the farmer calls
his kelpie home
flame trees darken

Sharon Dean


In exchanging thoughts with Sharon Dean I found her discussion of the ‘external context for the haiku’ and her ‘feeling at the time’ to be especially illuminating, for here lies the fire in this wonderful haiku. Walking the back roads near rural Alstonville in northern New South Wales the poet came across a scene that is familiar enough; a farmer calling his kelpie home at day’s end and as it turns out here, seen through a cluster of flame trees. The scene in-itself makes for an appealing snapshot of country Australia. But it is the poet’s feelings at the time in relation to this particular setting that elicits the haiku moment. In her words: “While the dog was being called into the warm and well-lit family fold, I was still out in the quickly fading light, heading home to a cold house and disintegrating marriage.” The flame trees, I learnt, are of special significance here as the melancholy song Flame Trees by the iconic Cold Chisel reverberated with the poet’s own sense of melancholy at this stage in her life. While we as readers’ may not be privy to such details we may none-the-less sense something of the emotion that fills this haiku; without being explicit, feeling finds its own way through well crafted words. In ordinary language, the flame is often a metaphor for romantic love and attachment, so often the source, as we know, of both joy and pain . . .  flame trees darken tells a story most of us can relate to.

This haiku is accompanied by a most evocative haiga painting by Ron C. Moss. Before saying anything else about this painting I must say what pleasure it gives me, in simply seeing it. Its simplicity, boldness and colour all being deeply appealing. Increasingly a fan of Japanese style painting I am impressed by its power to convey character and deep feeling with the simplest of lines and forms. This haiga being a watercolour and ink on Arches rag paper, I’ve come to appreciate of late that the paper plays an active part in the process of painting as it interacts with the paint and ink according to its own characteristic qualities, for example; the way the paint bleeds outward from the flame tree in this haiga is aesthetically interesting as well as potentially meaningful. The painting doesn’t just complement the haiku, in its own way it interacts with it. The image of a lone tree is highly suggestive of this haiku’s origin, it’s colour is full of feeling and the tree itself swept to one side as if by a prevailing wind . . . word and image reverberate . . .

Flame Tree

First published: Haiku Dreaming Australia ed. John Bird, 2010
first place International Haiku Dreaming Australia Award, 2009

(Incidentally, the artist’s seal in this haiga is Ron’s own – meaning Fire Moss)

Selection and comments by Simon Hanson

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