Ruth Dallas

Ruth Dallas was born in Invercargill in 1919 and died in Dunedin in 2008. She chose her maternal grandmother’s name as a pen-name for her first published poems in 1946; her much anthologised Milking Before Dawn appeared the following year, and her first collection in 1953. Moving to Dunedin in 1954, she continued to write poetry, and stories for adults and children, and was Burns Fellow at Otago University in 1968.

From the early 1960s an interest in Asian philosophies began to steer her already concise verse towards even greater ‘brevity and density’. She received an honorary doctorate from Otago University in 1978, and was made a CBE (Companion of the Order of the British Empire) in 1989. Her book, The Joy of a Ming Vase (2006), contains a handful of haiku. As well, her work featured in both the New Zealand Haiku Anthologies, and haiku appear in her Collected Poems. She was one of the few ‘mainstream’ poets in New Zealand who also wrote haiku.

Read more about Ruth Dallas on the New Zealand Book Council website.

catching the rainbow
on a floating thread …
a new-born spider


gentle touch –
a grasshopper’s feet
crossing my own


distant fog-horns
long cries
of the sea-birds


the cat’s fur
bringing in
the smell of the hayfield


old man’s stick on the path
chip … chip…


lilac flowers, so fleeting,
yet so loved,
in spring they’re everywhere


prize chrysanthemum
you have written your own haiku;
you don’t need mine


macrocarpa shade
lengthens over the hill-slope:
autumn afternoon


stacking firewood
of the old forest


watch out for stings
when eating wild honey
or reading haiku

Publication notes

catching the rainbow: Second NZ Haiku Anthology (NZ Poetry Society) 1998.

gentle touch: The Joy of a Ming Vase (University of Otago Press) 2006.

distant fog-horns: ibid.

the cat’s fur: ibid.

old man’s stick on the path: New Zealand Haiku Anthology (NZPS) 1993.

lilac flowers, so fleeting: Collected Poems (University of Otago Press, revised edition) 2000.

prize chrysanthemum: ibid.

macrocarpa shade: ibid.

stacking firewood: Second NZ Haiku Anthology.

watch out for stings: Collected Poems.