Saturday, February 11, 2017


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
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
an old man shouts
about peace

Blithe Spirit Vol.26 No.3 September 2016
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


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


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


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


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

Friday, July 17, 2015

in the evening
of a long, hot
summer day
a stranger's shadow
merges with mine

Soft Thunder. British Haiku Society Tanka Awards 2014/15
I lie awake
listening to the small noises
of my neighbours
the calls of city birds
late into the night

Soft Thunder. British Haiku Society Tanka Awards 2014/15
she becomes
the ocean in his dream
of drowning

Presence #51 December 2014
his blue scrubs
just a shade darker
than the sky

Presence #51 December 2014
I learn to hold
the light inside

Presence #51 December 2014
sunset sky
a peach halved
around the stone

Presence #51 December 2014
reflected light
the thought that you can
change your mind

Blithe Spirit Vol.25 No.2 May 2015
a closed book
and on opening it
the blank pages

Blithe Spirit Vol.25 No.2 May 2015
a dream
within the dream
a sleeper

Blithe Spirit Vol.25 No.2 May 2015

Saturday, May 30, 2015

the pull of gravity
and a turning tide
before I know it
a decision
takes me

Blithe Spirit Vol 25, No 1 February 2015
at the darkest hour
how everything can change
from one moment to the next

Blithe Spirit Vol 25, No 1 February 2015
spilling over
over and over
the waterfall

One Hundred Gourds 4:1 December 2014
sunlight through leaves
the nurse in search
of a vein

One Hundred Gourds 4:1 December 2014
my fingers
but I touch
the stars
with my eyes

One Hundred Gourds 4:1 December 2014
the bird
has flown, and yet
he left me
the tilt of his head
the look in his eye

One Hundred Gourds 4:1 December 2014

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Doing the Poem a Day challenge on Writer's Digest during April

Saturday, December 20, 2014

rain drops
into the hollowness
of empty pots

BHS Anthology 2014 'Sound'
'Beyond Words'  BHS/Bulgarian Haiku Union anthology 2017

Thursday, December 18, 2014

you give
so much
I can't take it

Blithe Spirit Vol.24 No.4 November 2014
learning to trust
in my own buoyancy
the ocean
and the slow ecstacy
of letting go

Blithe Spirit Vol.24 No.4 November 2014
the moment
when you find something
and think

Blithe Spirit Vol.24 No.4 November 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014

as if to remind me
that the world can still
surprise me
my poems came back
as a song

A Hundred Gourds 3:4 September 2014
I finally forgave you
for not answering
those letters
that I wrote to you
and never sent

A Hundred Gourds 3:4 September 2014
in a dream
of broken ground, twisted rails
and ruined buildings
I am a plane
that flies above it all

Skylark 2:2 Winter 2014
I've grown accustomed to
the old fridge makes
a hum I only notice
when it stops

Skylark 2:2 Winter 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014

spring rain
falls softly, steadily
all day
the sadness
comes and goes in waves

Blithe Spirit  Vol.24 No.3 August 2014
on the day I hear
that you are never
coming back
I play the same song
over and over

Blithe Spirit  Vol.24 No.3 August 2014

one summer's day
measured only
by the sun
the rest of our lives
seemed like forever

Blithe Spirit  Vol.24 No.3 August 2014
the seeds
I've held all winter
baby's breath

Blithe Spirit  Vol.24 No.3 August 2014
the estate agent
never even mentioned it -
goldfinch song

Presence #50 July 2014
she asks
if he has any
real friends
the pain of someone
half a world away

Presence #50 July 2014
half a tin
of whitewash
in a dark corner
things I can't
use or part with

Presence #50 July 2014
for so many years
you helped to light
the way
today the path leads
through a darker place

For Martin

Presence #50 July 2014