On December 5, Smith’s Alternative Bookshop was packed for the Canberra launch of Owen Bullock’s fourth poetry collection, River’s Edge (Recent Work Press, 2016). Bullock is a PhD Candidate at the University of Canberra and former editor of Kokako, the New Zealand based journal of haiku, tanka and related forms. He also holds a Canberra Critics’ Award (2015). That Beverley George travelled from the Central Coast of New South Wales to launch this book speaks volumes for its quality.
Those who have heard the poet read will know that he is also a performer who can quickly engage a listener’s attention. This was illustrated in George’s speech as she reminisced on her first meeting with Bullock at a haiku conference in New Zealand. The next day he was discovered in the square outside the Christchurch Cathedral, expertly juggling seven balls. A photograph taken by George at the time was displayed as proof!
After the launch we were treated to a performance of poems from the collection. Many of Bullock’s most moving haiku are based on recollections from the time when he cared for elderly people. Other pieces celebrate the New Zealand land and seascapes. Several are written in honour of mentors, such as this poignant example written in memory of Martin Lucas:
to the far shore
We were also touched by the poet’s haiku acknowledging Sue Peachey, who created the order in which the book unfolds and helped with the selection:
the wake of the scaup
keeps widening . . .
my love for you
As Beverley George put it so succinctly on the night : ‘Maybe the chief delight of haiku is the way it can be shared so readily, on a national and international level, and the way it sharpens perceptions, small truths, for all who choose to read or write it.’
This is well illustrated in Owen Bullock’s evocative collection.
– Hazel Hall
- Owen Bullock – River’s Edge, Recent Work Press, 2016.