The poems in Catstrawe were predominantly written during 2015. On January 1st of that year, I commenced a year-long project. The challenge I set myself: to write at least one haiku a day. Each day I had to write 17 syllables before midnight. I soon found that the daily act of attention required to write one haiku often led to many more than 17 syllables being composed. I wrote tanka, or renga, or longer sequences composed of roughly three-line syllabic verse. The challenge forced me to catch the arresting, momentary combination of perception, image, and emotion at any time of day or night.
In the course of a year and in the course of this volume, I touched on many themes and preoccupations including: family and family histories, grandmother / mother / daughter / granddaughter connections, stimulation from travel, inspiration from one’s immediate home locale, terrorism, the migrant crisis, and running through it all, the experience of living with cancer.
Cancer with a little ‘c’ /Makes you aware of your mortality
That’s 17 syllables. But is it a haiku?
And is this a haiku?
yearling sheep shed their wool
Narcissus poeticus —
white bubbles on green
You won’t find either of these 17-syllable poems in Catstrawe. It took a further two years of revising, editing, cutting out all but the most vital poetry to produce this collection. The making of poetry must always be, I believe, a combination of the original manuscript, — jotted, on the back of a till receipt or scrap of a napkin, scribbled on a notepad in the middle of the night, word-processed first thing on waking or last thing before sleeping — with the patient work of self-editing and imagining what the poem might signify to a reader other than oneself. So, I am deeply indebted to Jan Fortune, editor at Cinnamon Press, for assisting me in the act of letting go.