Favourite Haiku by Patricia Prime

As a reader, writer and editor of haiku for the past two decades, I must have read thousands of haiku. For my selection of “favourite haiku” I’ve concentrated on recent poems from those journals I believe to be among the best: Kokako, Blithe Spirit, paper wasp, Presence and the online journal The Heron’s Nest. I haven’t included Modern Haiku as I don’t subscribe to this journal or Frogpond, to which I am a new subscriber.

Full of observations of the tiny incidents in the natural and human world, these haiku show an intuitive awareness of natural causes and effects, such as we see in the first three haiku which combine humour and lightness in a way I find appealing:

trying to keep up
to my ice cream

– John Soules, Kokako 15, 2011

her diagnosis
through a cut glass bowl
peonies fall

– John Parsons, Kokako 15, 2011

spider’s web
protecting the doorbell –
she goes next door

– Ron Woollard, Blithe Spirit, Vol. 21, No. 4, 2011

The next two illustrate the delight many haikuists find in writing about children:

helmeted children
bouncing off the trampoline
summer rain

– Diana Webb, Blithe Spirit, Vol. 21, No. 4, 2011

runaway toddler
trapped by the pelican’s
stern eye

– Jacqui Murray, paper wasp, 17:4, 2011

Nathalie Buckland’s haiku demonstrates a marvellous contrast between the conventions of a poetry meeting and the ibis ready to gather up scraps (almost like the poets who may garner ideas from one another).

Nola Borrell’s haiku also focuses on birds, but here they are nesting and the poem’s success comes not only from its fine images and our emotional response to the disaster which might be about to unfold, but also to its explicit subject:

cluster of poets
the ibis
waits for scraps

– Nathalie Buckland, paper wasp, 17:4, 2011

nesting wrybills
floodwater washes away
the warning sign

– Nola Borrell, Presence 45, 2012

The last three haiku are striking and accomplished, in terms of both feeling and technique.

Pamela Brown’s haiku evokes our feelings of sympathy for the animal evidently lost in the snow, while the image of the “blue ear tag” suggests that the ewe may be found by the distressed shepherd – it’s a nicely balanced poem.

Sandra Simpson shares with us a humdrum inconsequentiality which nevertheless is brought to life by the “magpie song”; while Owen Bullock’s haiku is grounded in vivid and specific images which sharpen the intimacy between writer and reader.

mountain pass
by the ewe’s skeleton
a blue ear tag

– Pamela Brown, Presence 45, 2012

counting the lines
on my neck
magpie song

– Sandra Simpson, The Heron’s Nest, XIII, No. 4, 2011

blue rain
a kayak frozen
in the slipstream

– Owen Bullock, The Heron’s Nest, XIII, No. 4, 2011

Editor’s note: Patricia Prime is a busy writer, reviewer and editor. She has been co-editor of Kokako, New Zealand’s only dedicated haiku journal, and its predecessor winterSPIN since 2001. She is also reviews/interviews editor for the online journal Haibun Today, reviews editor of Takahe and one of the editors for the Take Five Anthologies. She writes collaborative haibun, tanka sequences and shisan with a variety of poets. Read some of Pat’s own ku on her Showcase page.