Members’ News, August 2019

Spring Equinox Haiku String

Spring is definitely making its way back into the garden and into the activities of a whole host of insects, animals and birds. The Spring Equinox falls on September 23rd in the Southern Hemisphere this year and to celebrate, the Australian Haiku Society will host a Haiku String on and around that date. Everyone is invited to participate and we look forward to your offerings. A submission form will be made available on the website at the time of the equinox. More information will be posted to the website soon including the announcement of a theme.

Black Wattle

Melbourne Writers Festival

A number of poets will be reading haiku during the Melbourne Writers Festival at the Immigration Museum on September 5th. If you would like to leave your mark in the haiku form alongside resident poets for the evening as a participating reader in this event please contact Myron Lysenko for further details.

Takanori Hayakawa and Rob Scott will conduct an Open Mic session reading haiku and also guide members of the audience to write their own during the evening.

Field of Stars

A reminder that a new book of haiku, Field of Stars by Lyn Reeves will be launched at Hobart Bookshop on Monday 9th September, 5.30 pm by Irene McGuire.

All are welcome to this free event.

Field of Stars can be purchased online from Walleah Press Bookshop – cost $20.00  (free postage within Australia)

Field of Stars cover


Broken Starfish

Broken Starfish

The latest collection of haiku and ink paintings by Ron C. Moss was launched on the 23rd of August at the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts by Lyn Reeves. A gathering of around forty people were treated to a reading from the collection by Ron and to the insightful words of Lyn’s speech (printed here in full for your enjoyment).

Launch speech by Lyn Reeves:

“It’s my pleasure to welcome you to the launch of Ron Moss’s third book – Broken Starfish.

Many of you will have been here almost 18 months ago at the launch of Ron’s book of haibun, Bushfire Moon. Those of you who know Ron and his work are already aware of his voluntary service as a fire fighter and of his deep involvement with meditation and the study of Zen, a practice which influences and permeates his writing and his paintings. Some of you will be familiar with Ron’s work, and his engagement with the haiku form over many years and for which he has received wide acclaim through his publications and prizes.

Tonight we celebrate the release of his new collection, Broken Starfish, a compilation of haiku and ink brush paintings, beautifully produced by Ralph Wessman of Walleah Press, to whom we are forever grateful for continuing to publish poetry collections when so many publishers have cut their poetry lists.

Broken Starfish is wonderful collection. The delicate paintings enhance the poems and add to the enjoyment of the book – but the haiku are also a kind of ink brush painting in the way that they use just a few strokes of the pen to create an entire picture, the white space, or what is left unsaid, contributing as much to the thought expressed as the words themselves.

The opening haiku:

the first stroke
of the ink brush . . .
ravens in snow

In those ten perfectly chosen words we see the blank page suddenly come alive with the dark shapes of ravens on a snowy landscape, and the poem takes flight in our imagination.

Ravens feature throughout the collection – if Ron has an animal totem I’d say it is a raven – for more evidence of this see his wonderful slide show on YouTube, Heavy with Crows, and be dazzled by another expression of Ron’s unique talent. The ravens in Broken Starfish exemplify both light and shadow, a theme which is strong throughout this collection, evoking a sense of yearning towards the mystery of life, our place in it, the enigma of loss and grief, hope and joy, that is inherent in the big and small moments of our daily existence.

The setting out of the poems – one to a page – encourages the reader to pause and reflect, to contemplate the image and find the layers of meaning that reveal themselves.

Ron is alert, not only to the natural world where he spends much of his time observing and being immersed in its flora, fauna and the movements of the seasons, but also to our humanity.

In a poem like:

his old hands
working the soil—
smell of brewed tea

it is easy to visualise the old man; perhaps he is a farmer, work-worn and with stained clothes and hands, and anticipating a few moments of rest when he can to enjoy a ‘smoko’ and a strong cuppa, as the enticing aroma of the tea reaches him.

There are many references to hands at work: the artist holding a brush or a pencil, a knife maker and a wood carver plying their trade, stacking wood, hammering nails, the barber stropping his blade, children gathering pipis, the striking of a match, the sharpening of an axe. It is details such as these that lend intimacy and tenderness to the poems.

Another feature I’d like to highlight is Ron’s use of sound in the words he chooses. These have a musical quality that appeals, as music does, on an emotional level. The cadences of vowels and consonants, of subtle alliteration, create a sonic landscape to accompany the imagery.

snow follows snow
the way a raven moves
over the mountain

Many of the haiku contain the open vowel sound of O – it’s there in the moon, in the shallows and shadows, in the stroke of a brush – and it resonates with our response of OH ! to the sense of wonder the poems convey.

Let’s take a look at the title poem of the collection:

broken starfish
waves pound the beach
while children sleep

This haiku speaks of fragility in the face of forces beyond our human control. The broken starfish is coupled with the unrelenting force of waves whose energy can be so destructive as they pound the beach. One imagines a storm. The last line, while children sleep, throws another layer over the scene: it becomes night, with the added mystery that darkness brings. Contrasted to this picture of wild surf is the image of children sleeping. In their innocence and the presumed safety of parental protection they are peacefully unaware of the dangers that the wider world holds. This juxtaposition creates a poignancy that takes us out of our comfort zone as we contemplate the hugeness of life and our own vulnerability, and know, without being told in the poem, that the children are also, like the starfish and ourselves, powerless against the tide of life and its vagaries.

It is tempting for me to pick out more of these gems and comment on their qualities, but the time we have doesn’t allow for that, and Ron is going to treat us to a reading from the book. I recommend the insightful foreword by Robert Epstein, himself a student of Zen, whose essay highlights that particular facet of Ron’s writing. You will also gain a lot of pleasure and joy from discovering the poems’ power for yourselves as you read them thoughtfully and slowly and let their beauty seep into you, just as the beauty of the moments that Ron has captured have become part of him, to be expressed in such a way that we, his readers, are able to take them into our own hearts and be enriched by them.”

Ron C. Moss & Lyn Reeves

Haiga: A Successful Meeting of Text and Image

Turtle Light Press have published a noteworthy commentary by Emma Cortellessa on a haiga by Ron C. Moss with a link here for your convenience.

Groups and Gatherings

For the most recent reports from some of the regional groups click on the links below.

Haiku @ The Oaks



Run Haiku Run – Workshop

This workshop conducted by Rose van Son in Perth on Saturday 5th of October is for anyone who wants to write haiku or to include succinct lines in their poetry. In this workshop you will discuss what a haiku is, learn how to edit your haiku, what to look for when searching for haiku and, most importantly, have some fun.

Places are limited and bookings are essential.
More information can be found here.
Poetry Society of New Zealand Haiku Contest

Results for the 2019 contest have been announced. Congratulations to all those selected including Vanessa Proctor for third place and Laurel Astle for placing fifth in the senior section. Both these poets were also selected for commendations.

Members’ News compiled by Simon Hanson

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