Review - Spinifex: haiku
by Beverley George
Pardalote Press, 2006, 62pp.
ISBN 0 95784369 0 - RRP $AU
Beverley George is an
Australian haijin (haiku poet) who has won numerous national and international awards. She
was the editor of Yellow Moon for many years, is now the editor of Eucalypt,
and is the current president of HaikuOz, the Australian Haiku Society.
together over 50 of her haiku, 5 sequences, and a haibun. The sequences "Village Hall
April 25, 2006" and "Scorched Garden" have an Australian flavour, while
"Saihoji Temple" and "White Pebbles" feel more Japanese. Yet one does
not have to be Australian or Japanese to understand and appreciate these sequences. The
moments captured by Beverley's pen tap into experiences common to all human beings.
- When entering a tunnel, the sudden
blanket of darkness and the change in sound reverberation catch our attention, our very
breath - just as a good poem does.
- train tunnel -
- the sudden intimacy
- of mirrored faces
Amongst the mirrored
faces is that of the poet, and also our own. These reflections bring us face to face with
ourselves, often giving us a glimpse of something we had not noticed or had forgotten.
The brevity of haiku
seems to make it a form particularly suited to express our varied and often contradictory
responses to the cycle of life, including the passing into old age and then death.
- under the wisteria
- his old cane chair
Precise word choice
evokes an image that stirs both a sense of loss and one of peace. In some of us it may
trigger a feeling of comfort: the chair, though unravelling, is still here with us. For
other readers this haiku may raise memories of similar moments, or an image of a possible
A nugget of humour,
irony, or sarcasm can do the seemingly impossible work of undercutting while at the same
time reinforcing the truth or 'sting' in a haiku.
- failing eyesight -
- we sing only the carols
- we know by heart
In the following haiku,
by choosing the word 'dummy' instead of, say, mannequin, the poet has us considering our
complex feelings about work and retirement.
- retirement -
- an op-shop dummy
- wears my suit
Some moments have a way
of lingering in the mind, almost haunting us.
- sudden chill
- a swirl of fallen leaves
- among the wreaths
Other moments splash us
awake, like cold water on a tired face. A decent splash 'scratches' us right to the bones.
- frosty morning
- a lorikeet's call
- scratches the air
In moments like the
above, we jump out of the stupor that is everyday and routine. We feel. We become
alive to the present.
Spinifex is a
collection that demonstrates over and over again that a good haiku, despite its brevity
and sometimes because of it, has the power to evoke layers of meaning and stir a reader's
emotions, thoughts and memories. It is for readers and writers, both novice and
experienced, who are looking for a solid foundation to ground their understanding of haiku
and broaden their own writing.