Tag Archives: Snapshot Press

The Nettlebed

Matthew Paul June 2020 (002)

 

I feel that I have known this month’s poet for many years. But, I don’t think we have ever met. Like me, Matthew Paul has been a participant on The Poetry Business Writing School. We both had work published in an excellent haiku journal. I very much enjoy his blog posts and am pleased that I can introduce you to his work: grounded in actual place and rich in vivid detail.

Matthew was born in New Malden, Surrey, in 1966, has worked for 30 years as an education officer for local authorities in south-west London, and lives in Thames Ditton. Matthew’s first collection, The Evening Entertainment, was published by Eyewear Publishing in 2017.

He is also the author of two collections of haiku – The Regulars (2006) and The Lammas Lands (2015) – and co-writer/editor (with John Barlow) of Wing Beats: British Birds in Haiku (2008), all published by Snapshot Press. He co-edited Presence haiku journal, and has contributed to the Guardian’s ‘Country Diary’ column.

 
THE TOXTON TORCHERS

Still their identities are secret. Let’s call them Gary and Glyn,
names which are popular then, at the Sixties’ fag-end.
This nit-locked pair of toe-rags, seeking alms box and plate,
enter St Joe’s via its sacristy, find nothing of value
and burn down the sanctuary like proper East End heavies.

They’re not discerning: any place of worship will do-
in the next few weeks, Our Lady Star of the Sea, St Anne’s,
the Kingdom Hall and the new St Margaret’s all go up in flames.
It’s when they smash collection boxes in All Souls that it ends:
old Reverend Carew and his nimble curate get straight on the blower
to the Law, who tip up in Black Marias at Z-Cars speed.

Gary blames it all on gormless Glyn. Brought before the Bench,
their eyes light up like matches as they detail every deed:
how in the new church they hadn’t the heart to torch the tapestries
as so much effort had been put into them, most by Gary’s nan.

 
THE KITCHEN GARDEN

On Capability Brown’s last visit
to this well-temperèd chalkland estate,
he plumped for action instead of advice:
training espaliers of local pears,

which would otherwise have become extinct,
against ev’ry venerable wall of brick—
‘for market opportunities’, he said,
and focused eyes on an artichoke head

whose outer bracts formed interlaced patterns
around the heart’s delirious embrace,
aubergine-veined chroma of grey–jade green.
He claimed it resembled ‘a scarecrow’s brain’.

Unaccountably, he bricked up the arch,
to dead-end our last remaining path;
so now unscalable walls enclose us,
in God’s own country’s Hortus conclusus.
(Both from The Evening Entertainment)

 

TEE (002)

 

THE NETTLEBED

One September afternoon in August, a water vole
beavers through reeds. I feel the slap
of rain on my father’s umbrella. Mercy
and I compare families: I can’t compete
with her memory of travelling,
as one of five kids, with her moody
half-sister in the boot of their dad’s Datsun Bluebird,
without a torch. The teasel-lined tributary disappears,
reappears. Moorhen chicks stumble off lily pads,
to spatter at pace upstream, their parents
flicking tail feathers and squeaking alarm.

We reach beyond toddler-high nettles and burdock—
seedheads packed like the yellowest sunflowers—
to pluck the last few blackberries, sugaring
from ruby to plum. Mercy says the wide outdoors
keeps her well; that nothing else,
neither booze nor love in any of its myriad forms,
quite does the job. We sit on a log to wait and watch.

The moorhens tiptoe over stepping stones fording
back-water channels, to vanish like mumbled
anecdotes. I shake the rain from the brolly
into the river. Day’s end brightens
as an afterthought muttered out loud; becomes
a crumbling hurrah of loneliness. Dusk
spotlights parakeets sidling, like circus budgies,
along the railing of a tower-block balcony.
We realise, then, our arms are stung to fuck.

(Previously published, in a different form, in Fire.)

 

PLOUGH POND

Tiptoeing through them to the Co-op
would be impossible, this ragtag army

of marsh frogs. They block the alley
from our cul-de-sac’s cul, pairing up

to belly down within the water’s grease:
tansy eyes, camouflage-trousered legs

and lime-striped backs, clamped
in the fumble of joyful amplexus.

(Published in Poetry Salzburg Review 34, summer 2019)

A spot of sunshine

 

john-barlow (002)

 

It is an enormous pleasure to introduce the talented John Barlow: poet, editor, publisher and designer. I can’t remember exactly when and where we first met. It may well have been at one of the annual conferences organised by the British Haiku Society.

John Barlow is the editor of The Haiku Calendar, which has appeared annually since the 2000 edition, and co-editor (with Martin Lucas) of The New Haiku (2002). His other books include Waiting for the Seventh Wave and Wing Beats: British Birds in Haiku (with Matthew Paul).

John grew up surrounded by fields and woodlands. A keen amateur naturalist, his haiku appear in Where the River Goes: The Nature Tradition in English-Language Haiku, and he has given talks and workshops on haiku for organisations such as New Networks for Nature, Haiku North America, and the RSPB.

where_the_river_goes_large

His haiku and tanka have received more than 150 awards, including the Modern Haiku Award, The Heron’s Nest Award, the Haiku Presence Award (in 2007, 2010, and 2011), and British Haiku Society Awards (in 2015, 2016, and 2018), while works he has edited have been honoured by the Haiku Society of America and the Poetry Society of America.

In 1997 he founded Snapshot Press, described in Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years as “the most important English-language haiku publishing house outside the United States.” From his published work John has made this selection.  Starting with the inventive vertical haiku, it forms a seasonal progression.

 

down
the
leafless
beech
the
voice
of
a
nuthatch

 

under leaden skies the low-slung belly of a river

 

through her skin
the baby’s heartbeat
fieldfares in alders

 

each one on sunlight the yellowhammer’s phrases

 

summer morning
the riverbed stones warm
beneath my feet

 

sparroweight the groundsel bends to ground

 

a nestful of feathers
and tiny skulls . . .
clouds without rain

 

leaf-cast shade
a hoverfly moves around
a spot of sunshine

 

crab buckets along the quay the gait of trawlermen

 

train delays
for the fifth day now
the dead fieldmouse

 

our shadows holding hands the width of the stubble field

 

inside the clown’s smile the clown’s smile

 

calls of marsh tits
in the autumn woods
leaves release their rain

 

wind-rippled tarn
a raven’s croak
echoes through stone

 

for all the wind-borne spores lungfuls of the wood

 

a stoat arcs into undergrowth thin winter moon

 

the faint pulse
of out-of-tune strings—
winter light

 

 

 

 

 

Haiku calendars

haiku-calendar-2020.jpg

 

I bought extra copies of the 2020 Haiku Calendar to give as presents. This small desk calendar shows one haiku each month, with three or four more on the back.

Twelfth Night –
lobster pots
shouldered with snow
(Sheila K. Barksdale – England)

The haiku presented in the calendar are the winners and runners-up of the annual competition. The competition for the 2021 calendar is open until the 31st of January. Guidelines are on http://www.snapshotpress.co.uk

Twelfth Night was last Sunday when I was taking down Christmas decorations and carefully removing Christmas cards from the display on the kitchen door. And I was also thinking about the other haiku calendar – a present from a friend who lives in Japan. One of these calendars I’m going to take with me to my caravan in the Netherlands. No need to decide yet: my first trip there is early April!

snow scene

 

The images in the large calendar are all from the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Miyajima in the Snow is by Tsuchiya Koitsu (1937), wood cut on paper.

oyuki ya
yuki o mi ni yuku
tokoro nashi

 
So much snow – but
a place for snow viewing?
There is nowhere to go!

(Anonymous, 18th century)

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…