Birmingham Words / National Academy of Writing Pamphlet 2006
Edited by Alan Summers, Roger Brown, and Will Buckingham
Cover Image: Gareth Thompson
Those images that yet fresh images beget…
W. B. Yeats
Welcome to the first in our new series of Birmingham Words pamphlets.
These pamphlets are a new venture for us, in which we are seeking to publish
high-quality new writing in a format that is accessible from anywhere in the
It has been a pleasure to launch this series with the present collection, The Poetic
Image: Haiku and Photography, and to work with Alan Summers and Roger
Brown, this issue’s guest editors. What makes a poem or a photograph succeed
is hard to put your finger on. But for me at least, a poem or photograph has
the power to open up chinks in my world, to allow in a flicker of light or flame.
This collection of fleeting images will have done its work if even a single image
– whether a poem or a photograph – succeeds in catching fire in your
imagination, leading to fresh insights, new moments of clear seeing.
“Today it may be possible to describe haiku but not to define it.”
Hiroaki Sato: Author, columnist, and editor of “One Hundred Frogs: From
Matsuo Basho to Allen Ginsberg” http://hiroakisato.org
“There are descriptions of haiku as there are stars in the night sky: this is mine.”
Alan Summers http://www.withwords.org.uk
Haiku are possibly the shortest, and the longest regularly written form of poetry in the world. They are of incidents of everyday proportions: whether crossing a busy road: noticing a flower in a crack of concrete; running from a downpour of rain; or just those many episodes in our lives we unknowingly share with people from other cultures and backgrounds.
Haiku can allow you to respond not only as a reader, but as a “co-poet” with the original writer. This isn’t unique to haiku but may equally be one of the defining characteristics of haiku: where we are able to experience within our own lifestyle something that links us all...the piquancy of the moment.
“For me nature is not landscape but the dynamism of visual forces - an event rather than an appearance.” Bridget Riley “Working with Nature” from “The Mind’s Eye” 1973
When I found this quote I immediately thought of Basho and one of his most famous haikai verses (Basho wrote before the term haiku was used). I have visited the place this poem originally related to, but I also feel it is only too universal:
these summer grasses:
the remains of warriors
with their dreams
(English-language translation version by Alan Summers)
natsu-gusa ya / tsuwamono-domo-ga / yume no ato
summer grasses (:!) / strong ones’ / dreams’ site
(romanised version with literal English-language translation)
Haiku are not ‘Nature Poems’ although:
“I try to capture the feelings of "The Fours": in a year – the four seasons; in a month – the four stages of the waxing and waning of the moon; in a day – morning, afternoon, evening, and night.”
Dr. Akito Arima: Minister of Education, Science, Sports, and Culture (1998-2000). Simply Haiku interview October 2003, Vol.1 No.4
I have chosen 12 photographs on the basis of what seemed to me the intention behind making them, their poetics and aesthetic appeal especially with the use of light, the interest of the subject matter and how well these three strands were woven together in a satisfying whole.
Some of the images I admired for their elegant simplicity, others for their more complex significations. All of them I find subtle and richly enjoyable. I hope you do too.
Guest photography editor.
Selected haiku from the collection:
in the dream
they called me brother –
in his hand
Peggy Willis Lyles
pitch black night
the glow of temple lamps
on bejewelled women's faces
the old man dances
Haibun (prose with haiku)
EARLY MORNING IN THE MIST
Like being in a large bowl, the hills, glaciated, unglaciated, making a ragged edge. Always a bank of clouds rising over them in the fall. Sometimes the cloud cover is so low that the car barely has enough room to squeeze through underneath. If I stopped, I could climb on the roof and haul myself up, run across the tops of the hills, valley and ridge, valley and ridge. Rise and dive, rise and dive.
on a dolphin
More selected haiku
on the lifeline of my palm
a tiny worm
winter full moon
the ebb and flow
of her headache
a shy man
half in shadow...
only a pebble
yet nothing can replace it...
the child's pebble
CHRISTMAS IN VERNON
jazz radio –
delicacy of snowflakes
on the keys
Men's Studies –
the only book in the section
What I Meant To Say
a fairy-lit crane
A Birmingham Words/National Academy of Writers pamphlet.
This collection, guest edited by Alan Summers and Roger Brown, contains work by an international cast of thirty-one poets and photographers, from Birmingham to Brazil, and several points in between - whatever way you decide to travel.