Kokako 21 and Kokako 22

(September 2014 and April 2015)

Review by Sue Edwards

Kokako is a magazine of haiku, tanka, haibun and related genres. It appears twice annually, in April and September.

What delightful covers these little books have. I particularly liked Kokako 21, with its intricate black and white photo of a bird’s nest with a sad little broken egg in the foreground.

On page 3, (Kokako 21), I was moved, reading the obituary for Martin Lucas (1962-2014) written by Owen Bullock. In it, Owen quoted a tanka by Martins:

on the cusp of autumn the man
who always walks alone walking a dog

Owen shared his thoughts on the Tanka, writing, “I admire this piece for its openness of form and its sense of the unexplained”.

For me, these words kept coming to mind as I dipped in and out of both issues over the next few months.

Some were more obvious in meaning, such as Eric Dobson’s haiku, (Kokako 21, p.5):

bobby calves
the lucky one
kept for stud

As a vegan myself, as I listened to the cries of cows over the hills I felt sad reading this. Then there’s Sheila Sondiks’s haiku, (Kokako 21, p.7):

he counts

how many I eat
Valentine truffles

And I remembered thinking, “Is this fat shaming? Does he watch what she eats? Am I over-thinking?” I allow myself to over-think: has he spoiled her Valentine’s Day treat, I wonder? I bet he has.

As a yoga instructor (in a previous life), I smiled when I read David J. Kelly’s haiku, (Kokako 21, p.20):

the lotus
not so simple as
my joints demand

I, too, can’t sit in ‘lotus’ to save myself any more. Catherine Smith’s haiku (Kokako 21, p.21):

beach at dawn
washed and pressed
by overnight tide

Beautifully put, Catherine. I salute you.

It was very hard for me to choose which pieces to highlight in this review because, quite honestly, there were so many. Here are a few more that jumped off the page and spoke to me:

family album, Marilyn Humbert /Crys Smith (K 21, p.48);

home again, Amelia Fielden (K 21, p. 51); and

time and friendship, Ignatius Fay (K 21, p. 63). So romantic… I hope it’s all true, and you’re happy. I instantly visualised David J Kelly’s haiku (Kokako 22, p.10):

café breakfast
the strip lights dancing
around my teabag

I felt a sadness and a sense of desperation reading Hazel Hall’s tanka (Kokako 22, p.38):

blooms from my garden
in winter…
at hospice
an empty bed

Once I read poetry/prose/verse, they belong to me – not the actual piece, of course – but it’s how they make me feel. (What buttons do they press?) I interpret and reinterpret, wrongly or rightly, sometimes. I judge and dissect the piece to fit my own experiences and feelings, to make sense of it.


Of course, they don’t have to make sense; some just live nicely on the page as a group of delightful words.

I found every page of these two books full of gems and I’m sure you will too. Go subscribe to these wonderful publications.

No wonder poetry of all forms is becoming more popular these days.