Alan Summers, Japan Times Award (2002), President, United Haiku and Tanka Society, and co-founder of Call of the Page, providing literature, education & literacy projects, often based around Japanese genres.
For events & workshops contact us through our Call of the Page website: Call of the Page.
Online internet courses by Call of the Page
Are you interested in a Call of the Page course? We run courses on haiku;tanka; tanka stories/prose; haibun; shahai; and other genres.
Please email Karen or Alan at our joint email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
We will let you know more about these courses.
I’ve been writing, or attempting to write, haiku for a year or so now. Along the way, and by happy chance, I’ve been lucky enough to have been guided, knowingly or unknowingly, by some of the masters of haiku. They have kindly and with great patience kept me focussed as I continue to try and capture the ‘beauty of the moment’.
In the beginning ...
a fish jumps ... through
This is what I like to think of as my signature haiku - in concept the first I wrote, but it has been reworked a good few times as I gain understanding and confidence in the craft of writing haiku.
As I sit and think ...
A few of my haiku, and my first go at one-liners. With commentary.
sunshine after rain the forest stretches
Ostensibly written after rain swept up the valley obliterating the forest as I was watching for a Goshawk from the viewpoint looking out over Exeter forest at Haldon. Just as quickly the rain cleared the sun came out and I could see the forest stretching for miles and miles and miles …
3,500 acres of woodland just 15 minutes from Exeter
Here is the haiku that I was playing around with at the time ...
the forest stretches
beneath her shadow
But I also had in mind walking in Savernake forest in the rain – as the rain cleared and the sunbeams shone through the leaves onto the woodland floor the forest woke with the noises of rain dripping from the leaves and a myriad other sounds – creaks, groans, sighs of the great oaks ‘stretching’ in the warming sun – the song of the wood – the forest alive and joyful during the day but which can become frightening at night as ‘shadows crowd the spaces’ – an oblique reference to old Moley getting lost in the WildWood. And of course you don’t get shadows in spaces – or do you …
The history of the forest goes back for a thousand years or more
The wonder of the supermoon - its closeness to earth, the stars and beauty of the Pleiades ... then the shadows creep in - a darker side - the interplay between our fear of the dark and crowded spaces, whether in the wildwood, city spaces or corners of our mind, and our self confidence in challenging our demons - the only real shadow is our own, cast by moonlight. Oh joy!
Maybe I’ll have another cocktail after all.
shadow play street light flickering outside my window
Memories ... old gas lamps - shadows on the wall, shadows larger than life, lurking in unlit corners - shadow boxing, and making shadow puppets before bed ... at sunrise the lamp post moves out of its own shadow. Perhaps someone will fix it today.
sunrise the cuckoo’s call fills the room
Draw back the curtains, throw open the windows and enjoy both the beauty of an April sunrise and the cuckoo’s call - its ventriloquial call full of sunshine itself. No more shadows! Only echoes.
magpie nest the blackthorn winter passes over
As the dark days of winter give rise to the sunny days of spring, on the morning of Passover a magpie flew up from the lawn into the the blackthorn hedge. I was glad when it was joined by another with a twig in its beak. They flew higher and disappeared into the ivy, where the poplar forked.
So the magpie nest could either refer to the nest structure itself or the act of magpie going about their business of nesting.
So in this one there is a degree of symbolism with the magpie bringing both sadness and then joy, as in the old rhyme.
The image of the lone magpie is seen throughout history and is often shown in pictures of gallows and hanging trees.
out of the mist
the gallows tree
one for sorrow
There is also the potential play on words in the use of the phrase ‘passes over’ and the symbolic reference to thorns both in the hedge and magpie nest. I mean no offence.
murmuration sound of pebbles in the backwash
A contrast here between the Murmuration of starlings - a cacophony of sound which quietens to a murmur or whisper before total silence and the rhythmic sound of waves crashing onto the beach and pebbles caught in the backwash - the sound can be quite hypnotic.
Originally written to complement an excerpt from the writings (Wild Life in a Southern County 1879) of Richard Jefferies ...
swirling twisting turning
drop into firs
[…]In the thick foliage of this belt of firs the starlings love to roost. If you should be passing along any road—east, north, west, or south —a mile or two distant, as the sun is sinking and evening approaching, suddenly there will come a rushing sound in the air overhead: it is a flock of starlings flying in their determined manner straight for the distant copse. From every direction these flocks converge upon it: some large, some composed only of a dozen birds, but all with the same intent. Viewed from a spot three or four fields away, the copse in the evening seems to be overhung by a long dark cloud like a bar of mist, while the sky is clear and no dew is yet risen. The resemblance to a cloud is so perfect that any one—not thinking of such things—may for the time be deceived, and wonder why a cloud should descend and rest over that particular spot. Suddenly, the two ends of the extended black bar contract, and the middle swoops down in the shape of an inverted cone, much resembling a waterspout, and in a few seconds the cloud pours itself into the trees. Another minute and a black streak shoots upwards, spreads like smoke, parts in two, and wheels round back into the firs again. On approaching it this apparent cloud is found to consist of thousands of starlings, the noise of whose calling to each other is indescribable—the country folk call it a “ charm,” [murmuration] meaning a noise made up of innumerable lesser sounds, each interfering with the other. The vastness of these flocks is hardly credible until seen; in winter the bare trees on which they alight become suddenly quite black.[…]
wave after wave
the sound of pebbles
in the backwash
When starlings flock together, wheeling and darting through the sky in tight, fluid formations, we call it a murmuration.
A Wren, the king of birds - larger than life - his song and ebullience fills the space that is my backyard. Wren can be found almost everywhere and in almost every country, from rocky shores to mountain tops. So my backyard could mean something much larger - a different country - wherever you happen to be - a spirit of place - a Wren singing can transport you to a life or place much larger, freeing you of the pettiness of the mundane. The wren is the embodiment of a bird’s ability to live in tune with its surroundings and to take delight in the natural rhythms and beauties of the seasons. Listen to him sing - the moment is yours!