellow plant and the greenish hue of the water. So I moved briskly to the electric end of the color spectrum and also applied some other filters to add a retro urban feel.

I sat quietly for a while looking at the edited photo and exploring my inner landscape in relation to it, asking myself how the colors made me feel, what, in the abstract, that yellow thing kind of looked like, and so on.

Then I listened to my intuition, which told me that the yellow tentacles looked like either a subway map or a medical image of a nerve cell ganglion – no, they looked like both at once!

The two contrasting interpretations of the photo’s subject practically handed me the two components of the haiku on a platter: “synapse,” as in a nerve cell synapse, and “the distant rumble / of the outbound train,” referring to the subway map interpretation of the yellow vine.

My deep thanks to DailyHaiga editor Linda Pilarski for again publishing my work.