Conversation 108: THE DAILY HAIKU Interviews: Martin Grimshaw

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One of the joys of The Daily Haiku is reading the haiku of others and the way this prompts my thoughts and memories, and sometimes a haiku of my own to add to the conversation, which now seems a quite natural thing to do; I have read that indeed the original Japanese poets often effectively wrote to each other in haikus, responding to each others’ poems.

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Annie Wilson posted, TDH 11th September 2021:-

 

the day’s last cuppa

reflecting the sun’s glow

two red admirals

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To which I replied:-

 

the last cuppa a soft

comma before bed calls –

I sigh to recall

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As a youngster I hated writing more than a few words, I gripped the pen tightly, my hand hurt, the page was strewn with errors and blots, and making a ‘fair copy’ was even worse, indeed, with even more errors as my mind wandered. I was totally bored being made to write about things that really did not interest me; my obsession was farm animals and tractor driving – the headmaster wrote on my 13 year old report, Martin should spend more time with his books and less with the pigs – I grinned and ignored him, although I was later to enjoy Physics and Art, that is, little or no writing.

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I left university in 1968, with a very patient wife, Susan, our baby girl and a rather poor Cybernetics degree; however as the degree luckily included the almost new subject of computer science, I found myself designing computer logic circuits, working to achieve a particular function using the smallest possible number of integrated circuits, a task I loved – haikus of digital circuits?

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Although, still painful, writing was increasing in importance; almost from our first meeting, whenever Susan and I were apart for more than a couple of days we always wrote to each other by return of post:

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Bude, September 1966, evening:

 

saltwash ocean pure gold

yet the intensity was

you were waiting

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Written 28th August 2021; a memory of sitting on a surf ski with the warm evening sun drying the salt water on my skin, fishing for mackerel, loving the experience, but equally anticipating rejoining my fiancé in London after a couple of weeks at my parents’ home.

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In the 80’s, now a teacher of Physics, the word processor released me from the torture of handwriting, I could draft, redraft, etc. so easily, and starting to craft an occasional piece of prose that I was quite proud of – Susan said to me, you should write poetry Martin – she didn’t write poetry herself although a Letters graduate, and I didn’t really know where to start, nor actually have the time, intent as I was on becoming an artist. Our children while little, did love to have the same picture book read to them over and over again, and I had noticed that some children’s books, either prose or poetry were a joy to read repeatedly, the words sang, whereas others were excruciating to read even twice (of course these were often the ones the children insisted on!), so I was already aware of the soundscape I wanted in my writing.

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In September 2004, at night, alone in the hospice, Susan wrote to me a love poem, the only poem I ever knew her to write – I so wanted to write a reply, but I did not have the craft – heartache upon heartache. After Sue died, I read Spanish poetry of life, love and death, Pablo Neruda, Federico Garcia Lorca, Antonio Machado, first in translation then later in Spanish, writing interpretations, noting the subtle translations of word meanings – my apprenticeship had begun. Much later I became enamoured with the Tang Dynasty Chinese poet, Du Fu, with his humanity wrapped within his observations of nature – this time I had to totally rely upon Google to provide possible meanings of each character.

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Only after that did I really discover the beauty of haikus, chiefly through the opportunity TDH provided, with the added motivation of shortly posting, honing the words and their sequence, not only to express my emotion but hoping to stimulate that in others already familiar with the form, as for example does Kobayashi Issa (1762-1826) for me.

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To return to the very beginning, at about 5 years old I wrote the first line of a poem, in orange crayon, to the moon shining in through the window – the next line eluded me – a poetry writing block that lasted over 60 years! Now with the help of Du Fu in 756 AD, re-interpreting his poem into 3 line form, and with my own experience of someone I loved so dearly, I could in a way complete my poem of 1951:-

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TDH 29th August, 2021

 

I recall –

the scent of your hair

as a sweet mist

 

your bare arms glow

yet shiver in the

cool night air

 

lit by the moon

silver traces on our cheeks –

will they ever dry?

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Actually Susan would have said after a few minutes in the cold:-

 

it’s lovely Martin –

but let’s go inside and have

a hot cup of tea

 

 

14 Comments on “Conversation 108: THE DAILY HAIKU Interviews: Martin Grimshaw”

  1. Martin your interview is intensely touching and inspiring. The way you have ‘found’ your way towards the most tender words expressed in your haiku here are so moving and just utterly beautiful. I love the way you have also brought in Susan’s voice at the end with such a glimpse into her dear personality and your close and loving relationship. “Silver traces on our cheeks – will they ever dry” are lines that will stay with me and connect so deeply with my own sense of grief and loss. It is also such a privilege in these interviews to hear about a writer’s journey so often from not writing, perhaps even as here being put off at school, towards the pleasure of discovering the release and creativity of writing. You encapsulate all that is the spirit of THE DAILY HAIKU, why I set it up, what it has become and its ability to connect us all not least during a time of great change and trauma.

    1. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity, and privilege, and even more so for setting up and managing this wonderful community of haiku writers.
      When I was a teacher, I hope I never forgot to give constructive encouragement to my students, remembering the importance to me of those teachers who encouraged me, and maybe also remembering those that slowly strangled one’s enthusiasm (I’m a naturally enthusiastic person), particularly in English – continual C-‘s with no positive comment in any way. Actually I did get one B +, the teacher said my essay about dams was quite good, except I’d spelt dam as damn, all the way through – Damn! But it did make her laugh.
      Still, all I had to do was wait 60 years for TDH!

  2. This is a beautiful and moving account of how you have come to make writing part of your life – it’s a privilege to read your poetry, and you have certainly found your writing voice. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Thank you so much Annie, and even more particularly for your encouragement, and Jenny’s too, as my involvement has developed – knowing that someone whose haikus one admires also appreciates one’s own attempts has been really quite something!

      1. The creativity and encouragement of this group has been inspiring – I’m so glad you’ve found a way through your poetry writing block (the damn has broken!!). It’s your poetic soul finding new ways to express itself, apart from in painting/art. Like Helen, your writing appealed to me immediately – I think it was the Gerard Manley Hopkins haiku that did it! Looking forward to more!

  3. Martin, thank you so much for telling your compelling story of finding your voice. Your poem to Susan is so touching, it brings a silver streak to my face.

    I look forward to reading more of your poems at TDH.

  4. Martin Grimshaw, you have totally taken me into your world. With few words, I am able to feel and see you. Thank you for this touching tribute to your wife, and an honest portrayal of yourself. I have only seen a few of your haiku and because of algorithms, I see few of most haiku in TDH, but I love the support and opportunity we all have to express ourselves. You express yourself in the best way, with honesty and transparency. I look forward to more from you. Thank you for being here and sharing your world with us.

  5. Martin, from your posts in TDH, I knew a tiny bit about your life, and the tragic loss of your wife, but it was lovely to fill in the gaps, and learn of your slow journey towards poetry, and finally haiku. As my son studied Computer Science, now a very popular subject, I loved hearing about your degree. I loved seeing some of the poems I have missed in the group (it’s just impossible to see them all, with so many members), and I hope to see more!

    1. Thank you so much Jenny, and even more particularly for your encouragement, and Annies’s too, as my involvement has developed – knowing that someone whose haikus one admires also appreciates one’s own attempts has been really quite something!
      When I went to Reading, I had never seen a computer before, unlike I’m sure your son’s experience! I was certainly not an exemplary student by any means, but the opportunities the uni gave me (including meeting Sue) enriched my life in dramatic ways – it is sad isn’t it that so many young people today have been deprived of that chance – how lucky I was!

      1. Thank you for taking the time to write such a long reply! It’s kind of you to say that I, along with Annie, have encouraged you. I do try my best, but wld never tell a lie, so you deserve any compliments! My memory is so awful nowadays, I can’t remember if I already knew you went to Reading, which is also my alma mater, but obviously you went a tad earlier than me, as I was only a child in 1968! I was in St Andrew’s for all three of my years in the UK… What did Sue study? Yes, I’m eternally grateful I lived in a time, when one cld get a grant to go to uni…

  6. Hi Martin, so glad you shared your interview with us which I found so interesting and deeply moving. Your writing really drew me in right from the start. Now I’m enjoying catching up on the haiku that I had previously missed and look forward to more.

  7. I have been really moved, drawn into your life with words and logic. Your love and loss. All your years. Haiku express so much with a few words, the perfect distillation of what we feel and experience. Thank you for sharing this

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