Thursday

Those small stones...

... not the forgotten ones I find in the corners of coat pockets or the ones I collect on solitary walks (along with tufts of sheep wool and pieces of driftwood) but the ones I've written during January for the last two years. The ones that Fiona and Kaspa, from Writing Our Way Home encourage everyone to write: read about the project here.

You can read the small stones I wrote in January 2011 on the NaSmaStoMo link above (National Small Stones Month). January 2012's daily observations, dreams, memories and captured moments are here.

I don't plan to do anything with these when I first write them. They are writing practice: free of judgement, editing or plans to publish although some of them do find their way out of this blog record and onto the pages of journals or into a potential MSS. But it's the spontaneous writing within a disciplined structure of 31 days that's the most rewarding and enjoyable aspect of this project: the sense of freedom I feel to write anything.

My grandaughter used to stay a lot with me when she was younger. 'I can do anything I like when I stay at your house,' she once said to me. Hang on... strict bath-times and bed-times, meal-times always at the table, no TV in the morning. Are you mixing me up with someome else?! But she obviously felt completely free within those boundaries. That's how I feel during Fiona and Kaspa's January writing challenges.

year end
the grass crisp
with frost



Friday

forgiving the rain - thanking Snapshot Press

I have it. The cover of my new haibun collection due from Snapshot Press at the end of this month.


It has all the qualities that I hope readers will find in the contents: texture, delicacy, contrast, light and shade. A big thank you to John Barlow at Snapshot Press for all his work and insights.

forgiving the rain will be available via Snapshot's website from around 25th November, 2012. And, to make things easier for overseas haibun enthusiasts, they take Paypal : )

Thursday

 
 
map reading:
the desire to know
where I'm going
the fear of losing
my way
 
 
 


Sunday

forgiving the rain due from Snapshot Press

all this green forgiving the rain

(first published by tiny words, 13.3.2008)

I never thought that one little haiku written in my head while driving along the motorway in the rain would end up being the title of a book... but it is and I am very happy.

forgiving the rain, my haibun collection, will be published by Snapshot Press in November 2012. Lovely.

Now to find a cover image that will serve the collection well.

Monday

haiku commentary: George Swede

wildflowers
I cannot name
most of me

George Swede[1]


The opening line, composed of a single word, slows me down with its first two long syllables. And that pace is perfect for the contemplation woven through this economical haiku.

The pivot line is structurally satisfying – it rocks me in (wildflowers/I cannot name) and out (I cannot name/most of me) of the haiku – as is the balance of 3/4/3 syllables. But these formal characteristic serve the ideas behind the haiku too.

The first two lines, taken as a couplet, describe a concrete experience that’s probably common to all of us: a lack of knowledge or names forgotten as we walk through the countryside. The haiku instantly involves me, invites me to share the moment.

The 2nd and 3rd lines present a different kind of couplet: a personal reflection that is both concrete and abstract. How many of us could recite the litany of parts that make up our own complex organism? And how many of us are convinced that we truly know and understand ourselves: the different identities we adopt, the strange imagery that comes to us in dreams, or spontaneous and surprising emotion in response to unexpected events?

Yet all of those things are offered to us in this haiku of seven words.

Haiku are such light expressions it is easy to overload them with philosophy. The movement from the natural world in line 1 to the economy of expression in lines 2 and 3 avoids that through understatement and simple declarative phrase. It manages to be both witty and thoughtful.

It is perhaps no accident that this haiku is the final one in George Swede’s collection. Rather than close down the book, it opens it up for me, encourages me to reflect on what I cannot name, what I do not know, about myself and the wider world. It sets me on a road of discovery, should I choose to take it.


[1] George Swede, Joy in Me Still, inkling press, Edmonton, AB T6G 2T5, Canada, p.79

First published in Notes from the Gean 3.4

Friday

haiku commentary: Sharon Elyse Dean

family court
the lawyer’s tie lolls
against his gut


Sharon Elyse Dean

What can save a haiku from being mediocre – a strong image from the natural world – is what, by its absence, can make a senryu[1] feel like a weak gag. But the best senryu manage to focus on aspects of the human experience and encapsulate ideas that carry importance for the reader as well as the writer.

Sharon’s senryu paints an amusing picture for us to appreciate in lines 2 and 3: the image of a tubby lawyer, suggested by the word gut and the roundness and floppiness in the sound of lolls. Scenes from American court movies run through my mind: the despicable prosecutor or the self-satisfied defence attorney. But the first line sets the scene more particularly: this is a family court, a place where ordinary lives, lives like our own, are decided upon.

In fact, although the expression in the first line – family court – is very familiar, it is only when it is isolated in a piece of art like this that we ‘see’ it clearly and begin to think about the conflict it contains. Family should be about love and nurture, shouldn’t it? But a court is a place of battle and dispute. With these ideas in our minds the image of the lawyer becomes more distasteful: the lolling tie, combined with the soft consonants in lawyer, now suggests inactivity, ineffectualness, and the further idea arises that the only real winners in situations like this are the lawyers.

This is the world we live in, unfortunately, but fortunately we have poets who are prepared to act as witnesses, to record both its bathos and pathos.




[1] senryu are traditionally meant to offer an insight into human nature and often don’t include a seasonal or nature image. Some haijin still make a distinction between senryu and haiku but sometimes it’s difficult to identify which camp the little poem falls into. For me, the poem having an effect on the reader is more important that a label.

Wednesday

Going organic: line break in free form haiku

This essay first appeared in Frogpond Volume 34 Number 3

Going organic: line break in free form haiku 

Lynne Rees


The line is the fundamental structuring tool in writing poetry and understanding how and when and why to use it is even more essential in the writing of free verse[1] where neither poet nor reader has the guide of a predetermined metrical pattern or stanza structure. I remember the moment, back in the mid 1990s, when I suddenly ‘got’ line break, a real eureka moment that illuminated the correlation between form and content in free verse poetry.

Over the years I developed and refined my ideas about the structuring possibilities available to free verse poets but when, in 2006, I started studying and writing haiku, my, by now inbuilt, free-verse poet’s attention to form was more of a hindrance than a help. Line breaks that could be supported in a longer free verse poem were now shouting from the page. ‘Yoo hoo!’ they called. ‘Aren’t I a clever girl?!’ And no one likes a show off.

With time I have managed to develop a lighter touch but attention to line break in free form haiku still remains an essential crafting element. As John Barlow says:

In a poem as short as haiku every word, and just as importantly every pause and silence – whether these be internal or at the end of the poem – has to play a full part in both meaning and rhythm.[2]

Line break, and the pause it creates, contributes to the meaning of the haiku.

The following list of possible reasons for breaking a line forms the basis of two seminars in all of my poetry writing courses:

  1. To emphasise normal speech patterns and pauses.
  2. As a form of punctuation i.e. to direct the reading of the poem
  3. For the music of the line
  4. To emphasise a single word on a line, or the last or first word on a line.
  5. To confine an image to a single line or to split an image over more than one line.
  6. To introduce a dramatic effect e.g. misdirection, temporary ambiguity, hesitancy.
  7. To reflect the poem’s dominant mood or emotional tone.
  8. To play with the surrounding white space on the page.
  9. To express the poem’s organisation.
  10. To suggest balance or imbalance.
I was interested to explore how well they might apply to writing haiku.

1. To emphasise normal speech patterns and pauses.
2. As a form of punctuation i.e. to direct the reading of the poem.

Because of its reputation for simplicity and lack of adornment a haiku with an understated form, i.e. one that comfortably fits normal speech patterns and subtly directs our reading, might be automatically accepted as the most effective, but if those lines/speech patterns also reinforce the theme then the effectiveness is increased.

the scent of cut grass
carried on a March breeze
a still-sleepy bee[3]

The line breaks in Brian Tasker’s haiku make it easy to read; they don’t cut or extend the breath, they reveal the images in turn, there’s no confusion. We feel the leisureliness of the moment because of this arrangement and also because of the soothing repetition of three principal stresses in each line. I admit to a certain suspicion of centred haiku – it often seems to be chosen for decoration rather than anything to do with the haiku itself – but here the choice seems conscious and I feel ‘centred’ too, at rest in the middle of the page.

3. For the music of the line.

I close my book –
a wave breaks its silence
against the rocks[4]

It is often because of their music that some haiku pin themselves to our memories and this is the case with Caroline Gourlay’s haiku. My free verse poem editor automatically identifies a line break at an obvious point in the middle of line two:

I close my book –
a wave breaks
its silence against the rocks

and I do believe that the new 3rd line would make for a more interesting line in a free verse poem. But restraint is the better option here and the haiku is more memorable for the comforting rhythm of its opening and closing iambic lines that surround the three heavy stresses in the middle line.

4. To emphasise a single word on a line or the last or first word on a line.

Here’s a haiku from John Stevenson:

first warm day
the ground
gives a little[5]

Placing a word, or image, on a line of its own naturally draws attention to it so we need to be sure that the attention is deserved. Here, the weight we apply to the word ‘ground’ as we read it parallels the imagined physical weight the haiku wants us to experience: the change of the season we detect when the ground ‘gives a little’ to our footfall.

The verb ‘gives’ at the opening of the 3rd line is separated from its subject and becomes a vehicle for other ideas: giving as in ‘gift’, the ‘little’ gift we are rewarded with as we realise spring is on its way.  

5. To confine an image to a single line or to split an image over more than one line.

A three line haiku often segments the image, or images, it contains, but when we feel poets are working consciously with this technique we place more trust in them:

summer sales
a Caravaggio
chalked on the kerb[6]

The ‘…Caravaggio/chalked on the kerb’ in Matthew Paul’s haiku is a single image yet the poet breaks the line to slow us down in our reading. When we read ‘Caravaggio’ master paintings come to mind but the following line reverses our expectation. This is the work of a street artist, although not something we might appreciate any less. In fact, the skill and location of these works often have more power to attract us than paintings held in museums. When we read the haiku again the fracture created by the line break invites us to ponder on the ideas of value and greatness, and on what can be bought and sold.

In contrast, John Barlow lays out his imagery in a more traditional manner:

out between showers
her milk tooth grin
wobbling with her bicycle[7]

The poet wants us to experience the break between showers before we see the child’s smile and before we see her learning to ride her bicycle. The order of perception[8] is important: knowing the child is young (‘milk tooth’) impacts on our emotional response to the final line. There is tenderness and there is unease, in the subject of the haiku, in the viewer of the scene and in the reader. Once we have experienced the haiku in its parts we go back and absorb it as a whole and the concrete imagery – the breaks between showers, a child’s shaky smile during the rite of passage of learning to ride a bike – takes on the deeper significance about parenting and releasing a child into the world.

6. To introduce a dramatic effect e.g. misdirection, temporary ambiguity, hesitancy.

skipping stones—
the stuttered marriage
proposal[9]

In Terra Martin’s haiku the break in line 2 temporarily misdirects the reader as to the meaning (is the marriage itself ‘stuttered’ or fragmented?) and injects its own stutter into the phrase ‘marriage proposal’. This reflects the nervousness of the person doing the proposing and links wonderfully to the image of skipping stones in the first line – the way they bounce and rise and bounce again before finding their resting place.

A different dramatic effect is achieved in another of John Stevenson’s haiku:

a crowded street
I’m the one
who steps in it[10]

‘I’m the one’ is a phrase we might naturally associate with boasting or self-aggrandisement, particularly as the ‘I’ is fore-grounded against an anonymous ‘crowded street’. The line break creates a temporary ambiguity, as well as hesitancy… before we step, along with the narrator, into the unfortunate reality of the closing line. The line break is part of the self-deprecating humour in the haiku.

7. To reflect the poem’s dominant mood or emotional tone.

after the crash
the doll’s eyes
jammed open[11]

The shape of Michael Gunton’s haiku, the ‘weight’ of its square shape on the page reinforces the heaviness of the emotional theme. In addition, the two heavy stresses in each line further emphasise the sudden shock and grief associated with such an event. Notice too how the short 2nd and 3rd lines cut the breath slightly, reinforcing the theme of loss and distress.

An alternative layout, following a more traditional s/l/s pattern might have been:

after the crash
the doll’s eyes jammed
open

but we lose the compression of the original shape and the line break after ‘jammed’ adds a melodramatic element, the denouement hinted at but held back, and becomes unnecessarily titillating for such a serious subject matter and the understated approach of haiku writing.

8. To play with the surrounding white space on the page.

An unexpected line-break in another of Michael Gunton’s haiku:

summer evening
a man in a vest leans out
............................................ to water his plants[12]

(my dots to show indent)

contributes to the fun. This light hearted line-break uses the white space on the page so the reader ‘leans out’ along with the man in the haiku: we feel the stretch into the whiteness of the right hand side of the page but also feel the emptiness in the drop below as suggested by the indent in the third line.

9. To express the poem’s organisation.

Now looking back,
Where we had talked
Among the stones—
A wagtail in the rain[13]

This haiku, by Tito, has four lines rather than the traditional three. Why? My first response is that the first line might be redundant: 

Where we had talked
Among the stones—
A wagtail in the rain.

I think that works. But critical analysis generally benefits from trusting the poet and attempting to discover their intention rather than imposing our own opinions too quickly. So what do the four lines and an extra line break achieve that the three lines don’t?

The extra line adds far more than just three words. When I read the original and then my cropped version aloud, the latter feels significantly more compressed, and hurries me towards the juxtaposition of the place among the stones and the wagtail. The addition of the opening line, with its pronouncement of ‘Now’, adds a gravitas to the haiku that’s missing completely in my three liner. It expands the haiku too, creating a more balanced and considered division of commentary (the first two lines) and imagery (the last two lines). And of course, ‘looking back’ can be read at different levels too: looking behind one, literally, but also looking back in time. The three lines I first suggested might make an acceptable haiku but the four lines are richer in terms of the human emotional experience.

10. To suggest balance or imbalance.

Wandering the supermarket aisles
the diagnosis
.............................................sinks in[14]

(my dots to show indent)

Ken Jones uses line break to throw the reader off balance: all the physical weight of the haiku is anchored on the left hand side while two small words float on their own in the white space on the right. The form is perfectly suited to the reality of the experience, how it takes time for some kinds of information to sink in, how we fill our days with the weight of the ordinary, and how the ‘truth’ of a situation can suddenly hit us and set us adrift.

Two lines can be an appropriate choice for haiku where the idea of balance is important.

in the darkness
pushing open a door[15]

Keith J. Coleman’s haiku balances one thing against another: darkness against possible light, the unknown with what might become known, and while a three line haiku could have been created with a break after ‘pushing/’ the reciprocation of form (one line set against another) and this content would have been lost.

The list is by no means definitive; it represents an ongoing investigation into my own editing processes. I am sure other writers will have more and different reasons for shaping their haiku. I am sure too that some will challenge the emphasis on crafting suggested here, haiku writers who feel that haiku emerge from the moment and ‘all a haiku often needs is a little tighter focus and a little polish.’[16]

Disagreement is good for critical debate and unanimity amongst poets is not a goal worth pursuing. What is important is each individual poet’s attention to the conscious crafting of their work if, that is, their aim is to transform the raw material of personal experience into something that becomes important to others too.

Lynne Rees is the author of a novel, a collection of poetry, and a volume of collaborative short prose. She was haibun editor at Simply Haiku during 2008 and 2009, joint editor of The Unseen Wind, British Haiku Society Haibun Anthology 2009 (BHS 2010), and co-editor, with Nigel Jenkins and Ken Jones, of the first national anthology of its kind, another country, haiku poetry from Wales (Gomer Press 2011). Lynne is a Hawthornden Fellow and the recipient of the University of Kent’s (UK) Faculty of Humanities Teaching Award. www.lynnerees.com



[1] ‘free verse’ is a misnomer in that it is only ‘free’ because of the absence of any pre-determined form on which to ‘hang’ the words. I prefer the term ‘organic’ because of the process of finding the form, during the conscious editing process, in direct response to subject matter, theme and emotional tone.
[2] ‘An Introduction to the Origins, Mechanics and Aesthetics of English-language Haiku’, The New Haiku, ed. John Barlow & Martin Lucas, Snapshot Press 2002
[3] Brian Tasker, a ragbag of haiku (The Bare Bones Press 2004)
[4] Caroline Gourlay, another country, haiku poetry from Wales (Gomer Press 2011), p.146
[5] John Stevenson, quiet enough (Red Moon Press 2004)
[6] Matthew Paul, The Regulars (Snapshot Press 2006)
[7] John Barlow, The New Haiku (Snapshot Press 2002) p.24
[8] For more on ‘Order of Perception’ see Lee Gurga’s Haiku: A Poet’s Guide (Modern Haiku Press 2003), p.37-38
[9] Terra Martin, tiny words 15th June 2007.
[10] John Stevenson, Ibid
[11] Michael Gunton, Echoes in the Heart (Waning Moon Press n.d.)
[12] Gunton, Ibid
[13] Tito,  Stepping Stones, a way into haiku, Martin Lucas (BHS 2007), p.91
[14] Ken Jones, The New Haiku (Snapshot Press 2002) p.94
[15] Keith J. Coleman, Stepping Stones, a way into haiku, Martin Lucas (BHS 2007), p.142
[16] Bruce Ross, How to Haiku, a writer’s guide to haiku and related forms (Tuttle 2002), p. 33

Tuesday

river 2012 - 31

straightfalling rain both water and ice

With many thanks to Fiona and Kaspa for the inspiration and encouragement this month.

Sunday

river 2012 - 29

edge of sleep
turning the pillow
for the cold side

Saturday

river 2012 - 28

winter sunshine
the neighbour's pigeons
rise as one

Friday

river 2012 -27

the setting sun fires
the edges of storm clouds
over the sea

home-made soup
before I leave

river 2012 - 26

one of those days:
my great nephew asks me
if I'm a girl or a boy

Wednesday

river 2012 - 25

the old stories we find
along the banks of the wild brook
leaf-mulch, fresh rain

Tuesday

river 2012 - 24

driving the kids to school:
even in all this rain I can't compete
with Flo and Ramone

Monday

river 2012 - 23

The metal detector man shows me his haul: 10p, 50p, some batteries, a hard lump of rock. 'And my mate found the 50p when I gave him a go,' he says. I am looking for treasure myself - the memory from my childhood of a wreck at the Ferry Bend. Mostly we never made it to the point where the River Neath divides the land, mostly we were distracted by the sand dunes, the carpets of shells, or we decided it was too far to walk anyway and turned back. Maybe there was never a wreck. There isn't today. But there is still treasure here.

Sunday

river 2012 - 22

another restless night...
the dunes wind-carved
into slides and hollows

Saturday

river 2012 - 21

the smell of fresh laundry
at what's left of the old hospital wall

a seagull dancing
on the grass in Vivian Park

the sun wrapped in cloud
one minute and free the next

even in the cold face of the wind
laughter and the smell of the sea

Friday

river 2012 - 20

Some things don't change: the sound of the sea from a street away, a screech of seagull, the broken walls around some houses on the bend in the road. How I have started counting my steps to see how many it takes to get to school.

Some things change: the locked doors of the school, the posters in Welsh, the rise and fall of its syllables in the corridors, the mothers on the floor of the hall with their babies for free Language and Play.

Some things don't change: the little boy in Nursery who hugs the Headmistress's legs when she walks past.

Thursday

river 2012 - 19

home to Wales -
each time I check
the bend in the track
I'm sure I glimpse the train

Wednesday

river 2012 - 18

Rain overnight and this morning
not a crackle of frost on the trees
or along the kerb around the yard
only a mist of grey above
and between the bare branches.

I miss the hills, the green roll
of them swallowed by cloud.
The day is too soft for clear thought.

Tuesday

river 2012 - 17

Last night I played hide and seek with the cat. I know, it sounds like something you might hear in group therapy: My name is Lynne and I'm a cataholic. Play isn't a big enough part of our lives as we get older. Not playing games to win, but play that has no end result, no goal, beyond the enjoyment of the moment. Some people might call it silliness.  Silly, from the Middle English 'sely' or 'seely' meaning 'happy'. Want to do something silly today?

Monday

river 2012 - 16

sunrise
the apple trees
cloaked with frost

a stranger talks to me
about his father

Sunday

river 2012 - 15

Sunday morning
a sunlit patch of frost
in my neighbour's field

the first cup of tea
taken back upstairs
to bed and a book

iconography:
the symbolism
of things and images

a day of slowness
and perhaps a little
enlightenment

Saturday

river 2012 - 14

Synchronicity means while I am thinking about pancakes upstairs in bed, you are downstairs whisking up the batter.

27 years together
you show me your
pneumatic drill impression
for the first time

Lemon and sugar, butter and sugar. Good days start like this.

Friday

river 2012 - 13

You could begin with the sky
hazy with sunlight and a shimmer of cloud,
a slate roof skimmed with frost.
A red, or green or blue front door, perhaps
a carpet of fresh moss, a flower you wouldn't expect
in winter. And woodsmoke. Or the sea
peaked with foam. A good book. Conjure
the things that lead you home.

Thursday

river 2012 - 12

Absence

When the morning doesn't fit, when I seem to be missing the lid of the jigsaw box that holds the pieces of my day, I leave the house and walk through the orchard to the row of leylandii and look at the depressions in the dusty ground beneath them where I'm sure the wild pheasants nestle during the day, even though I only know them from claw marks left in the dusty earth, that my hand never finds a trace of warmth in the shallow bowls, not even a feather.

Some days I catch a glimpse of them – the males barred bright gold and brown, their red wattles, the mottled females – skittering between the rows of apple trees, always keeping a distance. How could they trust us after all this time?

I startled them once, in the farmyard when I opened the back door, a dozen or more of them taking flight at the sound then sight of me: the whirr of wings loud enough to make me step back suddenly, alarm mixed with delight, flashes of green and purple returning to me at moments for the rest of that day, like a charge to the heart.


Wednesday

river 2012 - 11

Do christmas cards count as cardboard or as paper recycling? Should they be in the green box, with the cans, or in the green bin with the cardboard packaging? It is sunrise. Through the winter trees the village looks like it could be on fire and the rest of us are watching in the dark. I decide on the green box. Part of me thinks, 'what does it matter?' while another part wants to get it right, this little thing that feeds into the bigger picture, the world beyond my life in this house where I feel safe.

Tuesday

river 2012 - 10

37 years ago I cried when my sister got married and left home. For fifteen years she'd slept on the other side of the room from me. We'd hit each other with hangers and hairbrushes. I'd hidden behind the door of our bedroom to jump out and frighten her when she wandered back from the bathroom at night. She called me 'child' to annoy me. And now she was leaving and becoming a wife. In wedding speeches the fathers of the bride and groom talk about gaining a son, a daughter. But all I knew was that I was losing my sister.

mobile blackspot
I sing happy birthday to my sister
in the middle of a farmyard

Monday

river 2012 - 9

Not a leaf remains on the apple trees in the orchard. We have used the last of the cherry wood on the fire. Last night we watched a movie about a man who could travel through time. Already the days are getting longer. The new year is pretty much like the old year when I remember to notice it. Today I feel lucky.

Sunday

river 2012 - 8

new bookshelves
the poetry my cat finds
in an empty box

Saturday

river 2012 - 7

Dream date

It's not going to work between me and Gerard Butler despite the way he hugs me, rocks me with his enthusiasm, his smile. Even though he turns away his ex-girlfriend who turns up in a gold lamé negligee. Even though he has a male assistant called Mitzi with a bald head.

He has four dogs. He feeds them on broken biscuits and crackers. His house is a warren of tunnels and secret doors. And the forest fire is getting closer, flames wrapping the hillside, running down towards the edge of the lake, which may save us, or may not. His father was Spanish, he says quietly as we leave the house with only a picnic basket.

new year
a dead conifer leans
across the lane

Friday

river 2012 - 6

after the storm
a squeeze of sunlight
through the bare trees
I salute a magpie

Thursday

river 2012 - 5

all night high winds,
the slap of rain, flower pots
rolling along the drive, a spruce
brought down in the orchard -

we believe we are safe
behind brick and glass, under tiles,
but in a small corner of our minds
we imagine the roof lifting, the wind 

scattering the patterns of  our lives
across the Downs, practicing, maybe,
for a time when we'll have to let go.

Wednesday

river 2012 - 4

first week in january
happy with the woodpile's
weight loss

Tuesday

river 2012 - 3

The people we sold the house too have lifted off the plaster on the far wall of the first floor and uncovered a section of a painted medieval wall beneath. I always knew it was there and don’t know why we didn’t do the same. But I am pleased to see it exposed now, the past rising into the present, keeping us company.

The dream is easy to interpret: I have a book to write about my hometown in South Wales. The photographs I take are the top layers of stories: at home I lift off each skin and slip deeper into other people’s lives. But I am slipping deeper into myself too: things half remembered, roads not taken.

so many questions
the wind whistles
in the wooden eaves

Monday

river 2012 - 2

last day of the holiday
the glass monkey
slips off the tree

time to hide
the unopened chocolates

Sunday

river 2012 - 1

new year
heat from the embers
of last year's fire