I wasn’t sure how to reblog this, so I’ve had to copy and paste instead. I’ve been following Nick Cave’s blog, The Red Hand Files, for a while now, and today one of the questions he responded to was, ‘Do you like haiku poetry?’ Reading his answer, it was good to be reminded of John Cooper Clarke’s haiku:
To con-vey one’s mood In sev-en-teen syll-able-s Is ve-ry dif-fic
I’ve seen him include it in his show a number of times and I love the way the poem leaves you hanging in mid air. I remember the first time I heard him perform it, thinking (quite smugly) I bet hardly anyone knows what a haiku is – but I do! Such is the arrogance of youth, an attitude no doubt shored up by a degree in literature. I am more humble these days. John Cooper Clarke has done much to popularise poetry and his work is just as good on the page as it is live – Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt is fantastic. Maybe his haiku is not for the purists, but it certainly makes me smile.
Here’s how it appears on Nick Cave’s blog:
Do you like haiku poetry? RITA, TORONTO, CANADA
Can you tell us a joke? We need a laugh. LARRY, STOKE, UK
What are your thoughts about John Cooper Clarke? J K, BURNLEY, UK
Dear Rita, Larry and J K, John Cooper Clarke is a very funny man. I used to see him around back in the day, and I think we probably both had the same fondness for dangerous things — drugs and humour. I remember standing in the audience at some little club, maybe forty years ago, and watching John, staggered by his speed and virtuosity and mordant humour, and laughing and laughing and laughing. I have never forgotten his famous haiku –
To con-vey one’s mood In sev-en-teen syll-able-s Is ve-ry dif-fic
So, if you’re in lockdown and feeling low and need to laugh, go online, check out John Cooper Clarke and have your faith in humanity restored. A brilliant, brilliant man. Love, Nick
When I look up at the seamed sky, the black teeth of girders, the cracks of fresh air, I think this is not an accident, but a moment of refusal, a point I can look on and describe in bricks of words, then knock down again before it becomes too fixed,
Nice things happen when you least expect them. I’ve just had a lovely email from Yorkshire Bylines saying that my poem, The Moment (extract above) is currently featured on their website. I wrote it eight years ago, but rereading it tonight it seems oddly pertinent to the current political situation in the US – in so many ways a moment of refusal.
Yorkshire Bylines is primarily a news site but it’s great that they also include poetry and I realise that the lovely Jimmy Andrex, who along with John Irving Clarke has done so much for poetry in Wakefield and beyond, is behind all this. Jimmy’s pamphlet is published by Currock Press and is well worth a read. Of course, as is the way with pamphlets, this one is somewhere on my book case right now, hidden between books with bigger spines (although not necessarily better content) so I’m unable to lay my hands on it. Anyway, I remember that it contains some corking poems, particularly some strong prose poems, and that it has a keen sense of place, rooted in the North without ever being cliched. So, thank you Jimmy for publicising my poem and introducing it to a wider audience.
Sorry if this haiku seems a little gloomy, and really, I’ve had a lovely quiet week off work with plenty of dog walks and some memorable visits to our local pub. They’ve opened their tiny kitchen to do food every night, worked their socks off to keep everyone safe and happy, only to find out at the drop of a hat that they will have to close later this week. I understand there have to be some rules and restrictions, and sometimes it ends up being one size fits all, but behind every business closure there are the hopes and aspirations of ordinary people just trying to make a living. I’m not a political poet, and I don’t want this to sound like a rant, so let’s just say that my heart goes out to them.
Thrilled to have a haiku published online in Tinywords, which you can read here. If you’re interested, Tinywords is free to subscribe to. I’ll own up to having forgotten about this one, and thinking I’d subscribed via email, I let it roll. It was only when I received a message saying my poem was on the site that I checked again. Somewhere along the way I must have pressed the wrong button or missed ticking ‘I am not a robot’. Anyway, I’ve amended that today, caught up by reading the September poems, and now look forward to receiving more haiku in my inbox this month. Odd to see my work with an American spelling, but fun too, being part of a bigger community of writers across the pond. I should mention Dave Bonta here, as I’m pretty sure I first came across Tinywords on his blog. Here’s his haiku, steel band, from Tinywords (April 2020):
I was out walking the dog this evening, clear blue skies, still warm enough to be wearing a t-shirt, when I came across this spider’s web, tatted with thistle and rosebay willow herb seeds. It felt like I’d stumbled on a miniature piece by Andy Goldsworthy. Early this morning there was so much mist across the fields I would hardly have seen it. Of course, tomorrow is the Autumn Equinox, and the weather is set to turn colder by the middle of the week. This was part of the reason I took my camera with me today. I wanted to capture a few images before the weather changes. Hopefully they give a sense of the summer’s end.
crossing the brook lark song seeding the fallow field
I’ve been trying to take things a little slower lately. Maybe it’s the shortening days, maybe it’s a hangover from lockdown when life slowed almost to a standstill and I was actually able to notice the small things for the first time in ages. As I write this, there’s a wasp crawling up the pane of the patio door. It does this busily, zithering about (zithering, if I remember rightly, is a word I picked up from Jacob Polley’s Jackself – he uses it to describe greyhounds I think, but it suits wasps equally well). Of course, the wasp is trying to find an exit, in order to survive. Everything it needs is out there, beyond the glass, easy to see, hard to reach. If the wasp slowed down a bit, it might realise how close it is to freedom. As it is, it continues to buzz frantically, getting nowhere. Eventually it will burn out and drop to the floor exhausted. Okay, I’m not the wasp. Not exactly. But I know that feeling of trying too hard to get to something that seems close, tangible, achievable, having to work like fury to get there. Poems that come out of that state of mind generally don’t please me, and neither does the process of creating them. I’m not saying that I now intend to sit about and do nothing in the hope that poems arrive unbidden. Most likely they won’t. But I have promised myself I won’t be so anxious about ‘doing’ things and overloading myself. Hence the photograph above. We spent Sunday picking blackberries to make some wine. I had a hundred other things I needed to do but I gave myself over to picking this humble fruit. It was slow work, but the sun was out and the fruit was ripe and I felt like I was doing something important. The blog didn’t get done on Sunday because of this. It didn’t get done yesterday because I had a heavy day at work. I’m writing it today because I feel like it. This is as it should be. I’ve had a haiku published in Heron’s Nest this month. When it was accepted, I was incredibly excited, so much so that I sent a rush of other stuff out almost immediately. On reflection, those poems weren’t very good. I was being that wasp. I was zithering. So, this blog might become more sporadic over the next few months, but hopefully it will be the better for it. I’m giving myself space to breathe, to create freely. The wine won’t be ready until late next year, and it will taste even better if we leave it another year or two after that. It’s a case of being patient, of enjoying the wait …
startled by horses the dog careens through wheat fields startling horses
I realise my photographs don’t quite match the poem, but I wanted to do a quick post to try out the new version of WordPress – and I have to say it’s taken me a while. I preferred the old version – so much easier to use. One of the things it won’t seem to let me do is add returns/ line spaces – and if there’s one thing a haiku deserves it’s space. Come on WordPress, make your editing tools haiku friendly. Or at least make them easier to use!