Friday, February 27, 2009

Deidra Greenleaf Allan: THE STONES OF WICKLOW

The car stops so I can get out. Crossing the black belt of highway that girdles these moors, I step onto the bog, whose thick moss pelt gives way beneath me as I climb. On the summit I find them, sitting atop a boulder, looking east over the low-breasted hills toward Mullaghcleevaun Mountain. The sky is bleak and ceremonial. Clouds cling to the crests as if unable to tear themselves away. In the eerie silence, only my labored breath and stumbling footsteps. Despite the commotion, their granite faces remain fixed on the horizon. I long to ask them what is theirs alone to know, to touch their old, grey lichened faces, but I am afraid to put my human scent upon them.

On this hilltop
no sound but the distant
car radio.

by Deidra Lyngard
Flourtown, Pennsylvania

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I hesitate.

Stepping sideways through the unfamiliar door, I shuffle between sagging, purpose-built shelves, moving slowly to give my eyes time to adjust. A spill of cracked spines, piled one on top of the other bulging floor-to-ceiling marked by the occasional cock-eyed, hand-written sign, a promise of some kind of order.

curtain the alcove—
a beard coughs

Sections run into each other; Literature, Do-It-Yourself, History, Cooking is separated from Self Help turning a corner

You will find Tasmania along a wall down the hallway, past a sprawling jumble of random miscellany and comics. There is nothing here for me. I head for the street.

by the disappearing staircase
I hesitate.

by Gina
Launceton, Tasmania, Australia
first published in
Moonset, May 2008

Saturday, February 21, 2009


I had a summer job at the psych lab, feeding white rats and cleaning cages, and managed to find a place in the most desirable student residence in town: a spacious four-story house, with a yard, external staircases, odd corners, porches front and back, side entrances, and basement rooms. A crowd of people lived there, coming and going without getting in each other’s way. We might have appeared to be average, some of us even below; but out of that house came artists, actors, and a philosophy professor.

from my cubicle
a view
of the parking lot

by Ruth Holzer
Herndon, Virginia

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Deidra Greenleaf Allan: CAPE MAY

The fuschia and lavender facades of the Victorian B & Bs stare out across Beach Avenue, porches salt grizzled and blown with snow. From my window, nothing but cloud-packed sky and empty avenues. Even the seagulls hang in the sky as if painted. The whole town holds itself, like Hokusai’s wave, in frozen anticipation.

My pen
on the table
full of ink

by Deidra Lyngard
Flourtown, Pennsylvania

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Rising eight hundred feet from the sheep-scattered pastures, oak, ash and birch, how skeletal and delicate they look, under rolling clouds, and framed in the study window.

Pink multi file
the worn elastic

Dog-eared foolscap of eleven sections. For a paper man a cardboard grave. Still filled with the previous project, a workshop on the Three Heavenly Messengers of Sickness, Old Age, & Death. What a jolly group that was—all things considered. The paper for recycling, but the leftover paper clips into the “Cough Lozenges” tin. After nearly eighty years what a relief to stick on a new label and to write, with the bold flourish of self-deception: “END GAME”.

Long corridor
the shadow
shackled to each foot

A lifetime muffled in projects. At age ten, a plan and elevation for a toy fort. The battleship grey filing cabinet stuffed full. And so many “gone away; return to sender”:

The last address book—
spread across dead friends
blankets of correction fluid

Bulldog clips grasp Co-op cheque stubs, and, in a marbled box, certificates, diplomas and degrees in imitation parchment. Old passport photos portray a sinister-looking succession, each pleading his lifelong lawsuit against reality.

Yellow telegram
the pasted strips of text
my father’s death

I laugh at my own funeral oration, so solemnly intoned and recorded when a precocious forty year old. Poking charred diaries. A lifetime of stories told to myself, one as good as another. Knock, knock. Is there anyone there?

Old summer house
settling out of true
to how it needs to be

Finally, the sending out of invitations to the Graceful Exit Party. From that celebratory wake I alone shall depart sober. And, on the back door, hammer the bottom line of a closed book:

Winter twilight
cutting timber by the Rheidol
all there is to know

by Ken Jones
Aberystwyth, Wales
from the forthcoming haibun collection, Stone Leeks (2009)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dawn Bruce: ‘ALONE’

It should have been a grey wintry day of low clouds, a time for comfort in mohair jackets and the smell of wood fires … if it had to be a day. Night would’ve been better, a shawl of twilight, softer than gossamer lace, a tenderness to send him into and away.

But it is a sharp sunlit morning, all bustle and billowing with the cheerfulness of bird chirpings and the fresh scent of water from next door’s hosing.

Thud thud thud … the boots of the men as they carry him downstairs. I stay where I am, let the others see him off, out the door for the last time, past the lavender bushes and rosemary, down the broken tiled path.

When I hear the van drive off I go upstairs, into our room and pull back the curtains. Light invades every corner.

bedside table
the glint then blur
of his spectacles

As morning slips into afternoon, shadows smudge the edge of sunshine to dull. I close the door and walk downstairs.

There are things to do, I’m told, but first they give me a cup of tea and make soothing noises.

tea leaves . . .
in the courtyard a rising
of white butterflies

by Dawn Bruce
Sydney, Australia
first published in
Yellow Moon 20 (Summer 2006)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Four Tellings: A Trans-Tasman Haibun-Renga by Owen Bullock, Joanna Preston, Jeffrey Harpeng and Beverley George. Post Pressed, Queensland, Australia. 2008
Reviewed by Patricia Prime
It has been an experience to read the haibun-renga Four Tellings, which comes on the heels of Quartet, also directed by Jeffrey Harpeng and published by Post Pressed. Cover image, book design and layout are also by Harpeng as they were in the previous publication.

The difference here is that the four poets are from the Southern Hemisphere. The collection came into being as a result of the Haiku Aotearoa 2008 Conference in Christchurch, New Zealand, where the four poets represented met. Two of them, Owen Bullock and Joanna Preston, live and work in New Zealand and two reside in Australia. The poets are of different backgrounds. They are of different ages. They do different jobs. But there are similarities in their writing. They have a background of writing Japanese short forms of poetry; their technique is very similar and their subjects, and what is made of them, echo each other.

Jeffrey Harpeng’s selection makes up an intriguing, moving and impressive body of work. The language is informal and prosaic, often conversational. Harpeng writes flexible prose and haiku with lines that vary between two or three lines. Most of his haibun contain two or three short paragraphs followed by a single haiku. The speaker is predominantly a reflective, conversational one, mulling over memories of saying goodbye to a loved one, writing about a depressed woman, signing the word ‘flower’ for a deaf person and playing with a granddaughter.

Indeed, Harpeng’s haibun are often anecdotes of family life, dealing with relatives and friends. Incidents are recalled, reflected on and brooded over by an intelligent and urbane speaker, full of sympathy with those he speaks of, still involved with them, part of their world. “A sigh full or roses” is an example of this kind of poem. It is an account of a hearing person communicating the sign for flower to a hearing impaired person. Presenting the point of view of a particular figure in a particular world dominates Harpeng’s poems and, the reader assumes, this is Harpeng himself. “Liberation,” for example, is spoken by a man attempting, by reading the prayer on a mani stone, to connect with someone he said goodbye to five years previously. In “Heart Offering” a woman suffering from nervous strain and whose house stands in the grounds of an aged care home, is treated by a doctor with an injection of B12 who hopes “that soon she can cope with public places again.” “Horse Tale” looks into the mind of a grandfather playing with his small granddaughter:

How I listen as my fingers gallop toward my granddaughter, off the table and on out the window.

Outside the almost laughter of a kookaburra, the supernatural quardle of magpies and her answering the “h h h oo” welling from the hearts of the doves.

Owen Bullock contributes four haibun: “Silence,” “Relief,” “Shortest Day” and “Hello, Waihi, I’m home” which centre on personal matters. These are minimalist haibun containing one or two short prose paragraphs followed by a single haiku of two or three lines. “Silence” allows Bullock to evoke and speculate on a relationship for a brief time, but it is something one feels he doesn’t want to peer at too closely. I quote the haibun in its entirety:

I didn’t ask what your perceptions were when we started out, but crowded you with mine. It’s easy to get upset, to feed the smouldering of a self-involved habit.

Today, I feel like beginning again, but don’t know how. Familiar things are attractive and empty.

on the post

The haibun has in common with others by Bullock a sense of the suggestiveness, the transcendent implications of particular experiences. “Relief” is another poem about a relationship. In it, Bullock says, “I write that you are my finest teacher. You’re more than that: lover and friend. I can consult with you because I trust you.” “Shortest Day” looks wittily at how the speaker enjoys silence, but only certain kinds of silence: “ . . . something I can’t name, that results in peace.” A memory, as in “Hello, Waihi, I’m Home,” prompts reflections on moving to a new home in an area lived in before and, perhaps forming a new relationship, although the speaker is adamant “I long so much to be alone.” The recorded experiences are simply themselves, presented without amplification, but rich in some kind of ambiguous significance.

Moving, domesticity and memories are suitable subjects for Joanna Preston’s haibun, which are one paragraph, one haiku in form. Memories and moving, by their nature, are liable to be elusive, for Preston is fascinated by the transient. She writes of the last day in a house (“Leaving”), the simple act of dishwashing (Meditation”), a memory of growing up on a farm (“Winter”) and her childhood bedroom (“Nylon summer”). Preston’s canvas is unashamedly small scale: moving, rural life, washing up, memories of childhood on a farm. Here is a passage from “Winter”:

Running barefoot across the frost. Reaching the barn, scrambling over the gate. The cuffs of my track pants glittering with crystals of ice, like stars. Like embers. Cobs of dried corn piled high in the back of the barn.

However she points explicitly beyond these limits to a wider world, as we see in “Leaving”:

This new life will be exciting. New country, new chances. An adventure. So why the hell is the sight of the old spare bed – wrapped in plastic and paper, ready to be put in storage – a bed I’ve never even slept I, for christ’s sake – why is its presence in the room making me feel so small? Why am I crying?

Her central concerns may be of transience, but the beauty and pity of things are already of great substance.

Beverley George paints on a larger canvas. While two of her haibun “Ribbons” and “Brown bread and honey” concentrate on family relationships, “Autumn Oaks” is based on a conference she attended and “Matsuyama Footprints” is about a trip to Japan where she also attended a conference. One poem that well represents George’s art is “Autumn Oaks.” We note her largely informal language, the three pithy prose paragraphs, the figure who guides her, the local ambience, the universals, the idea that there’s no money in poetry:

There’s no money in poetry, she says above my rumbling wheels, not a liveable wage anyway. Think I’ll go back to my old job, life model, part-time.”

“Ribbons” employs a similar conversational tone. It also uses the moment, the individual discrete experience of death, the child’s way of dealing with grief to point the way people cope with tragedy. “Matsuyama Footprints” focuses on foreign travel. The Asian landscape is deftly woven into the text: pavilion, sculptures, tatami mat, cheery blossom, pathside vendors. The speaker describes the discomfort of the Westerners in the meeting room with her usual wit and wisdom:

They sink down gracefully on cushions on tatami at low tables around four walls. As Westerners from diverse countries, we do our best to emulate them, divert our attention.

“Brown bread and honey” offers a picture of the poet as a child visiting her grandparents on their farm. It is a remarkable evocation of childhood, the love of and for grandparents, and finally, the death of her grandmother. The poem is utterly contemporary and utterly traditional at the same time. George shows herself to be truly perspicacious in her vision of the complexity and diversity of human relationships and coming to terms with grief.

There is plenty of drama inherent in both the narrative and settings of these haibun. Many elements and ideas will resonate with readers. Despite the tension created by the poems, the most memorable moments are when the speakers reveal their vulnerability and humanity. This haibun-renga is representative of a kind of strong poetry that is both contemporary and traditional, a personal lyric that can light up the material and emotional world, and give it a powerful resonance.

by Patricia Prime
Auckland, New Zealand

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Jeffrey Woodward: SOBERANES POINT

the smooth white belly
of a washed-up shark
exposed and torn
the light of this day peels back
and ebbs away with the tide

the very rocks
that shouldered
froth and spray
loom above the water they
and their jagged shadows

ripples everywhere
in the fine sand
repeated ripples
that echo a last
wave’s retreat

on the saw-like
teeth of the shark
on the gaping mouth
without smile or grimace
a little lingering light

going barefoot going ghostly over the sand after the heat of yet another brittle day the dark draws near cool and clinging in one whispered breath the Pacific’s burden of brine is brooding but familiar and on the winding coast road headlights behind us now and then a beach bonfire before that undertow where no one floats a flame tended by anonymous faces smudged anonymous hands erased by that glow and by the occasional dry spittle of sparks

by Jeffrey Woodward
Detroit, Michigan

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Click of the Box Brownie. In the photo I clutch Mum with one hand; my other holds a toy dog on wheels.
As if it were yesterday, I see Dad in his khaki uniform, shouldering his kit bag as he waves and turns the corner. Mum, back in the kitchen, dissolves in tears when she discovers his sugar ration lying on the table.
She's waving goodbye to us a short time later. We're on the train with hundreds of other children for evacuation to the Midlands for the duration of the bombing. In my hands a cardboard suitcase and gas mask . . .

out of the dark
the mournful sound
of a train whistle—
the smell of black smoke
permeates the carriage

the suddenness
of being alone
and no-one to care
a guard comforts me
with a sticky toffee

over a puddle
rainbowed with oil
I make a wish
to see mum again

by Patricia Prime
Auckland, New Zealand
first published in
Kokako 9, Sept. 2008

Sunday, February 1, 2009


a moon
even in shadow
her wet eyes
Grey and more
Clouds drift, pull lower over Meall Biorach
Fall into heather at Doire Fhionn Lochan

some deep
others near the surface
so many pitfalls

Town clothes, town shoes, town socks
Drag of heavy waves
As sea-served crags fix
And trees in Coirein Lochain diffract
Drizzle and more

wet rocks
they reflect
his going

Elevation hurts
Unlaundered landscape
So raw it tangles
As it straggles down

path bumps uphill
parallel streams churn stones
on the way down

Mud slides upwards
Disappears in twists of a downturn
Illusions spill in clots like sour milk

once he came
now she takes his pain
on her own

by Stanley Pelter
Claypole, Lincolnshire, England
first published in
insideoutside (2008)