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Breakfast with Epiphanies

My love of haiku is unflinching, as is my admiration for Patricia Prime’s work in the field, so it is with great pleasure I publish this review of Owen Bullock’s latest, breakfast with epiphanies.


breakfast with epiphanies by Owen Bullock. Oceanbooks, Mount Maunganui. (2012) p.b. pp. 83. ISBN numbers: (paperback) 978-1-927199-96-1, (ePub) 978-1-927199-97-8, (Mobi) 978-1-927199-98-5. RRP: NZ$19.95. Reviewed by Patricia Prime

Owen Bullock has been writing haiku since 1999 and he has also published tanka, haibun, renga, longer forms of poetry and fiction. He has been the editor of Bravado, Spin, Kokako and Poetry NZ.

The haiku in breakfast with epiphanies guide the reader towards some sort of insight or recalled experiences which in some way are new or imaginatively refreshing. Bullock’s use of simple language enables the reader to respond to his haiku, many of which appeal immediately and on re-reading:

the silence
of this wall


blue rain
a kayak frozen
in the slipstream

The choice of poems Bullock has made for this collection is as near perfect as any discerning reader could want. In form they range from the traditional three-line haiku, to one-line poems, such as the following

I reach the trees so does the birdsong

while others are four-line haiku, as we see in this example:

I’m holding onto a mug
the way father did
in the photo

Most of the haiku are without punctuation which allows the beauty in these poems to be highlighted in the flow of thought through each piece. Punctuation would impede that movement, as is demonstrated in the following two haiku:

no one
behind him
mountain path


river’s stillness
by oars

The haiku are defined by their simplicity and the pure intensity of concision, and through openness, wit and humour. The poetry here is drawn from nature, grief and family to graduation, meditation and smoko. In spite of his invitation to examine the intricacies of his personal life, these topics are familiar and the haiku demonstrate clarity and single-mindedness.

Imagery is a strong point of the poet’s delivery, as he writes “grass seeds / hang / in the night” or “a white duck / through dark reflections / the evening.” Bullock also demonstrates his ability to deal with the subject of illness with a degree of humour:

just before
the doctor’s surgery
my arrhythmia

There are unforgettable lines such as “city dump / a little boy finds / an old speech bubble” and “first light / I have to let go / of yesterday.” The haiku have much to do with a fine use of nostalgia that gives one the sense that the poet is sharing with you a wealth of knowledge, wit and wisdom. The language is uncomplicated and the combination of craft and simplicity makes breakfast with epiphanies a satisfying collection by one of New Zealand’s foremost haiku poets.


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