Turning Over a New Leaf

by Sandra Simpson

The start of a new year is traditionally a good time to take stock of where we’re at and set goals for the coming 12 months. People who are paid to research these things regularly report that most New Year’s resolutions are broken quickly if, in fact, they’re adhered to at all.

But while the setting of “global” goals – lose weight, get fit, stop smoking, world peace – may be of little value, the setting of specific goals for a specific part of our lives can have benefits.

A few years ago, I set myself the goal of coming within the top 5 placings for the annual New Zealand Poetry Society Haiku Contest. That took more than 12 months to achieve (as I thought it would) but in 2009 I was placed Third.

great-grandfather’s diary –
his sketch of an iceberg
fading away 

Sandra Simpson, moments in the whirlwind (NZPS, 2009)

Since then, I have set myself the (until now) private goal of winning the contest … and maybe 2012 will be the year that I do it. All I have to do is write an outstanding haiku that chimes with that year’s judge!

About 5 years ago my haiku resolution was to enter more competitions and since then I have tried to stick to this, finding the effort has helped hone my haiku skills, both through reading judges’ comments, as well as reading the winning poems themselves.

To my delight I have been placed in several contests, including being one of the first Touchstone Award winners. The haiku that was considered to have been among the best in English in 2010 was not one that I particularly cared for, but someone liked it enough to nominate it and an erudite panel of judges liked it enough to bestow the award early in 2011.

slicing papaya –
the swing
of her black pearls

Sandra Simpson, The Heron’s Nest, XII:3, 2010

The Haiku Foundation airmailed me a block of granite with the poem inscribed on it, which now sits in my garden. That’s an achievement that’s going to be hard to top.

My haiku output isn’t great so my submissions to journals are limited – however, in the middle of last year I decided to submit a selection to Daily Haiku, an online journal that publishes a new poem every day, with one poet featuring for a week. Six poets are chosen at once to rotate through 6 months (there is also a guest poet who features at the start of each new cycle).

Being accepted meant I undertook to have 28 haiku published over 6 months (which in reality meant sending several batches, probably about 40 poems in total, for consideration). The focus required to meet the deadlines was demanding for a slow writer, but rewarding when I found myself writing haiku that I liked – and that the publishers liked too – inspired by all sorts of things, including calendar pictures and chance remarks. The publishers are also willing to look at different haiku, which gave me the chance to “play” a bit too.


Sandra Simpson, Daily Haiku, volume 6, cycle 11, 2011

And, sliding in under the wire, was the realisation of a goal that was a couple of years old – to publish a collection of my haiku. Although I missed my first (self-imposed) deadline to have it done in 2010, I’m glad I waited. The poems are better and the book as a whole is better.

Thanks to the help of a local printer, I am now the proud owner of a couple of hundred copies of breath and have been surprised/humbled/delighted in about equal measure by non-haiku people who have bought it and liked it, as well members of the haiku community.

Waitangi –
the parson bird
sings a different song 

Sandra Simpson, breath, 20110

So where to this year?

The major goal is to realise the Haiku Festival Aotearoa, coming up in June, and make it a success for all who attend. As we are an organising committee of 2 – Margaret Beverland and myself – it’s a project that should keep me out of mischief.

Having renowned American writer/editor/publisher Jim Kacian accept our invitation to attend as a teacher was a real boost to our endeavours. Now all we need is for those registrations to roll in …

Footnote: Kirstin Cliff, editor of haikai café for a fine line (the NZPS journal), has also been following through on a resolution this year – to submit poetry to a journal or competition every week – and keeping a public record on her blog.

“It’s been a very rewarding year poetry-wise,” she writes there. “Not just because I reaped the benefits of so many submissions by being published much more, and much more widely, but because I also met heaps of great haiku-folk [online].”

in my mind’s eye
this new tanka …
the tinker tinker tinker
of teaspoon against mug 

Kirstin Cliff, Eucalypt: a tanka journal, issue 11, 2011


Editor’s note: Sandra Simpson is editor of Haiku NewZ, a member of the Katikati Haiku Pathway committee, a nominating editor for the Red Moon anthologies and an award-winning haiku poet. She lives in Tauranga, New Zealand. She also blogs about (mostly) haiku at breath.