Vol. 8, No. 14, Summer 2011
Anatoly Kudryavitsky, Ireland
Helen Buckingham, Christmas City: A Haiku Sequence; Othername Press, 2010; 16 pp.; ISBN 978-0-9521806-4-7; Available from Othername Press, 14 Rosebank, Rawtenstall, Rossendale BB4 7RD, England; Priced at £ 1 (£ 1.40 for mail order customers) USD 4.50; Cheques payable to J.C. Hartley & not to Othername Press
Helen Buckingham was born in London and now lives in Bristol. She authored quite a few collections of her haiku, and has had a number of poems published in Shamrock. This time she has had a collection of her Christmas haiku out; it contains 28 texts, all previously published in haiku periodicals. The glossy white cover has an ink drawing by the author on it. This little book follows her critically acclaimed full-length haiku collection, Water on the Moon, published earlier this year.
In this particular collection, all the poems are centred on Christmas. As we all know, Zen Buddhism and Shinto were an integral part of traditional Japanese haiku. Since then, haiku poets rarely align themselves with any other religion, therefore Christianity and haiku is not a usual pairing. There were numerous more or less successful attempts to write Christian 5-7-5-ers, especially in Ireland, but texts of that kind are destined to remain outside the haiku genre.
However, we wouldn’t describe Helen Buckingham’s collection as a book of Christian poems. Christmas tree, if appeared there (surprisingly, it doesn’t), would rather be a kigo than an object of worship. Instead of a Christmas tree, we have a cactus in the following lovely piece:
its own advent
The author herself is a keen observer, and the results are often amazing:
The reader can ask himself why we do what we do at Christmas time.
the man in a rabbit suit
fumbles for his watch
Pre-Christmas haste gives place to New Year’s idleness:
New Year’s fireworks –
with the dog
The author takes us on a short journey in Christmas-time England, and her poems form an interesting mosaic of snapshots. Witnessing life at that time of the year most certainly was an indescribable feeling for the poet.
Many, if not all, haiku are poems describing our way of living. At the same time, they are a way of living, as R.H. Blyth stated in Haiku, Vol. 2. He went on to say the following: “Haiku offers itself to mankind, not as a substitute for Christianity or Buddhism, but as the fulfilment.” Of course, this is more about writing haiku, however reading them, e.g. going through this collection of Helen Buckingham’s poems, is also a very fulfilling thing to do.
(Published in Shamrock No 16, 2010)