XII.  Review:  Blithe Spirit
"Blithe Spirit" is the journal of the British Haiku Society.  The
name is a phonetic pun on the name of R.H. Blyth, a student of
Zen and a pioneer of bringing haiku into the English language
during the forties and fifties.  The journal appears in A5 format
(148*210mm) and is bound in coloured card with illustrations or
wood block prints on the front and back covers.  The journal
often also contains ink drawings in the body to complement the
poetry.  It averages around 30 pages an issue, it is published
quarterly and is just entering its fourth year.  Copyright of all
material reverts to the authors after publication in the journal.
But enough on its form - what about the content?
Well, there is always a large selection of original poems from
members of the Society and the journal provides a number of
conceptual sections to which these poems may be submitted.  There
is a regular "Season Corner" for haiku on the theme of a season:
the journal always runs one season behind to give haijin a chance
to absorb the spirit of the time and work through the composition
process (for example the February 1994 issue's "Season Corner"
was for autumn).  A particularly evocative poem in this section
for autumn from January 1992, by David Cobb, is:
                across the field of stubble
                        flame       stalks       flame
There is also a section called "Gorse Blossoms" where out of
season or non-seasonal haiku appear; and a section called "Senryu
Pie" where, unsurprisingly, senryu appear.  Senryu, formally
identical to haiku, deal with human nature rather than nature
itself, and often contain a humorous twist.  From October 1993
comes this offering by D.C. Trent.  For me this really captures
the kind of emotional inversion that events can bring:
                More interruptions.
                Seething, I open the door -
                to my oldest friend
The journal also devotes some space to the form of tanka, which
Bill Higginson has compared to the sonnet in terms of its role as
a poem of love.  Tanka were often the form in which notes where
exchanged between lovers.  Traditionally it has a different form
to haiku and senryu, usually taking five lines with 5-7-5-7-7
counts.  This example, by Susan Rowley, comes from July 1993:
                darker than despair
                - the moment just after
                the moment you leave;
                unripe fruit of the cherry
                tossed to the ground by cold winds
This poem seems to pivot around the second and third lines -
defining the instant that gave rise to the feelings.
Beginning with Volume 3, Number 1 each issue also has a "Museum
of Haiku Literature Award" - this is for the best poem published
in the previous issue and carries a prize of #50.  A different
member of the Society selects from each issue but the award is
not necessarily given to the most polished or skilful poem in the
journal: the award for the October 1993 issue, announced in the
most recent issue was given because the poem captured some
mysterious essence of the tea ceremony.  It is by
Cicely Hill:
                Still unopened
                The greenish hydrangea flowers:
                The taste of tea
It's interesting, in each issue, to compare the awarded poem with
your own favourite from the previous edition.  In addition to
this "every issue" award the British Haiku Society sponsors the
annual "James W. Hackett Award".  The winner for 1993, announced
in the most recent issue, was by Lesley Lendrum:
                A broken nutshell
                and a twisted root remain
                where the hazel grew.
This award is open to non-members, and I'll inform "Dogwood
Blossom" readers of the details of the 1994 competition in the
spring when the Society issues the entry form.
In addition to publishing poetry there are usually articles on
haiku and composition - for example, a couple of short pieces
over recent issues have discussed the relation of haiku
experience/composition to the right brain/left brain dichotomy:
the intuitive insight of the originating haiku experience and the
imposition of the structure of language.  Other articles have
focused on the form of haiku in English, and others still on
non-haiku poets who nonetheless seem to embody something of the
spirit of the haiku perception.  There are also occasional
reviews of books that might be of interest to haijin.
I should point out that "Blithe Spirit" only publishes poetry by
full members of the British Haiku Society.  However, the journal
has a special section that it calls "The Pathway" - non-members'
poetry is published here, and each poem must be in at least two
languages, the original language (any language) and a translation
into English, French or German.  This is often a very interesting
section of the journal.  In the January 1993 issue "The Pathway"
was devoted to the Croatian Haiku Association in recognition of
the current troubles in the former Yugoslavia.  Although I am
unable to reproduce the diacritics in ASCII code I include two of
the haiku here, the first by Luko Paljetak and the second by
Marijan Cekolji:
        I dalje nosi                    A horse -
        na ledima svoj teret            dead, but still harnessed
        ubijeni konj                    to its load
        Olujna kisa:                    Storm rain:
        mrav plovi na latici            an ant sails a petal
        divljeg kestena.                of wild chestnut.
(Gar-note:  For those interested in subscribing, here is a
  replica of the subscription form.  Remember to send payment
  in Sterling or Dollars!)
Full subscription (UK or EC)            12.50 sterling
Full subscription (other contries)      15.00 sterling or US$25.00
Blithe Spirit only (UK or EC)            7.00 sterling
Blithe Spirit only (other contries)      9.00 sterling or US$15.00
Pay either by:
1) Cheque or postal order made out to "British Haiku Society"
2) Dollar bills or sterling pound notes
3) Transfer to UK Giro account No. 41 756 3604
_Note for members living outside the UK_: If you send us cheques,
drafts or money orders expressed in a currancy other than sterling, or
drawn on a bank without an office in Britain, it is normally
uneconomic or even impossible to cash them.
Overseas members normally receive journals and newsletters by surface
mail, but if you prefer them to be sent by air, this can be arranged:
please ask how much extra you need to pay.
Name _________________________________________________________________
Address ______________________________________________________________
Signature _____________________________________ Date _________________
From: The Secretary, BHS, SInodun, SHalford, Braintree, Essex, UK
(tel/fax 0371-851097)

Return to Table of Contents

Return to Dogwood Blossoms Index