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

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Spring 'ku for my Northern Hemisphere Haikuists

                    first spring star...
                    the part of me
                    that wants to cry

Kokako 16 (April 2012)
  Photo & haiku © Kirsten Cliff

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mice and Jam and Poetry...

The cooler temperatures of our beloved Autumn are already encouraging the field mice to seek warmth inside country homes. Hubby and I have had three in our kitchen so far! An interesting winter it shall be :) And the perfect time to share this poem and recipe, which appeared in Narratives with Nosh: Stories, Poems & Recipes edited by Margaret Beverland with Jenny Argante (Tauranga Writers, 2009).

The rush

O, the rush of independence
on assassinating my first mouse

with a dollop of strawberry jam
and a state-of-the-art plastic trap

Four days on the hunt
bruised knees from searching under furniture

for a glimpse of something
I didn’t want to see

Nights, sleepless, waiting to hear SNAP!
instead a scratch a scuttle a squeak

Then at 4 p.m. on a rainy Thursday
I got it!

My high short-lived
as I contemplated disposal of the body

Chocolate jam-drop muffins


  • 1 large (rounded) Dsp margarine
  • ½ c brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 egg
  • 1½ c flour (for gluten free use 1¼ c Tapioca flour, ¼ c rice flour)
  • 1 tsp baking powder (for gluten free use baking powder that is gluten free too)
  • ½ c cocoa
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • ¾ c milk
  • ½ c jam (your choice)


  • Preheat oven to 150 degrees C with fan bake, or 180 degrees without fan bake.
  • Line a muffin tin with muffin cups (or grease with margarine).
  • In a large bowl, cream margarine, sugar and vanilla essence. Beat in egg.
  • Sift flour, baking powder, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into the creamed mix.
  • Fold in gently, adding the milk. Stir only to combine and stop once mixed well.
  • Into each muffin cup, put about a Dsp of mix, enough to cover the base.
  • Follow with a tsp of jam onto the top, and then use the remaining mix to fill the muffin cups so that each muffin is roughly the same size, and all jam is covered.
  • Bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until well risen and springs back when lightly pressed.
  • Cool on a wire rack, ice if you like them iced, or eat as is.

Chocolate butter icing


  • 1 c icing sugar  
  • ½ c cocoa
  • 1 Dsp margarine or softened butter
  • 1-3 Tbsp milk


  • Sift cocoa and icing sugar into a bowl. Mix in butter and milk, and then whip with a fork or spoon until icing is thick.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Straight From the Haijin's Mouth #2

'Straight From the Haijin's Mouth' is one of the features that makes up my haikai column in a fine line, The Magazine of the New Zealand Poetry. This edition is from the November 2011 issue, and is reprinted with the kind permission of Laurice Gilbert, Nola Borrell and Karen Peterson Butterworth.

Straight From the Haijin's Mouth

I asked the co-editors of the latest national haiku anthology the taste of nashi, Nola Borrell and Karen Peterson Butterworth, 'What is the most valuable piece of advice you have ever received about writing haiku?'

Nola Borrell's answer: At the risk of being contentious (or not published!), I think 'challenge' is a more useful word than 'advice'. Good haiku depend so much more on a way of seeing, or as Martin Lucas (Editor, Presence) says:

'To begin writing haiku, and to make progress to any significant extent, requires two gifts:
  • The ability to be alert to the subtleties of sensory or psychological experience (i.e. to notice things)
  • A sensitivity to the subtleties of language (i.e. to be able to express things).'

A challenge from Martin Lucas stimulated me to look more critically at my haiku. He talks about making a 'magical utterance' or a 'poetic spell', something archetypal/ rare/ essential, and in poetic language (4th Haiku Pacific Rim Conference, 2009, Terrigal, Australia). This seems more likely to reduce the human focus frequently dominant or at least intrusive in many current haiku, as well as prosy statements masquerading as haiku.

A specific suggestion (just to keep in with Co-ordinator Kirsten!): Early in my writing I received this comment on a mainstream poem: How about avoiding weak endings to lines, such as 'of', 'the',' in'. Of course. Why hadn't I seen it! Thanks Harry Ricketts (V.U.W., Co-Editor
, New Zealand Books). This makes even more sense in haiku - where each word and line ending is that much more significant.

Karen Peterson Butterworth's answer: First the foundation. My artist mother who trained my eyes. When a boring (to me) visitor arrived, ‘Watch her hands and do me a drawing afterwards.’ With her water colour tubes laid out on a white enamel tray, ‘Which colours would you mix for that sunset?’ Five minutes later, ‘Now which?’ My music teacher. ‘When it says “staccato”, leave a tiny gap between each note, and for “legato,” make the notes flow into each other.’ My Dad who sang while he turned the separator handle for the cream on our porridge. My bout with polio which gave me five months with nothing to do but read and observe. 

Then meeting haiku in my 50s. Reading, listening, attending workshops. No single piece of advice springs to mind, but gradually three pivotal messages crystallized. 1. Learn to recognise a haiku moment. 2. Note it down straight away. 3. Choose, change, chop, and chisel your words till you make them sing. 

Copies of the taste of nashi: New Zealand Haiku (Windrift Haiku Group, 2008) are still available for sale. Find all the deatils here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What Are YOU Reading?

March is NZ Book Month in New Zealand - a celebration of books and reading and words. I thought I'd let you know what I'm reading this March: I always have at least one book each of poetry, fiction and non-fiction on the go at any one time so that I have something to read no matter what mood I'm in.

  • Stepping Stones: a way into haiku by Martin Lucas (British Haiku Society, 2007)
  • And poetry journals that have arrived in March - Kokako 16, paper wasp: a journal of haiku 18:1, Ribbons 7:4.
  •  The Carpathians by Janet Frame (First published in 1988)
  • And I have just finished reading The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker (Simon & Schuster UK, 2009)
  • Dreams and the search for meaning by Peter O'Connor (Methuen Haynes, 1986)
  • And I'm reading aloud to hubby Marie-Louise von Franz: The Classic Jungian and The Classic Jungian Tradition edited by James A. Hall and Daryl Sharp (Inner City Books, 2008)
I've also bought five books so far this month (all 2nd-hand). At the NZ Book Month website you can download a $5 book voucher to discount your next book purchase. That’s for ANY book you choose priced over $10 from participating bookstores. Get all the details here.

I'd love to hear about what you're reading. Please feel free to share in the comments section, whether it's a book, journal or blog!

Monday, March 19, 2012

The 4th KOKAKO Tanka Competition

The 4th Kokako Tanka Competition

Closing Date: 31st October 2012

First Prize: NZ$200

Second and Third Place prizes of NZ$50 each

Judge: Tony Beyer

Send entries to:
The Kokako Tanka Competition,
Patricia Prime
42 Flanshaw Road
Te Atatu South
Auckland 0610
New Zealand

Please make cheques out to Kokako
Overseas entrants may send cash at their own risk

               Conditions of entry
  1. Tanka must be previously unpublished and not under consideration elsewhere.
  2. Entry fee is NZ$2 per tanka or 3 for NZ$5; for overseas entries: US$1 per tanka, or 4 for US$3. Any number of entries may be sent.
  3. Send two copies of each tanka, or group of tanka, with your name, address and email on one copy only.
  4. 1st, 2nd & 3rd tanka, 3 Highly Commended and 3 Commended entries will be published in Kokako 18 (April 2013).
  5. Winners will be notified by email or mail.
  6. Any theme is acceptable.
Any queries, email: Patricia Prime

Friday, March 16, 2012

New Dress

          for a new dress... 


paper wasp, 18:1, summer 2012
  Photo & senryu © Kirsten Cliff

Saturday, March 10, 2012

She's Going To Do It!

About 18 months ago, my little sister asked me if I knew of a haiku about family to go with the tattoo she was planning to get done. The tattoo (her first) is a representation of our family in the form of seven birds. See my first post about it here, and then come back. I'll wait :)

Well, we never got far with this at the time. I suggested one of my haiku, which I'd originally written for Cameron when we were dating, and thought it could encompass what she was after:

          thinking of you...
          the light
          on a paua shell

This under seven birds would be like thinking of our family, and the paua shell set the scene firmly in New Zealand and at the beach, one of my sister's favourite places.

After getting her tattoo (sorry I don't have a picture) she continued to carry around this haiku in her wallet, pulling it out every now and then to read and ponder. She liked it a lot. Meanwhile, as time went on, I forgot about the whole thing.

Until a couple of weekends ago, when she texted me asking if I'd write a haiku about our family for her tattoo: she is getting some little birdie additions done (to symbolise our two nephews and niece) and, as she's about to go and live overseas, thought it a great time to finally get a haiku inked.

So, I came up with this:

          family gathering
          the many sounds
          of laughter

It came to me quite quickly once I got the first line. It took a few slight changes to get here, and after sitting with it for two days (I couldn't rush something that someone was going to get tattooed on them!) I texted it to her...

She really liked it! She had something in her head about being together and laughter, though she hadn't given me any clues at the time about where she'd wanted it to go. However, she wasn't sure about having the word 'family' in the haiku, and suggested a change to 'gathered together'. And funnily enough, the word 'together' keep popping in my head over the weekend but I couldn't see how to use it. It was great to hear we were on the same page, so to speak.

So, she is booked in to get this haiku tattooed soon:

          gathered together
          the many sounds
          of laughter

I just can't get over how cool this is! I'll definitely get a photo to share when it's done. Stay tuned :)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Don't Miss Out!

Just because I can't keep up with all the cool things going on in the haiku world, doesn't mean that YOU should miss out! This month Aubrie Cox is hosting a Doodleku fest on her blog, Yay Words! Each day in March she will post a new doodle (sketch) and anyone who's up for it can post a haiku about the doodle in the comments section. At the end of the month she'll be putting together a .pdf book of the best. So get into it! You'll find the first one here where you can check out how it's done. And here is today's doodle. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A small stone I picked up a few nights ago...

as the bath fills
so does the sky
with this moon

 Photography by Cameron Elliot - Poetry by Kirsten Cliff

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Call for Submissions: MOONBATHING Issue 6‏

Pamela A. Babusci  
Moonbathing Issue 6 is now accepting submissions. 
I have additional copies of Moonbathing issue 5
If you wish to purchase a copy(ies) please e-mail me.
Moonbathing will publish two issues a year: Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer.

Moonbathing will feature only women poets.  
Send a maximum of 10 tanka per submission period. 

Submission deadlines:  
Spring/Summer: In-hand Deadline:  May 15th (spring/summer themes or non-seasonal only) 
Fall/Winter: In-hand deadline:  Dec. 15th ( fall/winter theme or non-seasonal only)
No previously published tanka or simultaneous submissions; no tanka that has been posted on-line on a personal website/blog.


Send your tanka IN THE BODY OF AN E-MAIL to:  

I hope that all tanka poets who have their work accepted will support Moonbathing by purchasing a copy or a subscription. If Moonbathing is to survive it will need your support and I will be most grateful for it. DONATIONS MOST WELCOME
DISCLAIMER: Moonbathing does not assume liability for copyright infringement or failure to acknowledge previously published tanka.
Subscriptions: $12 for one year (two issues) U.S. and Canada; $6 for single issue. 
International: $16 (two issues) $8 single issue U.S. dollars; send US cash or international M.O.—payable to Pamela A. Babusci to:  
Moonbathing Editor
150 Milford Street Apt. 13 
Rochester, NY  
14615-1810  USA    
PLEASE NOTE: I will be moving into a new apt. by the end of May, so, please check with me for my new address before mailing me-thanks!

The Editor of Moonbathing is looking forward to receiving your best tanka. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail Pamela A. Babusci 

Respectfully submitted,
Pamela A. Babusci, Editor of Moonbathing

Monday, March 5, 2012

These are a few of my favourite things...

Haiku and dreams. Dreams of the night variety, that is. Both are equally important to me, although I'm not very diligent about writing my dreams down each day, whereas I will almost always write down my haiku. I hope to get much better at this, as I value highly what my dreams are telling me. Below is my favourite quote about dreams that sums up my feelings exactly:

Suppose someone told you
that there was something that spoke to you every night,
that always presented you with a truth about your own life and soul,
that was tailor-made to your individual needs and particular life-story,
and that offered to guide you throughout your lifetime,
and connect you with a source of wisdom far beyond yourself.
And, furthermore, suppose that all of this was absolutely free.
Naturally you would be astonished that something like this existed.
Yet this is exactly the way it is with our dreams.  ~ John A. Sanford (1975), Dreams and Healing, Paulist Press, NY

My blog title actually comes from a dream: In it I was literally swimming in lines of haiku and only awoke, with a sudden start, when I heard hubby's whispered exclamations as he'd hit his leg on the way into the bedroom (or something similar). I love water and swimming, so swimming in lines of haiku was a wonderful experience for me. I'm currently searching out dream haiku for my month as one of The Haiku Foundation's Per Diem: Daily Haiku editor's with my chosen theme of 'Dream Speak', the title of which I took from one of my own haiku: 

          dream speak...
          sunlight on the opening
          tulip's tips

DailyHaiku Cycle 12 (November 4, 2011) 

So, I thought it was about time I wrote a haiku about my above dream, and came up with this on Friday:

          even in my dreams
          swimming in lines
          of haiku

I'd wanted to change my blog's welcome picture ever since I moved last November, as the iconic Mount Manganui and beach scene was now in a different region to my new home. As of Friday, I have a very cool photo of rippling water, which I took some years ago in this region (Waikato) with the well-known Kiwi icon of a silver fern floating under the surface. And I've added my new haiku into the mix to convey my two favourite things as well as to give readers, old and new, some insight into me and my blog's title. I've always liked the image and am happy to be able to give it a fitting home at last.

During my dream haiku search, I came across the book Inside Out: Haiku and Dreams by Joseph Kirschner (Deep North Press, 2003). I was overjoyed when, on contacting Joseph and telling him what I was up to, he kindly sent me a copy of his book as a gift! Gosh, how I LOVE our haiku community :) I am thoroughly enjoying reading Inside Out and am grateful to read the haiku, dreams and explanations within it. (You can read a review by Modern Haiku here.) I will certainly look at writing more haiku from my dreams: It could definitely be a good way to get me to write at least some of my dream/s down each morning! After all:

Jung observed that dreams perform restorative, corrective, compensatory, prophetic, and developmental roles in our psyche; that to attend to our dreams is to attend to the cry of the soul.        ~ From The Art of Dreaming by Jill Mellick (Conari Press, 2001)

Friday, March 2, 2012

My 2nd Cancerversary

Yep, today is the day that I was diagnosed with leukaemia two years ago. I'm still in remission (yay!) and I have about five months of maintenance treatment left (double yay!) so almost at the end of it all now. If you haven't already, you can read a bit about my leukaemia journey here on the Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand website (don't worry, there are no gory details!).

I wanted to take a moment to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has been part of my treatment and recovery over the past two years: my family and friends, my doctors and nurses, my fellow writers, bloggers, Facebookers and haiku poets. I greatly appreciate your support and encouragement, your kind words and friendship :) You all have made this journey a much easier one to get through. THANK YOU!

          as I'm driven
          to the Cancer Centre
          an old man
          sits on his porch
          playing the guitar 

Ribbons 7:4 Winter 2011

Writing haiku and tanka over the past two years has also helped me enormously in processing my journey through leukaemia. I was so pleased to get an email yesterday telling me that I had four tanka short-listed for this year's Take Five : Best Contemporary Tanka, Volume 4, all of which are part of my cancer collection. (And yes, it was one of my secret 2011 goals to get in this anthology:) Maybe this time next year I will have my book (with the working title, Patient Property) ready and published: my third anniversary would be the perfect time to launch it! 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

How Did Your NaHaiWriMo Go?

I quietly wrote my haiku-a-day for NaHaiWriMo this February: I didn't follow the prompts by Michael Dylan Welch on the NaHaiWriMo Facebook page, and I didn't blog about it. Unfortunately, I did miss two days mid-way through due to illness, but as I wrote two haiku a few of the days throughout the month, I have come out with more than 29 at the end of it all, and am pretty pleased with my lot.

March 1st signals Autumn in New Zealand, and so it's time to share the March page of my calendar... 

March 2012 - Kirsten's Calendar of Haiku & Photography

The photo was taken at McLaren Falls near Tauranga last year, and the haiku was written on this blog during April's NaPoWriMo last year. You can click on the image for a larger view. Enjoy!