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Monday, 5 December 2016

A Flock of Blackbirds: Haiku and Senryu

A Flock of Blackbirds: Haiku and Senryu

by Margaret Saunders

over the car wash
a flock of blackbirds

spring rain:
after all this time . . .

Canada Day:
an old vet hangs out
a Union Jack

falling snow:
on the reservation
white crosses vanish

silently falling
around the nursing home:
autumn leaves . . .

at the theatre,
the rustle of papers:
I clench my teeth

after the crash
the cry
of a vulture

in the distance - -
in the old vet's room - -
the Q.E.W.

in the April sun
a row of bright headlights
moves down the street

town dump:
through the rubble

a bitter wind:
a single leaf clings
to the maple

morning funeral:
on my neighbour's roof
autumn frost

at the General
an aborted baby hugs
an aborted baby

early this morning
just when I was thinking spring
another snowfall!

suddenly it's spring.
in yesterday's frozen pond
the birds are bathing.

the robin that chirped
in my garden last evening,
has now flown south

the mist blindfolds
the village

in the park
the bandstand ghost
hosts empty stalls

our quarrel
a full moon

the girl serving lunch
in the cafeteria
is scratching her crotch

from the drive-in movie,
honking horns

at the movies,
competing with the stars,
a chink of daylight

on the beach
the lookout chair
looks out and out

under the maple,
a cluster of sleepy cows,
swap flies with their tails.

rain washing
a chalked swastika
down the drain

slowly drifting
towards the ball park:
fog patches

after the reception
a withered carnation

fading into
Steeltown's smog:
funeral cortege

town square
drifting around the cenotaph . . .
plastic poppies

the sleepy kitten
settles in a beam
of autumn sunlight


* I published Margaret's first haiku collection with my Unfinished Monument Press in October, 1979.

* the haiku/senryu were all hand lettered in capitals, so it's hard to know exactly what Margaret's intentions were regarding capitalization

* individual haiku weren't given publication credits, but at the end of the collection, the following mags are listed as 'first appeared in':
Jabberwocky, Cicada, Canadian Children's Magazine, Poetry Toronto, Canadian Haiku: An Anthology, Canadian Thanksgiving Book, Blind Windows, Wee Giant, Mamashee

*I typed the contents of Margaret's collection to send to Haiku Canada president Terry Ann Carter, who is writing histories and essays on the early days of English language haiku. Following is one of my email responses to Terry about those times.

Hi Terry,
I met Margaret at that first haiku meeting at Eric Amann's condo. I've written about this meeting several times, how it was the first time I'd met other living breathing haiku poets (or at least ones I hadn't inspired to write haiku after they'd read my first little chapbooks from 1969).

I've written several times before about this seminal meeting (I'm pretty damn sure it was the inaugural meeting of the Canadian Haiku Society). For the first time I got to meet my mentor, Dr. Eric Amann, who had encouraged and published my early haiku in 1967 in his very respected and influential magazine, "Haiku". In the decade between these early snail mail contacts and our first meeting, I'd been a major organizer in opposing the Vietnam War where I lived in Miami, Florida. Eric, living far away in Toronto, was resident in the mythical, to me, country I'd been born in. After 'dodging the draft' I lived for three years, 1969 - 1972, in the UK in squats and various temporary lodgings (as the Brits would say).

In 1972 I decided I'd had enough of the hippie lifestyle of living on the street, and took a chance and flew with no money or worldly possessions to Canada. So when I finally met Eric I'd been living in Canada for only 6 or 7 years, but I'd acclimatized quickly to my agreeable and supportive homeland.

I suspect that most of us who met that evening at Eric's condo were also initially apprehensive about meeting other Canadian haiku poets. I didn't know if it would be a snooty gathering of multilingual academics, or Zen practitioners, or Japanophiles, expat Japanese or what! So it was comfortable to look around Eric's crowded little livingroom and learn that we were all pretty darn normal Canadians - almost so normal as to be cliches  ;  )-  Dr. Eric Amann turned out to be a shy gnome of a man, substantially shorter than I am at 5'7. Marshall Hryciuk was a big, gregarious laughing Buddha, with long hair and obvious good humour. Margaret was a short, friendly little Scotswoman, grandmotherly, but with an almost flirtatious gleam. George Swede was perhaps the most 'normal' person, who looked and talked like a typical professor.

Margaret and I bonded immediately at that meeting. I'd taken a sixpack of Budweiser beer, in case the meeting was too pompous. I needn't have worried. The 6 beers were quickly shared by all present, & I'm pretty sure most of us enjoyed our drinks while sitting on Eric's floor, Wee Margaret included.

I haven't kept records of specific dates, but I'm sure Margaret almost immediately published some of my poetry in her Hamilton-based litmag, "Wee Giant". I reciprocated, publishing her first chapbook haiku collection, "A Flock of Blackbirds", in October, 1979, with my Unfinished Monument Press.

There was an odd rivalry between Margaret and another Hamilton haiku poet and litmag publisher, Herb Barrett. Both Herb and Margaret were the nicest people you could imagine, and both were talented poets who encouraged dozens of other poets by publishing them. To my memory, having Margaret and Herb compete to publish and review my poetry, and to feature me at Hamilton poetry readings, was like having two doting, but competitive, grandparents fighting for my affection  ;  )-

I can find only one copy of Margaret's "A Flock of Blackbirds", and I'm debating with myself whether to send it to you. Is there any way you can track down copies of her work?

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