Haiku and tanka poet André Surridge died on December 23, 2019 in Hamilton. André, who was born in England and emigrated to New Zealand in 1972, was already a successful playwright and long-form poet when he took a haiku workshop led by the late Cyril Childs in Petone in 2002. His first haiku, two of them, appeared in Kokako 2 in 2004 (then an annual publication).
André quickly went on to establish his name in the worlds of haiku and tanka, winning numerous awards and being published around the world. In 2011 he was featured in the A New Resonance series, published in the US, which celebrates ’emerging voices’ in English-language haiku, and in 2016 a tanka by André was painted on to public steps in Dunedin – and remains there today.
He was a genial participant in haiku gatherings around New Zealand – including in 2019 the launch of number eight wire, the fourth NZ haiku, and his own collection, one hundred petals – and will be much missed by his local haiku and tanka groups in Hamilton.
After successfully coming through a gruelling treatment for leukaemia in 2017, André experienced the return of the disease in October. A memorial service for André took place in Hamilton on Saturday, December 28, 2019. His family spoke of him with great warmth and affection. Some of André’s haiku and tanka were shared by Celia Hope, Moira Cursey, Mac Miller, Sandra Simpson and celebrant Don Oliver. André is survived by his wife, Timmy, four children and several grandchildren.
reminding me I am dust this shaft of sunlight
– André Surridge, Valley Micropress 16.1, 2013
there’s no right or wrong
just what is …
a fork in the road
without a signpost
– André Surridge, Tanka Splendor Award (US), 2008
When I was producing Valley Micropress, one of the highlights most months was to receive a string of maybe 10 haiku from André. His writing always seemed to resonate with me and he was undoubtedly one of New Zealand’s top writers of haiku. He just had that knack of turning something ordinary into an extraordinary connection. He shared many beautiful images through his writing, and I often found myself deep in contemplation some time after I was meant to have completed editing his work and to have moved on to the next page! Thank you André for all those precious moments.
Tony Chad, Whiteman’s Valley
I only knew André for a brief time, but he made a difference to my haiku experience. I travelled across with André and Elaine to the launch of number eight wire. As you have noted he was a genial presence. He seemed to me a man of great depths and presence, someone who demanded high standards of himself. I will miss him.
Anne Curran, Hamilton
We will all miss André. He was a lovely man, wrote excellent haiku and tanka, which reflected his power of observation, and his wonderful sense of humour. I feel very sad that he has gone.
Margaret Beverland, Katikati
I remember André being present at many haiku gatherings over the years. He has indeed contributed much, and will be greatly missed.
Shirley May, Tauranga
The news saddens me greatly. I knew André on and off for about 40 years. I’m of an age to have been inured to the death of others – but not to someone like André. He was one of some I’ve been very grateful to have known during our journeys. He was always kind, gentle and generous. Definitely someone who left the world a better place for having been here. That is an understatement. I loved his writing.
Barry Smith, Hamilton
I am sad to hear of Andrė’s death. A gentle and philosophical poet. I am also thankful that he published one hundred petals (2019), despite illness. Now Andrė’s sharp awareness of the thinness between life and death sings more sharply.
in the blackbird’s song
– Andrė Surridge
bigger than the graveyard
– Andrė Surridge
Nola Borrell, Lower Hutt
It was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Andrė Surridge. Andrė and I became “email pals” after we were both selected to appear in A New Resonance 7: Emerging Voices in English-Language Haiku (Red Moon Press, 2011). We shared hundreds of correspondences covering a wide range of topics; from the monarch caterpillar count in his and Timmy’s garden, to the flora and fauna of Hamilton, to our favorite foods, to the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, and of course haiku.
This is an email, typifying our back-and-forths, from Andre that I received exactly one year ago today . . .
How wonderful to hear from you and thanks for the delightful poems.
It is Christmas here and fast approaching noon. The weather today is kind, no rain so far. We picked plums from the village tree across the road, one each.
For morning tea we had mocha with apricot and brandy tarts topped with brandy cream.
After our siesta we will go to Lake House to be with daughter Jill and family and enjoy Christmas dinner together.
Sadly not a monarch caterpillar, chrysalis or butterfly in sight today.
The last bone marrow biopsy in late November revealed that the leukemia is coming back. I’m in good spirits. This may be my last Christmas, maybe not, for it is a time of miracles.
My love to you and your family and best wishes this festive time and for 2019.
Andrė was such a good soul and poet and I treasure our correspondences. It was fun sharing haiku and comparing opposite seasons with him over the years. He will continue to be an inspiration to me.
This is a tanka that Andrė sent me, published in Kokako 21 . . .
while you drive through snow
in night-time Massachusetts
in the Waikato
Cheerz to you, my dear friend Andrė . . .
Alan S. Bridges, Littleton, Massachusetts, Christmas Eve, 2019
I had the opportunity of meeting Andrė a couple of times at the E-Ripple Haiku group in Hamilton. He was such a kind, friendly and creative person. May our good Lord give him a peaceful rest.
Adjei Agyeh-Baah, Hamilton
We knew of course he was ill and back in hospital but his passing is a great loss. I’m so pleased we swapped books and conversed a little about our mutual love of haiku. Andrė is a great loss to NZ and haiku community.
Ron Moss, Tasmania
I first met Andrė at Haiku Festival Aotearoa 2008 in Christchurch. I had been writing haiku for a couple of years and knew his name from publications such as Kokako. Although we both lived in Hamilton, I had never met him. After the festival we kept in touch through occasional emails and the Hamilton Poets Alive group.
Four years later, we were both at Haiku Festival Aotearoa 2012 in Tauranga and a number of other Hamilton writers were there as well. I gave Andre a ride home and on the way we discussed how good it would be to have a Hamilton haiku group. Attending meetings was difficult for both of us: Andre had to watch his energy levels carefully and I was a full-time caregiver for my husband. We realised that an online haiku group of local writers could be the answer.
So began the e-ripples haiku group which has operated monthly ever since. Eighteen months after the start of the haiku group, a desire arose in 2014 to include tanka. Two online groups were unwieldy and circumstances had changed, so we chose face to face meeting for the tanka group, monthly in a cafe to share and discuss our tanka.
Andrė has been at the centre of the e-ripples haiku and tanka groups. With his generosity, personal warmth, encouragement and wise judgement he set the tone for the groups and because of his wit and sense of humour there has been a lot of laughter.. We have been enormously privileged to have within our group, a friend so respected and admired by the worldwide haiku and tanka communities. I am grateful that his haiku collection one hundred petals was published earlier this year. I will miss Andrė enormously.
holding my breath
of a skylark’s song
– Andrė Surridge, Second Prize, Robert Frost Haiku Contest 2007
Elaine Riddell, Hamilton
I am so sad to lose such a generous friend and mentor. I first met André when he started coming to our poetry group (Poets Alive), probably about 2005. I remember him reading his haiku and saying that he mostly wrote them as they were short and that’s all he could manage at that time with his energy level. I soon learnt there was more to writing 3 lines than met the eye! After trying one or two, André encouraged me to do more and to start submitting to Kokako. He generously presented a workshop on haiku at one of our group sessions and also through him we were encouraged to have Owen Bullock and Sandra Simpson come to Hamilton to do workshops. Later I joined ‘e-ripples’ and have continued to treasure André’s writing, friendship and mentoring.
Celia Hope, Hamilton
It was very sad to hear about the passing of André Surridge. I know he must have been a fine person because I spent 13 months in Hull as renga poet-in-residence, and there’s something very special about the city and its people.
I regularly come back to this haiku, not only because it touches on a single day, which is special in itself, but because it’s packed with layers. A close reader and an empathic one, will continue to be astonished at how much is really here.
As With Words became Call of the Page we’ve continued to use this as a powerful example of looking beyond the words and into the human condition.
Remembrance Day –
the child insists on a poppy
for her doll
– André Surridge
With Words International Online Haiku Competition (2008), joint Third Prize
The ‘Remembrance Day’ haiku starts simply enough, but with a surprise in the ‘phrase’ part of the haiku. Many of us may think special memorial days are for ‘last century’s wars’ but without preaching, only showing, this poem reminds me that wars are still very much with us. I found that the scene with the little girl insisting on a poppy for her doll was very potent. Judge’s commentary here.
Alan Summers, UK, Call of the Page
I was privileged to share André’s company briefly at the launch of number eight wire. Every one around him relaxed in his genial presence. No matter how short the time was shared with him it felt like genuine friendship. He will be missed by many.
Catherine Mair, Katikati
Various members of the Small White Teapot Group had met André at various haiku get-togethers, liked him and admired his haiku. We are shocked and saddened to hear of his passing. For me personally, encountering his haiku in various publications as I often did, was like encountering André himself, it usually brought a smile to my face. It was only about a week ago that I read this one in the Autumn Moon journal:
the rising aroma
of roast chestnuts
– Andrė Surridge
Barbara Strang, Christchurch
André was a treasured friend. We met through a poetry group and because of my short poems he suggested I may be interested in haiku. Over the years he became ‘my poet mentor’. We’d meet over coffee and he’d kindly suggest which of my haiku he particularly liked. This was a great support and I developed a better understanding of what creates a good haiku from his comments and excellent haiku.
In the earlier days because André had difficulty walking I’d coffee at his home. I found a bakery that sold top-rate doughnuts and there became a hilarious ceremony around ‘eating the doughnut’. André had such a wonderful capacity for humour and we would laugh and joke frequently.
The last time I saw André was in the Waikato Hospital in late October 2019. The nurses requested a short visit. Despite his serious ill health the meeting became just like we always had. Full of humor and fun. He said his mum kept phoning him from Britain to say ‘nil desperandum’. Then told me that for many years she’d sent Yorkshire tea over to him from England. Somehow, we came up with a chorus that with great glee we chanted:
Yorkshire tea forever
And that’s what I kept chanting as I left. It seemed such a marvellous and uplifting statement.
It’s hard to think André won’t be with us and that I’ll not be able to share those special haiku meetings. He meant so much to me as a mentor and friend. His exceptional haiku, his encouragement, sense of humour, wit, graciousness and more. I shall deeply miss our special friendship.
the way thoughts
– André Surridge, The Heron’s Nest, March 2019
Jenny Fraser, Mt Maunganui (formerly Hamilton)
I was saddened to learn today that André had died. Although we never met he was a great supporter of Poems in the Waiting Room, and was always happy for me to include his haiku in our seasonal cards. And then of course for our very first Poems on Steps – we used André’s tanka. It’s sited opposite the Dunedin Town Hall and has become a well known landmark in Dunedin. Please pass on my very sincere condolences to his family. I will miss our exchanges and his gentle humour.
Ruth Arnison, Dunedin