Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Red Lights, Vol. 15, Number 2, June 2019

BOOK APPRECIATION: Three-Part Harmony: Tanka Verses

I was honoured to be chosen for this feature by the editor, Marilyn Hazelton. 

In response to her question regarding my musical background as it informs Three-Part Harmony:

I have been playing guitar, singing, and writing songs since the age of 12. My eldest sister was the main musical mentor in my life. I received my first guitar from her as a Christmas gift, and we often played music and sang together. She taught my sisters and me to sing harmony, hence the title and dedication of this book. Though she passed away when she was 28, every time I play my guitar, I think of her.

In response to her question regarding how I compiled the book:

It took about a year to finalize the manuscript. I began my eliminating poems that had appeared in my first book, Warp and Weft: Tanka Threads. I sorted the remaining published work into themed groups, and whittled the field down to approximately 300 tanka. This is like working on a huge jigsaw puzzle. I inserted each tanka into a set until they resonated with each other, thereby breathing new life into old poems.

In response to her question regarding my reflections on three tanka sets she chose at random:


curls of clouds
become passerines
each autumn
the low-angled light
invites me to follow

snow geese
scribe an ancient mystery
across the moon
their soft murmurs
catching winter's breath

a starling
m u m u r a t i o n
sifting the sky
she recalls the moment
her life changed shape

I have been an avid birder for 40 years. Birds inspire me on a daily basis, and they feature in many of my tanka. In murmuration, I tried to encompass the way birds make me feel, how they capture my imagination, and stir my emotion. Here, we have clouds shape-shifting into passerines, snow geese becoming scribes, and starlings changing the very shape of sky.

bread and tempers

that phone call
all those years ago
I still see
a serpent writhing
between her fingers

the argument
escalates all night
inside me
these paper-thin walls
only meant for wasps

we lived
above a bake shop
that summer
of bread and tempers
rising through the night

I find it cathartic and healing to share my joys and sorrows via the written word. I do not shy away from writing about the dark times in my life, because these experiences have helped to mould me into the writer I am, and the writer that I will become.

gunmetal nights

mule deer
resting in a thicket
by the slough
all over this world
the sound of guns

shots fired
another child dies
for a debt
her chalk outline
macabre street art

bullets of crows
on gunmetal nights
a deeper shade
of anguish echoes
in her bones

This set is especially meaningful to me, as I have a complicated relationship with guns. When I was a child, my father hunted to provide food for our family, so they seemed like a necessary evil, if you will. Over the years, two of my cousins have been murdered by these weapons, and with escalating gun violence throughout the world, I find myself becoming increasingly fearful for our global community.

Other work included in this issue:

webs billow
across the pathway . . .
we blunder
into magic, ensnared
by everyday miracles

hares boxing
in the flush of dawn . . .
it seems
impossible to defeat
an opponent I can't see

note: During spring mating season, hares can be seen striking other hares, giving rise to the phrase, "Mad as a March hare."

we step
into the warm barn
by a horse playing
piano with his nose

note: This is a true story! Percherons at a nearby barn are kept stimulated by various artistic diversions, such as painting and playing piano, during bitter winter weather when they are confined to their stalls.

Turtle Light Press, Haiku Chapbook Contest 2019

Thrilled to receive Third Honorable Mention for my haiku chapbook, Songs Where We Least Expect Them!

I'm grateful to the judge, Susan Antolin, for her lovely comments:

"Rich with specific and evocative nature images, this collection showcases the varied landscape and wildlife of a northern region in a vibrant and engaging series of haiku.

mallard flock the iridescent sound of morning

These haiku engage all of the senses and incorporate a wide range of seasonal references. The individual haiku are well crafted and often suggestive of a greater emotional back story.

weathered oars
we fold our worries
into the river

Occasionally, the haiku in this collection also cause us to contemplate our place in the cosmos.

solar flares
a spill of buttercups
in the meadow

In all of these haiku humans are, if not actually present, never far away.

in cupped hands
the harvest moon rests
for a moment

On the whole, an appealing and beautifully crafted collection."

Ribbons, Volume 15, Number 2, Spring/Summer 2019

Honoured to be the featured poet in this issue. My thanks to David Rice!


Sharing My Light

As a child, I used to curl up on the couch in our farmhouse while listening to my father recite poetry. This was my introduction to the power of words, and I remain under their spell to this day.

snow whirls
outside the henhouse . . .
father cups
my hands around
a warm brown egg

3rd Place, 2018 Fleeting Words Tanka Contest

I wrote my first poem at nine, and began writing songs at twelve. My older sister was my mentor and singing partner, always encouraging me to "share my light." When she passed away at 28, I was lost.

a smudge
of blackbirds swirling
into evening . . .
how fluid the shape
of this sorrow

2nd Place, 2018 Fleeting Words Tanka Contest

Years later, I took my sister's advice and submitted work to an'ya at kernelsonline (Cattails). My haiku chapbook, A Year Unfolding (Folded Word 2017) is a direct result of that first acceptance. I am grateful to an'ya for helping me take a leap of faith into short-form poetry. It changed my life!

each moment
here on earth is numbered . . .
so why not
fly too close to the moon,
and hang our hats on stars?

1st Place, 2016 Mandy's Pages Annual Tanka Contest

Shortly afterward, I discovered tanka on Twitter via M. Kei. I am indebted to him for publishing my first book, Warp and Weft: Tanka Threads in 2015, and its sequel, Three-Part Harmony: Tanka Verses in 2018. Both books are comprised of tanka that appeared individually in a variety of publications over the years. I selected tanka that resonated with each other, combining them into triptychs in an effort to expand their scope. This technique allowed me to breathe new life into old poems. I do not think of these "verses or threads" as sequences, because they were not written as such. The titles are drawn from the last tanka in each set and serve to bring the poems full circle.

this fleeting moment

how still
this numinous dawn
we kneel,
watching a muskrat's breath
bubbling under thin ice

light spills
through a fallstreak hole
onto water . . .
if nothing else,
this will be enough

wishing seeds
cartwheel through warm air
how quiet
this fleeting moment
this belief in miracles

1st verse: The Bamboo Hut, Spring 2015
2nd verse: HM, 2017 Sanford Goldstein International Tanka Contest
3rd verse: 2nd HM, 2015 Fleeting Words Tanka Contest

Musicality in tanka is vital to me, as I often sing the poems while strumming my guitar. Vocabulary also plays an integral role in my work.

the growth rings
of otoliths and trees . . .
when did she
become smaller
than her daughters

2nd Place, 2017 Fleeting Words Tanka Contest

Composing tanka is my primary writing focus. This daily meditation quiets my mind and helps to distract me from chronic pain.

the architecture
of impending storms . . .
every cloud
that hangs over me
has a given name

HM, 2017 Fleeting Words Tanka Contest

I have made my home beside the ocean, on the prairies, and at the feet of mountains. Poetry of place features in much of my tanka.

the ocean
was in a rage last night
but today,
these peace offerings
of blue mussels and kelp

1st Place, 2018 Sanford Goldstein International Tanka Contest

Many of my tanka and photographs depict flora, fauna, and phenomena encountered while camping, birding, and hiking in the wilds.

dried curls
of gray reindeer moss
crunch softly
underneath our boots . . .
no other sound, but breath

1st Place (tie), 2016 San Francisco International Competition

Human experience is also a frequent subject in my tanka.

tracks of birds
meander through snow . . .
the surgeon
marks her left breast
with a cross

1st Place, 2016 British Haiku Society Tanka Awards

The short-form community inspires me. Reading the work of others and heeding editorial advice pushes me to hone my skills. I offer my thanks to the following gifted tanka poets who provided blurbs for my books:

without . . .
each evening seems even
than it takes the river
to smooth a thousand stones

an'ya: Winner, 2018 British Haiku Society Tanka Awards

when no one is around,
my heart changes
into a heron
and flies

M. Kei: HM, 2007 Sanford Goldstein International Tanka Contest

it's not so much
the 'big one' when it comes
but aftershocks . . .
our favorite song,
letters addressed to you

David Terelinck: Winner, 2018 British Haiku Society Tanka Awards

through rain
through a year
of threadbare melodies
the early dark
of stolen mulberries

ai li: The Tanka Anthology, 2003 (editor Michael McClintock et al)

if you were reborn
a fly and I, a spider
with skeins of rainbow
I would weave
a web for our dreams

Sonam Chhoki: Fire Pearls, Volume 2, 2013 (editor M. Kei)

a tree trunk
lost in the shadow
of its branches . . .
another yes
when I meant to say no

Ken Slaughter: 1st Place, 2015 Sanford Goldstein International Tanka Contest

in an old picture
my mother's hand so firm
on my shoulder
as if gravity alone
could not hold me down

Angela Leuck: Take Five, Volume 4, 2011 (editor-in-chief M. Kei)

Holding a letter
with words no longer true;
day-lilies open
and wither
in the same vase.

Alexis Rotella: The Tanka Anthology, 2003 (editor Michael McClintock et al)

The cuckoo clock strikes
I smile at the soft dawn light
Until my eyes rest
On your bare dressing table,
On all the empty hangers

Denis Garrison: Fire Pearls, 2006 (editor M. Kei)

This tanka journey has been an amazing adventure, and it has brought me closer to awareness of the universe and myself.

on this night
of our awareness,
the aurora
brushes an ensō
across lake and sky

HM, 2018 Sanford Goldstein International Tanka Contest

Wales Haiku Journal, Summer 2019

alpine hut
our lantern sparkles
with moth dust

trail ride
my bootlaces bristle
with burrs

Haiga Gallery:

The Cherita, May 2019

Issue: "morning light"

my cheek

rests against
your heart

I listen
to the warm blood
of you

you are

as inscrutable
as snow

I have
never known
how to love you


your saltwater voice
anchors me

when I founder
on the rocks
of this sorrow

the birds

have not returned
and yet . . .

these white
unfurling wings
of snowdrops

cornflower sky

I let go
of the birds

my ribcage
and sing

Stardust Haiku, Issue 31, July 2019

inner music . . .
I take my cue
from the wind

Naviar Records - Haiku Music Challenge 289, 2019

Featured Haiku July 17, 2019:

Please enjoy the music created in response to my haiku:

I skip a pebble across
the universe

1st Place
2019 OtherWordly Intergalactic Haiku Competition

Presence, Number 64, July 2019

heat mirage
the balked landing
of a waterhen

souvenirs . . .
the memories I thought
she'd forgotten

scented drifts
of cottonwood fluff
line every street . . .
he might not make it
through the winter

I was delighted to discover that the following haiku was shortlisted for the Best-of-Issue Award in Presence 63:

star-nosed mole
we search for light
in dark places

NeverEnding Story, July 2019

Translated into Chinese by Chen-ou Liu:

homecoming . . .
a bouquet of sky
in an old jar

1st Place
2017 Australian Haiku Society Spring Haiga Kukai

Chen-ou Liu's comments:

L1 sets the theme while visually evocative Ls 2&3 enhance the tone and mood of the haiku. And the fresh phrasing and perspective employed in L2 make this homecoming haiku emotionally effective.

Monday, July 22, 2019

World Tanka Competition, Lyrical Passion Poetry E-zine, 2019

contest theme: "love"

crafted with love,
this table you made
from ash trees
planted for the children
we never had

Honourable Mention
2019 World Tanka Competition

Three Rivers Haiku Association: Iris - The International Haiku Contest on the Theme of the Gourds, 2019

Translated into Croatian

prize pumpkins
our hayrack buckles
with light

Honourable Mention

Note: There were 262 entries to the contest, and the results will be published in IRIS International Haiku Magazine, No. 13, 2019.

Skylark, Vol. 7, Number 1, Summer 2019

a century ago,
the Iolaire foundered . . .
my cousin's paintings
bring those who were lost
home to their families

Note: My cousin, Margaret Ferguson, an artist and doctor living on the Isle of Lewis, painted over 100 commemorative portraits of the men who perished in the Iolaire tragedy on New Year's Day, 1919.

here, and yet, not quite

a ghost train
of fog skims across
the lake . . .
at our next visit,
I hope you will know me

for a moment,
two waterspouts dance
across the lake . . .
I still feel your hand
on the small of my back

Note: In a review of Stacking Stones: An Anthology of Short Tanka Sequences (editor M. Kei), Jenny Ward Angyal makes mention of the following tanka from my sequence 'lightfall':

black swans
softening the edges
of my darkness
I gather threads of light
unspooling in their wake

Jenny goes on to say:

'Threads of light' run throughout the wonderful variety of voices and styles, content and form to be found in this volume, as poets explore the labyrinth of human life, erecting as they go small monuments of words to mark the way.

The Haiku Foundation, re: Virals, June 2019

re: Virals 198 - June 21, 2019

The Haiku Foundation's weekly poem commentary feature on some of the finest haiku ever written English. This week's poem was chosen by Dave Read (thank you, Dave):

stone cairns
a faded cap drifts

1st Place
2015 Harold G. Henderson Haiku Contest

The Cherita, April 2019

Issue: "a warm night"

a soundscape

of migrating geese
and falling acorns

you still reside
here in the autumn
of my heart

walking arm in arm

our hems drenched
in morning dew

we are silent
in our appreciation
of this shimmering world

Stardust Haiku, Issue 30, June 2019

the sun and I
stand still

Human/Kind Journal, Issue 1.7, July 2019

Special issue dedicated to found poetry from the works of Mary Oliver

Note: this cherita was culled from Mary Oliver's "Death at a Great Distance"

Prune Juice, Issue 28, July 2019

Poetry Pea, July 2019

The Haiku Pea Podcast:

Series 2, Episode 14 - "Talking Trees", July 15, 2019

a squabble of crows
in the larch

A Hundred Gourds, Issue 5.1, December 2015

the last drop
of father's cologne . . .
evergreen rain

Frogpond, Vol. 42, Number 2, Spring/Summer 2019

mossy log
a ruffed grouse drums
up the dawn

Note: In his essay, "Owls", Charles Trumbull makes mention of the following haiku which was published in Kokako 27, September 2017:

fog hangs in the hollow a nest of owlets

Fresh Out: An Arts and Poetry Collective, July 2019

Frameless Sky, Issue 10, June 2019

passing train how quickly we forget our promises

demolition . . .
sunlight where shade
used to be

rose hip tea . . .
the dawn steeped
in birdsong

Honoured to be the "Take the Challenge" winner with the following artwork chosen by David Terelinck to accompany his featured haiku:

#FemkuMag: An E-zine of Women's Haiku - Issue 13, June 2019

"This issue is dedicated to every woman who's suffered, whether it be emotionally, mentally, physically, or sexually, to the women who supported us during our trauma and healing process, and to every woman fighting for her right to be human. May we stand tall for those who can't always get up."

we must not speak
of this

3rd Place, 2017 Penumbra Haiku Competition

lilac buds
no one notices
the bruises

Haiku Canada Review 10.1, 2016

her first boyfriend's
hard slap
some of our memories
are burning brands

Bright Stars Tanka Anthology 5, 2014

he gasps
at the ragged scars
upon my back
remnants of that night
they tore off my broken wings

The Bamboo Hut 1.3, 2014

at the corner
of poverty and despair
an Indigenous girl
is found in the river
I weep, I weep

Neon Graffiti: Tanka Poetry of Urban Life, 2016

Failed Haiku - A Journal of English Senryu, Vol. 4, Issue 43, July 2019

Daily Haiku, Charlotte Digregorio's Writer's Blog, July 2019

labyrinth i walk into and out of myself

3rd Place Senryu
San Francisco International Competition for Haiku, Senryu and Tanka 2018

I skip a pebble across
the universe

1st Place
OtherWordly Intergalactic Haiku Competition 2019

a pika gathers stems
of light

Commended Haiku
Iris - A Little Haiku Contest 2019

Australian Haiku Society, 2019

Winter Solstice 2019 AHS Haiga Kukai: Seasonal Entry

snow on snow
the widening circles
of enlightenment

Winter Solstice 2019 AHS Haiga Kukai: Non-Seasonal Entry

the time we meant
to make

(Note: these haiku were written in response to artwork by Ron Moss)