Poet Showcase: Kirsten Cliff

Name: Kirsten Cliff
Location: “Hobbiton” Matamata, New Zealand

Blog: Swimming in Lines of Haiku

How do you know Cara? I asked to be part of Cara’s network on Facebook after reading on a writing site that she was interested in haiku. Since then we have encouraged each other in all areas of our writing and still get a buzz out of appearing in publications together. We recently wrote two rengay via email and were excited to hear that they’d both been accepted for publication in A Hundred Gourds.

How long have you been writing poetry? I played with poetry as a child, then again as a teen, and came back to it as an adult in about 2005. I discovered and began writing haiku in 2007 after a January 1st stroll down the Katikati Haiku Pathway. It’s a form that I quickly became passionate about after feeling it clicked with me and how I wanted to express myself. I haven’t looked back since.

What kind of poetry do you write? I mostly write haiku, with tanka now being a close second, and I’m always experimenting with combining these two forms with art (photo or collage) to create haiga, with prose to create haibun, and with others to create rengay and renku (linked verse).

Please share a poem:

Blackbird’s pick ‘n’ mix

My insomnia has me awake early, and I’m exhausted. The low rumble of traffic has already begun, and as my feet hit the carpet I feel the vibrations through the floor. I head out to the lounge, and open the curtains on the dawn of another spring day.

bowing to the gods
the curve
of a lavender stalk

That scruffy blackbird is back. I watch him pluck worms from the wet grass, his jaunty pecks disturbing the disarray of dead leaves. With ruffed-up tail feathers, he finds one worm, then another, and hops to the concrete path in front of the dog-pawed ranch slider. He drops both worms in favour of the cockroach my fiancé stomped on and tossed out last night at my haughty insistence. The worms wriggle apart, and scoot in opposite directions. Which route is safer – heading back to the grass, or towards the house?

The blackbird turns away from me to crunch on the roach – dropping it, prodding it, clasping it once again in his beak. Does he sense my disgust? Or maybe he is too shy to receive my gratitude at having the signs of death cleared away.

all the street lights
flicker off
the sound of wind-chimes

He turns back to pick up the worms, then flies off with his breakfast bounty into the morning sky. I turn and walk to the kitchen to see what the fridge has to offer.

Notes: This haibun first appeared in Kokako 12 (April 2010). A different version of the first haiku appeared in Valley Micropress (Vol.12, Is.08, Oct 2009).

A Haiku Evolution

When I first began writing haiku, in 2010, I discovered kukai contests, a wonderful no-fail way for a beginner to get their feet wet, and did a blog post on Kirsten Cliff’s Swimming in Lines of Haiku about them. Kukai are still one of my favorite ways to immerse myself in haiku.

For a long time though, that was my only connection to the greater haiku community. While I found an outlet for some of my haiku, I still didn’t know very many people in the haiku community. I  submitted to a handful of journals and contests, that first year, and had my first contest Honorable Mention, in World Haiku Review, and my first journal publication, in Riverwind 30, but I still felt like I was on the outside looking in. I wasn’t sure what journals and contests were looking for, and it didn’t feel very satisfying to get far more rejections than acceptances. And then I began participating in NaHaiWriMo, on Facebook.

Writing haiku daily since February 1st of last year, and receiving positive feedback, encouragement, and support, from like-minded others, has not only been rewarding and helped me improve my craft, but has really built a sense of community. Attending two haiku conferences and a haiku retreat this year enabled me to meet many of my Facebook friends “in real life”, an added treat. And all this gave me the confidence to once again try my hand at getting my haiku published, and entering contests. It’s been a good year!

Starting in January, I’ve had two 2nd place finishes in the Shiki Kukai, and two 1st place finishes in the Sketchbook Kukai. I’ve had haiku published in Frogpond, The Heron’s Nest, Notes from the Gean, and A Hundred Gourds. And I placed well in a number of contests: an Honorable Mention in the Haiku North America 2011 Conference Kukai contest, a Sakura Award in the Vancouver’s Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Invitational 2011 , Third Prize in the International “Kusamakura” Haiku Competition, First Prize in the 2011 Porad Award, October 2011, an Honorable Mention in the 13th HIA Haiku Contest, 1st place in Writer’s Digest Poetic Form Challenge: Haiku, 3rd Place, 2011 Thom Williams Memorial contest: The 7s, and 2nd place in the 2011 San Francisco International Competition for Haiku, Senryu, Tanka and Rengay, for my first tanka.

Yesterday I learned that I also received an Honorable Mention in the 15th Mainichi Haiku Contest: International Section for one of my haiku. All this has only whet my appetite, and I’m looking forward to lots more haiku, haibun, tanka, and rengay writing in 2012.