number eight wire. Edited by Sandra Simpson and Margaret Beverland (Tauranga: Piwakawaka Press, 2019). ISBN 9780473464776. RRP $20. 150 pp.
Reviewed by Vanessa Proctor
number eight wire is the long-awaited fourth New Zealand haiku anthology. Long-awaited because the last anthology, the excellent The Taste of Nashi, was published a decade ago. Its title number eight wire refers to a haiku by Karen Peterson Butterworth about the Kiwi trait of innovation and resourcefulness — the ability to mend anything with number eight wire. It’s a fitting one in that it holds together a strong selection of 330 haiku from 70 poets that are, as the editors state in the introduction, ‘100% pure Aotearoa’, yet is also universal.
In this refreshing collection, there are gems on every page. Perhaps readers who are not familiar with New Zealand will need to look words up, but that adds to the unique quality of poetry set in a particular region. The following haiku could only be set in New Zealand. The first is by Richard von Sturmer:
under grey clouds
uncorks his song
Here is another by Neil Whitehead:
snow still lies
from Kupe’s time
And one by Nola Borrell:
autumn dark under our boots kohekohe stars
This anthology is substantial at 150 pages, and beautifully produced with quality cream paper and generally three haiku on a page, spaced out so that each poem has room to breathe. Divided into seasons, which is traditional, each section is introduced with the reproduction of a New Zealand stamp. This adds colour and interest to the book.
Poems have been carefully selected to produce a meaningful flow throughout the anthology, creating a cohesive and assured collection. While many of the haiku feature the natural world — ever present in New Zealand — there are also many accomplished senryu. The wonderfully quirky New Zealand sense of humour surfaces often in this form. Here is a piece by Catherine Bullock:
long wait backstage —
the evil giant reads
a self-improvement book
And this next senryu is by Anne Hollier Ruddy:
with plastic windmills —
The haiku scene in New Zealand has been vibrant for decades. The form and variety of subject matter in number eight wire is evidence of this confidence. There are familiar names, some poets who are sadly no longer with us, and a number of new poets who have come to haiku more recently. This is most encouraging for the future of haiku in New Zealand, confirming that New Zealand haiku is going from strength to strength.
As a reviewer, I read through the anthology and then immediately turned back to the beginning to read it again, such is the quality of the work. This must-have anthology sets the bar high. It shows how regional influences on haiku can add life, colour, and a freshness to the form, creating something really special. Here is a final haiku by John O’Connor:
mountain stream —
For information on how to order number eight wire, see breathhaiku.wordpress.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Vanessa Proctor, a former resident of New Zealand, is president of the Australia Haiku Society. An award-winning haiku poet, Vanessa lives in Sydney.