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

Monday, April 30, 2012

My Poetry Month Book Pick

...Is breath by Sandra Simpson (Piwakawaka Press, NZ, 2011)

I've admired Sandra Simpson's haiku for some time. She writes with such depth and yet lightness, with such delicacy and yet strength. I had struggled to explain to others the elusive quality which I found so appealing within Sandra's haiku, and only recently discovered the answer in John Carley's review of her book here

He says, of Sandra's haiku, “...we have effortless word choice, unforced structure, and a naturalness of subject that belies the deep resonance hovering just at the edge of perception. This is what Matsuo Basho called karumi - ‘lightness'. It is rare to see it done this well.” Many thanks to John for expressing that so eloquently, and to Basho, of course! 

Contrary to my absolute passion for haiku, I don't buy haiku books very often. But when I heard that Sandra's was coming out, I knew it would be of the highest standard and so did not hesitate in purchasing a copy (even though my health kept me away from the launch party last December). I wasn't disappointed.

Breath is a triumph from every aspect: the size of the book and the font, the cover design and title, the spacing and grouping of haiku. It all speaks of the karumi which Sandra conveys so well. I easily read it all in one sitting – something I've never done with a poetry book or journal before! 

I relished in reading some of my favourites, such as:

feeling it
not feeling it
the grasshopper
between my hands

(Daily Haiku, Vol 6: Cycle 11, 2011)

great-grandfather's diary
his sketch of an iceberg
fading away

(Third place, NZPS Haiku Contest, 2009)

                    pausing also
                    at the sacred matai … 
                    a wood pigeon
                    (First place, Kokako Haiku Contest, 2008)

Christmas recipe –
all the ingredients
except my mother's hands

(Ice Diver, NZPS, 2011)

And other haiku that were new to me, such as:

autumn leaves –
my forgotten chore
remains forgotten

(Kokako 2, 2004)

                    winter sun –
                    the time it takes
                    the sheet-scar to fade

                    (Daily Haiku, Vol 6: Cycle 11, 2011)

talking as though he
will die first –
magnolia petals

(first publication breath)

                    from the tobacco jar
                    last year's receipts

                    (HM, Robert Frost Haiku Contest, 2009)

As Sandra is also an accomplished photographer, I was pleased to see that she had used her own photos to mark seasonal chapter beginnings, as well as other points throughout the book. This is a wonderful touch that adds to the overall experience that is breath

I hope you'll purchase a copy of this first collection from an award-winning New Zealand haijin this National Poetry Month (US), especially if you don't already have a Kiwi poet on your bookshelf!

Ordering details can be found on the book’s website http://breathhaiku.wordpress.com/

Sandra Simpson grew up on a farm in Manawatu, New Zealand, and has been a journalist for over 30 years. She has lived and worked in England, Qatar and Lebanon and now lives in Tauranga in the aptly named Bay of Plenty in New Zealand.

Her first haiku was published in 1995 and since then she has gone on to win several international awards, has judged competitions in New Zealand and has had her work published widely, including in several anthologies.

Two of her poems feature on the Katikati Haiku Pathway (click here).

breath is her first collection and represents work largely from the past decade.

Sandra has kindly written a commentary of two of the haiku I chose from breath

great-grandfather's diary
his sketch of an iceberg
fading away

The diary actually belongs to my great-great grandfather John Simpson and records the journey he made with his wife and six children from England to New Zealand – leaving Gravesend in the Thames estuary on Christmas Eve. 1874 and arriving in Port Nicholson (now Wellington) on St Patrick’s Day, 1875.

Unfortunately, the extra “great” didn’t scan as well so was dropped. His diary is written in pencil so is, sadly, fading away. John sketched various things in his diary, including the skyline of the island of Tenerife in the Canary group, where his infant son Harry was buried at sea. In mid-February the ship began to meet icebergs and on February 18 John made a sketch of one.

The “fading away” was intended to apply equally to his hand writing as to the slow melting of an iceberg once it sets sail. The judge, Tony Chad, also saw the haiku as a commentary on global warming.

The haiku was written especially for the NZPS contest – coincidentally in November of that same year New Zealand was captivated by the sight of icebergs floating past on their way north to oblivion.

from the tobacco jar
last year's receipts

This may seem like a haiku that simply plays with words but I have written about what was, for me, a real event. My father kept important receipts in a tobacco jar and each year at tax time he would bring them out, unroll them and do the necessary paperwork. There is a strong debate among his three children as to who will inherit the china jar.

My thanks to Sandra Simpson for these insights, and for bringing us breath. A great end to a jam-packed Poetry Month!

Friday, April 27, 2012


I was very excited to be asked by Christine L. Villa to judge her haiga contest to celebrate National Poetry Month. It will be a blind judging, so even though all entries are appearing on her blog Blossom Rain, I won't be peeking! Instead Chrissi will send me the photo and all the entries (excluding names) after the closing date and I'll be choosing a winner based on which haiku best works with her image. The winner will receive a pack of six postcards with Chrissi's own photos.

Here are the details from Chrissi:

1) On the first day of the contest, I'll be posting my photo. Submit ONLY ONE haiku for the photo and type it on the comments section. The haiku must be the work of the submitting author, unpublished online or in print.
2) Below your haiku, write your full name and email address. If you don't want to post
your email address, email me at chrissi731@hotmail(dot)com. I need to be able to email you if you win.
3) Everyone is welcome to comment on any haiku, but please no critiquing. 
4) The judge is Kirsten Cliff
5) Contest runs from April 23 through midnight of April 30 (PST).
6) The winner will be announced at
7:00 pm, May 4, 2012 (PST) with the collaborative haiga. If the winner doesn't reply within three days after the day of announcement another poet will be receiving the prize.
7) All rights revert back to the authors after the winner has been announced.

Chrissi says, "This contest is also my way of thanking all the haiku poets whom I've met online. I feel so blessed to find all of you who've been supportive and helpful in my haiku journey. I look forward to seeing you all. Let's all celebrate together and have some fun! :-)"

Here's the link to the post with the photo and all the entries so far: HAIKU MY PHOTO CHALLENGE
Enjoy yourselves! And I'll see you with the announcement of the winner next week :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My Most Beautiful Thing

...Is those few minutes at day's end when the mountain range glows orange, lilac, pink or gold in the glory of the setting sun. I speak to the mountains every day from somewhere deep inside of me and each evening, just for a moment, I know my prayers have been heard when I watch Nature's gift of illumination.

(I live in the valley of the majestic Kaimai Range in Waikato, New Zealand. My husband and I have a beautiful view of them from our home, however this photo was taken by hubby from just down the road. Please click on the image to see it larger.)

Today I'm taking part in the My Most Beautiful Thing Blogsplash to celebrate beautiful things - inspired by Fiona Robyn's new novel, The Most Beautiful Thing. Bloggers from all over the world are taking part and writing or posting pictures of their most beautiful things today. Find out more here and see everyone else's blog posts here

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Two Great NaPoWriMo Giveaways!

The wonderfully supportive and energetic Kathy Nguyen is running two competitions to celebrate National Poetry Month.

The first is a haiku/senryu/tanka contest on her blog - Origami Lotus Poetry
Take a look at all the details here, and you'll be able to see my entry already in the comments section.
She is giving away a copy of Peter Newton's What We Find to the winner, and you can read her review of the book here.

The second is for WOWH members and the giveaway is one of Fiona's or Kaspa's e-courses!
You can find the prompt and all the info here, and if you're not already part of the Writing Our Way Home community then why not consider joining. You can find out more about WOWH here.

There's still lots of fun to be had this April!

Friday, April 20, 2012


visiting the in-laws
this dust on her
artificial flowers

Prune Juice, Issue 8, Spring 2012 
Senryu and photography © Kirsten Cliff 


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Beautiful Blogsplash

What is your most beautiful thing?

Is it your one year old niece's golden smile? The pale pink peony buds in your garden? A silver ring given to you by your grandmother? Your shiny red Vespa scooter? Is your most beautiful thing a place or a moment? Is it a philosophy or a value?

On Tuesday the 24th of April, we're organising a Blogsplash to celebrate beautiful things, inspired by Fiona Robyn's new novel, 'The Most Beautiful Thing'.

We're inviting people from all over the world to blog, tweet & write about their own most beautiful thing.

You could post a photo or write a prose piece about your most beautiful thing. You could write a small stone or show us a piece of artwork you've made in honour of your most beautiful thing. It's completely up to you. You could be extravagant and post a whole series of your most beautiful things.
We'll make a directory of everyone who's taking part here, sending new visitors to your blog, and we'll also re-post our favourite entries on this blog over the following month.

If you're interested in taking part, email Fiona with 'blogsplash' as the title and she'll send you more details. You can get thinking and set up your blog post as soon as you like.

I have no idea what I'm going to do (may have be more than one post!) but I hope you'll join me next week :)

Splish splash!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Wind Chimes...

                    wind chimes...
                    that same anxiety
                    rising again

Kokako 16 (April 2012)
Haiku & photography © Kirsten Cliff

Friday, April 13, 2012

My Year of Submission

IT BEGAN LAST YEAR on 7th January when I made the bold statement on my blog: I've decided to submit to a poetry publication or competition every week in 2011
What can I say? I love poetry! 
Plus I hadn't submitted much in 2010: I had my hands full, and my spirit clouded, with leukaemia. In this first week of the New Year I was also hyped up on writing a poem-a-day (PAD) for the first International Small Stones Writing Month (A River of Stones) and my inspiration had kicked into overdrive. I wanted to get back out there. Observing, tasting, trying, writing, reading, submitting...

The first four weeks went by and four poetry submissions were sent off. Without pause, I was participating in another PAD in February: the first NaHaiWriMo (National Haiku Writing Month). 
A further four weeks past and this time I sent out seven submissions. I was getting bolder. I sent poetry to competitions I'd never seen before, and haiku to a journal that I'd previously been too nervous to approach. I got a rejection. Another was the A River of Stones anthology. I got an acceptance:

loading the dishwasher:
how he likes the teaspoons
in a particular slot
and how he said today
when we sat in the garden
"I like the shapes of the leaves on our trees."

Through March my spirits remained high and making weekly submissions was proving manageable. My first month with five weeks and five submissions were sent off. 
April, and yep, I did a third PAD challenge. This time it was NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) and another first for me. More poetry was written, read, shared and submitted. Following a set of daily prompts this time, I tested my skills with triptych, concrete poetry, rhyming- and free-verse, as well as my favourite Japanese short forms. 
The months went on and I faithfully submitted poems every week, and I wrote a lot, too. Work that I'm really proud of regardless of whether or not it has found its home in a publication, or stayed at home with me. I thought about quitting my self-imposed challenge several times. Why was I doing this again? But something within just made me keep on going. Some weeks, if I wasn't very well, or just seriously over it, I'd quickly submit a haiku to one of the free entry competitions with an on-line form. So easy! Then I'd sigh: Another week complete. Other weeks would see me submit to two or three different places. 
Week 26: I've never before been waiting on so many editors' verdicts and competition results: currently awaiting replies from seven publications (on-line and in print), two anthologies and five competitions. Phew!

I was spurred on by my successes, and the growing number of poets I was meeting on-line after four PAD challenges (A River of Stones again in July) and my blog and Facebook posts. Through these social media interactions I discovered new places for my poems. I also got to read lots more great poetry as I found other writers' blogs and Facebook pages: names I now recognised from these new journals I was reading and sending my work to. 
I entered the most competitions I ever had during this year. But sadly had no success, except for my Commended in the NZPS International Haiku Contest with:

the doctor shifts
in his seat

Any fear of rejection I might have had about submitting my little poems from NZ to some of the big US journals went right out the window. It had to. This was my year and I wanted to make the most of it. I was delighted when this haiku was accepted to The Heron's Nest after my first time submitting there:

first winter's day
I slip into
his gumboots

Getting an acceptance was always exciting news, especially from the journals that were new to me. My ultimate high came from being accepted as a contributor for Cycle 12 of DailyHaiku, where 28 of my haiku have appeared over a six-month period:

cherry blossoms...
the bride-to-be offers
a sun-kissed cheek

As the end of the year drew near, I got busy. Nothing too strenuous, just getting married, buying a house, relocating to another region, all while having maintenance treatment for leukaemia (I'm still in remission!). December was the hardest month overall. Half unpacked, only dial-up Internet access, exhausted: I'd had enough. But I still somehow struggled through my submissions each week, then welcomed the end of my year. Week 52: TICK! 
It's satisfying to have been published in twenty-two publications over the past twelve months. An even better reward is when fellow writers from across the world tell me that I inspire them; sending me messages that my poems have touched them or brought a tear to their eye. I'm extremely grateful for these moments. I'm honoured to have my work read and enjoyed by so many people. I'm happy to be back in full force on my poetry journey.

This article was written for, and first published in, a fine line, The Magazine of the New Zealand Poetry Society, March 2012.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Feathered Poets

I'm very happy to be one of Angie Werren's 'feathered poets' this month as part of National Poetry Month and Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog tour. Yesterday one of my previously unpublished photo-haiga was hosted on Angie's blog, which you can find here. Angie is showcasing different poets everyday so pop on over to her blog and find someone you haven't heard from before. You never know where it may lead you! :)

Monday, April 9, 2012

All I have to do is Dream...

Click on image to enlarge

I've been writing a few more dream haiku just recently, inspired by Aubrie Cox's latest call for submissions over at Yay Words! She is putting together another project, this time with a focus on DREAMS and FOXES. Find out how you can be involved here.

I've just finished a dream rengay, especially written for the project, with Cara Holman. This is our third rengay together, and I find it a very enjoyable experience. The first two have been accepted to A Hundred Gourds, which comes out in June. I hope Aubrie likes our latest one, which we've titled 'Dream Catcher'.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Tanka Sonnets

I first heard about tanka sonnets last year when I read two on Claire Everett's blog, At the Edge of Dreams. You can read her beautiful examples lifting the veil and a crow's wing by clicking on the titles. Seriously, go and read them. They are amazing!

I started experimenting with tanka sonnets in January, writing three at that time and really enjoying the form. I plan to send two into New Zealand's Kokako magazine for consideration next month. The third saw the light of day when it appeared on Margaret Dornaus' blog Haiku-doodle yesterday as part of her National Poetry Month: Guest Post series.

You can check out The day the willow spoke by clicking on the title, and also read a bit about why I write haiku once you're there. Margaret is hosting many poets over the course of April so do check in regularly to learn more about writers you already know, and to meet new ones too.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

How Close I Came...

                    today I thought about
                    how close I came
                    to dying...
                    another white camellia
                    falls to the ground

Kokako 16 (April, 2012)
Photography & tanka © Kirsten Cliff

Monday, April 2, 2012

My First Appearance For Poetry Month

Below is the link to Cara Holman's blog Prose Posies, where I'm first to appear this month in her April Poet Showcase for National Poetry Month. Keep checking in to be introduced daily to new poets and their writing. I will be! :)


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Happy April Fool's Day!

April 1st - when Daylight Saving ends in New Zealand and [Inter]National Poetry Month begins!

I'm far too exhausted in every possible way to do something daily on my blog this month. But I'm very excited to have been invited by three poet friends - Angie Werren, Margaret Dornaus and Cara Holman - to appear on their respective blogs with haiku, tanka, haibun, haiga and a few words about my poetic life. Tune in to Angie's feathers, Margaret's Haiku-doodle and Cara's Prose Posies this April to read lots of great poetry and be inspired!

Below is the April page of the calendar I made for my family. The haiku was first published in the taste of nashi - New Zealand Haiku (Windrift, 2008) and the photo was taken in the backyard of my old home in Papamoa last year. Remember it's autumn in New Zealand so monarch butterflies are in abundance right now! (Click on photo to see larger image.)

April 2012 - Kirsten's Calendar of Haiku & Photography

Speaking of New Zealand haiku - The Haiku Foundation's 'Per Diem: Daily Haiku' feature this month is being edited by award-winning Kiwi haijin Sandra Simpson and features haiku from Aotearoa (NZ). Check in to THF homepage daily to see a fresh poem on the lower right-hand side of your screen, including one of mine. Enjoy! :)