Sad news

Today I came across some sad news.

My friend and mentor, Graham Nunn, has been accused of a serious wrongdoing – plagiarism. I don’t know all the details and I am not trying to speak for him. Nor excuse what he has done, should the worst be confirmed.

But I do want to speak to his character.

Graham is one of the most genuine people I have ever had the honour of calling friend, and I feel lucky to have benefitted from his wisdom, kindness, talent and generosity of spirit. I know of few individuals who have worked harder, done more, for Australian poetry – especially in Queensland. I know there are many other poets in the country who have also benefitted from his work.

I understand there are contradictions within this post – how can a writer be called genuine if he is also called plagiarist? I don’t know, but over the last decade I found him to be such.

Update 18.9.13

Chris Lynch on the issue – more eloquent than I. Through my shock I feel for everyone involved, especially those poets hurt by such developments.

An Introduction to Haiku – Compositional Techniques 2

Sense Switching

“Sense switching” is a great technique for surprising and delighting the reader. A haiku poet might use it to engage the reader by introducing something unexpected in the poem or to connect two seemingly unrelated events or images. You can do this through careful placement of information across the phrase and fragment. Here, sense switching is illustrated by what’s perhaps the most famous haiku of all, Bashō’s “Old Pond” haiku:

old pond
a frog jumps into
the sound of water

—trans by Jane Reichhold

The poem starts off by focusing on an image—on the visual—but by the end, the sense has been switched from sight to sound.

Again, we see the use of phrase and fragment, where the visual aspect appears in the fragment and sound element appears in the phrase. What’s especially impressive about this haiku is the way the movement of the frog leads to the transition from sight to sound, neatly tying the elements of the poem together and avoiding the “list-like” haiku.

Here’s one of my own verses, featuring the same switch:

through the shutters
a single fly
carries the chug of boats

This poem, while far less graceful, uses different subjects but the same senses. The reader should go from watching the fly pass through the shutters to listening to the chug of boats enter the room.

Narrowing the Focus

“Narrowing the focus” is a similar technique, a change occurs over the phrase and fragment. A haiku begins with a broad description of a scene in the first line, then takes a progressively closer view of something over the following lines (generally the phrase portion of the verse).

This can be seen in the haiku by Graham Nunn, featured earlier in these posts:

distant thunder
each stroke of the oar
stirs the clouds

Line one establishes a broad view before we shift closer with line two, to the moving oar, before the poem finishes with a micro view of the oar tip, as it stirs clouds which have been reflected in the water. “Narrowing the focus” can be achieved if you think of your poem like a camera—begin with an establishing shot, then move to the subject for a close up, and finally an extreme close up where the most telling detail of your poem is revealed.

This technique is favoured by haiku writers seeking to establish an intimacy between subject and viewer, and can be useful in drawing attention to something seemingly insignificant—but which becomes poetic through either its position in the wider world or the lens through which the poet views it. In Nunn’s poem the ripple of the water is both a disruption of the image of the clouds, and a precursor to the approaching storm, a kind of calm that’s depicted as always fleeting.

Shasei

The last technique I’ll explore is Shiki’s theory of shasei. In shasei, the poet attempts to “sketch from life” by writing directly and simply, without a focus on other techniques. Instead, this approach attempts to represent an experience “in the moment”, or an image or a scene “just as it appears”. These types of haiku strive for simplicity and reject artifice (which is especially unappealing in a traditional haiku). Here’s one from Shiki himself:

spring day
a long line of footprints
on the sandy beach

—trans by Yuzuru Miura


It begins very simply by establishing the scene, written as a fact and showing something the writer has observed. This haiku could be reduced to very basic units; spring, day, footprints and sand. When the modifier “long” appears, a sense of time is introduced and we might ask ourselves, “who walked here before me?”

Actually, asking “who walked here before me?” is a useful way to describe the key to shasei—the directly observed experience. To write in this style, the poet personally experiences some sight or moment, then composes it “live”. The poet goes out and sees the footprints in the sand. This is part of the reason why the ginko or “haiku-walk” is popular: The poet actually goes outside, often into picturesque landscapes, and simply walks, unhurriedly, until they see a striking image.

If writing a haiku in the shasei tradition, remember to state what you observe in the simplest of terms.

Amalfi Coast – the ‘chug of boats’

Composing Your Own

Try these techniques and approaches in your own haiku and see if they make a difference. While there are many other techniques out there, and trying them out is important, it’s just as useful to keep your observation skills sharp and to be direct in your expression.

Haiku has a long history and its evolution has sometimes occurred simultaneously in multiple countries. What used to be scripture and what’s current practice can always be bounced off of each other—just as what works in one literary tradition or era won’t always have the same effect here and now.

  • And so instead of counting syllables, count a single breath: Does your poem feel like a mouthful? If so, maybe there are too many words.
  • Remember the phrase and fragment approach, which incorporates the important “cut”—but remember, not all cuts need to be sharp!
  • Remember also that the phrase and fragment is the hinge upon which the haiku’s prosody hangs, and it can further serve as a compositional framework.
  • Instead of searching for the perfect classical kigo, find a referent that suits your culture, your experience of the season.
  • And finally, instead of cramming multiple ideas, images or techniques into one verse, go for something that isn’t overburdened, and something that takes the reader somewhere unexpected.

Thank you

First and foremost to Graham Nunn, for allowing me to quote from his work, for teaching me so much about haiku, and for inspiring my thoughts on the techniques. I’d also like to thank Alex Cabal for helping to get the article up to shape, and for publishing it first, and to John Carley, renku master, for his valuable feedback too!

Third Australian Haiku Anthology

pw_banner_bgOne of Australia’s best known haiku publications, paper wasp is a quarterly out of Queensland, Australia, and one which is open to submissions worldwide.

They’ve always published great haiku (and related forms) from not only Australia’s best-known haiku poets but newer writers too, and I’ve been lucky enough to join all of those writers in the Third Australian Haiku Anthology (Eds Jacqui Murray & Katherine Samuelowicz.)

Five of my verses appeared in the collection, two of which I’ve reproduced below:

thirdhaiku

a splash of yellow
standing
against the firestorm

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autumn moon
groan as feet
hit cold tiles

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But I mostly wanted to share some other favourites from within, and urge haiku writers to submit your work, and in addition, if you’re not already, and you can, to support the publication.

There’s a great range of voices throughout, along with a real reflection of Australian elements that aren’t always readily observable – but then, that’s what I’m looking for in my poetry as a reader, the chance to stop and see something again!

This anthology, and haiku itself, always helps me with that.

Here are just some of my many favourites:

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bush track
first rain drops roll
dust into balls

Janice M. Bostok

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.
strutting magpie
opening and closing
the supermarket doors

Belinda Broughton

.
.
rising from prayer
i find myself
in tourist photographs

Ross Clark

.
a squabble of rosellas
unzips
the clouds

Anne Elvey

.
distant thunder
the future
in my bones

Lorin Ford

.
autumn wind
chasing my old hat
old me

Peter Macrow

.

.
Letting my tongue
deeper into
the strawberry sundae

Graham Nunn

.
$5 phone card –
the things
I forgot to say

Vuong Pham

.
winter solstice
the barbed wire fence
furry with frost

Cynthia Rowe

.
mosquito
a stranger’s blood
on my hand

Quendryth Young

between giants – blog launch – day five

betweengiants(web)

Welcome to the last day of my blog launch!

It’s been five days of poetry, poetry, poetry and I’m grateful to everyone who visited, commented, contacted me or ordered the book, and I’m most definitely grateful to Graham, Jane, Robbie and Mark, along with Alec Patric and also Stephen Matthews from Ginninderra Press whose fantastic work is reflected in each detail of my latest book.

I’d also like to thank my wonderful wife, Brooke, for supporting me during the launch, the composition and editing of the poetry, and for every day we have together. Thank you.

Today I’ve got two pieces to share, hope you enjoy them – one is a mixture of the performance and ‘making of’ the poem ‘through the backyard’ and the other is an audio version of ‘Vesuvius sleeping.’

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pom

blog launch prizes, deals and offers

between giants is available for $18 (postage paid in Aus) by contacting me directly, just leave a comment below and I will e-mail you. You can also order through publisher Ginninderra, click here to purchase via Paypal. I’d love your support and it would be fantastic to have you visit again and let me know what you thought of the poetry.

During launch week you can also purchase my previous titles at reduced prices, along with a ‘book pack’ option including all four of my collections for $40 postage paid (in Aus).

Stepping Over Seasons (2009) - $15

Stepping Over Seasons (2009) – $15

Orion Tips the Saucepan (2010) - 2for$5

Orion Tips the Saucepan (2010) – 2for$5

pollen and the storm (2008) - $10

pollen and the storm (2008) – $10

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There is also a ‘Giveaway’ for those of you on Goodreads, which is free to enter, all you have to do is click here!

Poetry Critique Offer

For anyone interested in getting constructive criticism on their poetry, I’m also offering to look at up to five poems free of charge, if you leave a comment or e-mail me. (I have qualifications in Editing and an Honours Degree in Writing, along with four poetry collections and in addition to this I have been editing poetry journals/publications for the last ten years – most recently working as poetry editor for page seventeen since issue eight).

In the days to come there will be new performances and surprises from my ‘vault’ so stick around, there’s still more poetry to come in a big last day!

between giants – blog launch – day four

Next up is a double hit of audio, on the second last day of the blog launch, with ‘Stillness’ performed by Robbie Coburn and ‘St Mark’s Square’ read by Mark William Jackson.

Check them out below

Poet and performer Robbie’s first poetry collection, Human Batteries, both eloquent and experimental, was released just last year and features the fantastic ‘Love Poem,’ which you can check out here and then why not read up on what’s behind the chapbook in my interview with Robbie.

Mark is a Sydney poet whose work has appeared in leading journals and anthologies such as Going Down Swinging, Cordite and Best Australian Poems – he’s also a fantastic spoken word artist – check out these two – and gave me a real thrill when he took between giants all the way to Saint Mark’s Square in Venice while on holiday! Thanks to both Mark and Robbie, I definitely owe you both!

Reading Ashley Capes in Piazza San Marco, Venice

blog launch prizes, deals and offers

between giants is available for $18 (postage paid in Aus) by contacting me directly, just leave a comment below and I will e-mail you. You can also order through publisher Ginninderra, click here to purchase via Paypal. I’d love your support and it would be fantastic to have you visit again and let me know what you thought of the poetry.

During launch week you can also purchase my previous titles at reduced prices, along with a ‘book pack’ option including all four of my collections for $40 postage paid (in Aus).

Stepping Over Seasons (2009) - $15

Stepping Over Seasons (2009) – $15

Orion Tips the Saucepan (2010) - 2for$5

Orion Tips the Saucepan (2010) – 2for$5

pollen and the storm (2008) - $10

pollen and the storm (2008) – $10

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There is also a ‘Giveaway’ for those of you on Goodreads, which is free to enter, all you have to do is click here!

Poetry Critique Offer

For anyone interested in getting constructive criticism on their poetry, I’m also offering to look at up to five poems free of charge, if you leave a comment or e-mail me. (I have qualifications in Editing and an Honours Degree in Writing, along with four poetry collections and in addition to this I have been editing poetry journals/publications for the last ten years – most recently working as poetry editor for page seventeen since issue eight).

In the days to come there will be new performances and surprises from my ‘vault’ so stick around, there’s still more poetry to come in a big last day!

between giants – blog launch – day three

The next performance from between giants is of ‘Now in the Night,’ by Tasmanian poet Jane Williams.

Jane is the author of five poetry volumes and a short story collection, her latest being City of Possibilities, which is an exciting mix of verse and haibun, but here’s one of my favourite pieces from an earlier collection (The Last Tourist) – ‘How the heart works.’ I’m in Jane’s debt for her wonderful performance and I have no hesitation recommending her for when you’re next browsing for poetry.

blog launch prizes, deals and offers

between giants is available for $18 (postage paid in Aus) by contacting me directly, just leave a comment below and I will e-mail you. You can also order through publisher Ginninderra, click here to purchase via Paypal. I’d love your support and it would be fantastic to have you visit again and let me know what you thought of the poetry.

During launch week you can also purchase my previous titles at reduced prices, along with a ‘book pack’ option including all four of my collections for $40 postage paid (in Aus).

Stepping Over Seasons (2009) - $15

Stepping Over Seasons (2009) – $15

Orion Tips the Saucepan (2010) - 2for$5

Orion Tips the Saucepan (2010) – 2for$5

pollen and the storm (2008) - $10

pollen and the storm (2008) – $10

.

.

 

 

 

 

.

There is also a ‘Giveaway’ for those of you on Goodreads, which is free to enter, all you have to do is click here!

Poetry Critique Offer

For anyone interested in getting constructive criticism on their poetry, I’m also offering to look at up to five poems free of charge, if you leave a comment or e-mail me. (I have qualifications in Editing and an Honours Degree in Writing, along with four poetry collections and in addition to this I have been editing poetry journals/publications for the last ten years – most recently working as poetry editor for page seventeen since issue eight).

In the days to come there will be performances from, Robbie Coburn, Mark William Jackson and myself, along with some surprises, so stick around, more poetry tomorrow!