Favourite Haiku by Alan Summers
What is it about haiku? After 25 years of coming back to this genre, being pulled back, I would have to say it’s the mysteriousness of unsaidness in the white echoes of haiku, as well as the people I meet, in person or in the virtual world. Choosing just a handful of haiku was a nightmare mission: Over the years I have easily read many hundreds of thousands of haiku, and thousands upon thousands have given so much back to me. So when someone comes up and says it’s only poetry, that they are merely poets, remember the days those poets pulled us through a difficult day, a month, sometimes a whole year, even when they themselves might lead their own perilous day to day existence. These people are not just writers but proactive humans, surviving and sharing; they care when others turn their backs on us.
When I am at my lowest ebb, there are haiku that are my magic bullets: The people also are as much the unsaidness behind the text, the large expanse of empty space surrounding a haiku poem and “…white space can make or break the effective transmission of image and text” (Keith Robertson); “Space is the writer’s medium as much as the black lines of language” ( Betsy Warland); and “…sometimes what is excised speaks most clearly” (Rain Taxi).1
So I look for what is not said, feeling in between the lines, follow the author if possible, as they attempt to leave a trail of breadcrumbs for me, so I can get out of my dark forest in time. The following culprits who save my skin through poetry are representative of a larger team of daring writers who save me again and again.
Karen Hoy writes from three main approaches: Either natural history influenced, due to her background as a wildlife film-maker based in Holland and the Serengeti; or legal/crime documentaries, for example, the Discovery Channel six-part series Dallas DNA (her title, and as an executive producer); and the other approach is an insight in being a woman at large.
the breeze around
a lone ragwort
– Karen Hoy2
Death Row cleaners
the waiting palm prints
on the visitor partitions
– Karen Hoy3
leaving his place
the heels of man-socks
around my ankles
A haiku writer who comes out with most extraordinary imagery, and delivers juxtapositions with fava beans and fine Chianti wine, and all with her own deadly white spaces.
the cat’s teeth
dribble oriole blood
– Mary Weiler5
of slow moving algae
my alcoholic father
– Mary Weiler6
a muscle of minnows
changing the current
– Mary Weiler7
Frances Trosborg brings to the table a wry observation, an important aspect to haiku, and invites the reader to see another way, just for a moment, things askew, other worlds that live on the far reaches of our perceived spectrum.
a bee gathers the faerie deep in the flower
– Frances Trosborg8
herring gulls their houses on our houses
– Frances Trosborg9
Dru Marland, rarely seen in haiku magazines, if at all, embodies courage, more than I can begin to say, and modestly presents her vast connection with natural history. She lives on a narrow boat moving from one canal spot to another, and when (and where) I can I sometimes buy her coffee, or she brings out some hard liquor. Dru’s white echoes are those of life; of living cheek by jowl with nature so that the thin line crosses over, it’s where her style of nature writing, and haiku, comes into existence, and its own power.
Snow out of season
softer than the blackcap’s song
drifting on the Downs
– Dru Marland10
Over the still sea
a sudden cluster of clouds
just the sighs of whales
– Dru Marland11
Ol’ lonesome freight train;
low call of the tawny owl
rolls over the roofs.
– Dru Marland12
I’ve only briefly corresponded with Angela Terry, but admired this haiku for many years. Where some haiku can be over-visual excluding other senses, this one makes my hair stand up on end with electricity.
sizzling in twilight
the baby kicks
– Angela Terry13
Marianne Paul comes from a family of storytellers, and weaves magic and gifts into haiku; things happen and you feel there is even more happening round the corner, in the periphery of our perceived eyeline.
across the roof shingles
– Marianne Paul14
the floating nests
of prairie doves
– Marianne Paul15
– Marianne Paul16
Chase Gagnon, starting haiku at 14 years old, and now at 20 setting a gold standard with his seeing eye, reminds us that we can lose or diminish our own inquisitiveness if we are not careful. He is currently mapping out the white echoes of Detroit by photograph and poem.
my dog steps
on the moon
– Chase Gagnon17
David Briggs has a poet’s eye that levers up ordinary language and looks beyond, and engages incident and accident with their own undertones of sheen and polish that we forget is always there.
a fishing fly loosed
at riverine shadows
– David Briggs18
a skein of ashes,
mother and son
– David Briggs19
Malintha Perera weaves karumi in and out of her work; lets us see the mysticism that is all too real and never imagined. Basho and Chiyo-ni sit down with her for hours over green tea.
with a broken beat
– Malintha Perera20
for a self
– Malintha Perera21
one by one
– Malintha Perera22
1 Keith Robertson (1993), On White Space in Graphic Design (Émigré no.26, 1993); Betsy Warland, Scored Space, 17 seconds ( : a journal of poetry and poetics ) FIRST Issue: FALL 2008; Rain Taxi review about Betsy Warland’s Only this blue (Mercury Press, Toronto 2005).
2 crowded carriage : A Vast Sky, An Anthology of Contemporary World Haiku (Tancho Press 2015), ed. Bruce Ross; Koko Kato; Dietmar Tauchner; and Patricia Prime ISBN-10: 0983714126 ISBN-13: 978-0983714125
3 leaving his place : Another Country: Haiku Poetry from Wales ed. Nigel Jenkins, Ken Jones and Lynne Rees (Gomer Press 2011) ISBN: 9781848513068.
4 Death Row cleaners : Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts Vol.1, No.2 August 2013, Jose Varghese, chief editor (Jazan University).
5 the cat’s teeth : Ibid.
6 beneath continents : Ibid.
7 pregnant daughter : Galaxy of Dust (Red Moon Anthology 2015).
8 a bee gathers the faerie : Winged Moon ed. Aubrie Cox (2012).
9 herring gulls : Blithe Spirit, Vol. 21 No. 3 (2011).
10 Snow out of season : unpublished/Facebook. See more work by Dru Marland, artist, illustrator, poet, and nature writer.
11 Over the still sea : unpublished/Facebook.
12 Ol’ lonesome freight train : unpublished/Facebook.
13 dry lightning : Frogpond 33:3 Volume 33, Number 3 Fall, 2010.
14 mouse-scuttle : Daily Haiku Vol 9: Cycle 17, The Edited Journal of Contemporary Haiku, June 21, 2014.
15 amniotic sac : Frozen Butterfly, the video journal of English Language Haiku, Issue 2, 2015.
16 shore : Bones, journal of contemporary haiku, No. 3, 2013. See Marianne Paul’s website.
17 passing storm : Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts, Vol.1, No.2 August 2013.
18 unspooling : Haiku: The Keyhole of its Details by David Briggs & Alan Summers, Blithe Spirit, Vol. 25 No. 3, August 2015.
19 a skein of ashes : Ibid. David Briggs received an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors in 2002. His first collection The Method Men (Salt, 2010) was shortlisted for the London Festival New Poetry Award; His second Rain Rider (Salt, 2013) is a winter selection of the Poetry Book Society. See David Briggs’ website.
20 early spring… : An Unswept Path (a collection of monastery haiku – part one) 2015. ISBN: 978-1-329-69840-6
21 dandelion fluff… : Ibid.
22 autumn dusk… : Under the Basho 2015 (Modern Haiku category)
Editor’s note: Alan Summers, a Japan Times award-winning writer; author of forthcoming Writing Poetry: the haiku way, was featured by NHK World of Japan around London and Wiltshire. He now lives in the commuter town of Chippenham so he can be closer to London and certain other spots in southern England where he will start popping up as With Words goes on the road, as well as by sea, air, and rail. See Alan’s website. Alan has previously been a co-editor at Bones journal for contemporary haiku. His book of modern haiku, Does Fish-God Know, was published in 2012.