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Call of the Page (Alan & Karen)

Thursday, June 03, 2010

"Water on the Moon" haiku collection by Helen Buckingham

Water on the Moon was shortlisted, out of over 80 books, for the inaugural Touchstone Distinguished Book Awards, by The Haiku Foundation. 
For 2017:

Now made available as a PDF: 

This is an iconic collection of haiku by one of the world's finest practitioners of the genre.

Helen Buckingham


There may be a few print copies left. 

Contact email:
"Helen Buckingham" <>


water on the moon 
by Helen Buckingham
original plus
Maryport, Cumbria, UK 2010
ISBN 978-0-9562433-5-5
£8.00 inclusive of U.K. post and package


Now made available as a PDF: 

by Alan Summers

There is so much haiku written that sometimes we can lose our own ‘voice’ as a reader: Helen Buckingham is one of those writers who allows us to regain it.

Good haiku is a little like alchemy, not so much as to turn lead into gold, but to highlight how mundane everyday objects, accidents and incidents enrich our lives without us even realising it.  Sometimes we just need a small kick to remind us, and a haiku poem seems ideally suited to do this, and to show how those small moments are pure gold.

The trick is not to think that lead needs to be turned to gold, it’s the art of the deft touch, the fingernail to scrape off the slight oxidation, when we neglect the quiet moments in our busy lives for the big brash times that quickly fade over time.

Join Helen and her book as she carries off an overall tone and mood, albeit made of many voices.  This isn’t easy without setting off a cacophony, and clamour, of alarms as if a great number of emergency vehicles were trapped in a traffic jam.

There are subtle tonal changes in this book moving from the daily process of living through a lifelong illness; the beautifully observed close relationship with her father; the appreciation of a child’s wonder of a world still very new to them;  the bittersweet humour contained in both haiku and senryu; the stars and sky at night; allusion and surreal images; and the seasons.

How is all this possible?

third night grounded…
tracing ursa minor
in the woodchip

Mood is balanced with technique, getting the experience either directly or elliptically caught in amber:

amber light
wrapped flowers
on the verge

Accidents come in all shapes and sizes, and however painful, they need to be addressed.

nil by mouth—
peeling and dicing
the moon

On reading Helen’s collection I absorb a sustained collective of poems, moving from bluntly honest poems about illness to the quirky sidesteps in life, from the one liner:

blood room counting the odd tiles

…to the Alice in Wonderlandness…

taxi stand
the man in a rabbit suit
fumbles for his watch

Honesty is a potent instrument and we have plenty of that: a life is brought to the microscope, with humour never far away, never a stranger to pain.  We all like to think we have a keen sense of humour, and a strong streak of honesty; and Helen’s collection is like a litmus test to test our own pH.

What I appreciated within the collection is the musicality within the brevity of words and the starkness of imagery, with the gentle touches of techinque: alliteration, dissonance, assonance and consonance, and always light and shade.  Alongside the usual methods of juxtaposition; zooming in and out of things observed, poems are possible hinted at metaphors like the “man” in a rabbit suit fumbling for a pocket watch; do we spend our life like that?

I’ve mentioned humour in haiku and humour in senryu, here we have two quite different takes:

after sex
he googles

and the off centre poignancy of

flagging mistletoe
a fine amontillado
stain on the carpet

Haiku poems need to have a fulcrum to keep from becoming merely a deflated gag with a superficial punchline that never goes beyond a cheap laugh.  The humour in Helen’s haiku (and senryu) is definitely expensive, or rather, at the expense of the writer, never the reader or other intended target.

How is a series of concentrated writings that are haiku, sustained within a framework of craft, integrity, light and shade, given a content as deep as a longer poem?

How to do that with the perhaps unbearable brevity that would cause pain to most poets, kept throughout; how is that light n’ tight magic that haiku is famous for, brought alive?

Well, if you can fight off the foxes…

fight over
the last of my dream

and join Helen early in the day…

breakfast shift
...sharing the last
of the stars

…perhaps you too will share the last of the stars.

Alan Summers
Director/writer of With Words

"I have long been a fan ... the haiku and senryu experiences in this collection run the gamut from soft and beautiful to humorous, some with an acerbic wit ... this is an ample serving of enjoyable poems by a strong, original writer."
Paul MacNeil, (USA) Associate Editor, The Heron's Nest:

"Helen Buckingham is one of those great haiku/senryu writers whose work invites us to revisit it again and again. I highly recommend Water on the Moon; it should be in every poet's library." 
Pamela A. Babusci (USA), internationally award winning haiku/tanka & haiga artist; and logo artist for Haiku North America conferences New York City 2003 and Winston-Salem, NC USA 2007.
" important part of the process of collecting together...(is)...that some should just mark time, the meaning loose, less focussed, waiting, or in preparation, for the next really startling event.  One could call this a process of constriction and dilation–a tying together and a loosening up. I have to say that reading Helen's book had me clicking files to check my own preparation of a collection of 'my' haiku...this is an excellent collection." Colin Blundell, editor of Blithe Spirit, journal of the British Haiku Society. Review published June 2010.

"Like the best wordsmiths, Helen Buckingham possesses what seems to be a wholly natural talent for translating the modern world and contemporary living, often in their minutest detail into exquisite poetry.  What's most striking about Helen Buckingham's poetry is its immediacy and proximity - each breath of poetry seems to exist within the moment of its making."
Liam Wilkinson, (Yorkshire, England) founding editor and curator of the 3Lights Gallery of Haiku and Tanka.
From the review by Colin Stewart Jones, (Aberdeen, Scotland) 
Managing Editor of international Notes from the Gean haiku online magazine and The Gean Tree Press.
"...water on the moon is a major collection by Buckingham which contains 250 poems over 84 pages set out in four sections which correlate to the seasons. The back page blurb contains endorsements by such haiku luminaries as Liam Wilkinson, Pamela A. Babusci and Paul MacNeil and a wonderfully comprehensive introduction by Alan Summers

Helen's work has previously been published in A New Resonance 5: Emerging Voices in English-Language Haiku, Redmoon Press USA 2007, ISBN: 978-1-893959-65-1, edited by Jim Kacian and Dee Evetts:

The work of seventeen poets from seven different countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States) comprises the latest volume of up-and-coming poets working in the haiku form in English. This biennial project has now helped launch 85 poets into the haiku community, and each volume has received critical acclaim.


Alas,  I've noted A New Resonance 5: Emerging Voices in English-Language Haiku is now SOLD OUT.

See also: 
Armadillo Basket (2011)

Helen's collection 'water on the moon' is now on the With Words suggested reading list for our sell out residency courses.