On the 24th March, in the beautiful surrounds of the Allport Library in Hobart, I had the honour of launching Ron Moss’s recent book, Bushfire Moon, with the following words:
I first met Ron about seventeen years ago when his friend Ross Coward brought him along to a meeting of the then recently formed haiku group, Watersmeet. I remember sitting around the long table in the Salamanca Arts Centre meeting room. We had each brought along an object from nature as a prompt for writing, and when it came to sharing our jottings I was struck by the detailed observation and insight in the pieces Ron read out. I can still see the trail of tiny black ants and the gum leaf he described. It was obvious that he had the perfect mindset for haiku, and this feeling has been borne out over the years as Ron has developed his art so that he is now an important and much respected voice in the haiku community internationally.
Today Ron can lay claim to publication in haiku journals and anthologies all over the world. Among the many prizes Ron has received for his poems is the award for the prestigious Seashell Game in 2011 for his haiku “starry night” – which appears in this book. He received The Touchstone Awards for Individual Poems in 2013 and The Touchstone Distinguished Books Award in 2014 for his first collection, The Bone Carver, a beautiful production by Snapshot Press, in 2013.
Ron is a student of the Zen arts and I believe that his contemplative practices greatly influence and contribute to the quality of his haiku and to the paintings and photography he sometimes uses in haiku-related art forms. The striking cover of Bushfire Moon is an example of his fine art work, and a photograph at the end of the book of a ruined house, its garden statue of a Buddha still intact, attests to the subtlety and power of the emotive juxtapositions he uses across his writing and visual art.
Bushfire Moon brings together Ron’s proficiency and experience in haiku forms with his twenty years of service as a volunteer fire-fighter, making him well-credentialed to author this book. Ron was awarded the Tasmanian Volunteer Medal in 2010 and the National Medal in 2013, an award given to members of those groups who serve or protect the community at the risk of death, injury or trauma. As well as fighting fires in Tasmania he has fought campaign fires in three states of Australia. And Ron has been right in the thick of it. An example of this is his moving haibun “Between Heaven and Hell”.
The book opens with the domestic simplicity of an ironed shirt:
fire duty/the newly ironed shirt/still warm
but between the lines there is the intimation of the heat soon to be confronted. After taking us on a journey through facing fires and car wrecks, bereavement and grief, the final haiku closes the circle – it may all start again at any moment:
fire watch/ the first pulses/ of the pager
This is a powerful book, relating experiences of fire-fighting and rescue close up with the heat, the ash, the sweat, the fear, the tears. It is made even more powerful and real by the understatement, the matter-of-fact way that Ron describes each experience. It brings the reader close in to situations that we would prefer to run away from – the force and ferocity of wild fire – but is tempered with the frailty and strength of the human spirit.
Bushfire Moon has been in process for some time. I saw an early draft about three or four years ago, but this year, 2017, is the perfect time for its release, coinciding with the 50-year anniversary of the devastating Tasmanian bushfires of 1967. It is dedicated to those affected by those fires and to emergency and rescue workers everywhere. It is a tribute to bravery and service, told in a form that captures the immediacy and reality of life-threatening situations and the bonds of camaraderie among those who serve the community in this way.
In closing, I will quote from Ron’s own artist’s statement that I found on a website featuring his haiga:
“Basho was once asked what it is that we create. He replied: the scent of a particular human life. When I create, it’s from the sum of all the experiences and the explorations I have made in my life so far. My main themes are life and death, and the wonder of being a part of the universe, not separate from it”.
Bushfire Moon certainly has the scent of a life lived with bravery, beauty, stillness and reflection – all these qualities come through in the writing so that we as readers share in that sense of wonder of being connected to the universe of which we are all a part.
Bushfire Moon: Published by Walleah Press, 2017 and available at: