Unless stated otherwise, all poetry on Swimming in Lines of Haiku is Copyright Kirsten Cliff and may not be reprinted in any form without written permission from the author. kirsten(DOT)cliff(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Devastation of Earthquake and Processing Through Poetry

Christchurch, in New Zealand's South Island, suffered a major earthquake this week.

Many people are displaced, injured, missing or deceased.

Many buildings are battered and broken, streets ripped apart, possessions lost forever.

I have been deeply moved by this event, although I'm not in the earthquake zone and am safe.

A chest x-ray I'd had recently came back clear this week: a small victory for me on my medical journey.

But all I kept thinking was of those in Christchurch who are just beginning their life-changing journey through the medical system with spinal injuries, amputations, and so on.

May they receive the same excellent level of care and attention that I received (and am still) on my journey through leukaemia.

Poetry has played a part in my healing process, and poems have already begun emerging from the earthquake rubble: one here by haiku poet Dick Whyte.

I have written a tanka and sent it in to Haiku News, and am sure I'll write more poems as the full extent of the tragedy unfolds for us all.

Pacific Poets, which meets next Sunday in Papamoa, will be sharing our grief at the devastation through poetry also.

I welcome you in sharing your poems in response to the Christchurch earthquake in the comments section of this post. (See 'comments' below for haiku from me and several by Michael Dylan Welch)

Information about how the poets in our haiku family are doing can be found here on Haiku NewZ. Thank you, Sandra Simpson, for keeping this updated.

Sending much hope and many prayers to the people of Christchurch and all affected by this disaster. Kia kaha.


  1. In emphathy for victims of the New Zealand earthquake and their family and friends, allow me to share a few of my own earthquake haiku, written in response to the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco.

    after the quake
    the weathervane
    pointing to earth

    another victim—
    laying the body bag
    on the flower bed

    after the quake
    the smell of gas
    warm milk

    after the quake
    adding I love you
    to a letter

    then finishing the argument

    fresh pavement
    a child’s footprint
    and autumn leaves

    My sympathies to everyone who is experiencing loss and pain as a result of this tragedy.

    Michael Dylan Welch

  2. Thank you, Michael, for your generosity in sharing these moving haiku based on your own experiences of the power of earthquakes and all they leave in their wake.

    Here's a haiku I wrote yesterday:

    that they're okay
    waxing moon

    If you are reading this post, I encourage you to share your haiku or other poems related to your experiences of earthquakes recent or past. Thank you.

  3. Haiku: Disce Pati

    Train journey over land
    Shows earth shaking over time
    Mountains growing over head


    Today, Thursday, I traveled by train, The Overlander, from Wellington to Auckland; dominating the newspaper headlines is the earthquakes at Christchurch, which on one hand are shocking, but it is one of nature's forces that has shaped the land over which we travel. One's values have to encompass the pleasure derived from The Good as well as learning to endure The Bad.

  4. Thank you for taking the time to share your words here.

    Another haiku from me, written on Saturday 26 March:

    five days
    after the earthquake
    the first chrysalis


  5. A new poem on Haiku News today by Armando H. Corbelle (US) in response to the earthquake.

    You can read it here: http://www.wayfarergallery.net/haikunews/?p=3116

  6. patsyturner@xtra.comMarch 6, 2011 at 12:08 AM

    i was upstairs in ballantynes in city centre having my once yearly haircut when it hit .. somehow got out of building onto colombo street in time to hear the spire fall .. rubble dust clouded the silence before the sirens and screaming.. hairdressers trying to rub bleach out of hair during big aftershock ..eyeing up liquifaction puddles as source of water to rinse hair in.. like zombies/ we trudge through the fallen /city

  7. Hi Patsy - Thank you for sharing part of your experience here. Sending you lots of love and hugs.

    doing dishes
    I use the tea towel with
    Canterbury Cathedral on it

    Do keep in touch. Best, Kirsten

  8. patsyturner@xtra.comMarch 6, 2011 at 11:42 PM

    thanks kirsten
    i love what you do ..

    after the earthquake
    you learn how to spell

  9. A beautiful haiku, Patsy. I found myself nodding my head along with this one, very poignant.

    the two minute silence
    with this chrysalis


  10. A found these two quotes about writing poetry on my friend Janet Keen's blog and thought they really spoke about the poetry coming through from the earthquake:

    'A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.'
    ~Robert Frost

    'Breathe-in experience, breathe-out poetry.'
    ~Muriel Rukeyser

  11. can so relate to muriel..
    got to spit it out ..
    press is now spelling it

    so much for learning
    to spell!

  12. I'm glad you liked the quote. At the poetry group last weekend we talked about how some found it hard to write about the Christchurch earthquake and some couldn't write at all because it was too upsetting.

    My response was that I couldn't not write about it because as a poet I experience and process the world through writing poetry. I didn't sit down and try to write about it - the words just came to me and, as is my nature, I wrote those words down.

    It doesn't make you any less of a writer if you can't write about it. I completly understand. When I was in hospital having my chemo, I couldn't write about it for various reasons, and it was only after the fact that I could put voice to my experiences.

    Joanna Preston talks about her feelings on this subject in her latest blog post here: http://jopre.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/the-secret-of-good-tragedy/#comments

    Thank you again for sharing on this forum. My haiku sharing for today:

    a new death toll
    flickers on screen
    only the wind chimes

    Kirsten x

  13. tsunami
    nihon go

    my friends
    have turned
    to soup

    from black sludge
    the white butterfly

  14. You might like to send the above to this haiku poet's blog, who is collecting haiku on the Japan earthquake and tsunami:

    Ban'ya Natsuishi is calling for haiku about this disaster in any language to be published on the World Haiku Association website and read by those at the WHA Japan Conference on April 29. In the meantime he is posting them on his blog - http://banyahaiku.at.webry.info/201103/article_21.html
    Email your poems to Ban'ya including your name and nationality, by March 20 - haikubanya(at)mub(dot)biglobe(dot)ne(dot)jp

    Thanks to Sandra Simpson for providing this information via Haiku NewZ.

    I would prefer this space to be keep for those responding to the Christchurch earthquake, as per my blog post.
    Thank you. Kirsten x