Tuesday, May 27, 2008


an interview with Diana Webb
DW: Describe your life, Bill, before you discovered the world of Zen and haiku.

BW: Born 1942, the first of three kids, each of us born two years apart. My dad taking advantage on leave to father us during the latter part of the war. War babies they called our generation. I had a double hit of scarlet fever during infancy. As a consequence, I was a late developer and didn’t learn to read properly until around ten or eleven. I was fortunate to have a sympathetic teacher who helped me out in writing and art. I remember writing a couple of science fiction stories, my teacher encouraging me to make use of my imagination. But I have to confess that these school days didn’t mean a lot to me. But I did discover the works of Homer which opened up a whole new world for me.

DW: I understand that you became interested in Zen and haiku through reading Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums in 1959 and started writing haiku that year. What in Kerouac attracted you?

BW: The thing about Kerouac was his concept of “spontaneous writing” and how, through his prose, I came across Buddhism and haiku, and that led me on to the works of Suzuki and Blyth. Kerouac was a big influence on me and my generation, especially his side-kicks, Gary Snyder, Phil Whalen and Lew Welch, the original Dharma bums. As far as I am aware, Kerouac didn’t know of the haibun as a genre but many passages from his prose, for me, certainly fit that mode. In a recent Penguin Poets collection, Book of Sketches: 1952 – 1957, Kerouac writes “sketching . . . everything activates in front of you in myriad profusion, you just have to purify your mind and let it pour the words and write with 100 % personal honesty.” In those days, I doubt that he knew of Shiki’s “sketching” method.

DW: What was it that led you from an interest in Zen to becoming, in 1972, the first Zen monk ordained in England?

BW: Check out Summer Dreams: American Haibun and Haiga 3, for “The Early Days of Throssel Hole Priory,” which is a kind of hagiography and written in response to one of the monks who requested that I do a write up on those days.

DW: You went to the USA to train for the Soto Zen priesthood. On your return to England, you said you were hit by “apathy and complacency” and “imagined a situation in a near future when there would be only a few people left struggling with their vision and their poems." In what ways did writing haibun become part of that struggle and of your Zen life as a way of meditation?

BW: When I returned from Shasta Abbey, I was very much on a “high” from al that meditation. While there, I started writing poems in a surrealistic mode. There’s an old Zen saying that before you start, mountains are mountains, then mountains are no longer mountains, and finally mountains become once again mountains. So maybe I was in that second stage which the French surrealists describe as being “the marvelous.” Now and then, I slip into a surrealist haiku mode.

DW: In the BHS Haibun Anthology 2005, David Cobb refers to a style of haibun pioneered by Bill Wyatt, “an engaging patchwork quilt of classical and modern quotations and did-you-know information, in which the author is unobtrusive but pops up from time to time as the ‘link man’ or commentator.” An example of this type of haibun – “Spring Ephemerals,” written about 20 years ago – describes a journey you made to find scarce and rare Breckland wild plants and may have been one of the first haibun written by an Englishman. To what extent were you influenced by the style of Basho’s travel haibun in writing this?

BW: I've always been interested in botanizing, having fallen in love with the works of Andrew Young, 1885-1971, one of our most neglected poets and botanical explorer, and John Clare, 1793-1864, another inspiration through his poetry and natural history writings. I had a bunch of friends interested in bird watching and wild flowers and we would do trips here in England and on the continent. Rather than just make a list of our findings, I hit on the idea of writing up journals in the style of Basho and his predecessors. For the Japanese, this became an art form. They would visit sacred and historical places, making notes of what they observed, interspersed with haiku or tanka. The Greek lyric poets have always been an influence on my haiku, especially those fragments from Sappho. So, in many ways, I see that lyrical influence in my haiku.

DW: How do you think you have brought together the two influences of Basho and Kerouac in your work?

BW: Hopefully it's just the spontaneity. First thought, best thought (though we might have to go back and do a bit of tidying up!).

DW: Some of your haibun are about travels in Greece. How have you managed to incorporate both the world of Hellenic myth and the world of Basho in your haibun?

BW: My poems stem from the worlds of Herakleitos and Diogenes in Greece to Chuang Tzu and Han Shan in China. Basho, Issa and Buson encounter the cosmic fragments of Sappho and the Greek lyric poets. Bodhidharma has lunch with the cicada immortals. Sappho, with all the associations of the Japanese word sabi (loneliness), comes out of the past and tugs at my heart. The birds of the air and the flowers of the field – do they listen to our songs and paint us with colours?

DW: Some of the haibun written in the West now are very different from Basho’s Rucksack Dispatches and your own “Spring Ephemerals,” moving away from the chronicling of the simple life-style of the traveling Zen monk, with its celebrations of birds and flowers, to explorations of human relationships and the struggles within them. How do you feel about this development?

BW: Western haibun has to be an ongoing process. A lot of what I see appears to be something out of a creative writing course. No soul.

DW: In many of your own haibun, the haiku seem to play the crucial role of creating a recurring sense of the elusive spirit of Zen within nature, amid the day-to-day practicalities of traveling. What for you, Bill, marks the proper balance and relationship between haiku and prose in haibun?

BW: For me, haiku highlights the preceding prose, capturing that magical moment.

DW: What do you think will be the future direction of haibun in the West?

BW: From what I see, it could go anywhere, Maybe we need another name or definition. I stick with old Ezra Pound and let's “make it new.”

DW: Do you still feel as you did in the 70s that the future may hold a situation in which only a few people will be left struggling with their vision?

BW: Everybody should stick with their vision. But at the same time, realise that our visions change. I am no longer the person I was in the 70s. Next year, my vision could equally change. The only reality in life is change, but who's prepared to accept that.

Before I was born
washing jade in muddy water
I knew nothing else.


Following in the footsteps of Thomas Willisell, the old soldier who played a large part in the development of field botany and of whom John Ray said 'a soldier who having taken great affection to the botanical studies hath arrived to a great knowledge in plants.' My task, 300 years on – to trace and find those rare Breckland plants, spring ephemerals that only lasted for a short period of time.
With my companion we set off for Suffolk. In what seemed like no time at all, we arrived at Barton Mills roundabout...
Out of the mud
discarded furniture
and spring vetch!

Barton Mills, taking its name from a large corn-mill and wharf on the river Lark. Church of flint and tile, biscuit and grey; here we also found a small plant belonging to the chickweed family – the little Mouse-ear, a widespread but local flower in bare, sandy ground.
We stopped off in Brandon to check out our B&B. Everywhere old streets shaded by trees. There is something timeless about Brandon, 'a thoroughfare town' on the crossing of Little Ouse, ancient industries of flint and fur now replaced by forestry. When men were knapping flints, Homer was reciting the deeds of Odysseus. Houses made from flint, walls, pavements, the church too. After settling things with the landlord, we drove off to Bodney church a few miles away, across the Norfolk border in search of Drooping Star of Bethlehem. This tiny flint church stands on a mound overlooking a farmhouse. During the French Revolution nuns fled their country and took refuge in the hall; one was the daughter of the Prince of Conde. Their remains lie in the churchyard, surrounded by firs and elms; a stream runs just below the church and birds sing in the trees...
So far from home –
sleeping nuns protected by
Star of Bethlehem

Our next stop was Weeting, said to be the earliest inhabited part of Norfolk. It was here that Hereward the Wake hid out in what now remains of a moated late 12th century hall. Nearby stands the prehistoric site known as Grime's Graves. Hundreds of circular pits lie scattered about, once flint quarries worked by men who used stone hammers before the pyramids were built. In the heart of Breckland 4000 years drift by...
Among the bracken
and silver birches – antler picks
picking out flintstones
Then drove on the Lakenheath, with its terrible place in the pages of history. During the Peasant Rising of 1381, after the Black Death, the serfs decided that it was time for their freedom. John of Lakenheath, warden of the barony, to escape the enforcers of the State of Labourers, fled to Bury St Edmunds Abbey. Chief Justice Cavendish was on circuit in Suffolk, and being recognised by one of the rebels, took immediate flight. He tried to board a boat on the river, but a woman saw him and pushed the boat into mid-stream. He was caught and later decapitated, his head taken to Bury St Edmunds and set up alongside those of John of Lakenheath and John of Cambridge, the prior of the Abbey. Lakenheath was originally a hythe or landing-place in the fens. Once the largest US airbase in Britain, now thankfully gone...
On the way home, as though inebriated by sun, moon, stars, flowers and birds, suddenly remembering that life is no more than a temporary home, sheltering us from a winter shower, with all its uncertainties and impermanence.
Dozing in the car I reflected on old Tom Willisell who had tramped these parts so long ago. Once a foot-soldier under Cromwell. then a maker of pegs for shoes. John Ray wrote to Edward Lllwyd on 22 March 1692 – 'T Willisell, who was indefatigable and could endure any hardship, and live as well upon oatcakes and whig as another man upon flesh and wine, and ramble over hills, mountains, woods and plains. Poor Tom Willisell's loss, I cannot remember without some trouble.'
Out of the skull
endlessly grinning –
spring ephemerals

by Bill Wyatt
Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex, England
first published in Blithe Spirit, June 1999

Monday, May 26, 2008


I came to the Petrified Forest National Park in May as a writer-in-residence. I was given a charming cabin built by the CCC in the 1930's – simple and rustic. It was perched across from the old hotel, a spectacular view of badlands stretching out towards the horizon. In the distance, I-40 rolled west along the old Route 66 cut.

fake tepees
on the highway –
painted desert cones
Of course it is illegal, immoral, and all but irresistible to pocket a bit of petrified wood. Walking along the trail and looking at the gigantic fallen logs of the Triassic now turned to rainbow stone – jasper red, mariposa lily yellow, crystal white – I knew I had to go something before the urge overwhelmed me. I went into the curio store and spent fifty dollars on two beautiful pieces of polished petrified wood collected outside the park. I heard my father's approving voice in my head. After all, he was the one who introduced me to the west and encouraged me to buy the mudhead kachina, the Pacific Northwest Indian basket, the necklace of tiny bird fetishes. My father believed in buying a souvenir, a bit of a spirit of a place, something I passed on to my own daughter.

pale blue
in the red grain – tonight
I'll dream of trees

I even bought a little collection of polished chips – so smooth, so many colors – and put them in one of the two bowls in the cabin. This petrified wood exists on a scale of time I can note but not truly imagine – 225 million years ago.

my own daughter grown
I buy mineral souvenirs
just for me

by Miriam Sagan
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Stanley Pelter: THE SHORT STRAW

moon glow fails
as a baby grand is played
she spills white oil paint
Able to function without pain in only a few areas, time is contracting inside her. Uncombed white hair stretches for days. Unpleasant smells reach into creased flesh hung loose. She no longer says how hot is day, how cold night, what colour is this enclosing that faded white. No more sprung pollen of youthful lilies or glare of sentient romance. Tainted smiles pass away.

Once she lived with a husband because she sometimes remembers she did. Moved him into her mansion apartment. Minimalist theatre. His design. She mauled it. Alone, her body, bleakly rearranged, decompresses. Mouldering she is posted, unframed, to a Local Authority Care Home where she is helplessly cared for. Here, she is the rubbed short straw but cannot sense it. At least with him, she knew.
hardened asparagus
snaps under cracked fingers
open May blossom
starts to shrivel inside
a cavernous frost
In a side room, standing naked, she is bathed. A cold plastic apron presses against her back. Shaking arms held up one Carer smiles. Another, sometimes wearing a trilby hat, sometimes a mouth mask, soaps pitted arms, ex-breasts, one-time provocative hips, an ancient furrow. Breath heat travels her warped skin map. Unclothed fingers waver. She resets her eyes, reseeds those stone carved words:
ſame perſon is not to have this charity two half years ſucceſſively
Tries to remember if she did. Her Ancient Seer’s eyes pinch closed.
fingers clean up disused earth
that once was summer
now empty of seed
fallow shapes droop
into her deep age

She lives in an apartment with a husband. It is once-upon-a-time. She shuffles to remember. Always she stumbles into reconciling disparate design styles. An eclectic mix of minimalist kitsch, she never buys cheap, never does nasty. Nearly every day she plays a Bosendorfer Baby Grand piano. Nearly every day she writes something. Nearly every day a canvas accumulates either glazes or impasto paint. Every day she bathes in curves of designed light. A husband never smiles at what she does. A husband is never critical.

Now destitute, too ancient to resist, too indifferent to care, she is carried from her faded mansion flat to a distant Council Care Home. Knows it is not home. Here, an upright piano is untamed. In gaudy frames, photographs of amateur still-life paintings cry out to hang straight. She cries about that. Everyday, there is a struggle to straighten just one. Everyday. Everyday, cries a little less.
each night
her face grows linear
she breathes with a stranger
who wears a trilby hat
while his fingers play her
Increasingly, her bones disorder. She is washed standing up. Stained nightdress lifts. Naked, barely inviting, she is helped to a shower-room. This Carer laughs at that who wears a mask that covers mouth, nose, cheeks. Yesterday, it was a trilby hat. A pink flannel is soaped, chest washed in a criss-cross of curves. In a wall breadth mirror, indifferent to her enervated places, she watches twisted flesh, careless flesh, parched flesh, reply. A Carer of bright-lipstick-curves smiles back as white cotton hair is spread open to front a whirring dryer. She watches until…
cockerel crows
her face regards it
with an eye smile
A Carer’s breath warms a cracked surface. Responsive to this flitter of spreading light, she has little choice but to accept a gift that, in some mystery or other, signifies transformation of a kind. At this late stage it is not one she need reciprocate.

Later, with shrivelled pupils, she looks inside my eyes. I, in turn, hypnotize her, try to read between heavily smoked lines, wanting to gauge slippage, diminution. Unfamiliar, it easily misinterprets into something akin to shorthand of each Carer’s intentions. Want to return her to an importance, but it is too complex, too late to transcend suns near completion. At 6 p.m. she asks me to leave. “It is time,” she mumbles into a most minimalist of kitsch smiles while pressing her Gift tight to a concealed breast, “to sleep.”
lemon midnight
moon in a cobweb
reshaped clouds
already drift
into yesterday
by Stanley Pelter
Claypole, Lincolnshire, England

Friday, May 23, 2008

Angelika Wienert: THE TASTE OF GREEN

"Another piece..."

"You`ll be a frog in your next life," my son says. Then, he croaks.

I don`t care about the future. Here and now – the special taste of matcha cheese cake. Matcha – the fine, powdered green tea, which is used for the tea ceremony! Our Japanese guide tells us what we will do tomorrow and leaves us.

Around the corner
a moss-covered path
leads to the Buddha

by Angelika Wienert
Oberhausen, Germany

Wednesday, May 21, 2008



Antibes Journal
UK Correspondent: Lynne Rees


55 years of marriage
my dad falls asleep
before we cut the cake

My mother has angina, osteoporosis and Raynaud’s Syndrome. On the telephone her voice sounds broken, but she doesn’t know why.

I am moving 1,000 miles away from my parents at a time in their life when they could need me more than ever.

My mother will die before my father. Even though he is almost deaf he will move around the house listening for her. Sometimes he will call her name, then wait.


Moving house is no.5 on a list of stressful life events. I don’t think this includes moving to another country where you don’t speak the language and so many ordinary things you’ve taken for granted – making phone calls, getting house insurance or keys cut, knowing that the words you need to get through the day are already there, waiting for you to call on them – become small mountains to conquer, or at least to begin ascending.

top ten stress busters
get enough rest and sleep
positive thinking
reach out to others
achieve a good work life balance
eat a healthy diet
seek professional help

I draw myself
a happy face


The light here continually surprises me. It illuminates ordinary things: edges of buildings, reflections in shop windows, my hands. This is what getting old means, I think, when I look at them. But maybe if I could magnify the skin I’d see the life I’ve lived filling every fissure and wrinkle. I have been lucky.

the golden belly
of a gull


sun along the shore
even the grey cockle shells
surprise me

It has taken me thirty years to return to the sea. Here, on the Côte d’Azur, the water shifts through a palette of blues and greens, unlike the sea along the coast of South Wales, that steadfastly maintained its shade of gunmetal grey regardless of the season.

My parents still live in the house where I was born fifty years ago. When I go back, I return to the place where I took my first breath of salt-air.


an egret’s feather
in the pages of my book –
a drift of snow

I remember the hard winter of ’63. I remember standing on the sofa staring out at the falling snow: Chrome Avenue, its pavements and gardens all hidden. But who is watching this little girl in the plaid pleated skirt with all her weight on her finger tips pressed onto the back of the sofa? If it was a true memory wouldn’t I only see the view through the window? How much of my past is invented, imagined?

The peaks of the Alpes Maritimes are still scattered with snow, while on the beach at the end of the road, people are pick-nicking, playing Frisbee, taking their first swims of the year. The bakery is now open every day of the week until the end of September. Each morning the pavement tables are full of baskets of croissants, white china coffee cups, women with small dogs, couples on holiday content to just sit and stare out to sea.


The maçon has knocked a hole in the wall of the dressing room to make a second bathroom and the 1st floor landing is flooded with sunlight as it has never been since the house was built over a hundred years ago, and, from where I am at the top of the stairs, I can see through to the window at the other end of the room, out to the leafing plane trees, the rough trunk of the big palm. Plaster dust swirls in the air in front of me, to move forward I have to step over bags of rubble, past the shattered edges of brick, but none of this matters when light unexpectedly greets you.

our English neighbour
complains about the rats
wisteria in bloom


Three sad and beautiful things:

a stray, pregnant cat at the autoroute rest area
the smell of the sea mixed with the smell of jasmine
the sound of the word echantillon.

under the bed our sandals
press toe to toe


by Lynne Rees
Antibes, France
haiku credits:
was commended in the miniwords 2007 competition
sun along the shore was first published in The Heron’s Nest,December 2006
an egret’s feather
was first published in haiku harvest, vol 6 no 1

Monday, May 19, 2008


As a playful exercise I took the haiku in Jeffrey Woodward’s haibun, “Evening in the Plaza” and used it as a pivot for creating a mirror prose version of the piece. In my version, “Plaza in the Evening,” I pulled in the elements, echoed the sentiments and followed the narrative structure of the original. I wanted a companionable pair without striving for an identical twin. I also wanted the mirror prose to be strong enough that it could steal the haiku from the original and be able to stand on its own. The strength of mirror prose is that the positions – original, mirror – could be swapped and the overall effect would still be strong. This experiment is successful if the reader finds that the mirror prose adds, rather than detracts, from the impact of the original haibun.

I’d be interested in receiving reactions (jeff_winke (at) yahoo (dot) com) and I’d encourage you to boldly go ahead and hijack someone’s perfectly innocent haibun and create a bookend version.


Cobblestone of which former century, red again with the last rays of the sun; elongated shadow of a sign illegible in silhouette or that of an attenuated and hushed passerby; a mind intent, in the face of horror vacui, upon leaving no nook unfilled while racing vainly to make several discrete phenomena cohere. A tremor of baleful leaves, perhaps, or a tardy pigeon come to roost….
the water comes back
to itself with a sound ─
a plaza’s fountain


the water comes back
to itself with a sound ─
a plaza’s fountain
The last rays of the sun catch this joker’s bright red Mohawk like an electric shop sign and broadcast a sense of menace to the elongated shadow of a mute passerby preoccupied with the forlorn nature of this open space. The futile spin of a skateboarder, perhaps, or a caustic collapse of global inertia….
by Jeffrey Winke
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Jeffrey Woodward: TIME WITH THE HERON

The angler will do well to put his fly-rod aside for a time and forget the alluring ritual of the to-and-fro rhythm of a cast, to sit on a shaded bank beneath an inviting willow, to watch the water slur over a sandy shallow or ruffle on a rift in the rock.

Time will allow one to study the blue heron not far from the willow’s shadow, to learn the skill that is his by concentrated patience and poise. The heron stalks his prey upon stilts and parallel to the bank ― stepping lightly now, pausing here, pausing there ― with a lazy deliberation given only to one for whom time has no meaning. Even the heron’s cautious movements muddy the water. Even he, for a time, adopts the stillness of a statue.

Time will allow one to repeat the exotically poetic names of the hand tied flies ― Blue Quill, Royal Coachman, Pale Evening Dun, Muddler Minnow, Yellow Sally, Gray Hackle ― until the syllables become a meaningless babble, having only their own inherent musical properties, like the voice of the water before the first man came.

Time will allow the angler, also, to fix his eyes upon the bewildering maze of light everywhere at play with the water or to gaze, without ease of penetration, at the muddy trail a heron makes.
when the water clears,
the mind, also, of
a great blue heron
by Jeffrey Woodward
Detroit, Michigan
first published in Contemporary Haibun Online, V3, N2, June 2007

Saturday, May 17, 2008


Wearing bright-green Wellington-like water-proof boots and keeping a wandering steel-blue eye on the pleasing, designer-jean cheeks of the flouncy-haired blonde stepping assuredly in front of him, the esteemed balding field-science researcher clutches a soft, caramel-brown leather messenger bag with three, bulging red D-ring binders and strides confidently up the expanded jetway into the brilliant light of the arriving gate fresh from a meticulously-documented examination of the fractal-star crop circle on Silbury Hill located within a shillings throw of Wiltshire, England -- home to the Blind Bore Pub where a perfect-poured pint still waits for him in the dark-wood, dim-lit snug just opposite the 18th-century massive stone fireplace.

bulky shadows
a distant siren
defines distance

by Jeffrey Winke
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Friday, May 16, 2008

Marjorie A. Buettner: MAKING BEDS

Like the Pythagoreans who ward off the evil eye by smoothing the body's imprint on the bed, I find myself caught in rituals I do not quite understand. I only know I am compelled: making beds, burning incense, lighting candles where ever I go. I try to keep my family safe from harm, the sign of the cross never far from action.
after the snowfall
my children's angel prints
as if they were never here
as if I were never here

by Marjorie A. Buettner
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Catherine Mair & Patricia Prime: THE CHINESE WOMAN'S HOUSEBOAT

Snake-like and patient, the white-faced heron waits amongst reeds at the river's edge – strike! an insect or tiny fish wriggles in the bird's slender throat.

on the outgoing tide
a log's movement

On the other side of the river, wetlands form a tidal lagoon. A pied stilt dips momentarily into shallow water.

Two girls echoing Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn sit fishing from a small jetty.

blue crocodile shoes
nudge the Uretara's surface

Nesting boxes are strung out across the inlet like upended matchboxes. In spring these will be full of nesting birds safe from predatory hawks, rats, dogs and cats.

a pair of black swans
fly into land …
sound of wing beats

The piece de resistance is the ramshackle barge with its picket fence and interior stairs leading to the 'fly-bridge', furnished with an ancient sofa and chairs.

cutting the mooring rope
boys push the houseboat
into mid-stream

floating on oil drums
the Chinese woman's hide-away
freshly tethered

A man carrying three bags of groceries meets us on the path. We stop to talk about the old woman's dream. He's lived here only a few months and we regale him with stories about local identities.

after launching
from the river snag
the shag's wake

by Catherine Mair and Patricia Prime
Katikati, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
and Auckland, New Zealand

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


A hip and a shoulder on opposite sides are tightening up, giving me a sort of rolling gait. I stumble into the night splotchy-skinned, the hair on my arms thicker than on my head. Muscle is turning inexorably into flab, except for the heart, which is doubtless hardening with the arteries. My eyes grow dimmer every day, and yet when I see you sleeping there, a strand of hair across your face, the nightgown sliding off your shoulder, I want to hold on a little longer.

late autumn
toppling into a pile
of leaves –
the fragrance of earth
deep in my lungs

by Bob Lucky
Hangzhou, China

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


We walk home from Boundary Street. A hot night has brought people to their front steps. They talk, drink a little, laugh quietly. Some say hello.
from the next street
Yothu Yindi’s
deep notes
We turn at Mick’s Nuts and slow our pace. Sweat trickles as we climb the hill. We pass the line of restaurants and conversation mixes with conversation, music replaces music. At the corner rembetika then a pentatonic flute.

Ganges Street, Jumna Street, Hoogley Street. We go an extra block to walk along the river bank. The water seems black glass.

over the river
Achernar and Canopus –
early summer stars
Leaves of the fig trees reflect street lights, yellow and blue. A ferry passes with reverberating diesel . . . thirty seconds later the wash hisses on the bank.

At home we sit on the steps and drink cold wine. The cat joins us. Next door Ernesto tunes his guitar.

guests gone
my neighbour plays
the oldest argentine songs

by Ron Heard
Brisbane, Qld., Australia
first published in paper wasp 10, spring 2004

Monday, May 12, 2008


He was a reluctant zombie. Never asked to be one, but after dying somehow got summoned up to break through the coffin lid and claw his way through six feet of dirt. It was a bitch, to say the least. And then to have to clumsily plod along taking faltering and halting steps toward the living that look as delicious as greasy cheeseburgers after a night of heavy drinking – all the while thinking, “WTF, how did this happen?” He keeps hoping to get a wooden stake or silver bullet or whatever the zombie equivalent is in order to return to “eternal sleep.”

rote service
my mindless smile to her
“have a good one”

by Jeffrey Winke
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Sunday, May 11, 2008


As we descend the well worn path towards the gate, he paces casually down the other side to meet us. He is seriously big. There can be no mistakes with this one. No thoughts of flamboyant veronicas with an old anorak; and side-stepping him would be like trying to cross the road outside my house on a sunny bank holiday weekend. We close in, and without so much as an excuse me for a minute – he engages us with a full profile pee.
Frustrated and bored,
but friendly enough – the bull
in our next field
Once he has quite finished, two of us lean over to scratch the enormous four hands-width head. I look at the steepish hill beyond, and then at his massive bulk and think Years ago, with that escape route over wired fence to the left and the earthquake warning of your hooves behind me, I might just have taken you on to the top up there; might have still, but that I’m just a knackered old git, while you, you great hunk of meat and no potatoes, you’re not interested anyway. And so what, old friend – only Time wins at the last.

Meanwhile, our leader of men is telling us that If there’s no warning sign, he’s not dangerous; and if he is dangerous, he shouldn’t be in the field anyway. Nice theory, I think; and we all follow him over the gate and then into the nearest adjacent field – not too casually.

by Bamboo Shoot
Salisbury, Wiltshire, England
first published in Blithe Spirit 17:4, 2007

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Jeffrey Harpeng: WHAT IT IS

for Lochlan 29/1/08 - 6/4/08

How early it is to be so tired.
A machine reminds him when to breathe.
It whispers life is brief as a sigh.

Today his mother bathed him
and sis tickled and teased with what they’d do
when he grows up.

One eye heavily winks
as if he knows a wicked joke.
He'll tell you later.

The way his hand wraps
around dad's finger, loosely as if:
what more is there to know about love.

night fishing
ripples from the line
scatter the stars

.by Jeffrey Harpeng
Macgregor, Qld., Australia

Friday, May 9, 2008


I show my son how to tie up the food pack. “It keeps the bears away.” He carries me through the darkness to the lake’s edge where my husband is waiting with the canoe. The last time I was in the Boundary Waters I was the teenager. Now I must ride in the center of the boat. My doctor advised against this trip and told me not to expect remission from the disease that is consuming my body.

The rhythm of oars pulls the boat forward. The silhouettes of the pines succumb to the stars. Under the aurora, even the moon releases its brightness to the lake’s embrace.

I take a metal cup out of the pouch and dip it into the water.

an operator freezes
the sky

by Tish Davis
Dublin, Ohio

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Owen Bullock: SUMMER CAMPS

Whilst teaching summer school, I stay at a camping ground in Rotorua, at the heart of the geothermal area.

in the scrub
beside the mud lake
a broken gate

I move onto the Auckland Folk Festival. Skies are clear and the sun beats down most of the weekend. No mains power is provided on site this year and the kitchen is closed, so I make black coffee with a Trangia when taking a break from the music.

the gold filling
in the middle of
the blues singer’s song

The organisors have an active recycling policy, but, because contractors won’t handle such small amounts of waste, they ask festival-goers to take any recycling home with them.

pressed into my skin
after reading so long

by Owen Bullock
New Plymouth, New Zealand

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Getting the Words Out:
The Collaborative Poetry of Catherine Mair and Patricia Prime

Correspondent: Patricia Prime
My friend, Catherine Mair, and I began writing and publishing traditional poetry at about the same time. Catherine was a dairy-farmer’s wife, bringing up four children in the rural town of Katikati in the Bay of Plenty, whilst I, widowed early, was bringing up four children and working as a teacher in Auckland.

Both Catherine’s and my poems were first published in the New Zealand magazine Spin. The editor of Spin, David Drummond, who has since died, encouraged his new writers to try various forms of poetry from mainstream poems to the Japanese short forms of poetry. A subscription to Spin also included membership to an orbit. Orbits contained poems written by members and passed around a group of four or more poets for criticism and feedback. Catherine and I were in the same orbit. When it failed to appear at one time I wrote to members asking what had happened to it and the only answer I received was from Catherine. I suggested that we correspond with one another and criticise each other’s work. We decided shortly afterwards to meet and a friendship was formed that has continued for twenty years.

Catherine went on to write haiku, tanka and haibun and later instigated, as part of the millennium project in her town, the Katikati Haiku Pathway. She also became involved in short short story writing, wrote the text for two books for school children with disabilities, judged poetry and haiku contests and has had her work published worldwide.

My writing career took a different path: I write poetry, the Japanese short forms of haiku, tanka and haibun, articles and reviews, and am now focussing on publishing interviews with poets and editors. I have also published a collection of poetry, Accepting Summer and edited an anthology of New Zealand verse, Something Between Breaths. I am the co-editor of the New Zealand haiku magazine Kokako, and reviews editor of the New Zealand journal Takahe and the online magazine Stylus. I began writing haiku at the time of the publication of the first New Zealand Haiku Anthology and have written tanka and haibun for the past seven years.

Our collaboration with each other began with the self-publication of a collection of our poetry in the place where . . ., the shortcut home, and other small publications. We have also published a collection of our haiku called Every Drop Stone Pebble with an Indian poet.

We began writing linked verse in collaboration with each other several years ago, and have since published several collections, including sweet penguin, last rays of the sun, East Cape and Morning Glory. Our linked poems contain lines which are “moments in time” captured in a haiku-like form. The links may be subtle, created by writing in the same place at the same time. For this informal type of linked verse to work there needs to be balance and empathy between the writers. In much the same way that renga evolved in Japan, as enjoyable entertainment and communication, so our collaborative verse began. We don’t see our linked verse as haiku or renku, but rather as “stream-of-consciousness” lines written when we are in close proximity: walking, talking, or visiting places of interest.

For those readers who haven’t seen our writing, I would suggest that our links follow certain themes of time, place, feeling and “togetherness,” rather than following the Japanese idea of the mind “leaping” from one image to something totally different. This, we have been told, is part of the “rebellious” nature of our work, and is what makes it different from the formal style of renga. It is what makes it popular, gives it a certain charm, and makes it more accessible to many readers. An example of one of our linked verses from first rays of the sun is the following poem that was composed on a visit to The Mount in the Bay of Plenty, an extremely popular place for visitors to walk around and enjoy panoramic views of the ocean:

The White Shell Path

from the historic stone jetty he casts his line
two boys – their bright yellow lifejackets
a backpack filled with mussels for bait
empty in the shade – carved bench seats
climbing the stile, I hold open the wire gate
standing at Stoney Point Reef, the warmth on our backs
from the cliff walk my shadow moves along the sand
sound of children’s footsteps behind us on the shell path
naked the bronze warrior crouches in spring sunshine
one white boulder among all the black ones
on a rock his suitcase full of video gear

Catherine Mair & Patricia Prime

In 2002, about the time that we thought of publishing a second collection of our linked verse, we began writing linked haiku, linked tanka and linked haibun.

Werner Reichold, editor of the online magazine Lynx, who has been particularly supportive of our work, published the first of our linked tanka. A poem of which I’m particularly fond for its memories and images is “The Perfumed Air,” which was written on the occasion of a visit to the Lavender Gardens in Katikati, during which we were looking for a small gift to send to Janice Bostok in Australia, who is both a friend and mentor, and is herself a world recognised haijin.

lavender fields
choosing a card to send her
from the display
I break a sprig of flowers
to carry home

a thin jet of water
from the lion’s mouth
into perfumed air
afterwards you caution me
parked on the bank’s brink

dusk approaches
you work-out at table tennis
in the garage
my first short story
takes shape on the computer

cooler now
wide flung windows
closed against mosquitoes
the photographers have gone
taking their talk & laughter

Patricia Prime & Catherine Mair
The idea of writing collaborative haibun came later. The idea was planted and wouldn’t go away. The narrative sometimes presents itself as a problem – a challenge; and the solution was for one person to begin with a paragraph (with or without the addition of a haiku), followed by a linking narrative paragraph, which would open out the haibun. We were thinking all these things out, and at the same time telling ourselves this was not something everyone could do. One has to have the right temperament to work with another poet, but the energy created by the input of ideas was astonishing. Our imaginations were set in motion and we couldn’t leave the idea alone.

We began by writing narrative, in a short story like way, but we felt that the pieces lacked something we wanted them to have. And once the poems (haiku, tanka or a short poem) were included, we felt that what had been missing had been supplied. There are some ideas that are purely instinctive in writing and one must follow what they tell you to do. In our case, it was a particularly strong feeling. One reason is that a narrative doesn’t want to deny anything that’s beyond the prosaic, the real, the factual, the mundane. It wants to acknowledge something “higher” – an element of the ideal if you like. Therefore, writing the prose and presenting the poems, which are not simply a repetition of ideas in the narrative but something more, seem to give the prose a lift and imbue it with a special resonance. For us, the arts – music and poetry in particular, but the arts in general – are, in our lives, what cooking, gardening, and so on, represent in other peoples’ lives.

It seems to me that we are pulling together two of the strands which define us as creative writers – our work in short stories, articles and reviews and our work as poets – and intertwining them. It was only when we began to write collaborative haibun that we realised for the first time we’d found a way of being both fiction writers and poets in a single work. We simply write down what we experience in our everyday lives as inspiration for the prose part of the haibun, then add the haiku to create a new dimension, to change or alter the scene, voice or time, in a similar way as the two parts of a tanka are related.

In 2003, Catherine and I were asked to be guest poets at a haiku reading, where many of the audience knew nothing about haiku, and the first collaborative haibun we wrote came from that gathering. It was published in the New Zealand magazine Takahe.

The Clapped-out Microphone

Several of the audience dressed as “poets” – flowers and ribbons in the women’s hair, a man with a goatee and beret.

Fred, the compere, not able to place Sarah (one of the guest poets), calls her by the wrong name again. For the first bracket of the evening the microphone remains obstinate: voices whisper around the room.
collapsing on the floor
the blackboard
listing readers
From the back of the group a little old lady comes forward to fill her five-minute slot and reads, with panache, one haiku. A bowl of hot chocolate splashes across a folder. In the corner some of the children are writing haiku at a table.

Shaking like a leaf, but not wanting to explain her Parkinson’s again, Sheila comes to the mike, nearly tripping over the leads on the floor.

a baby’s
for a lectern

Many of the audience have come to have their first experience of haiku. A chuckle is heard when a poet reads

bus terminal
a skateboarder
bounces off seats

Halfway through the evening they sort out the microphone and Moira says, “Our group nearly bought the temperamental thing!” Fred declares he’s having a bad hair day. “When things start to go wrong at the beginning, it’s hard to get them back on track!”

Pausing for effect, but merely losing the place in her notebook, Judy shows off her Library of Congress t-shirt. Exotic Tamsin (a nutritionist) reads her poem “The Sugar Demon”, whilst nearly swallowing the microphone.

Near the end Fred salvages his credibility by quoting one of the guest poet’s haiku without missing a beat.
tucked into the microphone
falls to the floor

Patricia Prime & Catherine Mair

As you can see from reading some of our collaborative haibun, we mine the quotidian. Detailing the typical emotional routines of life today – the dullness of work ameliorated by holidays and weekend excursions, the little longings and frustrations of family relations, the intersections and intrusions of the issues of the day, and the occasional time for thoughts about ill-health, mortality and the whole reason why we are here in the first place. Our introspective moments are triggered by stones, rocks, sky, ocean, flowers, birds, emblems usually for the desire to escape the drabness of daily life. Our style, not surprisingly, is lean, often employing prose/haiku, but sometimes we intersperse tanka or a short poem, a technique that makes poems contemporary in an accessible way.

We like to believe that we create an unusually nice effect in not suggesting to the reader any real notion of what is to come. We allow the reader to drift with us from thought to thought and insight to insight. The thoughts offered are sometimes sensitive and deep, sometimes emotional, often something to which the reader can relate. And we do not just hand them to you, but make a place for you beside us. Our poems are a challenge to see the world as a place of connections and connectedness; poems by two distinct writers.

by Patricia Prime
Auckland, New Zealand
first published, in an earlier form, in Simply Haiku, 2004

Catherine Mair & Patricia Prime: FRIGHTENED SPARROWS

Something rustles in the flax beside the river while magpies quardle ardle doodle in the gum trees above.

This still autumn morning, a bevy of dogs in the park. Zak, the maltese terrier, gambols around our legs yapping for his mistress to throw his rubber quoit.

Voices have a hollow drifting quality - dogs meet on the bridge, their tails as frantic as hands clapping at a rock concert.

You wouldn't imagine looking at the river's tranquil surface that days ago flood waters rushed down from the Kamai ranges towards the sea, flattening grass along the banks.
a solitary heron
wades into
its reflection
Developers have left a grassy track that skirts the old pond. It leads back to the house without going down to the road. We make our way through weeds and wildflowers, take a short cut around a neighbour's property and climb a bank towards the homestead. In the reeds, mallards call to each other.
losing my footing
I grip a fern frond
frightened sparrows

by Catherine Mair and Patricia Prime
Katikati, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
and Auckland, New Zealand

Catherine Mair & Patricia Prime: SUE & KIT'S ANGELS

You can never tell what's at the end of a road until you reach it. Sue's place is a revelation. The dishevelled angel on top of a totem pole is one of many surprises.

Sue and her husband are working on a book about cemetery angels; taking photographs, tracing inscriptions, tracking down sculptors, discovering the provenance of the statues.

childlike angel
face buried in a hand -
her matted stone hair

So many angels. Their mute stories are of drowning and death. Particularly poignant are the children.

against sunset
an angel points to the sky

Kit plays a DVD of angel photographs they have gathered from cemeteries throughout New Zealand . Many of the cemeteries have been neglected and Sue is part of a conservationist group which aims to restore them to their former state.

two little boys
drowned in the same accident -
one statue pristine
the other allowed
to gather golden lichen

An arm stretches up and fingers curl over the cross's horizontal member. Another statue is even more beautiful festooned in cobwebs. But it's the soles of two feet, black with age, beneath a draped hem which convey most.

still perfect
an angel's wing, a dimpled arm
and a rainbow

by Catherine Mair and Patricia Prime
Katikati, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
and Auckland, New Zealand

Monday, May 5, 2008

Jeffrey Woodward: EVENING IN THE PLAZA

Cobblestone of which former century, red again with the last rays of the sun; elongated shadow of a sign illegible in silhouette or that of an attenuated and hushed passerby; a mind intent, in the face of horror vacui, upon leaving no nook unfilled while racing vainly to make several discrete phenomena cohere. A tremor of baleful leaves, perhaps, or a tardy pigeon come to roost….
the water comes back
to itself with a sound ─
a plaza’s fountain

by Jeffrey Woodward
Detroit, Michigan
first published in bottle rockets 18, Feb. 2008

Sunday, May 4, 2008


as I emerge with you
from darkness across
the ivy-garlanded sill
I enter a world
more inferred than real

can't you see
I share your lucidity
as I pass through
the open window into
a harbour of pink & red boats?

despite the dark
interior you capture
the quick-sleeved
transparency of light
dividing two worlds

Beautiful clear weather, sunny and warm by day, crisp and clear at night. The days spent with the usual lovely round of reading, the morning walk beside the river, through wildflowers, willows and mountain flax, watching for the blue herons, listening to the songs of fernbirds, thrushes and nightingale. Into town for coffee, then home again for lunch, siesta and writing. Finally, the evening meal by the fireside when the house is curtained and shuttered for the night, the cat has been let out, and the air begins to cool.

by Patricia Prime
Auckland, New Zealand

Saturday, May 3, 2008


spring planting
the scarecrow skeleton’s
thin shadow
on the bullet train to Shanghai
in every field we pass
on the bullet train to Shanghai
in every field we pass
on the bullet train to Shanghai
on the bullet train to Shanghai
in every field we pass
on the train in every field
on the train in every field
on the train in every field
on the in the on the in the
train field train field
frain tield frain tield
ftrield ftrield
ftrield ftrield
spring planting
the train’s shadow ripples
in the paddies
by Bob Lucky
Hangzhou, China

Thursday, May 1, 2008


We’d rather have the iceberg than the ship
– Elizabeth Bishop
Mainly chicks smoking:
· Office-clad in Elliott Street, dragging on it like an aqualung.
· 14-yr-old (?) walking beside her boyfriend, cigarette in hand.
· Two women at the table opposite in the Albion at lunchtime. Lisa les déteste.
· Now, in Freyberg Square, a knot of four nestles in one corner, one tailor-made between them.

Right outside the heart attack
he told her – waddling to town
Give up your seat
..................................to ladies
“Sit on my lap”
Blonde, bluejeans, scarf

Queensland, June 25th: ‘We are still trying to come to terms with what happened. We never will – and although every one of us wants to forget – we never will. We owe it to the Palace fifteen that they are never forgotten, ever,’ a British backpacker said. Others spoke of love found and lost, and of working alongside each other picking fruit in the Childers district.

The girl in maroon leather pants isn’t eating; her friend with the knitted jumper is – stuffing her face with a muffin.

The Storm

Monday, July 3rd: Rain and flooding in Auckland – an anticyclone over the South Island keeps the weather stalled in the North. Coromandel takes the brunt. The creek’s up. Your shoes are sodden, socks soaked through, raincoat ineffective. But you’ve done your walk.

The Perfect Storm “hits” today – so do school holidays: the gang’s all here, clustered round the cardboard display for The Road to El Dorado – “It’s really funny when these three guys call those two gods,” explains a small(ish) boy.

Girl with steel comb
like fangs
adjusts her hair

Cheekfuls of popcorn
keep the boys’ mouths shut

Everybody’s got a radio, everybody’s mouth is open, screaming out instructions, commentary … It’s quite a storm.

Dem waves iz beeg
I hope we don’t git sunk
Git outta dere!

Did that strident smock-clad girl accost you in Whitcoulls, wanting you to paint a still life? Same colours, or different? Did you choose different, and daub some grapes with manifest incompetence? Did she pounce, accordingly, on better prey? Was she promoting an artist’s manual?

More beautiful than death
than a boomerang in flight
the pain of that

stab a compass in your thigh
the sunflowers

At the Inaugural Massey Fashion Awards:

It’s basically just life in general,
& whatever you see ........................................450 copper studs
..........that’s what life means ..........................140 belts
....................to you ..............................................70 hours

Tanya: Cultural native look [palm fronds tied round her black frock]
Chris: Cultural all-round-the-world look [Old Glory wrapped around his bits]

Poetry Live
This is how it is / in this moment / we just want to feel good

Björk/Sinead clone ullulates in red behind the Alleluya microphone – now quietening down to decoy us in for orgasm: I cherish this.

Too much Kerouac in the air. Ramón has a dribble of red wine down his chin, as he buys a drink for some splashed habitué with his many, many cashcards – almost too drunk to stand. Silvana sits waiting to tape herself, looking monolithic. Vega scowls malignantly.

“She is a cock-sucking woman,” shouts Ramón, egged on by his entourage of bozos.

walking past George Court’s
I saw the legend

Press # key to start
on a plastic box

I’m tired of being the outsider – from now on, The Insider (Russell Crowe). Driving home, I see tendrils of light connecting me to the road: like spider silk, or parachute strings.

by Jack Ross
Auckland, New Zealand