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the beginning

In 2006 I started researching and writing contemporary English language haiku writing. I had a vague notion of what haiku was but it was anchored to my understanding of the Japanese tradition and the misconception of syllable counting.

The intervening years have expanded my knowledge and practice and I must thank the international online haiku community for the opportunity to learn from some of the most inspiring creative and critical practitioners.

The work of the following three haiku writers particularly astonished me and inspired me to persevere, to attempt to create my own haiku with economy, subtle suggestion and illumination.

still life:
the pear’s
pitted skin


  
finally getting
the why of loneliness —
bright sun on ice



snowy night
sometimes you can’t be
quiet enough



Since then my own haiku have appeared in international journals and anthologies and my haibun collection, forgiving the rain, was published by Snapshot Press in December 2012. Here are two haibun from the collection.


Wherever We Go, There We Are

moonlight the shadow of a tree masks the crack in the path

It is 3am on Florida’s Atlantic coast. Already 9am in France. My body says it’s time to start the day yet the darkness outside says, ‘middle of the night, go back to bed’.

Recently, there has been too much impatience between us. Kinks and ruts in the road we cannot avoid or fill, that see us blaming each other. Even the smallest roads since we arrived: filling in our immigration forms, a luggage trolley, the small trunk in the rental car.

Things in their right place at the right time. This is what I try to do too often. Like pinning butterflies to boards.

The clock is too loud. It keeps time too stringently and that is what we need to be away from: days marked by so many jobs to be done, what must be completed in the hours between waking and falling asleep.

Then I hear it. A background hum, a soft engine shifting gears. A sound present at the moment I was born: the sea.

high tide in a dream you write the word ‘reef’



Breakable
 
For a week our roles have been reversed. I have been looking after them, checking they’ve slept well, making sure they eat enough. And they have allowed me to be the one who cares, the one in control. ‘Where does this go?’ my mother asks, standing in the middle of my kitchen with a white dish and a tea towel in her hand. ‘I had some orange juice,’ my dad says one morning before going to buy his English paper at the Bar Tabac on the corner. ‘Be careful crossing the road,’ I call after him. When I kiss them goodnight they feel breakable, in need of protection. I pull the shutters in their bedroom closed.

And now at the airport I can hardly bear to watch them moving away from me. I wave one last time as they pass through security at the Departure Gate, so small now I could pick them up between my thumb and finger and slip them in my pocket.

sunlit garden
when did my father grow
an old man’s neck?

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haiku: a poetry of absence or an absence of poetry?

The following paper was presented at the PALA (Poetics and Linguistics Association) 2015 Conference at Canterbury University, Kent, UK on 16th July 2015. 
Abstract: HAIKU: A POETRY OF ABSENCE OR AN ABSENCE OF POETRY? Minimalism in Contemporary English Language Haiku
The popular perception of haiku as three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables persists in the mainstream poetry world and beyond as if nothing has changed since the first Western translators counted the onji, or sounds, in traditional Japanese haiku and created that misconstrued but enduring template fleshy enough to support a traditional English syntax.
And while putting flesh on bones might be a useful metaphor for the construction of formal and free verse, contemporary English language haiku practice is often more akin to the trimming and polishing of bones to create a form where point of view, adjectives and even verbs may be dispensed with entirely. 
This 30 minute presentation will analyse examples of minimal, micro and monostich…

Haibun

When in doubt say ‘yes’ 

November: a month that begins with a syllable of prohibition then slowly denies us colour and warmth. My father's brother has died at 91. This morning’s frost refuses to melt. I watch a day moon swallowed by smoky clouds; leaves shroud the bare earth beneath the apple trees.
But tonight, as if his age and health are no more than a random number, a misconception, my father's voice on the phone so clear, so bright. And the sky beyond the orchard fired by sunset. Yes. Oh yes.
fall
I try
not to





First published in CHO July 2017

haiku commentary ~ Annette Makino

Sometimes life and poetry intersect naturally. I had a brutal wardrobe clear-out yesterday, as witnessed by the pile of clothes hangers in the centre of the bed and a bulging large carrier bag destined for the charity shop.  And then, through one of those random extended internet excavations, I came across this haiku by Annette Makino, published by tinywords a few years ago which I'd commented on briefly. 

hanging in my closet the person I used to be

Reading it again still elicited a similar variety of responses: laughter, recognition, resignation and sadness. And this time part of ‘the person I used to be’ was neatly folded at my feet! 
Most of us keep clothes that no longer fit us, or suit us. I still have an ostentatious, ostrich feather bolero that I bought in the early 1980s and will never wear again but hold onto from a sense of nostalgia. But the haiku also propels me towards imagining clothes that belonged to someone else, a husband, wife or partner who may have left, or died…