Review of “Prospect Five” – Dorothy McLaughlin

“Prospect” is an annual poetry journal, with longer poems written by Australians and published in Australia by Blue Giraffe Press, owned and managed by Peter Macrow. “Prospect Five” is devoted to haiku and tanka, with Beverley George as guest editor. Beverley was president of Haiku Oz, the Australian Haiku Society. She edits and publishes “Eucalypt,” a tanka publication, conducts workshops, and writes essays and children’s books. Her tanka and haiku have earned awards, and some have been translated into Japanese. The cover image and design are by Ron C. Moss, and Rebus Press had charge of layout.

The journal as a whole is unmistakably and delightfully Australian. While some of the vocabulary is special to that country, the themes and emotions are universal. With a few exceptions, I was able to understand and appreciate the poems without resorting to a dictionary, though I did look up some words for their precise meaning and enjoyed this verbal visit to a country and continent so far away.

Haiku, usually three-line poems, are here arranged four to a page, while tanka, which have five lines, are three to a page. They are divided, ten pages of haiku, twelve of tanka, and twelve haiku, with the final two pages given to Blue Giraffe Press 2nd Australian Haiku Competition’s three winners and three commended haiku

Occasionally haiku are written in one or two lines. The two-line haiku was represented, including this one on the first page. Seven words painted a spare, dramatic picture.

bone white
a ghost gum fingers stars

M. L. Grace

The poem invited rereading, and “fingers” was an unusual and apt word here. The pictures of the tree added to my assumptions of what it would look like, ghostly indeed, and beautiful, by starlight.

moonrise
a prawn fisher wades through
quicksilver

Kent Robinson

Quicksilver, a beautiful word for moonlit water. the alliteration of many “r’s” and the “w’s” in “wades through quicksilver” adds to the music. The single word in lines one and three were visually pleasing, and placing “quicksilver” by itself increased my appreciation of it.
This was one instance when looking up the unfamiliar term was important. Perhaps because of the similarity to kingfisher, I thought the prawn fisher could be a bird or a human wader. The reading that came with researching the word was a pleasurable insight into the occupation.

boundary fence
the honeyeater’s song
divided

Rose Van Son

Fences don’t keep out — or in — the intangible, things we may hear or smell, the poem reminded me. The placement of “divided”, alone on the last line, underlined its significance.

Bennelong Point
a cluster of white sails
lights the darkness …
echoes of his voice
calling for Barangaroo

Catherine Smith

Not an Australian, I needed the dictionary to understand this, to realize the setting is Sydney’s Opera House and Harbor and not a bare seacoast flecked with sails. The sounds of this haiku, the “s” and especially “Bennelong” and “Barangaroo” caught my attention.

only the wind
knows the dog’s bark
and the boy’s whistle —
old farm truck left to graze
in a pasture of thistles

Michelle Brock

An isolated area. The whistling boy and barking dog suggested to me a carefree pair, but I suppose the interpretation depends on what mood and memories one brings to the reading. The similarity of “whistle” and “thistles” didn’t distract me. The first three lines concern sound, the last two image, a striking, beautifully phrased metaphor.

the tea bowl I made
chipped on the subway home
the master potter
took it back, made it whole
with a fine seam of gold

Vanessa Proctor

A problem with a happy outcome. Perhaps the gold seam changed the bowl’s look, but the master potter was able to repair it, better than before, it appeared. The monosyllables in the last two lines gave a pleasant flow. Lovely.

tomatoes
too green to ripen
before winter
all the promises
we were sure we’d keep

Kathy Kituai

The tanka acknowledges the regret felt when time, health, and opportunity won’t permit our promises to be fulfilled. Maybe, I mused, we need something else after the passage of time. At least, the couple had made the promises, had had the pleasure of anticipation to balance any disappointments.

this emptiness
forty years on …
my newborn son
a chick without feathers
fallen from the nest

Marilyn Humbert

The pain and grief, the universal emotions, are set forth here. The second line stood out; this mother has been living with loss for forty years. She becomes accustomed to it, but it doesn’t go away.

Some tanka are inspired by others’ foibles and faults and reveal the writers’ sympathies while arousing the readers’. The following two tanka must have been prompted by awareness of situations, stories and comments accomplished in the five lines the form allows, examples of love that’s not as near perfection as the observer wishes. better.

she complains
of her companion’s
growing deafness —
beneath my hair, hearing aids
and sympathy for him

Julie Thorndyke

in retiring years
they busied with grandchildren
volunteered, gardened
so many reasons to not
find time for each other

Margaret Owen Ruckert

Haiku offer a change of pace from the longer tanka.

pounding the beach
waves and
power walkers

Duncan Richardson

This spare tanka has captured the sounds of waves and walkers. The repetition of “p” and use of an initial “b” provide a drumming beat.

enclosed order
a wonga pigeon’s
lone chant

Quendryth Young

The haiku introduced me to the wonga pigeon, cousin of the United States’ mourning dove and pigeon. The “o’s” on every line served as a lovely recording of the bird’s call. This was one of the poems that I could enjoy without checking a dictionary, though doing so permitted me to see and know it more clearly.

picnic races —
around the track a dust cloud
full of horses

Marietta McGregor

This haiku captured the event vividly, with “a dust cloud full of horses” so beautifully and memorable phrased.

The weather must have been warm enough for picnicking, and very dry. The tree lines gave me a ticket to the event, a chance to be there.

I was honored to be asked by Beverley George and Rodney Williams, Secretary of the Australian Haiku Society, to review “Prospect Five”, which gave the opportunity to read poems which otherwise would not have come my way. After my difficult decisions over which poems to cite, I could appreciate Beverley’s work as “Prospect Five” editor, the hard choices made, the submissions that must have been omitted with regret. There’s a wealth of good haiku and tanka on the other side of the world, and “Prospect Five” offers a fine collection for its fortunate readers.

Usually a subscription is $15.00. However, this special haiku and tanka issue is $10.00. Those who wish a copy of “Prospect Five” may send ten dollars ($10.00 AUD) to:

Peter Macrow
Publisher: Blue Giraffe Press
6/16 Osborne Street
Sandy Bay TAS 7005

Dorothy McLaughlin
Somerset NJ
USA