Of giants and dwarves…


My haibun, ‘Finding Narnia’ inspired by this grove of twelve redwoods in Kilbroney Forest Park, Rostrevor, is featured in the January edition of Contemporary Haibun Online.

Original Post…

Broadcast live on NHK World, Japan, December 4, 2017

With its 1,200-year history, Kyoto is a city that constantly evolves with the seasons. From kimono colors to Japanese treats, seasonality plays a major part of the old capital of Japan, which is exactly why it has such a rich connection with haiku poetry. In this special episode, we enjoy some wonderful Photo Haiku from our international viewers straight from the center of Japanese tradition and innovation.

The photo haiku I entered in the December episode of Haiku Masters (in Kyoto) is discussed by the judges in the programme. I must admit, I watch each episode with a sense of both dread and excitement as sometimes the judges point out aspects that they feel don’t work so well. Happily, this time both were very complimentary. I used a similar photo to the one below, but with the following haiku…

whisper of wings
the park warden talks
of an extinct species

Guest judge, writer Hisafumi Iwashita says, “I found the poem fascinating – the photo too. It looks like the leaves are rotting…also rotten leaves have a strong odour. And rather than a bird I imagined the sound of insects, not a strong fluttering of wings but more like the simmering of lots of tiny insect wings humming faintly. And what lies beneath might be the remains of a spent or extinct species, or just a withered seed to a particular life. Which is it I wonder? …Life repeats itself endlessly on and on, over and over and the forest is just a stage where the circle of life plays out. The continuation of life is a sacred thing – the same with our lives. But even though it is a holy thing, there is also something eerie about it. That is why I thought it so fascinating.”



This photo haiku was runner up in Haiku Master of the Week, a feature of the award-winning Japanese TV programme NHK Haiku Masters. It was inspired by my photo of twelve redwoods on the ‘Tree Trail’ in Kilbroney Forest Park, Rostrevor. Due to our much cooler climate and winds that blow in from the Irish Sea they will never grow to be giants like their Californian cousins.

I was also thinking of how this area and the Mountains of Mourne inspired the writer CS Lewis when he was creating the land of Narnia. He said that, “at any moment a giant might raise his head over the next ridge.” When he moved to England, he obviously pined for home when he declared, “I yearn to see County Down in the snow, one almost expects to see a march of dwarfs dashing past.”

Judge Kazuko Nishimura also picked up on the childhood theme in my photo haiku (shahai)…


Posted in haiga, haiku, Haiku Masters, Ireland, Mountains of Mourne, photo haiku, Photos, Places, Rostrevor | Tagged | 10 Comments

Scryptic Magazine – a trip to the dark side

Why not take a look at the deliciously dark material that is Scryptic Magazine…

Much obliged to editors Chase Gagnon and Lori A Minor for selecting my haibun as runner up in the journal’s inaugural Halloween competition. I had been researching the yew tree for another writing project and decided to include a couple of literary references in order to produce something a little spookier.

The judge’s comments:


My haibun:


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Strange goings-on in the stationery cupboard

Back in 2014, an on-going poetry competition started up in the Financial Times called ‘Workplace Haiku.’ Despite it’s name, this column which ran for 18 months mainly featured senryu – haiku’s more humorous cousin – which I assume was because more readers had heard of the latter.

I came to the table quite late after seeing a Facebook post by fellow poet, Ernesto Santiago, whose excellent work appeared many times in the feature. I did manage to have some of my entries published, each accompanied by an insightful commentary from Jim Kacian, a well known haiku master from the short form poetry world.

Anyway, over at The Haiku Foundation site, Jim is currently re-running this column, not only featuring the winning entries from the original FT feature, but also inviting people to submit new haiku/senryu on topics related to the work environment by Sunday night. I remember how difficult it was trying to come up with poems to send to the FT, so it’s nice to sit back and enjoy new poetry inspired by office life.

Why not send a poem to Workplace Haiku – or have a read by clicking on the image below of my stationery cupboard senryu!

Haiku in the Workplace

Posted in haiku, Haiku at Work, senryu, senryu;, short form poetry, writing competitions | Tagged | Leave a comment

‘Garden Party’ on Haiku Masters


Feedback on a shahai or photo haiku is always appreciated, particularly when a reader has interpreted a particular combination of words and images in a different way to that which inspired it. Often this happens when someone with a different life experience or background views the shahai.

When I first saw the prompt photo below on Haiku Masters, the delicate petals sitting on a large leaf reminded me of a tray of pastel-coloured, petits fours (intricate miniature desserts) that are often served at parties and other events. In this case I imagined a summer garden party because it was an outdoor shot.

In her comments, the haiku poet and judge Kazuko Nishimura reveals that the photo haiku also took her to a late summer garden party, but one located in Japan where the event Obon takes place, the Japanese Buddhist custom of placing food on lotus flowers in honour of the spirits of one’s ancestors.

And so I learn something new today as a result of Kazuko’s feedback…


garden party



Posted in haiga, haiku, photo haiku, Shahai, short form poetry, Symbiotic Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Charmed by the sister cities of Porto and Lisbon

I have just returned from a fifteen-day trip to the Portuguese cities of Lisbon and Porto. If you haven’t already been, it’s useful to know that you can be at the heart of each in around three hours from the UK and Ireland. Unlike the lengthy and relatively expensive transfer from Faro airport to some of the Algarve resorts (I’m thinking of Lagos here, which is my favourite of those I’ve visited) it’s just a short metro or taxi journey to the centre. This makes them excellent weekend-break material, but I was fortunate to have had a week in each to really explore their winding streets on foot and try a “prato do dia” at lunchtime in several local restaurants. Off the main drag, this daily special was really good value in some basic, local restaurants at around just €7-10 which usually included bread and olives to start, a choice of meat or fish main and house wine, dessert and a coffee.

Having studied French and Spanish for years really helped when reading menus, signs and other printed material without having to resort to a phrasebook (I was able to translate a notice on the door of our apartment from the gas supply company to say they would be reading the meter next morning!) However, the pronunciation of words is often very different to how you imagine it might sound. For example, peixe is the word for fish and it is pronounced something like payeesh. Unlike the Algarve, English is not necessarily spoken everywhere, particularly in more traditional restaurants run by older people, where I used a combination of English, French and Spanish and what little Portuguese I’d learned before leaving. People seemed to really appreciate any efforts we made to attempt to express ourselves in the language and my daughter even braved the local bakery in the morning and ordered in Portuguese.

The beauty of both Porto and Lisbon is that they are small enough to see a lot of sites on foot, which I think is the best way to explore their cobbled streets. After walking as far as we possibly could each day, we simply hopped on a vintage tram, metro or bus to transport us back to our apartment. In fact, one day in Porto we arrived at the satellite coastal town of Matoshinos without realising how far we’d walked, although our picnic in the city park en route revived us.

Both cities are abundant with art, culture, history and restaurants to suit any palate and pocket. Then, when you fancy a lazy day at the beach you can be transported there and back in no time. I highly recommend a visit.


The beautiful Duoro river from the Crystal Palace Gardens in Porto, one of the many mirodouros (viewpoints) in both cities

Church in Porto

Porto’s buildings are a mix of shabby chic and impressive

Spooky house in Porto

Staircase in Natural History Museum Porto

Staircase in the Natural History Museum, Porto, which was at the top of our road


Parque Eduardo VII, Lisbon, where we went to a funk and hip-hop outdoor concert as part of the Out Jazz Festival that takes place in various locations over the summer


Turner’s The Wreck of a Transport Ship c1810 in the amazing Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon


The impressive Portuguese parliament building, located a few streets from our apartment

Sao Bento Station

The famous Sao Bento railway station in Porto is worth a visit even if you aren’t taking the train. Visitors come to see its 20,000 azulejos, the painted, tin-glazed tiles that are found everywhere in Portugal

Porto Street Scene

With washing often strung from balconies and people going about their everyday life right beside the main tourist areas, it is easy to get a real feel of the heart of these two cities



Dark alley


pink towel



Posted in Lisbon, Pics, Places, Porto, Portugal, travel | 7 Comments

Daily Haiku: April 12, 2017

Charlotte Digregorio featured a haiku I wrote back in 2014 on her Writer’s Blog. It was originally published in Frogpond, the official publication of the Haiku Society of America.

Charlotte Digregorio's Writer's Blog

first thaw
our spades remove                                                                           the end of winter

by MarionClarke   (Ireland)
Frogpond, Vol. 37:2, Spring/Summer 2014

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A Virtual Interview with Jan Benson and Agnes Eva Savich

Cindy Huyser interviews poets Jan Benson and Agnes Eva Savage about their haiku journey and the poets who have influenced them – very honoured to have received a nod from Jan for my photo haiku!

Agnes Eva Savich's Blog

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Photo haiku goes global

Last year, poets from 96 countries and territories submitted 5,303 photo haiku to the NHK World TV web-based programme Haiku Masters.

The photo haiku is a relatively new form of visual literature. Each month the Haiku Masters production team calls for entries from around the globe via social media to which renowned Japanese haiku poet, Michio Nakahara, applies his perspicacity and artistic sensitivity to interpret the entries. At the end of each episode he singles out one contributor to receive the title Haiku Master of the Month.

Episode 12 of the award-winning show was a special, review edition in which guest Koshio Kumura, haiku poet and Professor of English Literature at Nihon University, joined sensei Michio Nakahara and his co-host Kit Pancoast Nagamurato.

The three poets took a look back on some of their favourite pieces over the past year to define what makes a great photo haiku. I was extremely honoured to have had three of mine featured in this beautifully shot, informative programme.

Unfortunately, as this is a monthly programme, only the latest is on-demand, but if you click the link below you can see the last episode.

Special Edition

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Tanka, ekphrastic poetry and chalk pastels contribute to Seamus Heaney Award for Achievement

I was so proud of Class 9 Donard, Abbey Grammar School, Newry when they were recently presented with the Seamus Heaney Award for Achievement 2017 for their poetry. The work resulted from a series of workshops delivered through Community Arts Partnership (CAP) ‘Poetry in Motion – Schools’ project.winners-abbey-grammar

In her report of their journey to the stage at the Ulster Hall for CAP’s The Weekly newsletter, English teacher, Roisin Kelly, said, “…the boys produced plenty of tanka, they were also encouraged to bring in meaningful objects and to use images, photos and paintings as inspiration. They were even wielding pastels to illustrate their work on one occasion to help draw out imagery within the poems…what the boys really responded to was the creative freedom. They weren’t confined to any particular subject or poetic form, the way they might have been in an English assessment task…it has been a joy to see the delight and enthusiasm that this scheme has generated.”

The pupils’ award winning words and images have been published in the project’s latest schools’ anthology, A Word in the Hand.

Posted in Anthology, artwork and poetry, haiga, Seamus Heaney Award, short form poetry, tanka | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

‘Clock watching’ – interpreting photo haiku

The dandelion seed head, or ‘clock flower’ in the photo below inspired the accompanying  haiku. I combined the image and words in Photoshop and submitted it to the photo haiku competition organised each month by Japanese TV NHK World’s HAIKU MASTERS. Episode 11 aired earlier this week and I was delighted to discover my photo haiku had reached the final. Thanks are due to my daughter Taryn (15) who took the photo for an art project and her cousin Jules (11) who was the model. 🙂

I found it really interesting to hear how each of the judges interpreted the piece. The combination of image and words evoked three very different responses and I’d be interested to hear how you interpreted it before hearing the discussion. It starts about 07:28 minutes in for just over three minutes and will be available for viewing until March 27. The programme beings with an introduction to photo haiku and there are some great examples of the form. I particularly enjoyed the winner – a sensual but subtle photo haiku.

To view, click the link HAIKU MASTERS, wait for the video to load and press the play button.




Posted in haiga, haiku, photo haiku, short form poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments