Monday, September 29, 2008

Ingrid Kunschke: RANDOM NOISE

I can't recall her face or the way she was dressed, but this much I know for certain: I watched a bag lady push her shopping cart along this road. The point is, she vanished before my very eyes.

There's a deserted bird's nest in a tree over here. It's got tangled audio tapes woven in and dull pieces of plastic. I can go there and assure myself of that. In fact, I do so every once in a while. And those tapes, should I play them, might even hold some random noise. At least, that's what I like to imagine. It would be nice for the wind to add his own recordings: clicking sounds of marbles, a blackbird in alarm.

Sure enough, that woman must have been here, even if nothing indicates so. Did she leave the road untouched then? Perhaps she just passed through that world of hers, truly visible only to those who are lost as well.

flips me
a bird,
some character
in a graffiti

to the bus shelter:
more leaves
and yesterday's
fading headlines

clinging to my face—
I give into
a catchy tune

translated from the German by Ingrid Kunschke

An ihr Gesicht oder ihren Aufzug erinnere ich mich nicht, ich weiß es aber doch ganz genau: Ich sah eine Stadtstreicherin ihren Einkaufswagen diese Straße entlang schieben. Die Sache ist die, sie löste sich vor meinen Augen auf.

In einem Baum hier ist ein verlassenes Nest. Verhedderte Tonbänder sind darin verwoben und stumpfe Plastikfetzen. Ich kann hingehen und mich davon überzeugen. Hin und wieder mache ich das sogar. Und die Bänder, spulte ich sie ab, dürften noch irgendein Rauschen von sich geben. Das zumindest bilde ich mir gern ein. Schön wäre, der Wind spielte das Seine darüber: Murmelklicken, eine schlagende Amsel.

Die Frau wird tatsächlich dagewesen sein, wenn auch nichts darauf hindeutet. Ob sie die Straße denn gar nicht richtig berührt hat? Vielleicht ist sie ja schlicht durch ihre Welt gegangen, wirklich sichtbar nur für die, die ebenfalls verloren sind.

Zeigt mir
den Stinkefinger,
so'n Typ
den's ja nur gibt
in einem Graffiti

zum Buswartehäuschen:
mehr Blätter
und die verblassenden
Schlagzeilen von gestern

kleben mir im Gesicht—
gebe ich mich
einem Ohrwurm hin

by Ingrid Kunschke
Porta Westfalica, Germany

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ingrid Kunschke: FORGET-ME-NOTS

I've discovered something that makes it easier for me to run my errands on busy Saturdays: of late there's been a flower lady in a deep doorway between the upper and lower city. Her eyes are the color of water. Her skin is translucent; her hair, a bob, almost white. She doesn't need a stall; she's only got this one bunch of flowers anyway. Coming from above, you won't notice her, neither from below—she's standing too far in the niche. That's why I walk slowly uphill across the marketplace until, in her shy way, she moves closer at last. Without a word she then shows me her flowers. Just for a moment though, so that I won't try to take them.

blue flowers
tied with a ribbon, softer
than a sigh—
.........without you blue hours
.........will never go by

So today it's a sighing little bunch. The last one, with the anemones, had been dreaming. At times the old lady weaves in some brighter flowers; even so her bouquets always remind me of bruises. She never talks. And I don't buy it; she's not standing by her post for such a petty sale. She just wants her flowers to be seen, and I come to catch a glimpse of them before immersing myself in the restless city.
translated from the German by Ingrid Kunschke
Ich habe etwas entdeckt, das es mir erleichtert, im samstäglichen Getummel Besorgungen zu machen: In einem tiefen Hauseingang zwischen Ober- und Unterstadt steht neuerdings eine Blumenfrau. Ihre Augen sind wasserfarben. Ihre Haut ist durchscheinend, das Haar, ein Bubikopf, nahezu weiß. Einen Stand braucht sie nicht; sie hat ja nur das eine Sträußchen dabei. Kommt man von oben heran, sieht man sie nicht, und auch von unten her kaum—sie steht zu weit in der Türnische drin. Deshalb gehe ich langsam vom Markt her hinauf, bis sie in ihrer scheuen Art doch weiter hervortritt. Still hält sie mir dann ihr Sträußchen entgegen. Aber nur kurz, damit ich's ihr nicht etwa nehme.

Um Vergißmeinnicht
ein Band gewunden, zarter
als ein Flehen—
........die vielen blauen Stunden
........die ohne Dich vergehen

Heute ist's also ein seufzendes Sträußchen. Das vorige, mit den Waldanemonen, hat geträumt. Ein andermal waren kräftigere Blumen mit hineingewirkt; die Gebinde erinnern trotzdem immer an blaue Flecken. Die Frau spricht niemanden an. Und ich nehme ihr nicht ab, daß sie dort stundenlang ausharrt, um einen so kleinen Handel zu treiben. Nein, sie will ihre Blumen nur zeigen, und mir genügt ein kurzer Blick. Jetzt bin ich gerüstet für meinen Gang durch die rastlos summende Stadt.
by Ingrid Kunschke
Porta Westfalica, Germany
first published in
Haiku heute, September 2006

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Attentive readers of Haibun Today, noting recent references to tanka prose, may well ask, “What is tanka prose? Does it differ from haibun?” The short answer is relatively simple. Tanka prose is the marriage of prose and tanka. This distinguishes our subject from haibun, the marriage of prose and haiku.

Isn’t that a rather superficial distinction that serves only to multiply categories arbitrarily? Both combine prose with verse. Why not simply call both haibun?

Dante Alighieri’s La Vita Nuova (1295 M.E.) employs such poetic forms as the canzone and sonnet in its prose commentary. One model for Dante’s Italian achievement was that of the Consolatio Philosophiae of Boethius (524 M.E.), a meditative Latin prose tract that is illustrated by various classical meters like the elegiac couplet or the Catullan hendecasyllable. Snorri Sturluson’s Heimskringla (1230 M.E.) is only one of many Old Norse-Icelandic sagas that join alliterative meters, such as drôttkvætt, to prose narrative. While these compositions all wed prose to differing verse forms, I doubt that the average reader of Haibun Today would seriously advance such famous works of world literature as examples of haibun.

The anonymous Tales of Ise compiles many discrete prose episodes, each accompanied by one or more tanka, while Ki no Tsurayuki’s Tosa Diary is a travelogue in diary form with many tanka. Both of these works date from the 10th century in Japan. Such writings qualify as early masterpieces of tanka prose. But if Tales of Ise incorporates tanka while haibun incorporates haiku—tanka and haiku being closely related Japanese verse forms—again, someone will ask, why not simply name both haibun?

First, Matsuo Bashō is the earliest poet to place haiku in a prose composition, thereby inventing haibun. Bashō lived in the 17th century—seven centuries after the masterpieces of tanka prose that we mention above and many centuries after the various European prose and verse works that we cite. For the poets who wrote Tales of Ise and Tosa Diary, the terms haiku and haibun quite simply did not exist.

Second, if we compare prose writings that include many tanka as against prose writings that include other types of verse, we discover that the presence of a specific verse form is not without influence on its immediate prose environment. Compare Bashō’s Knapsack Notebook to Dante’s La Vita Nuova. Bashō’s haiku and Dante’s canzoni will not sanction similar prose styles. Now compare the prose in Knapsack Notebook to that of the Diary of Izumi Shikibu (circa 1003 M.E.); the contrast in gender and social milieu answers for some of the difference between these two poets, yes, but the nearly 150 tanka in the court lady’s diary suffuse the whole with a very elegant, urbane and intelligent lyricism that lies quite outside of the rusticity and self-denial, whether real or feigned, of Bashō’s haikai.

Why is Haibun Today then engaged in publishing and otherwise promoting the genre of tanka prose? What right does tanka prose have to a place in a journal that is devoted to haibun?

I started publishing tanka prose in Haibun Today in late 2007. I’d recently published an essay on the subject in Modern English Tanka and had been writing tanka prose myself for some months prior. I began a private correspondence with a handful of other poets who shared my interest and we worked quietly together. No journal regularly published tanka prose at that time, so Haibun Today established itself as “tanka prose central”—by default. Since then, and partly as a result of the same small group of poets directing their submissions to other venues, Modern English Tanka, Contemporary Haibun Online, Lynx and Atlas Poetica now also publish tanka prose regularly.

The curious reader may well inquire, “Does tanka prose offer something haibun cannot? And, for that matter, does tanka prose promise something that tanka alone does not?”

For reasons not entirely clear to me, tanka more easily adhere to other tanka than one haiku to another; tanka more readily join together in sequences or sets than do haiku. Compare the classical norms for tanka and haiku—31 and 17 syllables respectively—and one sees that a tanka is roughly double the length of haiku. Tanka is at once more expansive and more lyrical. This is not to say that one form is superior necessarily but to recognize that tanka and haiku have differing properties.

Modern haibun in which numerous haiku occur uninterrupted by prose are quite rare. Even examples where two or three haiku follow in succession are infrequent. Jim Norton offered a haibun with haiku sequence entitled “Sandscript” in Pilgrim Foxes (2001). Ken Jones did something similar in “Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made Of” in The Parsley Bed (2006). Ruth Franke, as translated from the German by David Cobb, recently wrote the same in “Summit Ice.” Even in the classical haibun of Matsuo Bashō, haiku in sequence are found only in Kashima Journal and Sarashina Journal. The reader will often sense in these works that the haiku are fused together by an act of the poet’s will, that the haibun on close examination demonstrates the poet’s ingenuity and constitutes a tour de force.

What of tanka prose then? Because tanka do combine readily, because tanka are more expansive (and dramatically more so in sequence), the prose component can better sustain an elevated or poetic diction in response to the verse’s call. This kind of heightened prose must be very abbreviated in haibun, for the bare haiku will not support such tension for long. So this is one quality that tanka prose offers that haibun cannot.

Because tanka do join together so successfully, in the classical and medieval periods, the Japanese court established the series of 100 tanka as a kind of standard and one that poets often achieved alone or in collaboration. Modern tanka sequences of commensurable length are not unheard of. Since this is so, what can prose – or, more pointedly, tanka prose—offer that tanka alone cannot? One striking property of tanka prose is the counterpoint of the two modes, verse and prose. Another noteworthy property is the qualitative difference in the transition from prose to tanka (or vice versa) as against the transition from tanka to tanka within a tanka set.

Since tanka prose straddles two literary disciplines, that of haibun and tanka, does it lay a special claim upon the allegiance of both haibuneers and tanka poets?

I believe it does. Specifically, writers of haibun can learn a great deal by reading tanka prose and comparing its best examples to the best haibun. The number and placement of tanka in relation to the prose is critical in the composition of tanka prose, a matter that forces itself upon the practitioner rather early on. Haibun, I am sorry to say, is far too often written by communal habit to the proven formula of one brief paragraph, one haiku, fini. Because this is so, haibuneers rarely examine the possibilities of varying the placement or number of the haiku.

But what claim does tanka prose have upon the practicing tanka poet? I’ve mentioned already what it offers, from the standpoint of form, that tanka alone does not. It broadens the formal possibilities of the tanka genre, in brief. Beyond that opportunity, however, tanka prose promises to reclaim tanka’s venerable past, for tanka came to maturity with its prose accompaniment, whether in the form of a memoir or a romance, a poem-tale or a military chronicle.

And what of haibun then? If tanka prose is all that I say, what will become of haibun? Haibun and tanka prose share a common identity as Japanese hybrids that wed prose and verse. Their respective preferences for haiku and tanka lend not only the relevant verse’s name to the hybrid form but some quality or spirit of that verse as well. I once spoke of haibun as “terra incognita—vast and only marginally explored.” I might apply the same description to tanka prose. Both forms are relatively new in English practice—less than 50 years old! Each form has strengths; each has limitations. I’m confident that both will be here for a rather long stay, indeed.

by Jeffrey Woodward
Detroit, Michigan

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Beverley George: STICKY FINGERS

Christchurch, New Zealand. At the Sticky Fingers restaurant I choose Blue Cod Waimeru and a local merlot.

There’s a Billy Joel song playing that causes me to reflect with affection on a man who once helped me through an emotionally despondent time.

A young waitress is squatting at a bottom drawer with a large tray of glasses on her knee and clinking tea-light candles into each of them. She is mouthing the words of the song. If you said goodbye to me tonight There would still be music left to write. [1]

How pleasant it is that we are enjoying the same lyrics.

She catches my eye. “It’s very early Billy Joel” she tells me. “A really old song.”

I decline dessert but wanting to finish with something sweet, order a chai latte. A modern choice, I think.

While waiting, I ask directions to the toilet.

“Through the wee door behind the preserves cabinet,” the waitress says. It could be my grandmother speaking.

At the wash basin I pass my hand under the tap-less spout. Nothing happens. A young Thai tourist gently guides my hands lower to the back of the basin.

“Sensor,” she says.

autumn leaf
green veins threading red
. . . and brown

by Beverley George
Pearl Beach, NSW, Australia

[1] Lyrics Billy Joel : For the Longest Time

Monday, September 22, 2008

Richard Krawiec: UNTITLED

The slow mist of morning. House empty. Birdsong and engine rumblings drift like haze, present yet not fully defined. I sit and stare, unfocused, out the window. My mind wanders.

These Spring days, I daydream a lot about baseball; my 11-year-old son has a coach who criticizes, publicly humiliates, screams at the children. "Get your heads into the game!"

My lips move. I start to speak out loud. Then I catch myself, stop, and stare out the window again.

yelling at the coach
in my mind .... the deep trill
of a wood thrush

by Richard Krawiec
Raleigh, North Carolina

Sunday, September 21, 2008


With her long, slender index finger curling a thick strand of auburn highlighted silky-soft blonde hair, she intently ponders the white-glowing screen on her fluorescent-pink designer laptop and bends her brain to answer forthrightly the 263 revealing questions that will match her to the perfect guy who will genuinely appreciate her carefully considered response to Religion? as she daintily taps the ivory-color QWERTY keyboard one key at a time to spell: f-a-l-l-i-b-i-l-i-s-t.

in the mirror
she sees him
see her

by Jeffrey Winke
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Friday, September 19, 2008


Hasedera Temple in Kamakura has many treasures including a stone image of Buddha’s feet, toes inscribed with swastika sun signs.

look, a gecko
reads a poem
with his feet

You can walk to the lookout platform on Kanno Hill and see Yuigahama and the coast of Zaimokuza and the hills of the Miura Peninsula which plunge into the Pacific. Azalea, hydrangea, rose of Sharon, wisteria, St. Johns Wort, Crape myrtle and trumpet creeper are in bloom. The rainy season is ending and the heat of summer hangs heavy.

Zeniarai Benten’s shrine is located here. Originally the temple was a Shinto shrine to worship Uga no kami. According to legend the shrine dates from the Yoritomo Minamoto era (1147 – 1199). One night after a series of battles an old man appeared to Yoritomo, the warrior leader, in a dream saying, “I am the god of Ugajin. There is a spring in the gorge northwest of Kamakura. Worship Ugajin with the water of the spring and peace will be restored.” It was the day of the serpent, the month of the serpent in 1185.

Yoritomo searched for the spring and ordered a cave dug for the god of the rice—Uga. Farmers washed rice seed at the spring and later Uga became known as the god of wealth since rice equaled wealth. Deep in the cave is the statue of a serpent with a human head, a depiction of Uga-jin.

Later one of the Hojo shoguns visited the shrine and washed coins in the spring water saying that now they might be doubled. And so began the tradition of washing money in the spring waters hoping to increase it.

The cave is dark and damp and there is not much headroom, especially for gaijin. It is not a place for claustrophobes. According to a survey conducted by a magazine publisher, 2/3rds of the visitors who come here to wash their money are women. Probably because in Japan women usually control the money.

Candles make dull clusters of light in the intense darkness. The walls of the cave seem damp and glittery. Bamboo baskets and ladles are placed on a shelf. You put your money in the basket and ladle the water over it. About as much chance of increase as investing in the stock market, I think cynically, but at least you won’t lose it here.

Before Lady Benten
they assemble and chant—
the croaking frogs


Benzaiten, goddess of wealth, is represented as a small eight armed figure enshrined at Benzaiten Hall. No doubt she has eight arms to grab all the dollars she can. She is also the goddess of feminine beauty which may account for the many women visitors. She undoubtedly knows how to get their attention—and given the state of women in today’s Japan, Benten’s gifts may be the way to equality.

And I am not above murmuring a little prayer to Benten:

Benten Fortunate
make me rich and beautiful
make me young

by Helen Ruggieri
Olean, New York

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Michael McClintock: WHALES AT SANTA CRUZ

In Memory of LaDona Valencia Cook
This place she loved above all others on the coast, at this same time of year, the fall. We came each year to watch the whales. She was small and from the gulls she had learned how to lean forward and balance herself against the blast of wind. She was propped on pillows and sitting up in bed when with that same motion she leaned forward and died.

I have waited for darkness; it is illegal to release human remains here.

I am told three hundred whales will pass this rock point tonight. As they pass, they will sing. I have heard before the voices of these creatures, on recordings; I have sampled their grammar and measured the entropy of their phrasing: the clicks and squeals, the unpredictable trilling, the small chirps like those in a twilit garden at the borders of hearing. I have come to a few conclusions about those songs, their theme and sequence, but they are improbable conclusions.

The kelp forest stirs in the neap tide, the wind is light. A giant's sleeping breath fills the space above the sea.

the emptied urn—
a good size for holding
flowers come spring

by Michael McClintock
Fresno, California
first published in Modern Haiku, 34.1, Winter/Spring 2003

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Thomas James Martin: THE FARMER

Father farmed most of his life. He loved land, growing things, and animals. He went off to work early in the morning whistling and singing.

When about to retire, he could no longer make a living as a farmer but he found work at the local chicken processing plant, where thousands of chickens awaited slaughter. They gave him a heating iron to burn off the ends of the chickens' beaks, so that they would not damage each other through pecking.

He lasted a week, making pets of them all.

hoeing tobacco
row after row
sweat like dew

by Thomas James Martin
Beaverton, Oregon

Monday, September 15, 2008


The contortionist’s
bewitching smile says clearly
Don’t try this at home

the handstand expert
spotlit – his shadow falling
from the balcony

useless, my muscles
move – as if to join in with
the trapeze artists

performance over,
we watch the clowns and grotesques
revealing themselves
as young and smiling faces . . .
if only we could do that

by Bamboo Shoot
Salisbury, Wiltshire, England

Sunday, September 14, 2008


The P.A. is distorted—much like a voice underwater broadcast into a cavernous room. He says something about the nefarious ilk lurking in the shadows being prohibited. No one understands. The words are so distorted and even those who do hear don’t quite believe what they hear. In the fluorescent-lit back office, where the P.A. sound system is located, the clunky scratched-up green metal desk is scattered with current issues of Metaphysics Today, Anti Magazine, and The Economist along with stacks of surrealist literature and absurdist philosophy and a pyramid of empty Mountain Dew cans. He is a low-paid security officer with a genuinely whacked worldview. He smartly wears the proper polyester navy blue pants that hold a crease no matter what and the obligatory ill-fitting blue shirt with epaulets and the reinforced double eyelets where his security badge hangs. With his no-choke, clip-on tie, he smiles bravely in the face of danger, which today comes in the form of an angry old woman wielding a nasty-looking black-lacquer maple walking stick topped by a silver alchemist skull.

dirty aisle
smell of lemon cleaner
from the shelf stock

by Jeffrey Winke
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Saturday, September 13, 2008



just about to take off
an autumn leaf
lands on the windscreen

The red echo. The purple glance. The orange hope. The yellow pun.

road trip
in the pause
at the intersection

A bumpy road for ten Ks then a sign that says bumpy road. One side of the track washed out. The one lane bridge flooded. In the steep-sided valley a magpie’s call echoes like several magpies.


on the day I have to
go into the school
it’s raining heavily
so my tears don’t show

I make a list of men I admire and their qualities. For the first time, I feel proud to be a man.

beside the parking lines—
the sign you don’t read

In the supermarket, my partner talks with an ex-work acquaintance without introducing me. It doesn’t matter, I commune with the other men in the store.

above the shopping complex
the wind wand *
and an empty flag pole

* A sculpture by Len Lye.

by Owen Bullock
New Plymouth, New Zealand

Friday, September 12, 2008

Helen Ruggieri: NEUTRAL COLORS

Watched a show on the Home and Garden channel last night about a decorator’s use of rust, beige, tan, gray and ecru providing a neutral background against which to display your objet d’art. On the way to work rust, beige, tan, gray and ecru. Burnt sienna, ocher, cream, manila, last oak leaves, frost blown tops of goldenrod, giant reeds, wild grasses.

If you stretched a wire between two poles and plucked it, it would vibrate forever. Once a sound is made the vibrations never stop. All the sounds the world has made are out there floating in the atmosphere.

If you had the equipment you might hook up the electrical impulses of your brain to musical instruments and play them with your mind—the brain’s music, EEG’s finding a way to sing in the world. The electrical pulse of our thoughts surging through our neural pathways making a sax play “Love Me Tender.”

I was walking the dog down by the river where there are ponds formed in abandoned gravel pits. At dusk a flock of Canada geese flew over us coming in low to settle onto the pond. They were no more than six feet over my head, honking and braking, the leaders splashing into the pond. The last of the light made their white bellies ghostly glows. The dog was barking. The disrupted air from the many wings raised my hair like static electricity tingles around you. Honking, barking, my pleasure cry.

I think of that music radiating forever in the atmosphere against the neutral noise, the unsorted background sounds of everyday.

........holding a shell my ear own music

by Helen Ruggieri
Olean, New York

Thursday, September 11, 2008


stop talking at me—
understand the silence

I blow at it
as it runs across the keyboard
[a beautiful form] the size of a match
head with multiple legs and rounded back
translucent, bright

from the depths of its evolution
an involuntary reaction
pulling into itself

it folds up—
the tiny spider stays
very still as if under a rock
or a leaf, and I can't see it, shining red

on the letter D
.................... [for diversion]

you need not
shout—simply face me
when you speak

by Gina
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Dolores rose early and, careless about buttoning up the front of her sky-blue house coat, under which she wore nothing, primped her small flower beds and mowed her rug-sized lawn, the dew fanning from the blades in a light spray that wet her legs and made a thin, tremulous rainbow in the air. The last thing she did was step to her front gate and carefully twine a strand of flowering vine from fence to mailbox post. Smiling, she then went into the house and I saw no more of her that day.

honeysuckle . . .
the mailman takes a sniff
as he closes the box
by Michael McClintock
Fresno, California
first published in Blithe Spirit, V12, N2, June 2002

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Announcement: The Tanka Prose Anthology

Modern English Tanka Press Release

The Tanka Prose Anthology, edited with an superb Introduction by Jeffrey Woodward, includes cutting-edge tanka prose by an international coterie of writers. Represented in this ground-breaking anthology are: Hortensia Anderson, Marjorie Buettner, Sanford Goldstein, Larry Kimmel, Gary LeBel, Bob Lucky, Terra Martin, Giselle Maya, Linda Papanicolaou, Stanley Pelter, Patricia Prime, Jane Reichhold, Werner Reichhold, Miriam Sagan, Katherine Samuelowicz, Karma Tenzing Wangchuk, Linda Jeannette Ward, Michael Dylan Welch, and Jeffrey Woodward.

Baltimore, Maryland – September 5, 2008 – The Tanka Prose Anthology, edited with an Introduction by Jeffrey Woodward, has been published in trade paperback by Modern English Tanka Press. The Tanka Prose Anthology is vital evidence of the first flowering in English of an ancient Japanese genre—tanka prose, the wedding of prose and tanka in one unified composition. The great diversity in subject and style of the individual writings in this volume testifies to the versatility of this new medium in the hands of skilled practitioners. Whether the setting is urban or pastoral, an elegant interior or a rustic retreat, whether the time is contemporary and presently unfolding or archaic and retrospective, the revival of the ancient medium of tanka prose has proven equal to the immediate task. This first-of-its-kind collection draws upon the work of nineteen poets from eight different countries. The introduction offers a detailed survey of the genre’s history and of its evolving forms while an annotated bibliography directs the reader to related literature. Why is tanka prose so novel? Because it is so old. The present anthology announces that it is here to stay.

About Editor:

Jeffrey Woodward resides in Detroit. His poems and articles appear widely in periodicals in North America, Europe and Asia. He currently edits Haibun Today and acts in the capacity of Associate Editor for The Hypertexts. A collection of his Eastern and Western writings, In Passing: Selected Poems, 1974–2007, was recently published.

Available now from, from major booksellers, and from the publisher. Complete information and a mail or email order form are available online at Price: $12.95 USD. ISBN 978-0-9817691-3-4. Trade paperback. 176 pages, 6.00" x 9.00", perfect binding, 60# cream interior paper, black and white interior ink, 100# exterior paper, full-color exterior ink.


Denis M. Garrison, owner
Modern English Tanka Press
Email to

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Beverley George: ROADSIDIA

On an early morning walk through the streets of Christchurch, all is orderly. A row of restaurants opposite the river have left out chairs, tables, pot-plants overnight and the City Square is freshly swept.

I take a half day bus tour. The bus driver is knowledgable, political, outspoken. Shows the good with the bad, like the way the friable soil under a fashionable and expensive housing estate hollows into deep caves.

When I ask about an attractive tree with bristling foliage on the river bank, he answers instantly, “That’s a roadsidia.” Later he relents. “That’s roadside with ia on the end,” he says. “I don’t actually know. But people expect you to.”

He has plenty to say about the fallibilities of the legal system. “But it all looks so untroubled?” I say. “Restaurant furniture left out all night?”

“Oh it’s not your theft that’s the problem,” he says. “Twenty years for theft. It’s your murder—for drugs and alcohol – DandA – that’s your problem. Underfloor heating in the gaols and out after only four years cos you didn’t know what you was doing.”

He lets me off the bus where I am to meet haiku poets for lunch.

“Don’t forget roadsidia,” he insists, “put that in one of your poems.”

Where I have been invited to meet other haiku writers for lunch there is a demolition site—a hole in the ground. The poets are from other cities, obviously unaware of changes. I check with a receptionist two doors away.

“Burned down,” she says. “It didn’t reopen elsewhere but there is a vegetarian restaurant a few blocks from here.” She writes down the address.

In the City Square in front of an imposing Cathedral, a Japanese girl is taking a violin from its case.

violin, bagpipe
flute and didgeridoo
fight in the air

I find not one, but two, vegetarian restaurants. They are located in a streetscape of sex shops, varying only minimally in the inventiveness of their displays. Gas masks leer from an army disposal store. My friends are nowhere to be seen. They know where I am staying. Perhaps there will be a message back at the hotel.

I pass back through the Square. There is no sign now of the violinist or the flute player.

bagpipe music swells
the didgeridoo player
turns up his amp

The day is balmy; the sky cloudless. I approach a wide pedestrian crossing, humming. A car pulls up on the left. I am halfway across when a red sedan screams around the corner from the right nearly striking me. The driver’s window is open. “Slow down,” I yell.

I am almost across when I hear screeching and the car spins around in a u-turn. There’s no time to think but instinctively I dart into the open door of a newsagency. There is a man of about fifty and a youth behind the counter. Quickly I explain the incident. The older man glances out at the car. “Go and hide at the back of the shop,” he says. “Stay out of sight.”

I duck behind fixtures. Slip off my rust-covered coat which is all the man in the car and his female companion will have noticed. Time is slowed, unreal. One part of me sees the whole thing as ridiculous, the other that this is exactly how terrible things happen. Out of a clear blue sky.

I can partly see the car through the shop window. The passenger door opens and the female is thrust out onto the pavement. She staggers, then enters the shop I am in, stares around. Has she been sent on a mission to take care of me? She wanders out again. “Stay there,” the shopkeeper warns me.

I can see only the top half of the sedan. The passenger door is open and the driver is banging his head against the steering wheel. A few minutes later the woman re-enters the newsagency. This time she buys some drinks and takes them back to the car which screams off across the pedestrian crossing and around the corner.

“She was carrying a bag from the chemist shop,” the shopkeeper says. “Best not to get in their way though. You never know.” I am grateful that he has taken this uncertain situation seriously.

He follows me onto the footpath and taps my arm.

“Don’t let it spoil your day,” he says.

Back at the hotel there is no message from my friends.

On my floor, the maid is cleaning at the other end of the corridor.

“I got you your flat pillows you wanted, dear,” she calls. “I got you two. Will that be enough?”

by Beverley George
Pearl Beach, NSW, Australia

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Patricia Prime: IN THE STUDIO

From the ferry it’s a long walk uphill to my friend’s 30s villa, perched on a hillside overlooking the Hauraki Gulf.

When I reach the house Stella takes me through the central passage of the four-room cottage to a door leading to the veranda. The steep garden is terraced: on one terrace is an herb garden, another contains a vegetable garden and the third flowering shrubs and fruit trees. On the side of the property a creek takes the overflow water down to the beach.

At the back of the house, she has built a studio. I’m amazed at the disarray in the room compared to the traditional furniture in the living room and the comfort of the kitchen. “Don’t mind the mess,” exclaims Stella, “I have a good clean once a year!” The studio is a generous size with large windows overlooking treetops to the sea. But it seems stifling at first, with mounds of old newspapers, half-squeezed tubes of paint, jam jars full of brushes, books, and a deep crust of dried paint on the surfaces and floor. “I need disorder,” she laughs, “I need to remain in the same state of mind for several days in order to contemplate my painting.” Pinned to the walls are several unstretched canvases, which she works on simultaneously: a little dab of cadmium yellow here, a brushstroke of ultramarine there.

fixed easel
the sitter’s wooden chair
beside a wood stove

Stella has pinned several coloured postcards on the wall of works she admires: van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,” Braque’s “Man with a Guitar,” Cezanne’s “The Pasha.”

When it’s time to leave, Stella gives me a present: a jar of homemade quince jelly from the fruit in her garden and a postcard-sized drawing of her gardening boots—“a la van Gogh,” she smiles.

as I walk to the ferry
the pattern of clouds
in water

by Patricia Prime
Auckland, New Zealand

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


stepping out walking home stepping out walking home
stepping out walking home stepping out walking home
stepping walking stepping walking stepping walking

home the smell of coffee in my mustache

by Bob Lucky
Hangzhou, China

Monday, September 1, 2008

Michael McClintock: MAZATLÁN IN JULY


heat lightning . . .
........................all the way into Mexico
...........the mountains rise

That was an omen, but we did not recognize it at the time.

At the airport taxi depot no one had ever heard of the hotel shown on our reservations document, or of Calle Pescado where it was located. There was no Roshi, and no “Let’s Get Acquainted” ginko walk, to welcome us.

“But no matter,” our smiling concierge said. “No one come to Mazatlán in July. Very bad time of year for visit. You find many hotels most empty. They happy to welcome you as best guests.”

Later, outside the empty Hotel Maria where we’d checked in, my friend Thomas remarked, “Looks like we got snookered, Pops. Told you it was too good to be true. Four nights in Mazatlán for two, with all meals and roundtrip airfare, for $270? What were you thinking?”

I hadn’t told him the air tickets were purchased for full price with the promise of a cash rebate at the Pollo de Playa Hotel. That was the hotel that didn’t exist.

Young Thomas was a haiku poet whom I was mentoring at the time. Our misadventure seemed a good place to begin his serious introduction to the ways of haiku and the resiliency of the haijin.

“It doesn’t matter,” I told him. “Let go of regrets. Live life in the moment, in the here and now.”


.....going the other way,
.....a woman with six kids
.....and raccoon eyes

Except for this family, the beach stretched long and peopleless into the murk, hot and humid. Thousands of stranded jellyfish littered the sand to landward of us. The sky was completely overcast and the air a thick, ugly soup of splotched grays and yellowish, half-lit whites, vast pockets of it dead and motionless, as if held in place by some invisible pressure dome, while in other areas, on land and out over the ocean, wind gusts whipped and swirled. A paltry, fetid place, smelling of Ivory Liquid soap, sour tequila-and-fruit drinks, and rotting flesh.

It really was shockingly bad, but I did not let Thomas know I felt that way.

“Let’s collect material for a haibun,” I suggested.

Thomas pulled a pint of Southern Comfort from inside his belt and took a hit. “Just great,” he said. “The sun is shining and the fun has begun.”

We began to walk, staying near the water and avoiding the jellyfish. We’d left our shoes and our copies of R. H. Blyth’s Haiku—Volume III: Summer, back at the hotel. We both enjoyed the smooth, silky feel of the sand on our bare feet, but I wished we had brought the books.

“Let the experience of each moment flow, one into another,” I was saying. “Take it all in, make no judgments. There need be no purpose to our journey but the journey itself . . .” And so on and so forth.

“Aw, jeez,” Thomas moaned.

He had stepped on a syringe. The needle appeared to have gone clean through the webbing between his big and second toes, left foot.

I felt myself gag.

..........3 huge
.....must be your teeth,
.....wandering sand flea

We had wandered into a debris field of some sort, exhaled by a sewer pipe or upchucked from some undersea shelf.

I brushed at the sand around his foot, to get a look at the syringe: the syringe was empty. I wasn’t sure what that meant. The more I brushed at the sand, the more objects I discovered. Every pointy, jagged, bladed horror imaginable was in that sand. Each wave sent a shallow fan of foaming water over the area, reburying the mess. Instantly, the sand fleas re-emerged in their biting millions.

How deep we were in the field I could only guess, but I thought it safe to assume we were only at the edge of it. We needed only to back out a few feet. Quickly, without making a moment of it or saying anything alarming, I pulled the needle from Thomas’s foot and threw it aside. He passed out, either from terror or from whatever had been in the syringe.

I had to drag him out of there. But he was dead weight—a big man, about 240 pounds. The thin tank top he wore tore away in my hands. His flesh was wet and slippery from the humidity. I couldn’t just bend over and drag him or scoop him up. I could get no grip on him. I needed some kind of harness, so I improvised. I wore no undershorts but that seemed hardly to matter now. I took off my pants and tied a leg snugly under each arm. This gave me the leverage and grip I needed; I covered about a foot of ground with each straining pull . . . .

That’s when the police showed up—five men piled on a tiny three-wheeled all-terrain vehicle, flying the Mexican flag from a whip antenna. They were not smiling and they were armed with rifles.

I then saw that my wallet had popped from my pants pocket. The surf picked it up and sucked it away as I watched.


.....sunlight comes through it—
..........a narrow slot
...................................for the passage of meals

I don’t know where Thomas is but a Mexican attorney has told me that I am in the Municipal Jail not far from the Divina Providencia hospital in downtown Mazatlán, and not to worry about Thomas. The cell I am in is very small, like a closet, with no windows, a solid door, and one electric light bulb in the ceiling, which is controlled from the outside. I have been charged with vagrancy, public lewdness, possession of drug paraphernalia, and either mayhem or attempted murder.

“Well, which is it?” I sneered at him.

“That depends,” he said. “Señor, you have no identification. I believe, but they do not believe. They want to know who are you. They want to know why you come to Mazatlán in July . . .”

by Michael McClintock
Fresno, California
first published in Raw Nervz V7, N3, October 2001