Friday, December 30, 2011

Thanks, tinywords:

at the top of the hill
I am still
the same size

Lynne Rees

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Kissing Simon Cowell

It is not as I imagined: abrupt, inattentive. It is eager and tender but, to be honest, a little too wet, although my heart still does its excited little somersault even if he is just toying with me to pass some time in this small hotel while the rest of our group are in their rooms preparing for the road-trip ahead, or maybe the hesitance I detect is a shadow of guilt for his girlfriend, the dark l’Oreal-haired woman I could never hope to compete with beyond the confines of this dream, and when he says he’s going to take a nap I still don’t know if he wants me to join him, even when he jokes about my unshaved legs and his smile reaches his eyes and he stops cleaning his teeth and steps into the hallway to call out about the efficiency of electric toothbrushes, or even when he goes down to reception via the front staircase and returns via the back, slowing as he passes my open door, a glass of water in his hand, his face as smooth as the stone linen shirt he is wearing and I ask him if I should come and lie beside him and he says yes, his voice shy, hoarse, and uncertainty rushes through me like a cold river, the memory of how I have hurt myself in the past, how regret hung its old damp clothes in the corner of my heart until they started to rot.

The water is running in the toilet cistern and I cannot stop it. I have no fancy underwear with me. If I let myself cry I fear I will never stop. I have never been any good at interpreting signs.

a flock of birds twists
against the sky
I say I’m sorry

Autumn 2011

Friday, September 02, 2011

Haiku as Poetic Spell - Martin Lucas

Martin Lucas, editor of Haiku Presence magazine and author of Stepping Stones, a way into haiku has kindly allowed me to reprint his enlightening essay. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, for the way it makes me reflect on my own haiku writing practice and question what I'm doing and why.

Haiku as Poetic Spell

Haiku as an English-language form now has fifty years or so of history. There have been many trials of new approaches along the way, and much has been learned. At the same time, it’s probably true to say that only a minority of writers stay the course. For many, it’s an enthusiasm that burns brightly for two or three years – sometimes with brilliant results – and then burns itself out, as the writer comes to feel that s/he has exhausted either the potential of haiku or his/her own potential as a haiku writer. One consequence of this turnover is that although individual writers may make great strides very rapidly, the movement as a whole evolves much more slowly, and from certain angles it now looks as if it has reached something of a plateau. This plateau is a position of conformity, complacency and mere competence. And the pressures towards conformity are acute enough to make it difficult to remain true to your own original inspirations, poetic preferences and little awkwardnesses that resist hammering into shape.

To understand the context of this discussion, we need to appreciate that haiku in English developed largely using translations as models. Translations tend to concentrate on conveying content with accuracy, sacrificing any attempt to replicate formal effects such as rhythm and alliteration. The historical consequence of this has been that poets writing original haiku in English have focused on what is said and paid relatively little attention to how it is said.

The internationally accepted formula runs something like this (expressed here in 5-7-5 for my own amusement, though 5-7-5 is now outmoded as far as the arbiters of taste are concerned):

seasonal ref'rence—
then two lines of contrasting
foreground imagery

Seen in isolation, any one of these haiku can be impressive. Taken in quantity, the effect is numbing. For my point of departure I turn to Modern Haiku, not to single it out, because suitable examples abound, scattered like the innumerable stars right across the haiku firmament. But Modern Haiku comes close to the pinnacle of general respect, and the haiku I am using was highlighted as an award-winner in 40/1. This helps to make the point that it’s not bad haiku but generally accepted good haiku that are holding back the development of the form. With my profound apologies to Lynne Steel, because I could have chosen a haiku by any one of us, here it is:

Monday, August 01, 2011

july river 31

family dinner
as night falls we rattle
a few skeletons

Sunday, July 31, 2011

july river 30

the first ice-cream,
because he's a guest,
the 4-year-old tells me

Saturday, July 30, 2011

july river 29

remembering who we are
as the sun goes down
we swap stories around the table

Thursday, July 28, 2011

july river 28

unexpected gifts
the paddling pool deeper
after the storm

july river 27

all day rain
the edges of the playing cards
start to curl

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

july river 26

evening swim
the sea saltier
in the losing light

Monday, July 25, 2011

july river 25

a moment alone
I read my book
in the paddling pool

Sunday, July 24, 2011

july river 24

Sunday morning:
a queue at the bakery
then sandcastles
and tiny silver fish
darting in the shallows.

Some days open to us

Saturday, July 23, 2011

july river 23

the distance between us
I watch my step-daughter's plane
start to descend

july river 22

rotisserie chicken
I walk back
towards the scent

Friday, July 22, 2011

july river 21

beach beggar
her little girl
trickles sand
between her fingers

Thursday, July 21, 2011

july river 20

the tiny waists
of girls in bikinis

the boys dive
into the waves

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

july river 19

thunder clap
I think about
the promises
he won't keep

Monday, July 18, 2011

july river 18

time to go home
a little boy fills up
his Crocs with sand

Sunday, July 17, 2011

july river 17

the wind picks up
beneath dark clouds
the sea takes on
the colour of petrol

and now the rain

each day this week
summer has turned
against itself, as if it has
forgotten its own name

Saturday, July 16, 2011

july river 16

the sea as clear as light this morning

a little girl stands under the beach shower
and opens her mouth

a rose tattoo
above a woman's right buttock

I step around the pebbles on the sea-bed

Friday, July 15, 2011

july river 15

the sound of children
playing in the garden
and the house sings

Thursday, July 14, 2011

july river 14

Bastille Day
a boy on the beach
tramples his sandcastle

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

july river 13

a young girl turns
cartwheels in the shallows

the waves break short
like a splash of applause

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

july river 12

the fisherman's silhouette
edged with light

Monday, July 11, 2011

july river 11

these gorgeous girls
in their Italian sunglasses
and sparkly flip-flops
who move like water

I want to press a fingertip
to their golden skin
just to watch it spring
back into place

Sunday, July 10, 2011

july river 10

holiday season
an english tourist reads
a tin of Cassoulet au Magret de Canard

Saturday, July 09, 2011

july river 9

in the queue at the bakery
the scent of Ambre Solaire

Friday, July 08, 2011

july river 8

all day now
the chitter of cicadas
all night
the whirr of the ceiling fan

last night I dreamed
of a dark restaurant
an unpaid bill
I walked away from

Thursday, July 07, 2011

july river 7

My father once gave my mother a driving lesson on the beach carpark while the three of us were in the back of the car. She remembers us shouting, 'No Daddy, please don't let Mammy drive.' She never learned.

45 years later my niece sends me a photo of her on a mobility scooter for the first time, negotiating Debenhams and M&S, her handbag in the front basket, her walking stick slotted behind the seat.

'Go, Mam,' I am shouting from 1,000 miles away.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

july river 6

Almost nine in the evening and the beach is full of picnics: two kids and their parents eating sandwiches wrapped in tinfoil, an extended family on deckchairs around a line wobbly tables pushed together and leaning into the sand from the weight of tupperware dishes and bottles of wine, some volleyballers on towels with cigarettes and bread.

Sand, sunset, the voices of people who know you. The day's end like a pillow.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

july river 5

summer rainstorm
the balloon man
sells umbrellas

Monday, July 04, 2011

july river 4

croissant crumbs
I try and find
the right words

Sunday, July 03, 2011

july river 3

there can never be too much light

Saturday, July 02, 2011

july river 2

Much less than a nest, these few snatches of twig and grass, yet the pigeon settles and resettles herself on the high ledge under the arcade, a ledge so narrow she has to sit with her tail feathers flattened to the wall behind her. And when her mate arrives and perches on the tiniest lip of stone before resting his head across the back of her neck, so for a moment I can't see where his grey feathers end and hers begin, I am reminded of love, love that shows itself in kindness, and I am pleased to be, even if it is an invention of my own making.

Friday, July 01, 2011

july river 1

the sun's heat
in a ripe plum

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

a river of stones July 2011

In February of this year Fiona Robyn introduced NaSmaStoMo to the world and I managed to write a small stone every day for a month. So did hundreds and hundreds of other people and we all felt better for it, for a moment of stillness and reflection on the wonderful ordinariness of our lives.

I recently read back over my month of daily stones and was surprised by some of them, couldn't remember writing others, and re-felt the contentment of being part of the project. I shouldn't have been quite as surprised; I'm forever encouraging writing students to 'free write', to be spontaneous. 'You'll surprise yourselves,' I say. Sometimes I need to remind myself of my own advice.

So, I've decided to take part in the July river. I know that somedays I'll struggle to write anything. I might even miss a day and catch up. Other days I'll feel pleased with the few words and images I capture. But what happens on a day to day basis is a small shadow in comparison to taking part in something bigger than me.

I'm looking forward to the river, with meeting up with old friends and rediscovering new ones.

3 days to go. If you haven't already joined the river and you'd like to, check out this post.

Friday, April 01, 2011

another country, haiku poetry from Wales

This is the first ever Welsh national anthology of haiku poetry. Concise, precise and evocative, and taking us on a journey through and around the ordinary and extraordinary aspects of everyday life, these poems have been selected and edited by three highly respected pioneers of the haiku in Wales - Nigel Jenkins, Ken Jones and Lynne Rees.

another country was launched in Wales in March 2011 at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea and at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre.

Available from Gomer Press.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ray Rasmussen's new online journal:

Day's End: Poetry and Photography about Aging

Thursday, February 10, 2011

a fresh baguette
crackles in my palm

three sneezes
all that’s left
of the snowman

Both published in Presence 43

Monday, January 31, 2011

Water-Ways: A Haiku Journey in Ghent

International Haiku Festival in Ghent, Belgium
13th to 19th September 2010

Zilvervisje glimt
Langs ’t onzeekre watervlak
En hapt er een ster
August Vermeylen (1927)

silver fry flicker
along the shifting waters
and snaffle a star

Trans. David Cobb (2010)

The festival haiku by Vermeylen is one of the oldest haiku written in Dutch but also a natural choice given that Ghent is a city of rivers and waterways that weave through and around its gothic buildings and cobbled streets.

And the theme of water was more intimately introduced to the delegation of assembled haiku poets after dinner on Monday and Tuesday evenings with candle-lit ‘ginko’ in hand-made and man powered, long-oared, wooden boats. With blankets over our knees and notebooks in hand we were steered silently along the dark water, under low stone bridges, with the lights and stepped gable roofs of the city above us.

someone singing
from an open window
the boat drifts

Lynne Rees

The boat trips were repeated by day to allow us the maximum amount of exposure to the city that would be the inspiration for our haiku. Haiku by over 30 poets from more than 20 countries that would, within the space of five days, not only be translated into four languages and published in a perfect bound anthology, but also be printed in more than 15 languages on banners fixed to the stone walls of houses and bridges along the city’s rivers.
It was an astonishing accomplishment by the festival’s organisers, Ip Man of Viadagio vsw (Chairman) and Diederik de Beir (Programme Director) and their team of volunteers. Viadagio literally means ‘slow way’ and the organisation is dedicated to sustainable living and a lifestyle that respects the environment. Its flagship restaurant, Panda, in the historic centre, was a welcoming and nurturing base for the poets each evening where we were served delicious vegetarian suppers and organic wine by Ip Man’s wife, Denise, and her team of cooks, before returning to our host families around the city.
far from home
an extra squeeze
of honey in my tea
Lynne Rees

David Cobb
David Cobb’s hosts owned a pet turtle which had the freedom of their living room and kitchen, a splendid exemplar of ‘Viadagio’! Asked to compose a souvenir of his visit, David created a haiga of this haiku:
Take your time, Turtle —
there’s plenty of it yet
in timeless Ghent!
David Cobb

The Poetry Centre in Ghent
(photo by George Swede)

On Tuesday afternoon everyone gathered at the Poëziecentrum, for a tour of the four-storey converted guild building in the centre of Ghent, which since 1980 has been a dynamic, independent and democratic supporter of Dutch and Flemish poets. The centre boasts a publishing house, organises educational activities, offers a ‘search for/identify a poem’ service to the general public, as well as housing an extensive collection of poetry books, pamphlets and anthologies in Dutch, Flemish and Afrikaans from all around the world.
Wednesday was the principal day set aside for writing, editing and translating our haiku and while certain poets and editors had been appointed as official translators there was also a lot of informal and friendly discussion between the 7 native English speakers (Sharon Burrell, David Cobb, Jim Kacian, Anita Krumins, Anthony Kudryanvitsky, Lynne Rees and George Swede) and their European counterparts.
Thursday was designated ‘International Haiku Day’ and saw us back at the Poetry Centre, in the Het Toreken (Little Tower), for a full day’s programme of seminars, workshops and readings, wonderfully punctuated by the classical guitar virtuoso, Alexander Makay.
Jim Kacian (USA, founder of the Haiku Foundation and owner of Red Moon Press) gave the keynote lecture on ‘Haiku Mastery’, identifying the need for form, content and style to work together. This was followed by a history of haiku in Flanders by Diederik de Beir, Ion Codrescu’s (Romania) ‘The Art of Juxtaposition of Image & Text in Haiga Painting’, an insightful demonstration of the different ways to read haiku by Pietro Tartamella (Italy), ‘Humour in Haiku’ by Zinovy Vayman (Russia), ‘The Use of Iconic Place Names (uta-makura) in Western Haiku’ by David Cobb (UK), and ‘Haiku Transcription of Chinese Poetry’ by Paul Mercken (Belgium/The Netherlands). The day was brought to a close with haiku readings by Jean Antonini (France), Serge Tomé (Belgium) and local haiku poets.
Ghent's streets and stepped gable roofs
On Friday, after an official reception at City Hall hosted by Alderman Lieven Decaluwé, we strolled through the streets of Ghent with Luc, our formidable tour guide, unravelling the city’s past for us: its architecture and achievements, its people and punishments, the squares and churches and halls where people’s lives were written into history.
at her window box
Rapunzel in a garret
dead-heading flowers
David Cobb

Before the festival began there had been rumours that Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council and haiku poet in his own right, might possibly attend one of our events, but, as the week progressed, the rumours subsided. The level of security surrounding our entrance to the Stedelijke Openbare Bibliotheek Gent, Ghent’s Public City Library, on Saturday morning should, perhaps, have alerted us that something was afoot. But it was not until several burly men in dark suits positioned themselves at the windows and doors of the conference room, and a slight but elegant man made his entrance, that we realised what was happening.
Mr. Herman von Rompuy
Mr van Rompuy walked around the room shaking hands with each of the haiku poets before speaking to the assembled public audience, with humility and humour, about his outing by the Press as ‘Haiku Herman’ and we were all delighted to hear that his own haiku would appear alongside ours in the festival anthology. A subsequent musical interlude by local musicians, Trio Guaraja, led to panel discussions hosted by the well-known journalist, John Vervoort, (De Standaard and Poëziekrant) who quizzed selected participants, including David Cobb and Max Verhart (The Netherlands), about haiku and why it appealed to them.

The end of the week had arrived and was celebrated in style on Saturday night with a Gala dinner at Panda Restaurant for poets, their hosts, and invited guests. A champagne reception was followed by dinner and wine, a stunning performance of Chopin by four talented young musicians, an announcement of the winners in the Flemish/Dutch haiku competition, ‘Along the Water’, and a reading of the anthology haiku in Flemish, French, English, German and some Japanese.

It was after midnight when we left the restaurant, our footsteps echoing along the quiet streets, with our silver gilt-decorated anthologies in our hands, the week’s activities still bubbling through our minds. The next day we would be even more excited and proud to see our words printed on banners and strung along the river, being read and photographed by inquisitive and surprised audiences as they motored past in the tourist boats.

day moon
the river and I
don’t say a word

Lynne Rees

First published in Blithe Spirit, Journal of the British Haiku Society, December 2010
Also published in Haiku Novine, Haiku Reality and on the Viadagio website.