Category Archives: Haiku

The Haiku Calendar

I’m not that superstitious, but I never open a new calendar before January.  I came back from a wonderful traditional Dutch family New Year’s Eve yesterday.  The small desk calendar sits on my dining table.  I gave several as Christmas presents.  I’m keen to support small publishers: John Barlow has published the haiku calendar since the start of the century, along beautifully produced anthologies and single-author collections of haiku and tanka.

Each month has one haiku with that month’s dates and on the back are three or four more seasonal haiku.  Billie Wilson from the USA has the January slot with a haiku that mentions “winter stars”.

John has an annual competition to select the haiku for the calendar and submitting some is on my Writing To Do list…

Very best wishes to you all and happy blogging…

Poetry Carousel

I celebrated Solstice by scribbling possible titles for a new poem in a beautiful suede notebook which was a retirement present from one of my supervisees.  Then I decided to hop on the bus into Manchester City Centre to buy a special 30th Birthday present for my niece in Holland. Wow!  There were two men dressed up as Father Christmas singing karaoke Christmas favourites.  They said it was their ninth day and all to collect money for the local children’s hospital.  It was cheerful, people smiled and donated money into their bucket.

That new poem was written 10 days ago on the Poetry Carousel, up in Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria.  I think it’s a great format: four two-hour workshops (Friday afternoon up to and including Monday morning) where you stay in your small group of eight and move along the carousel.  It was organised by Kim Moore who also ran one of the workshops on “veiled” narrative.  The other poets were Steve Ely (workshop on speaking with the dead), Hilda Sheehan (workshop on surreal/absurdist poetry), and David Morley who presented on the links between nature and poetry.  Afternoons were free and the tutors and four guest poets read in the evenings.  Mealtimes were an chance to catch up with people in other groups.  I met some old poet friends and made new ones.  It’s no surprise that the next event (Cornwall spring 2018) is already sold out.

Season’s Greetings to you all.  I’m signing off with a seasonal haiku, written during the Carousel:

old snow     behind the bench     rustling birds

Almassera Vella

I have just returned from the Old Olive Press, the Almassera Vella, in Relleu, a poetry writing week with the excellent Ann Sansom from the Poetry Business.  This was my sixth visit and it was a perfect time: writing new work in the morning, time to type up poems or have a swim, leisurely lunch with the other poets and with Christopher North.  A published and prize-winning poet himself, he has run the Almassera Vella with his wife Marisa since 2002.  The olive press has been retained, there is an infinity pool with views of the terraces and a small white hermitage on the hill outside the village.  Inside there is a library with over 3,000 books.  There are a few bars in the village and it’s only just an hour’s drive from Alicante airport.  As well as attending poetry courses, you can book self-catering accommodation next to the Old Olive Press for writing retreats.

broken blue chess piece

the morning after the storm –

our words, free as swifts

The Snail

I’m planning to get the 10.41 to Liverpool Lime Street. I’m on the single-decker blue Magic bus, with the bright orange bars and handles inside. We’re crawling through the Curry Mile – with the newly completed cycle lanes and a few badly parked cars, the buses have to manoeuvre; even the walkers are catching up with us.

white petals float
towards the shisha bar
sleeveless cyclists

The Liver birds are shimmering, a salt tang, ice cream sellers and flocks of French pupils draped around the dock. The Tate opened late this morning. A friendly guide – grey curly hair, faded lilac shirt – directs me to the first floor.

On one side of The Snail four bronzes: a backbone has become an “abstracted plait”. In fuzzy black-and-white film Matisse points with a walking stick to where the next piece of cut-out should be attached. The Snail’s alternative title is Chromatic Composition. Apparently it was planned as part of a triptych, this “purified sign for a shell”. The pin holes are visible in the brightly coloured paper.

In a traditional saijiki (list of kigo, or season words) the snail is linked to summer and that fits with these colours: orange, lilac, greens, blue. My own saijiki is Haiku World: an International Poetry Almanac compiled by the late William Higginson. It’s a unique anthology: over a thousand haiku, from more than six hundred poets, living in fifty countries, writing in twenty-five languages. At 400 yellowing pages it’s too heavy to carry around.

The snail is caracol in Spanish, slak in Dutch/Afrikaans and katatsumuri in Japanese. The Spanish word sounds like the shape of the protective shell and katatsumuri is, perhaps, the non-moving or slow moving, the snail stuck to the window. Many years ago I had a Korean manager lodge with me at Norwood Rd. He and his colleagues were learning English at the Business School. Smoking he paced through the rear garden, saw me sprinkle blue pellets…Miss Fokkina, you nourish the snails?