How to catch a Griffin

Sculptural papiermache Griffin by Susan Lee Kerr

Newspaper, wire, cardboard, flour, water, acrylic — and inspiration. That’s how I made the Griffin. He’s on show this weekend at the Harpenden Arts Club Exhibition. Along with Lady Cat, Wading Bird and Big Howl. I’m settling in to my new hometown, and found this wonderful art club that meets weekly to learn and do art — watercolour, acrylic, life drawing, collage, more. I’m tickled to introduce this style of sculptural papiermache to Harpenden and the county of Hertfordshire. Secret smile — the inspiration for the griffin was the Fullers Brewery branding at the Hogarth roundabout in my old hometown, Chiswick.



Imagine the thrill of having an outstanding USA writer-blogger choose to feature your book. So there’s me, living that for real. Thank you Charlotte Digregorio, been following your Daily Haiku for years, a daily gift of creme de la creme. And for your comments: ‘beautiful striking imagery… fresh expression… simplicity, yet elegance.’ See more here, along with double-filtered haiku.

At Shropshire BHS spring haiku gathering.

Thanks, too for her credit to my cover artist and creative sister Meg Kaczyk currently having a painting – poetry ekphrasis exhibition at the Northwind Art Grover Gallery in Port Townsend, Washington, USA.


Hello! Long time away from my desk. But isn’t moving house a perfect excuse? Six months later, still settling into my new environment. At this point I’m calling it a Burmese Writer’s Block. Meanwhile Great grandfather Ephraim Epstein is still smiling down on me (I hope!). And Intersaga, the literary agency, has chosen to Instagram a haiku per month from my collection The Walk Home. Thank you Intersaga!!

So it grows

Staveley Road BlossomDayW4

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?

Me and my bookend sister

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.


Senses peeled

‘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 Society journal Blithe Spirit published it in summer 2012, bless! And I chose to put it in my 2020 retrospective haiku book The 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.

the place where it happened

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).

Delighted to say that this tanka appeared in this month’s Blithe Spirit. Click here for The British Haiku Society

you be the editor

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
thunder growls

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.

full moon
we walk the night meadow
white grass either side

fooling around

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.