Tag Archives: contemporary haiku

National Science Week Ginko: Sunday August 11

As part of National Science Week, the good people at QLD Writers Centre have asked me to host a ginko and haiku workshop on Sunday August 11. Science and haiku… it’s the perfect partnership, as writing haiku is all about activating the senses to inform your poetic voice.

Here are the full details of the event and how to book a spot:

Date: Sunday August 11
Time: 10:30am – 4:30pm
Venue: QWC Offices, Level 2, State Library of Queensland, Cultural Centre, Stanley Place, South Brisbane
Price: Full Price – $160, Concession – $144, QWC Members – $110, QWC Member Concessions – $99 Book Online here or call 3842 9922

And it wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t leave you with a haiku…

 cockatooburst

fire season
a blue gum explodes
with cockatoos

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The Zen Parables of Steven Carter

The art of haiku is never far from my mind, so it is always a joy to discover a new collection that has been released. Steven Carter’s latest book After Blossom Viewing: Zen parables with Haiku was released by Alba publishing in May this year, so when Patricia Prime offered me the chance to publish her review of the collection, I of course said yes.

After Blossom Viewing: Zen Parables with Haiku by Steven Carter. Uxbridge, Alba Publishing. (2012) p.b. 36 pp. RRP: US$10. UK£7.00 / €8.00. ISBN 978-0-9551254-7-8. Reviewed by Patricia Prime

Steven Carter is a linguistic virtuoso; his work encompassing haiku, tanka, haibun and now his latest offering – Zen parables. Carter’s work is often self-referential, based on his experiences, travel and nature, but the viewpoint in this new book is different, distinctive, disarming in some way.

The set-up is straightforward enough, featuring in twenty-six parables either a Zen Master and his novice or a group of novices, or a monk narrating a fable. What’s notable about them is that they’re almost all narrated in a one-on-one conversation. It’s a remarkable feat: dramatic, sometimes humourous, often very wise. There are moments of comedy, sombre moments of fasting and hunger, revelatory moments, as when a jolly monk tells the story of a cruel emperor in “The Unhappy Emperor”, which ends on a suitably merry note:

“Tell me the secret of happiness,” he thundered, “or I shall have you beheaded.”
“There are two secrets to happiness,” the man said, “The first is being     summoned to such a grand palace as this, to see the towers, the coats of arms, the torches  – “
“What is the second secret?” the emperor cut him off gruffly.
“The second secret is not being beheaded by the emperor,” replied the man.

Cloud Mountain –
the world
seen through a ruby

All the personae are vulnerable to shock and change: the circle of novices in “The Meadow”, one of whom announces that he has no illusions, only to be advised that everything is an illusion. There’s the Zen Master in “The Message” who tells a story from the outside world about a man who receives a letter from his lover only to discover there is no letter inside the envelope, but “the man keeps the envelope very carefully.” A once worldly monk in “Of Love” shares a parable concerning a man sitting beside the sea when a single drop of water lands on his hand and he believes “that the entire sea was contained in that drop. . .

The plain, effective language of “The Monks”, a humourous parable of two monks, allusion and image deal with the theme of comfort in the likeness of their shiny bald heads:

Two bald monks sit down at a table. Pointing to his shiny pate, one says, “On me it looks good.” The other agrees, “On you it looks good.” Both are comforted.

knitted brow of clouds –
seeking a horizon
the summer moon.

In contrast, in “Three Birds” he describes a lay monk remembering a fable about a yellow bird and two sparrows:

A yellow bird flew onto a branch next to two sparrows.
“A canary!” the first sparrow said.
“All canaries aren’t yellow, my friend,” the yellow bird said.
“An all yellow birds aren’t canaries, my friend,” the second sparrow said.
“So I am content to be a yellow bird.”

harmony –
mountain winds
mountain shadows

There’s enjoyment in nature and the countryside is evoked in many of the parables, as we see in “Last Day of the Sixth Month”:

Sitting in a bamboo garden outside the Fukushima Temple, two Zen monks wax philosophical.
“We don’t agree on much, my friend,” observes one, “but you will agree that there are things in life that do not change, that they are, I mean to say, immortal?”
“Yes.”
“And will you agree that the immortal things of this world cannot bestow immortality?”
“Yes, my friend. That’s why they are immortal!”

once again
yesterday’s birdsong –
a different branch

The landscape is beautifully evoked in both the prose and the haiku: “a tree bowing over the steam”, “a grove of poplars”, “mountain shadows”, “the summer moon and “a spreading bayan”. But Carter’s focus is on personal landscapes, the parables he is recounting and their effect both on the novices and the readers of the parables.

Towards the end the book, and perhaps where we see the duality of prose and poem at its best, is the long parable “Near Kyoto” in which Carter uses his poetic skill to ensure that this story crucial to an understanding of parables is neither forgotten nor mythologised by telling it in controlled language. The voices speak plain English: “You know, my friend, doing things right makes one happy. You ought to try it.” Yet the man who did get things wrong prefers to ignore his talkative friend and replies: “But I am happy, my friend; happy as the proverbial mollusk!”

Funny and poignant, tender and wise, the author’s virtuosity impresses. The book contains much fine writing and some positive endings to his tales.

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Knowing when to stop… Watts on Haiku

For anyone with even a passing interest in haiku, this lecture by Zen master Alan Watts is nothing short of enlightening. In fact, for any artist wanting to clear their head, Watts’ is refreshingly direct and profound. So sit back, empty your cup and drink in the wisdom.

Here is a poem from my morning walk…

without a thought
for tomorrow – dragonflies
in wheel formation

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Going on a ginko…

Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of holding a haiku workshop with a keen group of local poets. The workshop was the introduction to a series of ginko (haiku walks) that we will be embarking on over the next five Sundays. And if the first session was anything to go by, I have a feeling that there are going to be many fine poems written…

At the end of the first session, John Wainwright read this haiku to the group:

                                                         gathering mushrooms
                                                         alone
                                                         the dove coos

A superb first attempt!

Cindy Keong has also posted a haiku (and photograph) at her site since the workshop and Lee-Anne Davie has had a flurry of creativity sending me through many fine poems… one of my favourites:

                                                          harvest rain
                                                          grapes hang
                                                          heavy on the vine

So I can’t wait to see what comes from this Sunday’s walk along the Brisbane River. Will keep you posted…

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haiku hit

Want a quick hit of haiku?

I am currently participating in a Junicho lead by Ashley Capes and was asked to submit three haiku for a summer verse. Here are the poems I submitted:

      still dawn
      every cloud is
      a dead lamb

                                              kissing
                                              behind a stand of pines
                                              the sun slips

      lightning
      sky to sea
      and back again

To see which one was selected head over to Issa’s Snail. There are some mighty fine verses waiting for you!

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Fine tune those words… two poetry workshop opportunities

There are many wonderful things about living in Brisbane. One of those things is being close to the QLD Writers Centre HQ at State Library of QLD. The good folk at QLD Writers Centre are always looking for new ways to assist poets with the development of their craft and there are a couple of workshops coming up in March/April that are well worth checking out.

Course 1: Ginko with Graham Nunn

I am thrilled to be running the first of these courses, which will focus on the art of haiku, through engaging in a number of ginko (haiku walks) around this fine city of ours. Together we will take in the sights, scents & sounds of Brisbane and turn those experiences into haiku that crackle.

We will discuss the history of the haiku, explore what makes a haiku work, look at some techniques for writing haiku and discuss markets for getting your haiku published. 

So if you want to Ginko with this Lost Shark, you can find all of the details here on the QWC Website

Dates for the ginko are: Sundays 13, 20, and 27 March, 3, 10, and 17 April and sessions will run from 9am to 10:30am

Cost for the 6 sessions is a very reasonable $95. Bookings essential!

Course 2: Poetry Manuscript Development

If you are at the stage of putting together a poetry manuscript, then this is the course for you. Former UQP Editor, Bronwyn Lea will provide formal guidance to help make your manuscript sing. The sessions will focus on crafting, structuring, and editing your manuscript, as well as providing valuable inside information about current poetry markets in Australia. If you have a poetry manuscript in the making, Bronwyn will provide all the tools you need to pull it together for publication.

 Dates for the course are: Thursdays 7 April, 5 May, 9 June, 7 July and 4 August and sessions run for 6pm – 8pm.

To book your spot head to the QWC website.

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Adelaide Update

Well it’s got to be said, the people of Adelaide love their poetry. My reading at Friendly Street on Tuesday night was really well received by a 60+ strong crowd and yesterday’s haiku workshop drew a healthy audience of poets eager to get a little deeper into the haiku world. Together we explored the history of this magical form, current trends in english language haiku and examined what makes a haiku sing, before sharing and tinkering with the group’s own poems. Here’s one of my own recent poems:

                                                            garden gnome
                                                            up to its nose
                                                            in rain

Ah yes, we sure have had some weather back home.

In complete contrast, tonight is the state final of the Australian Poetry Slam, so that should be a suitably rowdy affair… am looking forward to seeing how they do it down here.

Now, it’s back to the Adelaide markets… this place is a food lover’s heaven.

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