In December, I planted this tree. Well, really, I was honoured to witness its planting. Along with a couple of hefty Hounslow workers who did the work, in the presence of the Mayor of Hounslow, Councilor Sam Hearn and a Covid-safe group of Staveley Road BlossomdayW4 residents. It was a wet, cold, windy day and a scrawny bare sapling… and now here it is, 26th April, abundant with blossom. It is the 99th Prunus Kanzan on this extraordinary road. Worth a journey, click here for next spring! (PS Don’t wait to discover the location, it’s a brilliant crimson sight in November.)
I was there as BlossomdayW4 local haiku poet. (For a different spring favourite see haiku update here).
Speaking of growing and cycles, I am soon to put down new roots, moving away from this place that has been my home for forty years. An adventure, thus far, in sorting, clearing, feeling good-byes at every turn, glad to be having this last spring here, yet also feeling impatient to start the new life in the new place. Before I was ten years old my family moved house six times… the impatience feels familiar. Will I plant a cherry tree at the new house? Or, like the one we planted here 37 years ago, a magnolia?
When people compliment the cover of my haiku collection I’m extra-specially happy — because it’s praise of my bookend sister. I’m the oldest of six siblings, the writer at the top. She’s the youngest , the art one, Meg Kaczyk I made my career with words — copywriting, feature writing, teaching writing, books. She made her career with graphic arts, and now with her own paintings, and teaching art.
So of course when I was bringing out The Extraordinary Dr Epstein, I asked Meg to do the cover. Besides being an art director she is of course a greatgranddaughter of Ephraim Epstein! Then, five years later, I asked her for cover art for The Walk Home
Meg’s own style is free, exuberant,with strong colour, strong movement (like her! She dances too.) She took up my request and a literal idea I gave her and offered me several choices, including several brand new works. Though I loved them, they felt too strong for haiku. Oh dear! — the internal battle in me between loyalty to my book and loyalty to my sister. Could I say no? I’m glad we are both professionals. I looked on her website (click here), and there I found the softer visual sound of haiku.
She now has a copy of ‘her’ book/my book. I own two of her works and now I’m saying to everyone including the Chiswick Book Festival, happening now online, here’s the art of my big little sister Meg. As well as creative bookends we are geographic bookends too — me in London, she in Discovery Bay near Seattle. Just all of the Atlantic Ocean and the USA (and our four siblings) in between us.
‘Look around, look around you,’ Eliza Hamilton’s song to her husband Alexander Hamilton is one of my current earworms — along with many others from Hamilton, the energetic, intelligent, amazing musical. Look around. Some of us are emerging from corona virus lockdown, our senses newly raw to the wider world. So you might think today’s tweeted haiku is current, what with so many cafes still sadly closed.
closed café emerald grass grows in the awning gutter
But, honest guv, I wrote it in 2008. I don’t know how others do it, but when I scrawl a possible haiku, I write the date. And when I get to typing it, I make a brief note of the circumstance when the haiku occurred. In this case: 6/9/08, Kew Road en route to Richmond.
After one rejection (though actually in haiku-world it’s not really rejection; more like non-acceptance), I got round to sending it out again four years later. The British Haiku Societyjournal Blithe Spirit published it in summer 2012, bless! And I chose to put it in my 2020 retrospective haiku bookThe Walk Home
So, a bit raw, newly tuned to the strangeness of things, use this time. Look around.
The photo was taken along Chiswick Mall in October 2016. This turns out to be a time travel blogpost.
There I was, driving along the 316, skirting Richmond town centre. And it was raining. Hard. Some wind, too. And
the water meadow
mist, rain and a slanting man
with his umbrella
fills me with nostalgia
for a place I’ve never been
It was like, not-like, sort-of-like a Japanese woodblock print, you know, Hokusai or similar. And I felt it. All in one drive-by flash, the flood water meadows of Richmond. Too much in the moment for a haiku so it had to be a tanka. This one turned out to be exactly to form: 5-7-5-7-7. The pleasure of tanka being the privilege, indeed necessity of naming emotions (in the last two lines).
Ooops, here’s another variation on first go and the final appearance in The Walk Home.
in the small hours
thunder growls between
my husband’s snores
The above was on Twitter a few days back. Whereas, I should have put the book’s version:
in the small hours
between my husband’s snores
The deciding issue with editor Kim Richardson (see books page) was that dangling word ‘between’ which really does belong with my husband. And his snores. And to move ‘between’ down would leave ‘thunder growls’ rather too starkly short, with a very long final line. So the new version has the classic haiku shape; not that we worry so much about strict haiku rules anymore. What’s more important is the little surprise or twist of the final line. After all, following ‘between my husband’s snores’ instead of my haiku moment of thunder it could be: ‘I snatch some sleep’ ‘I sigh’ ‘I poke him in the ribs’ ‘silence reigns’ or… go on, you do one.
Today’s haiku on Twitter — well I just did not have a photo to fit. You just had to be there. Which is, after all, the point of haiku.
we walk the night meadow
white grass either side
summer’s open window
lets in the sound of distance
After posting a dozen haiku here day by day, and feeding them through to Twitter, now I am trying a reverse. That is, posting haiku and photo (there’s a name for that: haiga) on Twitter and feeding them through to this blogsite. I wasn’t wild about the way the blogsite comes through as a tweet. So… we shall see. Feeling free to feel experimental.
summer’s open window was yesterday on Twitter. Eeep! I’ve just realised that I tweeted the pre-edit version of today’s haiku — sun after rain — so I have just deleted it. To re-do, with my actually moving plashing fountain too. So which do you prefer? Here’s the one that’s in the book, thanks to lovely editor Kim Richardson of Alba Publishing. Followed by the original version.
sun after rain
silver water in spate
from the drain pipe
sun after rain
silver water gushes
from the drain pipe
It really was gushing. But… gush isn’t a very pleasant word, somehow.