Blank Spaces

Just a quick thumbs up to Susan Morgan for putting together this heartwarming collection. It’s not haiku, and it does contain a fair amount of rhyming verse, but the poems are very grounded and accessible. Dedicated to the Butterflies Dementia Support Group, the book’s strength is how it deals with the effects of dementia, while at the same time celebrating life’s small joys. Here’s one of my favourite poems (it’s been good to have had time to read this week):

Coastal Visions

Here’s a beautifully produced A4 book of haiku and glass art which is an absolute bargain at £7.99 plus p&p.

I’ve chosen a couple of haiku below to give a flavour of the book, so I hope it tempts you. The photographs are clear and luminous, as if a bit of the coastal light has been captured on every page.

Coastal Visions is published by the British Haiku Society and is available from Ian Storr.

The Heron’s Nest

Needless to say, I’m over the moon to have a haiku in the current issue of The Heron’s Nest, but more than that, I’m in awe of this beautifully quiet yet expansive haiku by Frank Hooven:

one sandal
under the swing

I love the simplicity and tenderness of the scene, the way what’s left behind is enough for us to construct a whole backstory. No wonder it’s the editor’s choice – if you follow the above link you can read her comment in full, and it says much more than I could so I’ll leave it at that, except to say that the issue is packed full of superb poems and I feel very humble to have my haiku alongside them.

amidst fierce flames

We went camping to Hebden Bridge this weekend, did lots of walking, and on one route, stopped off at Heptonstall. I’ve visited Plath’s grave before, but the cemetery was a little overgrown this time, lots of coarse grass between the rows, and rose bay willow herb seeding everywhere. It was quiet though, and lovely to stand a while in the sun. I tried to write a quick haiku, although I wasn’t particularly happy with it. Still, I copied it out, folded it up and placed it under a stone so it wouldn’t blow away, squeezing it in between all the other offerings.

late summer
wisps of willowherb
the hum of bees

I’m home now , trying to catch up on the housework. Most of the camping stuff has been put away and there’s already a line full of washing. How can a few days away generate so many dirty clothes? In between jobs, I keep going back to my notebook, trying to write something that gets to the heart of the visit a bit more.

through the drift
of willow herb seeds
I imagine her ghost

It still seems too generic, but it’s an improvement on the one I left on her grave.
I read Matthew Paul’s post on Simon Chard. I agree with him that Chard’s haiku are surprising and inventive. There’s also a comment on Paul’s blog about an American editor for whom the place name Adelstrop didn’t resonate. I look at my notes again. Could I use the name Heptonstall? And, as an American, wouldn’t Plath have called rose bay willow herb fireweed? Even amongst fierce flames… I want there to be a connection. I want all these names and ideas to come together in a tiny poem, but I know I have to leave it alone. I’m working at it in a way that will produce nothing of interest or merit. If it comes later it will be a gift. If it doesn’t I shall have to accept it. In the meantime, there are jobs to do.

washday morning
pegging my thoughts
out to dry

Business in Eden

What a good find this was, in the Old Station bookshop in Wells-Next-The-Sea, Norfolk. I’ve been enjoying the haibun in it all week, and Cobb’s knowledge of the area and its history is stunning. Here’s a couple of ‘Norfolk’ haiku that appear together:

Suffolk and Norfolk
the boarder between them marked
by sheep on both sides

ewe and small lamb
the bleating of parted sheep
across the Ouse

I think the second poem is the strongest; it almost says the same as the first but not so overtly. However, in the context of the haibun, ‘Spring Journey to the Saxon Shore’, placing the two poems together gives the sense of immediacy. This haibun is a journal of a cycling trip, so placing the poems consecutively almost makes us feel that the first might have been the first draft, whereas the second is a little more crafted. Speculation, of course, but I’ve always been interested in the writing process, so I’m often on the lookout for little clues like this.

Another poem I like from the same haibun is this one:

day and night equal:
as celandines close
the stars come out

What I like here is how much is implied, rather than actually stated. The shapes and colours of both the stars and the flowers are there, but not in words! And in the context of the haibun they also colour the prose and bring the landscape and Cobb’s journey vividly to life.
As you might have guessed, it’s been a bit of a haibun week, both in terms of reading and writing. How fortunate I feel, to have reading and writing time. Two weeks to go before the start of term – and believe me it always comes around too quickly. So, I’ll finish with this fun haiku, taken from the haibun ‘The School Christmas Show’:

a child blows
into a balloon
the balloon blows back

Cobb, David, Business in Eden, Equinox, 2006

The Coffin Path

A massive thank you to Presence for publishing my first haibun, The Coffin Path, which I’ve posted below. I usually wait until a magazine has been out a while before I put published writing on the blog, but it’s been a long time since I posted anything. First work got in the way, then a lovely holiday in Norfolk! However, I’m aiming to get back on board with the blog now, so here goes:

The Coffin Path

Grass, waist high this morning, and wet with last night’s rain. Brushing past it, my jeans wick the droplets from seeding cock’s-foot and brome. No one else walks this way. Behind the hawthorn hedge is the cemetery. People tend to use the other path, the one that the council mows. Or else they drive – ‘to save their legs’ my mother says. Some days she says she wants to be buried. Other days, she thinks she’d prefer to be cremated and have her ashes scattered next to a memorial bench. No rush to decide, I tell her, trying to make light of things.

pressed in her prayer book
a recipe for wine


I’m currently trying to decide on 3 ‘water’ themed haiku to send in for the British Haiku Society’s members’ anthology. I admit I’m finding it hard to come up with anything original (most of my water poems are about rain – something we could badly do with at the moment)! And that leads me to my second plug for Presence: Matthew Paul’s essay on Caroline Gourlay, which is informative, incisive and highly readable. Here’s Gourlay on rain (as quoted by Paul):

the skins of wild damsons
darkening in the rain

Paul’s right to describe this haiku as extraordinary: on the sound patterns imitating rain, the power of the adjective ‘wild’ (I’m paraphrasing his comments here). For me, there’s a sense of a secret being imparted in this haiku. Despite the exclamation mark, I imagine the speaker whispering, a slight hush in the voice, a sibilance replicated in ‘skins’ and ‘damsons’ that might also imitate the sound of rain that Paul mentions. I also sense a relationship being played out (between lovers perhaps, or just friends). I go back to the words ‘wild’ and ‘skin’. To see those damsons darkening is to be out there in the rain, getting soaked to the skin. The command ‘listen!’ implies the moment is shared, that there is someone else in the scene. And the reader? Well, the the reader is being allowed to overhear, to be included in the experience. Yes, it’s an extraordinary poem, and Paul’s essay makes me want to revisit Gourlay, which hopefully I’ll have time to do over the summer.
So thank you Matthew Paul, and thank you Presence!


How lovely to be in this beautifully produced magazine. I had three poems accepted some time ago, but wasn’t sure when they were being published. Then, a couple of days ago, an envelope arrived containing this little gem of a magazine. Here’s one of my poems:

And here’s a couple of poems I’ve really enjoyed as I’ve been reading. The first, by Ron Scully, is the title poem for this edition, and the second, by Scott Metz, is intriguing in its use of space and line break. Hope you like them as much as I do.

Tinywords etc

It was lovely to get back from a music festival last weekend and see my poem (above) published on the Tinywords website. One of my regular dog walks goes past an apple orchard with some bee hives in the top corner, and I’d been trying to write something about them for a while. I’m so pleased that the editors chose it, even though I was a bit worried that ‘crepuscular’ might be too heavy and go against the ‘lightness’ that haiku strive for.
It’s been a strange week, creatively speaking. The highlight of the Bearded Theory music festival, for me, was Patti Smith, especially when she read Ginsberg’s ‘Holy’ – I think I’m right in saying it’s the litany that comes at the end of Howl. Such a brave and committed thing to do, to recite that to a festival crowd who, let’s face it, aren’t there to hear poetry, although maybe these lines held some resonance:
‘Holy the groaning saxophone! Holy the bop apocalypse! Holy the jazzbands marijuana hipsters peace peyote pipes & drums!’
You’d think, spending last weekend at a festival, then having the week off work (half term) I’d be buzzing with ideas. However, as I said, it’s been strange, creatively speaking. I’ve jotted down about four haiku, one I like, the other three contrived and not really going anywhere. I’ve had a guitar lesson, but not given over enough time to practise. I’ve walked the dog, but dutifully, rather than enthusiastically. I know that’s how it goes sometimes. You just have to accept the peaks and troughs. And I know you can’t force a poem, although I do believe you can facilitate it. Writing this blog post, I’m trying to do that, because I realise it’s important to acknowledge success, especially when you think you’re hitting a fallow patch. So, I’ll leave you with this poem, which is one of three (I was amazed when they accepted three poems) recently published in the May edition of the British Haiku Society’s journal, Blithe Spirit:

dawn across the allotments
beads of coral spot
on last year’s pea sticks

Here’s hoping for further inspiration!

thread of light

I’m not quite sure why I’m suddenly getting very elongated photos from my camera, but in this case it seemed to echo the mullioned windows so I’m going with it! We were away for Easter and the photograph was taken at Gainsborough Old Hall (near Lincoln). It’s a mediaeval manor house, billed as a hidden gem, although I have a good friend who lives in Gainsborough so I’ve visited it before. Anyway, this post isn’t about that, it’s a quick apology for not having posted much recently, and a quiet celebration of some lovely work that has caught my eye online – Bill Water’s ‘fairy doors’ and Marianne Paul’s collage haiga:

by Bill Waters

by Marianne Paul

Marianne’s poem is published on the Tinywords website and it appealed to me because I love collecting bits of unusual paper (I have a carrier bag full upstairs). I’ve done a bit of collage, but always thought of it as separate to haiku. Having seen her work, I feel inspired to do something similar, although I’m well aware that there’s a huge amount of time gone into her piece – it’s not just the making, it’s the thinking behind it. These days I’m wary of setting myself up to do something I don’t have time to achieve! Still, her work will stay lodged in my head until the right time comes along.
Similarly with Bill Water’s work, I can see there’s a good deal of time spent not only on the crafting of the fairy doors, and the haiku that go with them, but also positioning them, finding the right space/ environment/ backdrop (call it what you will). Bill has many poems on public display and I like the generosity of that.
Both of these pieces seem to have a playfulness about them. ‘Playful’ is a word that is often applied to art, suggesting some sort of trick, or in joke, but I think in this instance, it’s in the creative process itself; the fun that was had in the making shines through.
Well, time’s up. I promised myself I’d do this post quickly – it’s Saturday morning, there’s a week’s worth of washing to hang out, some spider plants to pot, a guitar to be played and a dog to be walked. Happy days!