Favourite Haiku by Vanessa Proctor

What an enjoyable task it was to choose 10 favourite haiku. There are many, many more that especially appeal to me, but these are the ones I have chosen this time. Most of them deal with man’s experience of nature and present us with a new way of viewing the world. They all have the quality of resonance which has kept me thinking about them long after the first reading.

through a hole
in a borrowed tent
the Milky Way

– Steve Shapiro

This haiku is startlingly fresh. The small hole in the tent is juxtaposed against the vast Milky Way and the reader gains a new perspective on the universe. What is telling is that the tent is “borrowed” and this adds another layer to the poem.

spring loneliness –
it falls short of the surf
this stone I toss

– Masajo Suzuki
(translation by Lee Gurga and Emiko Miyashita)

Masajo Suzuki has a talent for gaining in-depth insights into human experience through her haiku and this poem is no exception. The first line is unexpected – spring isn’t traditionally seen as a time of loneliness, but it is clear that the poet is reflecting on how life doesn’t always live up to expectations. While the above is a translation, it works well in English with the sibilance adding to the sense of loss. There are so many layers here, with the emotion at the forefront, contrasted by the timeless nature of the sea.

snowy night
sometimes you can’t be
quiet enough

– John Stevenson

This poem is peaceful, deftly portraying the magical nature of snow. Inherent in this haiku is a reverence for the natural world.

raking aside leaves
on the backyard pond
I release the moon

– H.F. Noyes

Many poems have been written about reflections, but in this haiku Noyes masterfully combines the mundane with the sublime.

hearing the island
divide the river
starless night

– Burnell Lippy

Burnell Lippy shows us a new way of viewing, actually listening, to the world. In the darkness, the river takes on a life of its own and what is interesting is the idea that it is the island itself that divides the river.

at the edge of the wood again that childhood dread

– Stuart Quine

Stuart Quine writes superb one-line haiku. The pivotal word here is “again”, implying that the dread from childhood is a part of the subconscious mind. “at the edge of the wood” implies that we are at the boundary of fear “again”.

the tai chi master
shifts his stance

– Peggy Willis Lyles

The close connection between man and the natural world can clearly be seen in this haiku as the tai chi master is temporarily distracted by a dragonfly. The moment is beautifully captured.

if I’m pregnant
I prune the old rose

– Claire Bugler Hewitt

The poet is in a state of flux as her life may very soon change, yet together with this sense of not knowing, the seasons remain constant and she is grounded by the tasks of daily life. This poem marks the cusp of major turning point in the poet’s life in a gentle and moving way.

at the airport
not sure which hair colour
to watch for

– Jeanette Stace

Jeanette Stace has featured prominently in the Favourite Haiku section and for good reason. Her humour is quirky and appealing and this senryu says a great deal about relationships and personalities.

at the station
a swirl of old tickets –
she kisses my cheek

– Peter McGregor

I’ve always read this as a goodbye haiku, but it could also be seen as a greeting haiku. Either way, the situation is charged. Peter McGregor has caught this station moment and its emotion perfectly with the movement of the “swirl of old tickets” and the kiss on the cheek.

Editor’s note: Vanessa Proctor was born in Singapore, brought up in England, has lived in New Zealand and now lives in Australia. She is a wife and mother to two young children and discovered haiku while living in Japan in the early 1990s. Her work is widely published and has won numerous awards.