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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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deeper shadows where the walls meet... autumn rain – Mark E. Brager, The Heron's Nest, Volume XXI, Number 3 (2019)I imagine a corner, two walls meeting at right angles. I can see the depth of shadow there. If I reach out, I am sure the surface – rough brick or smooth masonry – will be cooler; perhaps because the autumn rain I now notice has started to fall.
The places where people meet are more emotionally complex, stepping, as we may have to, from the comfort of the familiar to the challenge of the unfamiliar. Those “deeper shadows” may be rich with empathy and gratitude. Eshadows in corners Photograph by Steven Castledinequally, they may be fraught with conflict and umbrage.
Brager’s haiku shifts me from inanimate objects to human experience. I sense loss through the image of “autumn rain,” or at least an understanding, or acceptance, of inevitable change that results in something being left behind.
Perhaps change, even for the better, always leaves a small echo…

haibun ~ I am running through the wondrous silence of history ...

... past standing stones, invisible tombs, the path Chaucer's pilgrims took across the North Downs, the stone cold dead in churchyards, listening to the sound my feet make on lanes, on mud and stone, sharing my breath, the thump of my heartbeats, with sheep, the sky, fields. Sometimes I wonder how I got here, what propelled me forward to this moment when the snags of fleece along a wire fence shine with glory, when another rise in the track ahead is an inspiration not a defeat.  And I think of the words, 'yes', and, 'you can', and the centuries of people before me who said them out loud, or quietly to themselves, believing that something could change. And here I am changing almost nothing in the world and still feeling better for it.
trail run
seeing the wood 
and the trees


Blithe Spirit 29.1 - 2019