wild camomile – reviewed by Patricia Prime

wild camomile – haiku by Owen Bullock. Post Pressed, Teneriffe, Australia (2009) pp 46.  NZ RRP $15 (+ $1 p&p).  ISBN 978-1921214-56-1.  Available from http://www.postpressed.com.au/: or direct from the author (22 Silverton Road, Waihi 3610 – enquiries bullocktrail@xtra.co.nz).  Reviewed by Patricia Prime.

The pocket-sized book wild camomile by Owen Bullock is well-produced with a striking cover image of the title flower.  The aesthetic pleasure continues inside with no more than two haiku per page and lots of white space to let the haiku speak.

Some of the haiku are perfect and that, to me, is enough to justify any haiku collection.  Bullock is engaged with nature: clover flowers, the blurred moon, seagull wings, ants, a cabbage butterfly, bird song and more.  The importance of the natural world in the poet’s life is demonstrated again and again, with most of the haiku connecting human experience with nature, rather than nature being a separate unity observed from a distance. 

 in the foreground
 of the mountain
 small clover flowers

 a sparrow
 stalls in the wind
 without falling

Many of the haiku ring true with felt moments and original observations.  What is striking about the haiku is their authenticity.  There is also an approach that makes readers feel that Bullock is talking to them alone, thereby drawing them into the writer’s world.  And because of the ‘smallness’ of the content, it feels intimate.

 she folds
 my failed poem
 into a dove

 sunny day –
 why not get
 the divorce papers?

Bullock is not without humour and there are several haiku in the collection that are playful:

 she’s not home
 he throws his tea-bag
 in the sink

 piper’s belt –
 above the ceremonial dagger,
 his cell-phone
The book is a subtle, layered and rewarding read, as well as being a significant marker in the development and publication of New Zealand haiku.

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