Saturday, November 18, 2017

how to simplify
your life and travel light
I turn the page
to refugees fleeing
the bombardment

Skylark Vol.5 Issue 2. Winter 2017
the peaceful streets
and undamaged buildings
of a nation
where so many eyes
are broken windows

Skylark Vol.5 Issue 2. Winter 2017
another
long dark day
together
a comfortable silence
in this circle of light

Skylark Vol.5 Issue 2. Winter 2017

Thursday, September 14, 2017

third day
of the heatwave
in the city
a burned out building
casts a long shadow

Blithe Spirit Vol.27 No.3 August 2017
the outlines
of faded lettering
on an old brick wall
perhaps we missed the chance
to read the writing there

Blithe Spirit Vol.27 No.3 August 2017
the hours I spent
weaving a flimsy garment
out of words
for you to wear
next to your skin

Blithe Spirit Vol.27 No.3 August 2017
in the silence
following the blast
of a foghorn
a sense of something
massive on the move

Presence 58 July 2017
Sunday morning
the memory of bells
on still air
in this city just
the traffic's drone

Presence 58 July 2017
older now
and used to watching
seasons pass
walls broken down
built up again

Presence 58 July 2017
living the life
of a hermit now
she recalls
the days when protest
was a cause for song

Skylark Vol 5 Issue 1 Summer 2017
untangling
a string of lights
complications
I didn't have the heart
to deal with last year

Skylark Vol 5 Issue 1 Summer 2017
talking about
how she came to be divorced
after so many years
her hand still goes
to twist the ring

Presence 57 March 2017
first snow
I wake from a dream
of such deep comfort
that for a moment
I can hardly move

Presence 57 March 2017

Sunday, June 18, 2017

the dust that rises
from the streets of Aleppo
settles everywhere
filtering softly
into our dreams

Blithe Spirit Vol.27 No.1 February 2017
green, gold and brown
the tumbling leaves
rush past
and now this urge to share
whatever warmth is left

Blithe Spirit Vol.27 No.1 February 2017
airless night
the first spattering of rain
on dry husks

Blithe Spirit Vol.27 No.1 February 2017
new home
I wake to autumn sunshine
on a yellow door

Blithe Spirit Vol.27 No.1 February 2017

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

all the colours
fade slowly into grey
and the concrete
of the overpass
darkens in the rain

Moongarlic Issue 8 May 2017
dark evenings
watching world news
day after day
ruins reflected
in the children's eyes

Moongarlic Issue 8 May 2017

Monday, May 22, 2017

an interview
with a survivor
cut short
now this, now this
now this, now this

Presence 56 October 2016
fifty-eight years
on this spinning planet
I wonder if
we're nearly
there yet

Presence 56 October 2016
sunset
a blackbird's silhouette
takes a rowan berry

Presence 56 October 2016
mayfly day
the shimmer of its wings
in passing

Presence 56 October 2016

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

into the mist
into the mystery
another friend passes

Blithe Spirit Vol.26 No.4 November 2016
in the station
they point the way
speaking earnestly
in a language
I do not understand

Blithe Spirit Vol.26 No.4 November 2016
the brittleness
of dry rose petals
sleepless hours

Blithe Spirit Vol.26 No.4 November 2016

Thursday, February 16, 2017

NaHaiWriMo contributions

The following are my contributions to NaHaiWriMo this year. After the first - which introduced the subject of news - I decided to continue by giving vent to my reactions to current events, while also responding to the prompts. One of the reasons I don't usually look for inspiration from current events is that the resulting work can lose meaning when taken out of the context of that news. However, looking back over these now I find that some deal with specifics, such as refugees, that are timeless as well as contemporary, and most could be about any experience of being in a dysfunctional relationship.

reading again
his last haiku -
breaking news

refugees
left with nothing
but their lives

alpha male
praises himself and pouts
to camera

sleight of hand
our deception is required
for your security

the beckoning light
swallowed up by toxic fog
lies about lies

wind-chill
the crack of light around
a closing door

the ominous mood
of a half-remembered dream
fast moving clouds

a book opened
at a labyrinth mandala
winter retreat

taking a break
from the news about news
Spiegel im Spiegel

wiped from the sky
with the stroke of a pen
the sun and stars

kicking up dirt
he says he's the only one
who'll keep us clean

the worst - pretending it can't happen

icy blast
a small voice whispering
this is not normal

a way of speaking
that says much more
than words

backing away
from the angry man's smile -
a child

morning stillness
sunshine
in the winter garden

how long until he
causes irreparable damage?
haze about the moon

a bumblebee drones
from flower to flower
slow news day

even among
the lies and deception
cherry blossom

Plane trees
as if there'd never been
a storm

Presidents' Day
falling silent in remembrance
of the truth

the tattered edge
of a dry leaf in the wind
restless nights

sleep deprived
the world becomes ever more
nightmarish

the urge to hide
until it's over -
winter storm

that thing he
doesn't want to hear mentioned
violent squalls

winter's end
things that were ours
now yours or mine

spring greening
the stone Buddha's smile
remains unchanged

without palaver
the quiet glory
of spring sunrise


Saturday, February 11, 2017

NaHaiWriMo

I'm doing NaHaiWriMo again this year and Michael Dylan Welch has come up with an unusual set of prompts. I've made things more difficult for myself by deciding to experiment with writing what I'm calling haiku from a place of social engagement. I've been reading about the history of haiku and tanka and the phases these forms have gone through, including some where they have been overtly political or more generally reflecting contemporary social conditions. Shasei, the familiar 'nature sketch from life in the moment' is not the only possible way to write haiku although it has become the predominant style in English language haiku. There are two reasons why I decided to do this, one is that I feel I've got into a rut in my writing and I'd like to broaden the range and scope of it, the other is that the spirit of the times seems to be weighing rather more heavily recently than it has for some time and to ignore that entirely would feel like self-censorship.

I will post the set here at the end of the month.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

sound muted
the politician's evasive
body language

Prune Juice Issue 18 March 2016
war debate
the opposition becomes
the enemy

Prune Juice Issue 18 March 2016
thunderheads
their conversation continues
in silence

Blithe Spirit Vol.25 No.3 August 2015

trying to make sense of it
geometric patterns
in the carpet

The Haiku Foundation Per Diem October 2016

Saturday, December 03, 2016

on the corrugated
bike-shed roof
multi-coloured balls

Blithe Spirit Vol.26 No.3 September 2016
heatwave
an old man shouts
about peace

Blithe Spirit Vol.26 No.3 September 2016
heatwave
the relentless pounding
of a workman's hammer

Blithe Spirit Vol.26 No.3 September 2016
moving in
no faces in the pictures
that I hang

Beginning. BHS Anthology 2016

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Presence

I'm happy to say that I'm taking on a new role as tanka editor of the journal Presence.

Presence has been my favourite journal publishing haiku, tanka, haibun and similar poetry ever since I first encountered it back in 1999. What I enjoy most about it is the way that it encourages and accepts different voices, different styles and different opinions, giving respect to all. Somehow this has been done without ever forgetting the traditions and aesthetics that these forms have grown out of that are, in some sense, timeless.

I will forever be indebted to the founding editor of Presence, Martin Lucas, for his encouragement and for being an inspirational writer and mentor. Even though we only met on a relatively few occasions I considered him a friend and one who's opinion I always placed great store by. His loss was a loss to the whole haiku community.

I'm happy to be tanka editor in particular because I have a special affection for the form. I love the way it combines a similar restraint to haiku while allowing just a little more leeway for expressing emotion directly or presenting a more subjective experience. While I find it harder to write a tanka that I'm pleased with than a haiku, it's also more satisfying when I manage it. I look forward to the opportunity to select and showcase what I consider to be the best contemporary tanka.


safe haven
a blue and white anchor
on the bed-cover

Presence 55 June 2016
woken from dreams
of gentle zephyrs
by a wild wind

Presence 55 June 2016
parallel lines
they never reach the other side
of Abbey Road

Presence 55 June 2016
the dockyards
under a zinc sky
first daffodils

Presence 55 June 2016

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

olive trees
a twist of vein
in an old man's thigh

One Hundred Gourds 4:4 September 2015
Galaxy of Dust. Red Moon Anthology 2015

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

defence stocks rise
another town reduced
to smoking rubble

Presence No.54 February 2016

Monday, August 08, 2016

spring garden
the child inside begins
to share her secrets

Blithe Spirit Vol.26 No.2 May 2016
we travel in silence
while I try not to see
the signs

Blithe Spirit Vol.26 No.2 May 2016
new love
introduces me to
a different kind of blues

Blithe Spirit Vol.26 No.2 May 2016

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Incoming

It's a nightmare world, freedom is an illusion, I never really got away. I wander in a wasteland and find the old house. All the walls are broken down. I'm frustrated to be back here, trapped here, so I struggle to escape. I struggle in my sleep and find I'm flying. I see familiar places on the ground. The buildings are derelict, the roads potholed, and I'm afraid to come back down to earth. I dream of making contact, tuning in to the calm voice of air traffic control, speaking to someone who can bring me in safely to a place that's not a war zone.

an incoming wave
deposits debris
on the beach

Blithe Spirit Vol.26 No.1 February 2016

Thursday, February 25, 2016

the ocean passes
mysteriously beneath
this floating world

Blithe Spirit 25.4 November 2015
drone footage
can't see through
the fog of war

Blithe Spirit 25.4 November 2015

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Flow

Brick dust rising and the sound of heavy machinery from the roadworks, on the far side of the park. A regular beat of metal on metal, four beats then a pause, then four more beats. A saw, rasping, grinding, in short bursts, against something resistant. The machines and the clothing, hard hats and hi-vis vests, flash with light from the low sun. The traffic, reduced to a single lane, stops and starts to the rhythm of the signals, red, amber, green.  I'm drawn with a quality of fascination to the labour of road building, reconstruction, urban orthopedics. The physical forces involved in cutting through, straightening, taking apart to rebuild in a form better suited to future flow. The slow healing of arterial routes.

tall poppies
a brightness beneath
the approaching storm

Presence 53 October 2015
Galaxy of Dust. Red Moon Anthology 2015
passing clouds
travelling without
a destination

Presence 53 October 2015
'Beyond Words'  BHS/Bulgarian Haiku Union anthology 2017
inarticulate desire
the first warm
of spring

Presence 53 October 2015
every day
it takes a little longer
to recall
all the things lost
never to return

Presence 53 October 2015

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Doing NaHaiWriMo again.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

midsummer night
in a room that overlooks the sea
the ebb and flow

Blithe Spirit Vol.25 No.3 August 2015

a soft light
rising long before
the dawn

Blithe Spirit Vol.25 No.3 August 2015
morning calm
a shaft of sunlight
moves across the wall

British Haiku Society Member's Anthology 2015 'Edge'

Thursday, September 03, 2015


Anchors

I live in my own world much of the time. Everything there is in constant flow - air and water and pure energy. Sometimes I feel the need for fixed points in the outside world, to help me keep my bearings. When the waves threaten to carry me away I need anchors that can be put down, temporarily. At other times I crave dry land, weight, and solidity. The trilithons of Stonehenge have a permanence that I find calming. Even the towering blocks of apartments in the city center can be comforting, as they enclose and define a manageable space in which to live. Taking time each day to focus and notice even the small and insignificant - wild flowers sprouting from the city walls, the tangled roots of trees - can help to ground me and stop the panicky sensation that I might spin off into space. Even now I can feel the earth shift under my feet. I have yet to find bedrock.

cast loose
from the North Star
skylark song

Presence #52 June 2015