Unless stated otherwise, all poetry on Swimming in Lines of Haiku is Copyright Kirsten Cliff and may not be reprinted in any form without written permission from the author. kirsten(DOT)cliff(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Poem & Book Give-Away for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

A few years ago I had the opportunity, as a freelance writer, to meet a group of truly inspirational women. I not only interviewed Boobops, the Bay of Plenty Women’s Dragon Boat Team, but also took up the opportunity to paddle alongside them at a training session on Tauranga Harbour.

I discovered that these women were friendly, fit and fierce competitors. They were women on a mission – to get the sport of dragon boat racing up and running in the Bay. Their uniqueness stemmed from being survivors of breast cancer.

Boobops, like similar dragon boat teams around the world, began as a way of moving on after breast cancer; building strength in mind, body and spirit. The camaraderie and fitness that Boobops members experience is something special, but Liz Sinclair, founding member of Boobops says, “Competing is important too. We all need something to strive for.”

Every year Boobops host a regatta in Tauranga where breast cancer survivor teams from around New Zealand compete against corporate and family teams. A highlight of this regatta is the flower ceremony, which commemorates all women who have lost their fight against breast cancer.

At the end of the last breast cancer survivors’ race, the teams join together on the water while a reading is performed. The survivors then cast their flowers onto the water during the one-minute silence that follows. Long-time Boobops member, Sue Batty, says, “It’s a way of remembering friends who can’t be with us.”

I'm honoured to have paddled alongside these survivors, and share my poem as a tribute to all those who have been touched by breast cancer.

Paddling the Dragon Boat

We paddle across Tauranga harbour
Twelve women in a dragon boat,
Early on Saturday morning
The summer sun climbing high,

Twelve women in a dragon boat
Zipped tight into life jackets,
The summer sun climbing high
Taste of salt water on my lips,

Zipped tight into life jackets
Grip the paddle with two hands,
Taste of salt water on my lips
Our coach calls out the rhythm,

Grip the paddle with two hands
We quicken the stroke pace,
Our coach calls out the rhythm
My muscles begin to ache, as

We quicken the stroke pace
Early on Saturday morning,
My muscles begin to ache, as
We paddle across Tauranga harbour.

Copyright © 2010 Kirsten Cliff

I wrote today's post as part of the WOW-Women on Writing Blanket Tour for Healing with Words: A Writer's Cancer Journey by Diana M. Raab, MFA, RN. The book includes Diana's experiences, reflections, poetry and journal entries, in addition to writing prompts for readers to express their own personal stories. A survivor of both breast cancer and multiple myeloma, Raab views journaling to be like a daily vitamin--in that it heals, detoxifies and is essential for optimal health.

Diana, the author of eight books, spent 25 years as a medical and self-help writer before turning to poetry and memoir. She teaches creative journaling and memoir in UCLA Extension Writers' Program.

If you comment on today's post you'll be entered to win a copy of Healing with Words: A Writer's Cancer Journey. To read Diana's post about breast cancer and a list of other blogs participating in Diana's Blanket Tour visit The Muffin.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Haiku Year

This article was first published as a Write Place column in the Bay of Plenty Times, Saturday, October 27, 2007.

I hunger for haiku and began 2007 strolling the Haiku Pathway in Katikati on New Year’s Day. Then mid-year, in celebration of my thirtieth birthday I set myself this challenge: to write a haiku each day for the next year. I knew that at the very least, I would produce a unique documentation of my 31st year.

The idea originally came from the book, The Haiku Year (Soft Skull Press, 2004), which is the product of seven friends who made a pact to write haiku every day for a year as a way to keep in touch with each other. I found this very interesting and believed my challenge would be a way for me to stay in touch with myself.

I draw immense pleasure from reading and writing haiku. There is so much life contained in those three lines: I can see it, feel it, taste it, smell it. For me writing is ultimately about my connection with my spirit. Haiku is one way I can create and benefit from this connection. It’s my simple form of instant gratification.

I’m not a drinker but I imagine it’s like a fine wine: taking in the complete experience a glass of grapes has to offer. The clarity and smell, the texture and taste, the way it feels in the back of your throat. The utter pleasure of consuming it to it’s fullest potential. Yes, this for me is haiku.

Three months on, the rewards of writing a haiku a day and sometimes more, have been many. I have a journal with me always, received on my thirtieth birthday, so when inspiration hits I can record the sensations immediately.

However, I often take time in the afternoon or before bed to reflect over the events of my day. I’ve found it a great way to offload negative stuff that’s occurred, much like journalling.

Thinking back over every detail allows me to find the magic moments of haiku in a day that would have otherwise passed me by. It’s taught me to be more aware of the small triumphs and beauties in my life. It’s also good practice for that skill writers should have in their tool belt: writing on demand. It’s definitely an exercise in discipline!

I now have heaps of haiku, some that need further work, to enter in competitions and submit to publications. It feels good to know that I am writing, creating, every day in a small yet powerful way. And at the end will indeed have an insightful account of an important year in my life.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Frogpond Submissions Open

Frogpond, the Journal of the Haiku Society of America, is open for submissions for it's Winter Issue. The cut off date is November 15. See full submission guidelines here. And you can connect with the HSA on Facebook.

I had the pleasure of meeting, and writing with, editor George Swede in 2009 when he came to New Zealand. A linked haiku verse that was written over lunch with George Swede, Catherine Mair, Pat Prime, Owen Bullock, Steve Cordery, Margaret Beverland, Sandra Simpson and myself is published in Lynx (scroll down to find 'Spider's Strand').

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Two Online Opportunties for Your Haiku

Four and Twenty: short form poetry

A monthly online pdf poetry journal interested in fresh and emerging voices. Named for their guideline on what short form poetry is - poems with four lines or less that have no more than twenty words. Full submission guidelines here. The website also features a Four and Twenty of the Week, and if you join them on Twitter or Facebook you'll receive their Monday to Friday writing prompts.

a handful of stones: celebrating the extraordinary in the ordinary

This poetry blog zine is edited by author Fiona Robyn. A small stone is described as, "...a very short piece of writing that precisely captures a fully-engaged moment." One is published each day. Read more about the small stone philosophy here and check out the submission guidelines here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Returning Refreshed

After a two-week break from haiga making (due to my health, and my inner critic!) I've returned this week refreshed: writing a handful of new haiku and tanka about my leukaemia journey and beginning to create my collage-style haiga with new materials, bought and found.

I delight so much in this process that the hours often go by unnoticed. Creating these art works is a full body experience, engaging all the senses, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I dream of extending my art space, so one day I might have a room all of my own just for making and enjoying art, in whichever form that may present itself.

Right now it's collage-style haiga, with a bit of photography creeping back in (after not touching my camera for several months). I'd like to learn how to use a photo editing software so I can add text to my photos. But presently my haiga is all consuming, and any other art projects I've had in mind will have to stay in the ideas vault.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Photography Competition - floral and garden photos

As part of the Garden & Art Festival from 8-14 November in Tauranga, Katikati, Mount Maunganui and Te Puke, a photography competition is being held.

The Festival team is calling all floral and garden photographers to submit their best photograph in this competition. The winning image will be displayed as part of the Bay of Plenty Times Art in the City project this November. Full details here.

Some of my best photos are close-ups of flowers so I've sent in my favourite!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Quick Tip #1 for Freelance Writers

Check Your Spam or Junk E-mail Folder Daily.

E-mails end up in your spam/junk folder for any number of reasons, and unbeknown to you, you could be missing out on a communication from an editor.

It happened to me, even though I had the editor's e-mail address saved in my contacts folder: two emails went straight to spam and a third came through to my inbox. Luckily it wasn't too important as it wasn't for a writing gig but for having my details listed on a website. However, I did send an apology.

Now I check my spam/junk e-mail folders daily: no good opportunity is going to slip by me!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Head Lines NZ E-zine open for poetry submissions

I found a new and interesting e-zine over the weekend: Head Lines NZ . It's essentially a blog of poetry by people who have experienced mental illness. The editor is happy to receive submissions at any time and is looking for poetry, of any style, that relates to mental health. Full submission guidelines here . A print anthology is to be published annually to showcase the year's best poems and poets.

My first haiku submission,"taking a mental health day", went live on Saturday and I'm really pleased with it. The editor adds an image with each poem and asked if I wanted to add my own image seeing as I've been doing haiga. So the photo you see above the haiku is my work too. Enjoy :)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Haiku Tattoo Anyone?

I imagine that the haiku masters never thought their poems would be inked into someone's skin. I feel it would be an honour: the ultimate contemporary haiga, perhaps? Definitely as good as having your haiku carved into a boulder on the Katikati Haiku Pathway . Both as permanent as permanent can be in this world.

I got onto the topic of haiku as tattoo when my little sister asked if I knew of one around the theme of family that might work with the tattoo she is about to get: seven birds in flight, which symbolise the members of our family. A quick Google search revealed that people were indeed being inked with haiku, in traditional Japanese Calligraphy .

I'm excited that my sibling would think to include a haiku in her first tattoo, and happy that I have brought haiku into the lives of all my family members. I hope they are richer for the experience. I look forward to talking with my sister this weekend about how we can express her thoughts about our family through haiku.