Thursday, November 17, 2016

Ginko in the Garden – Sprummer

Crushing the leaves
I smell the scent
of grandmothers

I wrote this haiku on the second of the ginkos for the WEA crew. I am calling the season ‘sprummer’  - half-way between spring and summer. I’m in tune with Dr. Tim Entwisle, of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne. Sydney’s Botanic Gardens was our inspiration, and the late October weather typically Sydney - steamy.

Here’s a haiku from Dexter Dunphy that plays around with the season:

ignoring strewn winter leaves
a bottle brush presses on
with spring

The group wandered about. This haiku by Graham English is sensual and complete. It arrests the reader at the point of the smell – what can arise for us in the blank beyond the poem? 

Walking through the trees
the smell of pepper.

The next two haikus refer to elements of the season, they have found their kigo (seasonal reference word). The second one contains such feeling!

Pockmarked paperbark:
Busy arterial for
A roadtrain of ants.

Shelley Booth

the angophora sheds bark,
reveals fresh smooth trunk
ah, young thighs

Dexter Dunphy

Coffee beans along the branches
sweet wake-up
for a bird.

Jennifer Thurstun

This is sufficient and contained. There’s a nice whimsy to the thought of the birds, that ”I wonder?” quality.

in this  Australian park
a castle.


Yes! - nothing more is needed.

The next series of haikus were workshopped by the group. This is like polishing a stone and bringing out its best facets.

Three steps and peck. Two, peck peck.
Long beak digs dirt –
Ibis snack.

Jennifer Thurstun

This has a wonderful rhythm to it, the onomatopoeia conveying the movements of these long-legged birds.

bunya pine stranded
far from corroborees –
heritage trail

Dexter Dunphy

 Says a great deal in a very few words.

Kookaburra cries –
Turn down ya trumpets & trucks
Ya flamin’ galahs!

Shelley Booth

Winding garden path
Orange witches hats
Give warning

Vicki McDonald

I’ll have the last haiku word.

do the birds reply
to the flautist
warming up?

Now for three senryu – satirical takes on human affairs. There are always great opportunities for people-watching in this precinct.

At Circular Quay
a large, short lady
in a bright red hat.

Graham English

Little red train
the American guide tells tourists
what to see

Dexter Dunphy

thongs and boardies
but their accents foreign –
becoming Aussie guys


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

WEA - first ginko at Botanic Gardens

Farm Cove 

Walking through Chinatown on my way to teach the  WEA class, people are eating breakfasts which smell like dinner. I pass a restaurant called “Eating World”. After the theory part of class, we make our way to Circular Quay.  I try to imagine the beginnings of English settlement here, in this tight curve of bay – I’ve been reading “The Fatal Shore” by Robert Hughes. Over in the next bay where we're going, the settlers attempted to grow their food. Nowadays it’s the gracious foreshore of the Botanic Gardens.

Farm Cove now:
a catamaran
girls shrieking on deck

I gather my students in a grove of bamboo, where we’re a little sheltered from the cold wind. Shelley had remembered from the morning - “Learn about ….a bamboo plant from a bamboo plant”. Basho

party music
the winds swallows
a chunk of it

The poets walk around writing – they walk slowly. I wander over to a man who is harvesting some kind of fruit from a tree. He is African. He tells me that this tree is a relative of the coffee plant, and that its young leaves if chewed are good for …was it arthritis? He tells me the name and I write it down – its common name is khat ( who knows if that is the right spelling). I have a taste, it's almost fruity.
I wish the poets would walk faster. Then I could warm up.

cold again
my arms in this thin jacket
leaden October

But there are so many delights, not the least of which is people-watching. Graham wrote a senryu ( satirical take on human affairs) about a woman we saw at Circular Quay. Here are my senryus:

in pink gumboots
running to the next puddle

a bare shoulders display -
flicked back by the cold wind,
her hair

Is this a senryu, below, or a haiku? I’m not sure.

one minute detour...
given to
the Asian gardens

Only one minute? 
We had two rounds of sharing our work. The best was the sharing in the café, with cake and hot chocolate and tea. So that’s what they were thinking about! This was my best effort:

lotuses arise
from stinking black mud
moorhen is at ease

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

WEA course: haiku ginko, writing zen Sat. Oct 22 & 29


“I think the course may have been life changing for me. It has opened up a new and exciting area of interest."
“Excellent course an introduction to Haiku for me. Interesting, engaging teacher, a poet herself. Wonderful inclusion of 2 lessons spent writing outdoors. Valuable handouts at beginning of course covering course content and relevant information. Teacher remained focused and was able to always steer the students back to topic. Each student was given equal opportunity to participate."

"I'd just like to say how much I got out of your course. Re-reading the notes I made in class has been inspiring………..Thank you for a wonderful 5 sessions.”

You too, could wander about the Botanic Gardens and learn how to write haiku! have a look at the WEA website for further details. You'd be welcome to join us, but be quick! it starts this Saturday, October 22. There'll be 2 Saturdays from 10:00 am to 4 pm. 

Here's one of mine from that course. I "thought" ( not really thought, more like letting the original draft compost in the bottom drawer of my mind) about this for 3 or 4 months. 

cockies in the tree-top
a sickle moon 
scrapes them off

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

'Haiku from here" - piano music by Jane Andino

Wedding bush - Ricinocarpos pinifolius - Springwood

TA DA! I musically (hear the trumpets?) announce that Jane Andino's piano composition "Haiku from Here" is launched, through Wirripang music publishers. Jane has composed beautiful piano music to two of my haiku, and one by Christopher Ash.

Boronia ledifolia - Springwood

Here are my haiku:

a path through granite
white waterfall
                         Boyd Plateau

the names of the flowers
I am a flower

Gompholobium grandiflorum - Muegamarra reserve, Kuringai

I wrote the first one on a bushwalk with the Springwood Bushwalking Club, and the second, while doing some navigation in Faulconbridge.

Eriostemon australasius at Muegamarra reserve, Kuringai.

 I am teaching haiku at the WEA in October, Sat 22nd and Sat 29th. There'll be plenty of outdoors writing - ginko in the Botanic Gardens. Contact the WEA for more details.

Photos (DL): flowers this September - my thanks to the rain for abundance.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

"They're calling us - sounds of the world in haiku"

This selection was published in "Mind Moon Circle - journal of the Sydney Zen Centre" in the autumn edition. 

cockatoos, currawongs, the baby:
all calling
at the fall of day

hundreds of frogs
sing an ode
to La Nina

they’re calling us
over and over
the hidden birds

midday heat -
walkers soak up
the sound of water

why in this moment
does the honeyeater sing?
Google cannot say

the trees conferring
amongst themselves
around the spring

on our last night
even your snoring
is precious

cicada sings
a three-minute
life story

You can read the whole journal from this link:

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

"Haiku from Here" - on piano

Happy wanderer -  Hardenbergia violacea
Musician Jane Andino has composed some beautiful piano pieces based on two of my haiku, and one by Christopher Ash. 

sun orchid

The music and haikus are shortly to be published by Wirripang music - called "Haiku from Here". 

Meanwhile, here are some photos from the walk along Faulconbridge ridge, during which I composed the haiku about remembering the names of flowers. 
I had been out the day before with Jim Percy, Blue Mountains Conservation Society Saturday walks co-ordinator, who was kindly doing map-and-compass work with me.

Native iris - has a rhizome underneath - Patersonia sericea

Grevillea sericea

Wax flower - Philotheca
I was indeed a happy wanderer - with backpack and handy notebook.

I'll let you know when the sheet music is published by Wirripang. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016


 the Japanese characters - from Pamela

slowly unfurling
the basho leaves
strong in containment


I gathered the WEA students round the banana plants in the Botanic Gardens ( ‘basho’ is their literary Japanese word), to help us begin writing haiku. Basho, the seventeenth century Japanese poet made the ‘haikai’ a stand-alone verse. They expressed autumn beautifully with their bunches of fruit.

The tools of a haiku poet on a ginko are a notebook and a pen. The challenge is, to convert the experience of a natural setting into something written on the blank page.

So gently falling
on the white page
a little brown seed


We hoped to find subjects that would signify the season. This was the next challenge, in a Botanic gardens which has a collection of plants from all over the world, to find something that is endemic to Sydney. The next two haiku do this by comparing one thing with another.

Summer gone
next to the gum tree
a plane tree turns to gold


nestled below the bare
peach tree––
one tri-coloured flower

Mena Johnson

The human cheer emanating from the café was alluring but we focused more on plant and animal life.

poised on one leg
the plover stalks––

Mena Johnson

So simple! So complete! The next haiku has strong imagery and leaves a lot open to the reader’s imagination.

dark throated Bromeliad
central silent pond -
Beautiful assassin


And her next one illustrates how a haiku can suggest something, that there are layers. There was an ikebana exhibition on, and Leslie treads a delicate balance between the human and the natural. 

On a bamboo pole
Ikebana shivers - 
Winter is approaching

Her last haiku looks ahead to the season of new life.

Green swords
Pierce the earth
Promise of spring

Leslie Frost


These students wrote some very affecting haikus when the course was over.

In a foreign place,
A banana leaf plate,
Adobo stew – I’m home.

Some time in the quiet winter’s night
Your heart just stopped.
My friend is gone.

Pamela Huggins

Petals and dreams
Blooms nodding in the wind
caressing my memories

Eia Stanich


And this last one ( can’t we all relate?) is a senryu rather than a haiku – it focuses squarely on the human.

My computer does
strange and mysterious things -
quiet despair


My next haiku course at the WEA runs over 2 Saturdays, the 22nd and 29th October. Details here:

Sunday, May 29, 2016

talk at Beaches Sangha Thursday June 2

inside pohutakawa

I will be giving a talk entitled "Haiku - Writing Zen" to the Beaches Sangha on Thursday June 2nd. They meet on the northern beaches of Sydney at the aptly named Oxford Falls Peace Park, Oxford Falls. This is on the corner of Dreadnought Rd and the Wakehurst Parkway, and there is an old school-house there. Oxford Falls is west of Dee Why and east of Belrose. Be there at 7 pm for a 7:10pm start with meditation. 

I was in New Zealand in the Auckland region recently, admiring pohutakawa trees. 

tree power
grabs the cliff and makes of it
leaves and branches
outside pohutakawa

You'll find my haiku on sound in the latest "mind moon circle", journal of the Sydney Zen Centre. It's called "They're calling us - sounds of the world in haiku".

I've just led a walk for the Blue Mountains Conservation Society to Ironpot Ridge, near Green Gully. The reccie took my buddy Warwick and I down Ironmonger Spur and up Breakfast creek, which was almost completely dry.

He said, "No birds; no rustling in the bushes; no nothing except bushwalking". 

 See F'Book BMCS Longer Bushwalks for a full report and photos. 

Casuarina cunninghamiana (river oak)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

International Haiku Day

I camped and then walked with my friends Will, Sue and Lily down the Cox's river to the Little river junction. 

two rivers braid
the sound of them
like conversation

The Cox's is a shadow of its former self. Will noticed this especially, having walked here frequently as a youth. 

missing from the pool
where orange-lipped carp laze - 
all the other fish

Haiku cannot wash the current beseiged state of nature in some kind of burnished glow from the past. That would be fake. 

the cows pause
at the sound of the gun - 

Still - we had a wonderful time.

the river burbling
while we sing
about dishwashing

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

writing zen

I'm not giving up
burnt and broken tree 
still standing

This is my best and latest haiku. Some people wonder how to begin to write. Not many ever wonder how to begin to walk. If you combined those two things, and let your writing hand move the way your legs move, you would find it easy. And you would write what you know. If you walked barefoot, you might write about the feel of the grass under your feet. Or, if we were beside the harbour, the smell of salt in the air, seagulls - ferries. You know this because you are right there. This is what I mean by "writing zen". 

 I wrote that haiku at Mt. York, in the Blue Mountains, where the 2013 fires impacted. We were just wandering along, enjoying ourselves. Would you like to  join us for two haiku ginkos (walks), at the WEA , Sydney? - enrolling now. We'll enjoy Sydney's Botanic Gardens.