Sandra Simpson and Margaret Beverland have edited Number Eight Wire: The Fourth New Zealand Haiku Anthology which was released earlier this year by Piwakawaka Press. Number Eight Wire presents poems by 70 New Zealand poets from the period 2008 to 2018.
The third New Zealand anthology, The Taste of Nashi (2008), was a much-loved collection showcasing the excellent haiku being written by New Zealanders in the early part of the 21st century. Number Eight Wire maintains that high standard and continues to record the wonderful haiku being written in New Zealand.
Many of the writers represented in the collection appear regularly in international journals and are successful in haiku competitions. Among them are the two editors, whose writing has been enjoyed by many over a long period:
receding tide the gasps of little shells
all the way down
through cicada song
At first glance, the anthology resembles other haiku collections: structured around the four seasons, with many haiku capturing aha moments in nature and human existence. But as you read, you are gradually introduced to a myriad of New Zealand plants, animals, birds, glaciers, earthquakes, Māori expressions and, indeed, the New Zealand approach to life. One where any problem can be solved with a length of number eight fencing wire and a bit of ingenuity.
kōwhai reaches into the earth into me
to the right
the wrybill’s beak
our headlights catch
a broken pane
taking me on a slow curve pohutukawa
The book of around 150 pages is beautifully presented with an Introduction, Poet Profiles and reproductions of New Zealand stamps adorning each section break. In addition, the editors have thoughtfully provided a glossary of New Zealand terms and names enabling the reader to put each poem in context without resorting to an Internet search.
So we can learn that kōwhai is a yellow-flowering tree, the wrybill is the only bird in the world with a laterally curved bill, ghost suburbs are areas of Christchurch that have been abandoned following the 2011 earthquake and the pohutukawa is a large red-flowering tree.
The beauty, sadness and humour in these poems capture much that locals and visitors find unique about New Zealand. I look forward to future anthologies sharing even more of that country’s characteristic expressions: tramping, chilly bins, trundlers and judder bars are examples that come readily to mind!
Information on how to obtain copies of Number Eight Wire can be found here.