Brimming with all the creative energy, quirky humour, and felicity with words that made her such a successful Masters candidate at Tabor Adelaide, Raelene Newall’s new book looks like an absolute ripper – a ‘you beaut’ classic set to entertain and inform! Here she is to tell us all about it…
Who’s Who HAIKU of Interesting Australians…
As the title suggests, this little book is a collection of poetry in the form of the Haiku, about people I consider to be interesting Aussies. In case you’re asking yourself, “Why would anyone write a whole book of poetry in this day and age?” I’d say to you:
a) Stop talking to yourself, and
b) Because I was absent for the Nuclear Physics component of my Master of Creative Writing degree
But seriously, with the advent of the internet and all the attendant social media at hand these days, I’ve often wondered if the instant gratification of ‘fast-food’ style entertainment would one day make libraries obsolete. But actually I think the art of book-reading will never die. There’s something soothing, something cathartic in the joy of letting another’s words jump off the page – or the Kindle – into your soul. As my old friend, Groucho Marx, once said:
“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
Very moving. Very true.
So as I said, this is a little book of Haiku poetry. Before we go any further, here’s the dictionary definition of a Haiku:
Haiku – a major form of Japanese verse, written in 17 syllables divided into three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables, and employing highly evocative allusions and comparisons, often on the subject of nature or one of the seasons.
So a Haiku is a short poem traditionally written about some aspect of nature. But these days, many poets use the Haiku to write in a pithy way about all sorts of things. And it doesn’t even have to rhyme! Sounds easy doesn’t it? By the way, the plural of Haiku is also Haiku. (I wonder why the plural of goose is geese, but the plural of moose isn’t meese. But I digress).
A cleverly crafted Haiku can be a challenge even to the experienced poet, as well as to the novice. If you’re uninitiated to Haiku, here’s one I prepared earlier:
When I read haiku
which tickle my funny-bone,
haiku die laughing!
(See what I did there?)
If you think this poetry lark is easy, you try to distil into seventeen syllables something about, oh let’s say, Steven Bradbury – winner of the gold medal for the 1000 metre short-track speed skating race at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, after all his opponents crashed. Actually, do it in twelve syllables, because his name alone uses five!
In attempting to capture in 222 Haiku, interesting snippets about a whole range of notable Aussies – some dead, some alive, some famous, some infamous, some nice, some politicians – I have, like many poets, bent the rules a little. Actually I think I nearly snapped them. Poets can use poetic license to express the essence of a thing in just a few words – and often ambiguous words at that – simply because they can. Or because it makes them sound more clever. I would never do that, though – it would be discombobulatingly disingenuous. (That reminds me – I think my poetic licence is up for renewal next month).
So if in-depth, boring facts and figures about an endless passing parade of human flotsam is what you’re after, you’d be better off buying a set of Encyclopaedia. My little book, however, will be far easier for you to yank out of your backpack on a crowded commuter train than the old Brittanica. And the title’s more catchy, if you don’t mind me saying so. I just ask that you hold it up high enough for all the other commuters to notice, and, if you wouldn’t mind, attach a sticky note to the back cover that says: “Ask me where to buy a copy of this fabulous little gem.”
You’ll also come across some water-colour portrait caricatures, for which I have to say, “mea culpa”. Yes, I painted them with my own little hands, and I take the blame for them – unless you like them, in which case I take the credit for them. A note on my depiction of Father Chris Riley: when I painted the tiny black collar under his big round face, I intended to make his head look like a light bulb! (Cue awkward throat-clearing here).
I hope my Haiku will bring you some “Oh yes, I remember!” moments, or simply make you smile. Or maybe even inspire you to visit your local library, (or your local internet), to find out more about some of the fascinating Aussies represented. They may just enrich your life a little as you burrow down into their stories.
Well, it’s been nice chatting to you about poetry and people and portraits, but to echo once again the words of Groucho Marx:
“I’d love to stay, but that would keep me from leaving.”
Raelene Laurie Newall, 2015.
To purchase your copy of Who’s Haiku of Interesting Australians, Click Here.
Meanwhile, here are a few Haiku from the book to whet your appetite…
Baz Luhrmann – man who
has to make a song and dance
Shaun Micallef – says
smoking deaths would be halved if
divided by two.
Mr. Squiggle – had
inverted views and drew with
chalk on a smart board.
May Gibbs – took gumnuts
to anthropomorphic heights,
and children loved it.
Derryn Hinch – shows the
courage of his convictions –
and he’s had a few.
Ned Kelly – Irish,
with axe to grind; was never
going to end well.
Black Caviar – for
a horse, she truly is out-
standing in her field.