The respected Australian poet and artist, Ron C. Moss, has released a new collection titled Cloud Hands. The book features striking cover art by Ron that includes stencilled hands, reminiscent of Indigenous art, a conventional farmhouse under a starry sky and Ron’s Japanese hanko (or Artist Name Seal) in the top left corner.
Cloud Hands is a collection of haiku interspersed with several haiku sequences, rengay and haiga. The book concludes with six haibun relating, among other things, to Ron’s early life and practice of Zen.
The Japanese haiku master, Matsuo Bashō, suggested haiku should exhibit karumi, or lightness. Karumi is a particular feature of the poems in Cloud Hands.
In advocating ‘lightness’, Bashō was not saying a haiku should be light-hearted, or that the poems should be inconsequential. Rather, he was saying the subject of a poem should be treated subtly, in an unselfconscious manner, allowing the reader to experience the poem more with sensitivity than logic. Many poems in Cloud Hands exhibit karumi:
a starfish glistens
on the tide line
the one breath
of a huddled flock,
silence . . .
for a moment the frogs
In this collection, Ron makes effective use of one-line haiku, or monoku. He uses these monoku as stand-alone poems, as part of haiga and within haiku sequences. Here are two stand-alone haiku from Cloud Hands:
cupped in weathered hands his daughter’s smile
red dust rain the billabong alive with frogs
Haiku in Japan traditionally involved the juxtaposition of two parts, separated by kireji (or cutting words). In English, we don’t have the equivalent of cutting words but haiku do generally exhibit a pause between the two parts. This can be seen in the haiku above. We would typically read these haiku with a logical pause after ‘hands’, and after ‘rain’.
Interestingly, Ron offers several monoku in Cloud Hands that lack any obvious sense of a pause. For example:
red crimson vibrates with the painter’s hum
a blue poppy shatters the silence
While haiku in this form are unusual, they do exist. US poet, Michael Dylan Welch, has written about ‘one-part’ haiku on his website, Graceguts. As Michael points out, for these poems you can often consider the ‘cut’ as occurring at the end of the poem. In the context of Cloud Hands, these one-part haiku add variety and a different aesthetic to the collection as a whole.
Ron’s earlier books have been widely acclaimed and awarded, and yet, there is something special about Cloud Hands. In fact, it is probably my favourite of Ron’s books to date. Sometimes the elements of a book just come together to make a satisfying read, and this is the case with Cloud Hands.
shades of blue
in the wallaby’s eyes
casting a fly
into layers of pink
mother darns a sock
starglow . . .
pieces of whale bone
The varied poetry and art, together with the ‘lightness’ of the poems, combine to make Cloud Hands both comforting and refreshing to read. Cloud Hands is produced by Tasmanian publisher, Walleah Press. However, the easiest way to purchase a copy is by contacting Ron directly at this email address:
Ron C. Moss: Haiku and Art
Ron C. Moss is a renowned Australian poet and artist. His interest in Asian philosophy has led him to write award-winning haiku and pursue a variety of art forms including sumi-e (ink paintings) and Zenga (Zen inspired painting). Ron also produces abstract watercolour, photography and digital art. Many examples of Ron’s haiku and art are…