Haiku Bindii Vol 1, Journeys – Review by Patricia Prime

Haiku Bindii, Journal of the Bindii Japanese Genre Poetry Group, Vol. 1, Journeys. Convenor: Lynette Arden (2011) 60 pp. ISSN 1839-4337.

Reviewed by Patricia Prime.

In this collection, the first published by the Bindii Japanese Genre Poetry Group, is gathered the work of twenty Australian poets. The categories included are haiku, tanka, haiku and tanka sequences, Renku, haibun, tanka prose and haiga. The book is a beautifully produced collection, lavishly illustrated by haiga, photos and black and white drawings. Here, I’ve discovered familiar names, and new favourites among the poets represented.

My favourite haiga are by Belinda Broughton, whose illustration is of a doll reflected in a mirror and accompanies:

at the auction
of her grandfather’s estate
nappy change

Also delightful are Lynette Arden’s haiga of a stone Buddha with its accompanying tanka:

beside stone stairs
small statues wear
bibs
rain stained and torn
tugged by the wind

and Alexander Ask’s beautiful photo of a dog, with its poem:

d r I f t I n g one moment
to the next
a dog’s life

The haiku in this collection represent moods, feelings, or moments. They are often charming, funny, and sometimes sad:

Anzac sunrise
the old bugler’s lips
quiver

Bett Angel-Stawarz

red flower
slowly withering
in memoriam

Lesley Charlesworth

cherry season
she cleans
the child’s grave

Lee Bentley

Like most tanka writers, the poets are inspired by nature and the seasons, personal experiences, love, emotions, travels and the sea. Lynette Arden’s tanka takes us back to the childhood awe of holding a shell to the ear to listen to the sound of the sea:

each collected shell
holds the ocean’s roar
sea longing
will overcome me
in this dusty suburb

Athena Zaknic’s fine tanka illustrates the grief at the loss of a loved one:

in cemetery
widow’s repeated overtures
her repentance
all over again
an audience of bats

while Bett Angel-Stawarz concentrates on the drought that often causes hardship to Australian farmers:

red winds
bury fence lines
deepening
with the drought
lines on country faces

Subjects in the haibun range from “Granite Island Haibun” and Chaos And Calm Haibun (Nigel Ford), Dream Garden” (Maeve Archibald), “Weight of loss” (Rachael Mead), “The Policeman’s Cow” (Lynette Arden), “Perfect Weather” (Lee Bentley), “Corellas (Belinda Broughton), “Journey through Paradise” (Jill Gower), “My slice of paradise” (Judith Ahmed), while the tanka prose piece “Piety” is by Pam Brow.

My favourite of the haibun is probably Jill Gower’s “Journey through Paradise”. Gower has the knack of covering her subject without ever losing the plot or theme. She also has a way with humour that holds a subtle tinge of poignancy, but still tempts you to smile and admire the way she has captured the scenery, the people and her own thoughts.

The “Shisan Renku: Armchair Travel” by Lee Bentley is a form to which I’m a relative newcomer, but Bentley’s approach in this solo shisan is sensitive and enlightened, the language is concise and to the point, through always leaving space for deeper insights and various interpretations. Standout poems for me are verses 6 and 7:

armchair travel
one tea at a time

driving through
a kaleidoscope
of tulips

Alexander Ask and Julia Wakefield’s “Shisan Renku: Life’s Inner Journey” not only explores their surroundings but also their minds and hearts. The natural treatment of the theme results in freshness and modernity. It is significant that they make us realize the way in which nature helps us to explain our deepest feelings. Two fine verses from the shisan are Alexander Ask’s verse 5 and Julia Wakefield’s verse 8:

balmy evening
mother’s war stories
amongst mosquito corpses

wind blow love letters
from sky to earth

The verses of Lynette Arden, Marilyn Linn and Alexander Ask in their “Triparshva Renku: Last Summer’s Bushfire” illustrate the plight caused by

last summer’s bushfire
how cold the frost
on charred land

Marilyn Linn

and the way in which nature and human nature overcome natural disasters and, by the close of the Renku, life returns to normal with new birth in Lynette Arden’s verse 22:

in the old tree hollow
a rosella chick breaks shell

Haiku sequences are by Beth Angel-Starwarz, Lynette Arden, Alexander Ask, Rachael Mead and Athena Zaknic. Here are two haiku from Rachael Mead’s “Autumn nights” and two from Athena Zaknic’s “Christmas haiku”:

footsteps at night
on my skin
a spider

cloud swathed moon
another quilt
on the bed

*

small child
to bed for the longest night
Christmas eve

yearly gathering of the clan
for Christmas dinner
silent night

There is also one tanka sequence, “A Pair” by Belinda Broughton. This is the last tanka from her sequence:

droplets
on the naked tree
pooling
blue light
his aging eyes

Here, gathered in a single volume, are some of the best Australian writers of Japanese short form poetry. Showcasing poems from accomplished writers, the collection also introduces new writers. The poems in Haiku Bindii Journeys testify to the poets honest and loving relationships with the Australian landscape, their memories of place, nature and people, evoked and explored (sometimes with humour) through closely observed detail. To sum up, a really judicious selection has resulted in a collection which accurately reflects the poets’ abilities, their flair for sensing and conveying the depth of uncommon moments. This collection would make a beautiful addition to anyone’s bookshelf or a wonderful gift.