Online internet courses by Call of the Page

Are you interested in a Call of the Page course? We run courses on haiku (beginner and intermediate, and advanced). We also run workshops and courses on tanka; tanka stories/prose; haibun; shahai; and other genres.

Please email Karen or Alan at our joint email address:
We will let you know more about these courses.

Call of the Page (Alan & Karen)

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Second Prize for Alan Summers - The Australian Haiku Society Spring Haiga Kukai: Non Seasonal Results with comments by judge Ron Moss

photo©Ron Moss, Tasmania, Australia 2007

The Australian Haiku Society announced that it will hold a Haiga Kukai on the spring equinox 2017. Images by Ron Moss will be displayed on the AHS website and Ron will then select the winning haiku.

Second Place

rush hour the train station cornea by cornea

-Alan Summers

Judge's commentary:
Another fine one-line haiku and the wonderful use of "cornea by cornea" to focus on the mirroring qualities of all the elements at play. We can read many different links and connections into the glass lenses in the image and the humans on board the train. With the movement in the haiku we are taken along by the swirling effect of the train as it rushes past.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Moon is Broken: Juxtaposition in haiku - Alan Summers

The Moon is Broken: Juxtaposition in haiku

Guest poets appear in the version for Writing Poetry: the haiku way by Alan Summers.

Haiku (plural and singular spelling) are the shortest of self-contained poetic verses, and yet can often pull from us an emotional reaction greater than the sum of the physical count of words.  This is often obtained by breaking the haiku verse down into two parts concerning the text you can see. It’s where the break is created inside this tiny shell of a poem, which causes a breach or fissure, that is part of the poem, and creates a non-verbal or “something unsaid” that’s a bridge, and thus giving us aspects of white space/negative space.  

Also see:
Negative space in haiku: Writing Poetry: the haiku way

Marco Fraticelli (musician/poet and haiku writer) gives a wonderful account about negative space where he tells the story of a painter, in ancient China or Japan, commissioned to paint four panels representing a flock of crows. Instead of painting numerous crows, he left three panels blank, and on the fourth one, he painted half a crow in flight, as if a flock of crow was just there and had just flown away.  Fraticelli makes this analogy with haiku: 
it’s often what’s not there that counts, what people imagine. Readers fill the gap in their imagination and complete the image: 

A haiku poem has to carry weight beyond a list of keywords and key phrases that are known to have potential to instigate or evoke an emotion. One of the key aspects of haiku is a combination of tension and resonance, between the words, and its fragments and phrasal sections. One issue if not thought out is where the phrase doesn't take us as far as we might wish beyond the fragment.

Essential components of haiku are literally what is not said in text, using a judicial amount of negative space, also known as whitespace, and MA (): a void in the poem that produces something in-between the two parts of a haiku; This is where, despite a lack of black (visible) text, this invisible section can add contexuality, sharpness, and tension to the poem as a whole. The core of many haiku is the dance with white space/whitespace, where it’s used parallel to the seen/visible text on the page. Utilising a number of techniques is no easy matter, and taking the eye off the ball has resulted in numerous message or statement epigrams, or flat missives:  Tonality is essential.

Also see:

Juxtaposition is one from many techniques that can be used highly effectively in the extreme brevity of haiku poetry that enables it to be a fully functioning poem.

Summing up and examples:
Juxtaposition  in haiku

Juxtaposition: placing two things that can be physical objects i.e. concrete images.  

Random juxtaposition: two random objects (moving) in parallel, a technique intended to stimulate creativity.

Haruo Shirane:  
'art of juxtaposition relies on a... process of defamiliarization and recontextualization'
Traces of Dreams: Landscape, Cultural Memory and the Poetry of Basho
Haruo Shirane
Stanford University Press (30 Jun 1998)  ISBN-10: 0804730997 ISBN-13: 978-0804730990

Further down I’ll say more about juxtaposition again, but for now just see and recognise juxtaposition in these following examples:

strong wind
the juggler's elbow catches
a pocket hanky

Alan Summers 
BBC - Cumbrian haiku (2004); British Haiku Society members’ anthology: Other (2004)

The golden ratio, a rule of thirds, starts here with strong wind, which on its own doesn’t state enough beyond its words at present; Yet when paired with the 2-line phrase part of the haiku, both work together to expand each other.

Golden ratio of haiku:
Haiku itself works as a frame containing a picture made up of thirds: one single line image and another image across two lines. 

the moon is broken
Battersea Power Station 
from a train window

Alan Summers
Award credit: 1st Prize, World Monuments Fund (New York USA) 2012 Haiku Contest

Juxtaposition results in an image and counter-image that hopefully resonates with the reader beyond the duration of just a single reading.  If we travel by train we often have something framed in the window.  For me, travelling to London (U.K.) on the Waterloo Line, it’s the iconic landmark that Pink Floyd used for an album cover: 

Another example of zeroing into an aspect of the picture we see when we look at life, be it in a car, a bus or train, cycling, or even walking:

wild peppermint
a dock leaf shadow
clings to the bee

Alan Summers
Award credit:  Commended, The Basho Museum Memorial Anthology,  Ueno, Japan 2001

dark news
the comfort
of crows

Alan Summers
Publication Credit: tinywords 15.1 (March 31st 2015)

Billie Wilson says:
I read this first thing this morning and it has been with me all day. An excellent example of the sheer power that can be captured in the tiniest of poems. It is haiku like this one that drew me into the haiku world, and it is haiku like this one that keeps me here, yearning to write . . . haiku like this one.

dead sparrow
how light the evening
comes to a close

Alan Summers
Publication credit: 
Haiku Canada Review vol. 11 no. 2 (October 2017) ed. LeRoy Gorman 

“The first line shocks us into the present moment. Sparrows are beloved birds, not only because of their miniature size, but also because of their sweet songs and ubiquitousness. The last two lines depend much on how one reads “light.” Is it light in color, light in weight, or physical light?”
Haiku Commentary by Nicholas Klacsanzky

Recently anthologised again, this time by The Wonder Code, is this sound, taste, and smell poem which relies mostly on non-visual imagery, using the golden ratio of rain sound against the calm of an autumn recipe:

lullaby of rain
another pinch of saffron
in the pumpkin soup

Alan Summers
The Wonder Code (2017) ed. Scott Mason :

Sometimes two very different things show how alike they are in unexpected ways, or somehow connected despite subject matter, and if we do it subtly then readers can discover the similarities or connection for themselves too.

Sometimes the reader’s discovery is immediate and profound, occurring the instant the poem is read. Sometimes the discovery takes longer; an unwritten question lies in the space between the two dissimilar parts of a haiku. The reader reads between the lines.  

Resonance is created when the reader’s imagination lets him or her discover the connection between the parts.

Traps to sidestep:

Don’t explain, don’t provide a 2-line phrase that explains itself or even the 1-line part.

Cause and effect: Where one part, either the 1-line or 2-line section of the haiku explains the other, or too obviously spells it out to the reader.  We mustn’t patronise the reader, as we should remember that we don’t like to be patronised, whether as a customer in a shop, or in any type of place.  Not everyone is an expert but we have a little common sense and general knowledge, so we must respect the reader, and not spell out things as if they are still in kindergarten.

Avoid prepositional phrases at the beginning of a haiku


on a warm day 
the workman lunches
in his wheelbarrow

Published version:
warm day ...
the workman lunches
in his wheelbarrow

Alan Summers
Publications credits: Hermitage (2004); Snapshot Haiku Calendar (2005)
Award credit: Runner-up, The Haiku Calendar Competition (Snapshot Press 2004)

in a strong wind
the juggler's elbow catches
a pocket hanky


on a strong wind
the juggler's elbow catches
a pocket hanky

Published version:
strong wind
the juggler's elbow catches
a pocket hanky

Alan Summers
Publications credits: BBC - Cumbrian haiku (2004); BHS members anthology: Other (2004)

Play around with seemingly opposite images and subjects, either with new material, new observations, or from any of your one line or two line pieces of writing just waiting to find an interesting partner; or by expanding any lists of one or two words into fully fledged 1-line or 2-line sections of a haiku. 

Just enjoy playing around with them to see if you find any startling, even illogical pairings. Have fun experimenting!

Alan Summers©2012-2017
Alan & Karen regularly run online courses in haiku and related genres. Please do keep checking when our next course you might be interested in comes up:

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

hidden and embedded haiku, and flash fiction - flash: BLUE — short-shorts on a theme - blue touch-paper

flash: BLUE — short-shorts on a theme

It’s a blue-grey day, pointillism of trees shivering in the wind, and driving rain. It’s late, I’m tired, and I just want a train to get me home safe. Everywhere there are tones of blue, a couple entwine into a single long scarf. The train arrives, and I’m in, the couple sit opposite me giggling through a game of paper rock scissors. They endlessly punch out rock to rock or rock to scissors. Long journey into night, there is never paper wraps rock. I count down minutes after minutes to my stop, everything fast and slow, fast and slow, all its own blur. The train doesn’t really take forever, and I am sure paper gets to wrap rock. The train hits my stop. I race up the hill. A trashcan lid clangs for no reason: It could be cats, a fox, or something escaping the empire of owls that control this time. At this hour I’m also ready to light the blue-touch paper of a different kind, for the one waiting. We can retire for the remains of the night. There’s a fledgling moon, it lies on our bedroom ledge, where stars can slip.    
    - Alan Summers

flash: BLUE — short-shorts on a theme

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Tanka Prose aka Tanka Story - prose narrative with tanka 5-line lyrical poems

Tanka Story
A small tanka prose (tanka story) description:

Tanka are five line poems well-grounded in concrete images yet infused with lyric intensity, with an intimacy from direct expression of emotion tempered with implication. They contain ingredients of suggestion colored by shade and tone, setting off a nuance more potent than direct statement. Almost any subject, explicitly expressing your direct thoughts and feelings can be contained in this short form poetry.

Tanka Prose is similar to the prose of the haibun, but a little more subjective perhaps, and emotive, as influenced by the tanka poems themselves. 



Not just any steps, but Covent Garden underground tube station when the lifts don’t work.

It’s not just the slow rumble of different sole thicknesses
absorbing the trains as we climb:

It’s more than humanity, it’s those bloody steps,
those stairs are in love with us, they must be, don’t you think?

the moon
at my shoulder
a child cycles
across the Sea 
of Tranquility

Alan Summers
Publication Credit: Blithe Spirit 26.2 (May 2016)

Covent Garden Tube Station:

The stairs and steps of Covent Station:

The station itself:


Sky Fishing 

When there are fish that drop from the sky, they are not necessarily dead, just visiting.

I know this woman who waits for fish to die. Mary is not mad; she is just not a fish killer. 

She tells me she hangs around for them to dive
from cars, aeroplanes, or from tankers in busy shipping lanes. 

Once a fish fell off a cliff, and Mary was driving
an open top bright green Volkswagen round and round. 
There’s always a plate of salad on the passenger’s side.

I look even now to see if there’s a fish flapping in a lay-by. 
A soft-top car isn't good in a city full of crime but it can be good for fish dropping in. 

this black hole
in my coffee
I fold the dirty laundry
back into myself
window-rattling a moon

Alan Summers
Publication credit:  Blithe Spirit Vol. 27 No. 2 May 2017

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

ekphrasis - poetry and art, and when haiku met art

      our dialogue as a haiku poet with art

There are many ways into writing about a particular artwork.

For instance, what memories, from childhood or young adulthood etc... are evoked by a certain painting or other artwork you saw somewhere?

If it's a tanka there is more than room enough to add the title of a painting, and maybe the artist's name, and to a certain degree that can also be done in a haiku.


Monet’s Haystacks
a group of crows tug
at twilight

Alan Summers
Publication credits: Asahi Shimbun (Japan, 2010)


Monet’s pain–
the shadows of haybales
lengthening the sunset

Alan Summers
Publication credits: 
The Bath Burp: Poetry, Music & Arts Monthly Issue No. 10 (2012)

See Monet's haystacks:

van Gogh’s wheatfield
the width of a hand fills
with crows

Alan Summers
Publication credits: 
The Bath Burp: Poetry, Music & Arts Monthly Issue No. 10 (2012)

Wheatfield with Crows

Auvers-sur-Oise, July 1890 Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890) oil on canvas, 50.5 cm x 103 cm 

such old steps 
I water the sunflowers 
for van Gogh

Alan Summers
Publication credit: 
Stardust Haiku Issue 9 - September 2017

van Gogh's sunflowers:

4-line haiku from a talk at Victoria and Albert Museum about Japanese art, and in particular netsuke (pronounced 'net-ski).

the blue
of the aubergine
a spider is caught
in the netsuke

Alan Summers
Publication credits: Snapshots Seven (2000)

The aubergine netsuke at the V&A:

the hare with amber eyes
jumps back in again

Alan Summers
Publication credits: Mainichi Shimbun (Japan, May 2011)

the crows changing
into their colours

Alan Summers 

Siena rooftops
sketching the shapes
in my mind

Karen Hoy
Yomiuri Shimbun, Go-Shichi-Go Haiku in English / Using poetic color in haiku  (Japan, 2004)

The rooftops of Siena, Italy:

Madame Camellia
a teabag discarded
in autumn leaves

Karen Hoy
Publication credit: 
Blithe Spirit Vol. 27 No. 1 (February 2017) ISSN 1353-3320

La Dame aux Camelias aka Madame Camellia

Description by Karen Hoy:
I was walking home on an autumn day, and noticed that someone had chucked a teabag into the fallen leaves accumulated where the flagstone pathway met people’s front garden walls.  I had to think for a moment about why the image piqued something in me – it was a sludgy brown colour among autumn shades – it didn’t stand out.  

But then I realised that the tension was between these exotic cast-off leaves [tea being the dried leaves of a camellia bush, I believe] and the local autumn leaves.  And I had the image of some tragedy, of a decline, but without a loss of self-respect or dignity.  A sort of forbearing.  

I must have been influenced by the title Madame Butterfly too.  Also the film “La Dame aux Camelias” where the heroine has tuberculosis (which I think subconsciously linked to the dampness of the teabag – I can’t remember whether the autumn leaves were damp or dry, I think perhaps they were in-between).

from the Afterword by Alan Summers for Ekphrasis Between Image and Word

When we attempt ekphrastic forays, into the landscape of painting, haiku could be seen as two brushstrokes frozen in mid-air. Or, using another analogy, while attempting to capture the energy of painting, it’s not unlike the techniques made famous in The Matrix movie; freeze frames that an actor moves around, at will, while everyone and everything else is an individual ‘still life,’ or an intimate and suspended panorama.

When I write about a painting through my own poetry I am both telling a story, but also attempting to tell a story, all at the same time. 

[T]ravel the paintings, hear the echoes in between, and tell your own story too. 

Afterword extract from Alan Summers from the forthcoming book:
Ekphrasis Between Image and Word
Paintings by Maria Pierides. Haiku responses by Stella Pierides
Foreword by Robert Lamoon 
Afterword by Alan Summers
Fruit Dove Press