An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
edited by Janice M. Bostok & John Bird
Paper Wasp
14 Fig Tree Pocket Road
Chapel Hill
Qld 4069
in conjuction with the Australian Haiku Society
ISBN 0 9577925 9 X
AUS$15 [RoW US$15 cash]

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The FIRST AUSTRALIAN HAIKU ANTHOLOGY is a collection of work produced by members of HaikuOz the Australian Haiku Society. In the foreword, the editors state that,

It is the outcome of an Internet experience conceived in 1999. At that time there was no national haiku association but the anthology became the genesis for the formation, in December 2000, of HaikuOz the Australian Haiku Society.
John Bird says,
Janice and I edited the anthology and I published it on the web. It was the catalyst for formation of the Society on 1 December 2000, at which time Janice and I ceded all rights to the Society which now publishes the print version with Jacqui Murray as the print version editor.
The anthology has a cover photograph by Katherine Samuelowicz, who is a fine haiku poet and editor of paper wasp, the Australian haiku magazine, and the title page graphics are by Cornelius Vleeskens, a poet/painter who works across a range of media.

Many of the poets in this collection have already received significant recognition for their work: John Bird, Janice Bostok, Ross Clark, Jacqui Murray, Vanessa Proctor and Les Wicks among them. Poets of this calibre are an indication of the high quality of work to be found in the book. Other poets may be less well known but have an equally important role to play in the increase of the number of Australians writing haiku.

Each poet is presented alphabetically and his/her haiku are taken from a selection of up to eight haiku submitted by each poet some poets are represented by one haiku and others are represented by up to eight haiku. It was interesting to have a brief biography of each poet as a header to their work and some interesting backgrounds are revealed: jazz pianist, teacher, retired physiotherapist, journalist/PR consultant, editor, artist, translator, and others.

If you would like to read an intelligent, easy-to-read and up-to-date collection of what Australian haiku poets have to offer, then this is the perfect book. Perhaps what connects all the poems in this anthology is the sense that they are derived from deeply moving personal experiences. In this first anthology the haiku and senryu chosen deal with relationships of one kind or another, ranging from the domestic, as in Joanna Preston's

	at thirty;
	kneading bread
	with grandma's hands
to the erotic, as in Mark Power's
	pillion passenger her tanned thighs hugging him
The poems in this collection each reflect a haiku moment in the poet's experience or, in the case of senryu, a light-hearted comment on the failings that sometimes mar our intimate life, as in Gloria Yates'
	quarrelling with him
	I leave the room . . .
	both dogs follow me
Most of the haiku give rise to an insight of one kind or another, as in John Bird's
	autumn dawn 
	at full tide two pleasure boats
	nudge each other
where the words pleasure and nudge give a feeling of intimacy not only between the boat and the tide but between the passengers. Other haiku, like Ross Clark's
	reading in bed
	a moth resting
	on my heartbeat
captures and deals more directly with the moment. Some readers may feel that haiku should limit itself to the theme of nature and the seasons, but there is another school of thought that regards our human nature, in all its aspects, as an integral part of nature and therefore valid material for haiku.

Although on one level the haiku can be complex, constructed to hide a deeper level that needs to be teased out, there is an overall feeling of accessibility to the haiku. The sense of how did the poet write that after reading the poems is worth pursuing. Not only does several readings of the poems reveal layers of meaning, it can also provide new insights into the way of writing haiku. This aspect of the haiku is not obtrusive, but is another reward for studying the poems. Overall, they read naturally and consistently and are very enjoyable.

This enjoyment in the variety of writing is what the anthology is about. There is the pleasure in the recognition of a shared moment followed by a heightened awareness. The poems can be read, studied, thought about, reveal deeper meanings and perhaps excite the reader enough that he/she will immediately want to write his/her own poem. What more could one ask?

reviewer: Patricia Prime.