Turning Japanese #14 – Conflict 

May 2024, Editor Tim Gardiner

With the ongoing Ukraine conflict and the war in the Gaza Strip, it can be easy to forget the personal traumas that arise. Sometimes the battles in our own lives seem insurmountable. These poems reflect both international and personal wars. I hope you find them thought-provoking.


on the post…

warrior fires his arrow

Jovana Dragojlovic

brillo pad

just another

manic Sunday 

tone cluster

of low notes


Jerome William Berglund

three weeks

before they found her

no autopsy  

Eavonka Ettinger

this living

all by myself

the choices you made

persistent rain

I stop defending

my innocence

Ravi Kiran

two-headed coin

ask me 

nothing tonight

Vandana Parashar

total eclipse

sunflowers find

nowhere to turn


ghost plant

I stop letting it feed

off of me

Kimberly Kuchar

the slip face

of a sand dune…

bullied child

Debbie Strange

a sudden divorce earthquaking days

Susan Burch

waiting in line

unhurried papers rustle

in the outhouse

Marta Chocilowska


squatting over old news

Gaza Strip

Kimberly A. Horning


“culture wars”


Jenn Ryan-Jauregui

war culture war

high      noon

devil may care meat grinder

Tim Gardiner

(p)rattling (s)words of a culture warrior

petro c.k.

winter war

all the holes

in our story

C.X. Turner

another airstrike-

I admire the calligraphy

on a limb

Farah Ali

still no ceasefire the genocides of March

summer’s end deadheading civilians

John Hawkhead

the weeping cherry

still weeping

another drone strike

Tracy Davidson


those who point radishes

those who point missiles 

Mark Gilbert

trading blows

neither wants a war

and yet…

Matthew Defibaugh


Turning Japanese #13 – Private traps 

November 2023, Editor Tim Gardiner

In Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 masterpiece, Psycho, Norman Bates philosophises: ‘You know what I think? I think that we’re all in our private traps, clamped in them, none of us can ever get out. We scratch and we claw, but only at the air, only at each other, and for all of it, we never budge an inch.’ Norman is certainly stuck in his private trap, the childhood home which has driven him to murder and isolation. With the gothic horror of Psycho in mind, haiku poets responded with their own take on the theme of private traps. I hope you enjoy this dark collection of poems.

mood swings

parents argue

in my head

Jovana Dragojlovic

bubonic plague

a ratter’s poison

tweet after tweet

Lorelyn Arevalo


so long as it’s

our monster

Jerome William Berglund

the scream no one hears the disconnect

Eavonka Ettinger

a maze 

within every mirror


Jenn Ryan-Jauregui

leaves on a low step

I curl up inside


in the hollow

of my self-destruction

trick or treat

C.X. Turner

in the moonlight

a song outside

this cage

Ravi Kiran

mental health!

let’s change the subject,

if you please

Vandana Parashar

blood-vein moth

the candle gutters

under a spoon

John Hawkhead

to hell with poverty

I finger each bead

of sweat

petro c.k.


from myself

canopic jars

John Pappas

invisible bars

the walls bleed

when I weep

Tracy Davidson

Do Not Pass Go

swapping one personality

for another

Mark Gilbert

mirror image

rather the moon

than me

Tim Gardiner


Turning Japanese #12 – AIku 

July 2023, Editor Tim Gardiner

Computers and machines can have Artificial Intelligence (AI), a subject explored in popular culture as well as in real life. Classic sci-fi films such as Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982), The Terminator (1984) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) all examine the role of AI interaction with humanity often resulting in death and destruction. In 2001, the ship’s computer Hal malfunctions and kills several crew members before being shut down. In Alien, the synthetic Ash mimics human emotions and mannerisms to trick the crew into thinking he’s one of them. Not all portrayals of AI are negative, Batty in Blade Runner and Bishop in Aliens (1986) ultimately aid their human counterparts. The role that AI will play in modern society is the subject of much debate and concern. The haiku and senryu poems (AIku) that follow address these concerns and may well be some of the first on the subject in the English language. Come with me if you want to live…

h a.i. ku

Eavonka Ettinger

generating my next haiku AI

Paul M. 

just like dad

correcting my mistakes


Arvinder Kaur

people don’t die

their souls move

to the chip

Jovana Dragojlovic

baby shower for next generation AI

John Hawkhead

dorothy yelling

to the wizard-

open the pod bay doors

Curt Linderman

android girlfriend 

gains sentience…

leaves his ass

Kimberly Kuchar

we finish 

each other’s sentences


petro c.k.


make yourself


Jerome William Berglund

retired android

taken out to pasture

electric sheep

Jenn Ryan-Jauregui

the actors by their presence AI exeunt

Kimberly A. Horning

customer service

this desire to speak

to a human

summer solitude

I set a new accent

for Alexa

Ravi Kiran

old friends

ad-free chatting

over wine

Al Peat

a thousand pages

of too perfect prose

click lit

Tracy Davidson

ghost writer

words that massage


Mark Gilbert

new moon

she adds a filter

to our selfie

Daipayan Nair

AI thesis

a paper moth

sheds its wings

Lakshmi Iyer

what little remains of the mystery algorithm

Vandana Parashar

language processing the inandoutput of subwords

Debbie Strange

camellia blossoms…

homeschoolers watch Lincoln

concede to Davis

Joshua Gage

the perfect man

doesn’t exi-

VR headset

Farah Ali


I call the avatar

by his name

Marta Chocilowska

seeing through

the imitation game

mountain clouds

C.X. Turner

budding moon-

planning a makeover

for my avatar


short circuits

the programmers discuss

manufacturing trust

John Pappas

you can call me AI

Tim Gardiner


Turning Japanese #11 – The Great Depression 

April 2023, Editor Tim Gardiner

The current world economic crisis following the Covid pandemic and Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has led to spiralling inflation and high energy and food costs. Historically, other periods of hardship have included the worldwide great depression of the 1930s and the infamous ‘dust bowl’ in the US. Think John Steinbeck (The Grapes of Wrath, 1939) and the lesser-known Sanora Babb who authored ‘Whose Names Are Unknown’ written in the 1930s but not published until 2004. The imagery of dust and sand occurs in several of the poems included in this issue, reflecting the arid emptiness of the dust bowl. The 25 haiku and senryu poems which follow by 20 authors showcase the wide variety of responses to the issue theme ‘hardship’. The theme track is The Great Depression by The Jam which dealt with the unfavourable economic and social conditions of the 1980s in the UK.  


I never would have thought 

it hurts

Marta Chocilowska

the shower

I just can’t take


Eavonka Ettinger


the sound of a whip

as it hits the horse

Vandana Parashar

perfection ticking clock pressure to fit in my pieces

Marcie Wessels

lottery millions going hungry

John Hawkhead

not sure which one

of his kids to feed

to the wolves

Curt Linderman


a blot of ink on my

parched tongue 

Debarati Sen

down to the essentials

weed filling up

the gaps

Mark Gilbert

I offer 

my piggy bank

Mom hugs me

Kimberly Kuchar

money in

familiar hands

never any change

Richard Whiting

a week

lasting a month

water to the pot

petro c.k.

punching a rat

in the darkness, pointless

yet satisfying

Jerome William Berglund

chronic pain

no understanding

in the assessor’s eyes

Tracy Davidson

air raid sirens

he reads me chapters

from War and Peace

Jenn Ryan-Jauregui

air-raid siren

the bunker huddle

gets tighter

Ravi Kiran

hope engulfed

by indifference

migrant boat

hunger moon

a mother swaddles

her silent infant

Farah Ali

Kansas homestead

an hourglass fills

from the outside in

Lorraine Padden


my breath becomes part

of the gale

Debbie Strange

cloud grits drowning in the sand flood

layering up ice on my lashes

C.X. Turner

dust bowl…

swirling shadows

in the soup line


dust bowl half empty

fistful of sand

where is the top soil


axel deep

to a grasshopper

Tim Gardiner


Turning Japanese #10 – You suffer, but why? 

October 2022, Editor Tim Gardiner

Mental health is increasingly talked about in modern societies and the stigma attached to mental illness is slowly diminishing. I chose the theme of this issue while watching Oliver Stone’s classic Vietnam war movie Platoon (1986). A harrowing account of the horrors of war, it opens with the biblical quote ‘Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth’ (Ecclesiastes 11:9). This made me think of my traumatic childhood in which serious illness and emotional abuse were all too common. The loss of childhood, which was not without its happy moments, cannot be replaced or repaired in the present. Traumatic recent events had triggered flashbacks, avoidance behaviour and no small amount of anger which were made worse by my bipolar. I rarely talk about this openly but most of my poetry has some form of mental health connection. It’s with this openness that I asked the poetry community to talk about their experiences. The short haiku and senryu poems which follow are on the theme of mental health. I hope you appreciate the irony and hard-edged truth of these poems by some of the best short poetry writers. As Napalm Death sang very briefly ‘You suffer, but why?’

clifftop path

the person I used to be

lost in the fog

imposter syndrome 

the visitor claims

to be my son

rorschach test

a butterfly

on a wheel

John Hawkhead

raining down

the racket of silence



the scarcity of light

on a summer’s day

C.X. Turner


the ups and downs

of my mood

social anxiety 

at the garden party

I envy the snails

star gazing

the bright side

of insomnia

Claire Thom

sharing a tent

with my anxiety


shame and blame

bitch sisters

of depression

Eavonka Ettinger

dimming light

curled inward

shrivelled moon

heavy gray

between each drop

morning shower

the mirror

laughs at me

falling and breaking

petro c.k.

meditation app

push notifications

for some reason

doctoral exams

a pencil blunted

into wood

Lex Joy 

carved turkey…

have you taken measure

of your sacrifice

his indifference

another log topples over

in the stove

therapist’s prod

sky suddenly heavy with rain

Vandana Parashar

under pressure

the weight of pretending

all is well

sobering up

on a roof top

how close was that edge

“cheer up love”

another day

I think about dying

Tracy Davidson


in high beams

delirium portraiture

each gust

metal door shrieks on hinges  


Jerome William Berglund


a flat tyre

my depression

avoiding questions

at the beach

long sleeves

Marc Brimble


it would be so easy

to let go

bat colony

the night my life

was upended

Debbie Strange

new moon-

she makes friends

with her dark side


a blitz of fireflies

not so beautiful


morning dew –

trying not to sneeze

trying not to cry

i’m happy i’m fine…

a mountain of manure

for a rainy day

Mark Gilbert

following a rabbit…

stuck down another hole

needing space

inside my head

blue sky

small fish pond

my thoughts


Kimberly Kuchar

even when the sun shines I live in a windowless room

Monday morning my grey shirt too colourful

Marcie Wessels


o young man 

in thy youth

death spiral 

I lose sight

of the horizon

memories tag ‘em and bag ‘em

why call them demons

Tim Gardiner


Turning Japanese #9 – Siege 

June 2022, Editor Tim Gardiner

As the tragic invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin’s military forces continues with entrenchment on both sides, the war has become siege-like with conditions ‘just like hell’ inside cities such as the largely levelled Mariupol. It’s hard to see a resolution to the conflict in the short-term meaning more death and misery for those still within Ukraine either fighting or trying to live on a day-to-day basis. The legendary UK punk band The Vibrators released their second album V2 in 1978 which had the song Troops of Tomorrow. It’s the seed track for the theme of Siege in this poetry column. The lyrics ‘we ain’t got a bright future/we bought it on the never never/don’t wanna be city prisoners/we ain’t gonna live forever’ seem applicable to the apocalyptic scenario in Ukraine. On a local scale, places like Salford Lads’ Club in Manchester, UK, provide essential respite from everyday struggles for young people.         

The short haiku and senryu poems which follow are on the theme of siege, whether it be related to Ukraine or more personal in nature. I hope you appreciate the irony and hard-edged truth of these poems by some of the best short poetry writers in the English language. 

tank tracks

the denazification

of daisies


Siege Perilous

unable to fill      

my dad’s chair

siege mentality

the burnt out shell

of diplomacy

John Hawkhead


planting sunflower seeds

the way he showed her

Richard Whiting

hazy moonlight

a child gathers 

the pieces of his toys

detention center –

the flute’s low notes

deepen the silence

gray clouds

the lingering shadow

of migratory birds

Hifsa Ashraf

wave recedes

children reinforce

their sandcastle

vegetable patch

the rows thinned

in snatches

morning sun

a vine’s slow curl

round the turret

Lex Joy


a long story

cut short


psyche ward

only two square feet

of sunlight in his cell

Vandana Parashar

ice-logged river

all the burning headlights

are the city now


in the cratered city

ring around the moon

city in tumult

against a backdrop of snow

martinis and oysters

Ash Evan Lippert

no surrender

I wait

for her walls to crack

Tracy Davidson

this intimacy –

breathing the same air

sweating the same sweat

Mark Gilbert

don’t feel bad

America the country

is a myth also

white boy enjoys his

Whopper – licks the gunpowder

residue off fingers

Jerome William Berglund

Salford Lads’ Club, Manchester


young man glad

to escape rain


slow dance

on ring canvas

snooker room

after the clack

chalk dust

Tim Gardiner


Turning Japanese #8 – Resistance 

March 2022, Editor Tim Gardiner

The barbaric invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 by Vladimir Putin’s military forces shocked the world. Putin’s aim of taking back an ex-Soviet state harked back to a Cold War many hoped was in the distant past. Led by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukrainian civilians and troops have fought against Putin’s forces with only limited support from NATO and the West due to fears of unleashing World War III. The Ukrainian fight-back has drawn admiration from around the world, reminding some of the valiant rear-guard by King Leonidas’s Spartan 300 who were vastly outnumbered by the Persians. We must hope the outcome for Ukraine’s defiance is different.

A significant refugee crisis, the largest since World War II, is ongoing. So far over two million people have left Ukraine either to the west or east. It should be remembered that this is solely Putin’s invasion. Large-scale protests have occurred in Russia with most protestors arrested. The Russian punk band Pussy Riot (formed in 2011) has opposed Putin for many years which led to two members being arrested and imprisoned. Pussy Riot’s song ‘Putin will teach you how to love’ is an angry reaction to his desire to control almost everything in Russia including people’s sexuality. It is the seed track for this issue. 

Putin has ensured that state-controlled media contains only a favourable portrayal of the invasion which is not to be referred to as a war in Russia. I’m drawn to the closing words of my favourite Russian poet, Sergei Yesenin (1895-1925), from his death poem ‘Goodbye, My Love, Goodbye’ allegedly written in his own blood shortly before he hanged himself:

Goodbye: no handshake to endure.
Let's have no sadness — furrowed brow.
There's nothing new in dying now
Though living is no newer.  

The short haiku, senryu and tanka poems which follow are on the theme of resistance. I hope you appreciate the irony and hard-edged truth of these poems by some of the best short poetry writers in the English language. We open with the words of Ukrainian poet (who recently moved to the USA) Nicholas Klacsanzky: 

snow powder the graves we can’t smell

Otata, July, 2017


following sirens

through empty canyons

of broken air

John Hawkhead

thundering jets

the tears ripple

in many eyes

rubble ashes

swirling around

the unkindness of ravens

Hifsa Ashraf

open grave

the stench

of humanity

onset of spring…

the war and then


Vandana Parashar

heaped with bird waste

the tank’s flags

fly white

autocrats learn

“fuck you” 

in every language

Lex Joy

evac route her daughter skips ahead

Greg Schwartz

TV supper

a crackle of gunfire

and biscuits

Al Peat

the railway station

appears deserted

a fox

walks through

the winter solstice

the sun

dips at four…

in broken homes

its faint light


Al Peat and Christina Chin

the squeak

of an unoiled hinge

black & white


struggling through

each revolution

Christina Chin and M.R. Defibaugh

my silence

not wanting

to take sides

peace talks

somewhere someone


Mark Gilbert

why open old wounds chernobyl

close the sky nightingale waits for spring

molotov cocktail 

a drink to go 

with rhetoric


will come again 


when is a war 

not a war 

lego gun

Tim Gardiner


Turning Japanese #7 – Climate change

December 2021, Editor Tim Gardiner

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, early November 2021, represented a chance for world nations to come together and make significant commitments to reducing greenhouse gases to prevent dangerous increases in global temperature. Climate change will lead to drastic changes in many parts of the world from lethal temperatures, increased fires, coastal erosion to catastrophic flooding from heavy rainfall. Without action the world in the late 21st and early 22nd centuries will be a markedly different place with temperatures well above the 1.5 degrees increase deemed to be an acceptable level. On the positive side, the conference was the first where a pledge to reduce coal use was made, a climate fund was agreed to help developing nations adapt to change and Brazil promised to reverse deforestation by 2030, forming the Glasgow Climate Pact. Sadly, many agreements were watered down so that the use of coal is not explicitly phased out in the near future. There was a sense that COP26 failed because of these compromises and that action will not be taken quickly enough to prevent irreversible climate change. As the Stranglers sang in the theme song for this column, Something Better Change.         

The short haiku-like poems which follow are on the theme of climate change. I hope you appreciate the irony and hard-edged truth of these poems by some of the best short poetry writers in the English language.                     

petroleum flare 

the child wants to know 

what a river was 

flash flood 

a small pebble orbits 

the storm drain

John Hawkhead

dense smoke

the blueness of sky

fading more


plumes of a raven 

scattered in the air

Hifsa Ashraf

fishing trip

the unruffled silence 

of a dried up river

peak summer

my son looks for clouds 

on Amazon

melting glacier

not nearly enough


Vandana Parashar

seaside town 

less wharf 

than last year

wet season

moss on both sides 

of the tree

Lex Joy

crackle of fire 

an elk's ears 


winter rain



festival cancelled

tulips bloom

more casually


the orange tree

winter rain

Tom Bierovic

floating Coke cans…

now I know why weeping willows


Gautam Nadkarni


another leaf


sliding doors

a sunken fountain

or the end of the world

Mark Gilbert

all talk

yaffle bird

in a wet wood

sand dune

the cricket loves

a launch pad

if we wanted to change climate

for fuck’s sake climate – change!

Tim Gardiner


Turning Japanese #6 – Exodus

September 2021, Editor Tim Gardiner

The United States withdrawal from Afghanistan which was completed on August 30 2021, led to turmoil in the country as the president fled and the Taliban seized control. The unfolding tragedy led many Afghans to leave the country in fear of their lives. The United Kingdom’s response to withdraw troops was similarly chaotic and mismanaged by the government. Ongoing racism in the US and UK leads people to see asylum seekers fleeing persecution merely as a burden rather than a result of disastrous foreign interventions by their leaders. On a recent trip to Scotland with my son, I was reminded of the exodus of people during the Highland Clearances (1750-1860) when farmers were forced off their land, sometimes leaving Scotland altogether and beginning a new life in America. The song ‘Restless Natives’ by Big Country and ex-punk Stuart Adamson reflects this emotive period in Scottish history and it’s the theme track for this column.     

The short haiku-like poems which follow are on the theme of migration. I hope you appreciate the irony and hard-edged truth of these poems by some of the best short poetry writers in the English language.                     

refugee camp

pork and beef cooking

in one pan

Bakhtiyar Amini, first published in December Issue, Heron’s Nest, 2019

crossing the border

he carries the family

bullet with him

refugee road

poppy petals drift

into dust

from one flag’s flutters

to a flickering other

wind blown butterflies

John Hawkhead

remnants of war

bending more

Kabul River

Kabul Airport

between arrival and departure

blood moon

Khyber Pass

a mourning dove

along the serpentine road

Hifsa Ashraf

foreign soil

the first time

I’ve felt safe

sliding down
the aeroplane’s wings

Vandana Parashar

war ends, war begins

all i want

is a quiet summer dawn

Tiffany Shaw-Diaz

my future

my past

my baggage

new country

learning how to queue

Mark Gilbert

Brendon Kent

when you came

when you left 



wave crest 

to trough

nowhere left to run cancel culture

Tim Gardiner

Turning Japanese #5 – War

June 2021, Editor Tim Gardiner

Punk rock has been opposed to war in all its forms since its inception. The seminal pacifist band, Crass, led by Penny Rimbaud and lead singer, Steve Ignorant, defied the establishment in the late 1970s and early 1980s. At one point, there was such concern in Margaret Thatcher’s government that Crass were discussed in parliament. The independent attitude of Crass led them to establish a commune near Epping Forest known as Dial House. Steve Ignorant now volunteers for the Sea Palling lifeboat in Norfolk while performing at festivals such as Rebellion in Blackpool. His former band Paranoid Visions performed a track War, sadly appropriate in light of the recent escalation of violence in the Middle East. The conflict in the Gaza Strip has been waging throughout my life with no clear end in sight. Thankfully, an Israel-Gaza ceasefire was agreed in May 2021 preventing a full-scale war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group, Hamas.          
The short haiku-like poems which follow are on the theme of war. I hope you appreciate the irony and hard-edged truth of these poems by some of the best short poetry writers in the English language.                     

two strings out of tune arab israeli

the sign says
road narrows

Tom Bierovic

stomach punch
and yet
i was born

Tiffany Shaw-Diaz

wasted words
a pigeon bullets over
a line in someone’s sand

John Hawkhead

super blood moon
deep in the forest
raven’s eye

goshawk gaze
each bird on the tree
becomes a silhouette

Hifsa Ashraf

paved lot
who died
for this

they say it gets better
on its own

Lex Joy

from flower to flower
a jeep rumbles past

Mark Gilbert

the National Front of it

what we know of #war misspelt 

morning ceasefire at your fingertips 

Tim Gardiner

Turning Japanese #4 – Love Will Tear Us Apart

March 2021, Editor Tim Gardiner

Ian Curtis, lead singer of seminal post-punk band, Joy Division, took his own life on 18 May 1980 aged just 23. At the peak of his song writing ability, his tragic death two months before the release of the bleakly melancholic album Closer was a result of deep depression (possibly bipolar disorder), a doomed marriage, epilepsy and guilt over his affair (apparently platonic) with Belgian journalist Annik Honore. The intense nature of his lifestyle with Joy Division, who had formed out of the raw energy of punk band Warsaw and the lack of understanding of mental health issues at the time, meant that Curtis never stood a chance. His posthumous influence on the alternative rock scene of the 1980s was immense. The dark, melancholic sound of Bauhaus, Sad Lovers and Giants, The Sound and The Chameleons was clearly inspired by Joy Division. Later bands such as the Editors, Interpol and Lebanon Hanover would develop their own modern post-punk sound influenced by Curtis. The razor-sharp darkness of Joy Division gave way to the synthesised despair of New Order. Joy Division made melancholy an uplifting experience, revealing the beauty in isolation.
The short haiku-like poems which follow are on the theme of dark love that Curtis explored so deeply in his existential lyrics; of relationships that have gone wrong and become abusive or unrequited love. I hope you enjoy the irony and hard-edged truth of these poems by some of the best short poetry writers in the English language.                     

slamming door
the bride lifts the veil

things she didn’t say
departure gate

Tom Bierovic

modern love
he swings with 
a girl on video

February 14th
i crank up
My Bloody Valentine

empty wine bottle
you like it when
i’m easy

Tiffany Shaw-Diaz

she tells me my gift
is in a cloud

our lies when we lie together

John Hawkhead

last goodbye
on the way home
distant stars

attic trunk
among his love letters
moth wings

Hifsa Ashraf

residual heat
in an empty mug

or the idea of me
swiped left

Lex Joy

a dark fumble
in the audience
gothic romance

Mark Gilbert

letting go
you squeeze
my hand

dogging site
a pair of rabbits
catch ZZZs

sat nav malfunction different roads

Tim Gardiner

Turning Japanese #3 – Eve of Destruction

November 2020, editor Tim Gardiner

There can be few in the western world that are unaware of the controversy surrounding the Trump presidency since his shock defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016. His first term has been marked by a resurgence in right-wing attitudes and philosophy, particularly evident in the tragic killing of George Floyd in May 2020 by a white police officer. Trump’s openly racist and sexist remarks, mostly emanating from his twitter account, have energised the far-right in the US leading to the country becoming bitterly divided. Migration has become a contentious topic, although Trump’s delivery of the much heralded border wall with Mexico has failed to live up to his 2016 election soundbites. His wanton disregard of environmental regulations is another area of serious concern. Criticism is derided by Trump and his fanatical supporters as ‘fake news’ mostly without any justification based in sane reality. Joe Biden has risen as the Democrat challenger for the 2020 election, leading Trump in many polls. In the run up to the critical election result, US punks The Dickies speak for a disaffected nation once more with their cover of Eve of Destruction, released in 1979.        
The short haiku-like poems which follow are simply on the theme of America. They range from the election debate fly (which landed on Vice President Mike Pence’s hair) to cultural icons such as Bruce Springsteen, Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Mickey Mouse, Michael Myers (Halloween) and the enduring Scooby Doo. I hope you enjoy the irony and hard-edged truth of all of these poems.                    

enough water mint

Caroline Skanne

the day after
a cop tells everyone
to move along

his eyes 
in constant motion
black jogger

street fair
the palm reader’s
needle tracks

Tom Bierovic

polling day…
all day long
the owl’s hoot

toxic wind…
an election slogan becomes
white noise

Hifsa Ashraf

misted breath
at the end of the day
what should have been said

John Hawkhead

grand old party like it’s 1857

Lex Joy

chainsaw massacre
welcome to 
US politics

a vulture to carrion late-stage capitalism

Tiffany Shaw-Diaz

hollow redwood
an empty can of Coke®
in the corner

Mark Gilbert

live debate
the point chosen by
a drifting fly

cctv shots
the smoke sounds like
Springsteen song

Himanshu Vyas

the night Captain Kirk came home

Scooby Doo unmasking the caretaker’s lies

the swamp’s already drained Mickey Mouse
Tim Gardiner

Turning Japanese #2 – Holiday in Cambodia

September 2020, editor Tim Gardiner

In 1980, US punk rock band the Dead Kennedys released the fiercely political and controversial single ‘Holiday in Cambodia.’ It dealt with the Khmer Rouge and its despotic leader Pol Pot. Under Pol Pot and his genocidal regime, approximately a quarter of the population of Cambodia (1.5-2 million people) were killed between 1975 and 1979, many in the hellish Killing Fields where they were often forced to dig their own graves. Thousands of people were tortured in the infamous Security 21 (S-21) Prison in the capital Phnom Penh; many water boarded or tied to metal bed frames and electrocuted. Crying was forbidden in a final act of inhumanity enforced by the Prison’s regulations. Section 21 is now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Tuol Sleng meaning ‘Hill of the Poisonous Trees.’ A rather macabre collection of the victims’ skulls is on display in glass cabinets. Comrade Duch, a convicted war criminal who oversaw the torture at S-21, died on 2 September 2020 sparking mixed emotions in Cambodia.     

The poems which follow are on the themes of colonialism and oppression, highly topical at a time when the world seemingly slips into collective fascism. Rashmi Vesa opens with Gandhi’s Sathyagraha (holding onto truth) before moving onto the pain of partition in 1947. Hifsa Ashraf keeps the spotlight on the British Empire, complemented nicely by Mark Gilbert’s finger pointing firmly at the English privately educated upper class. I finish with a perspective on Baden-Powell (founder of the Boy Scouts), whose favourite photo was of British colonists hanging Africans in 1890s Bulawayo; a picture he called The Christmas Tree. The last haiku is my response to seeing fascist graffiti on a fence in Harwich, England in 2020, musing on how this links with a patriotic song from our past (Land of Hope and Glory by Edward Elgar, 1901). I hope you enjoy the irony and hard-edged truth of all of these haiku and senryu poems.                    

Sathyagraha the sun sinks on the empire

border trains full
of dead bodies

her sky
the pinholes
in her veil

Rashmi Vesa

the shape of the hills
by firelight

missing the point

Lex Joy

family diary
a fairness cream ends
the grocery list

Himanshu Vyas

sunlight on glass shards
a city pigeon trusting
the rough sleeper’s hand

concrete the way blood curdles

Brendon Kent

the ivy twines
around an old oak

lush green prairie
the wind of change
broadens my (in)sight

Hifsa Ashraf

colonial oppressors
all wearing the same
school tie

Mark Gilbert

one thought leads to another museum skull

Christmas tree who to hang this year

land of hope and swastika graffiti

Tim Gardiner

My thanks to Tim Gardiner and all the other contributors for this latest round of Haiku – very poignment at the moment and to the point. Our thoughts here at SD are with everyone who suffer abuse of any kind – we should all be allowed to live our lives in peace without fear of oppression by others. (Gaz)

Turning Japanese #1 - Babylon’s Burning

June 2020, editor Tim Gardiner

In 1979, The Ruts kept punk in the spotlight with their Top 10 single ‘Babylon’s Burning’ reflecting the social unrest in Britain. Riots swept the nation, lead singer Malcolm Owen directly experiencing the race riots of 1979 in his hometown of Southall in London. Taken to its logical conclusion, the song predicts the decline of western civilisation. The Ruts were involved in the Rock Against Racism movement which commenced in 1976, performing alongside Gang of Four, punk poet John Cooper Clarke and Stiff Little Fingers in 1979. The racial division in London in the late 1970s and the current unrest due to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 2020. Killed by white police officer Derek Chauvin who pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes until he died from asphyxia. A video showed Floyd saying ‘I can’t breathe’ and ‘Don’t kill me’ before dying.

The killing prompted civil unrest and riots across the US with all four officers involved being fired the next day and court proceedings initiated. President Trump, already a widely ridiculed and reviled figure in US politics responded with typical irrationally and inconsistency, being censored on Twitter for his use of a 1960s quote from Miami police chief Walter Headley ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts.’ The haiku-inspired poems that follow are some caustic responses to the extraordinary and tragic events of 2020. The minimalist nature of the poems places them in the post punk genre.    

discrimination earth on the butterfly’s wing

crescent moon
she asks me if they took
the other half

summer noon
the cloud moves
across the border

Praniti Gulyani

full moon
her bright palm opens
to a food packet

Himanshu Vyas

city skyline
an ivory tower on the debris
of small dreams

Rashmi Vesa

400 years
heat shimmering
off a stone wall

Brendon Kent

acid (ra)in (c)hang(i)ng the (s)oil co(m)position

asymptomatic his words that I can’t breath

Hifsa Ashraf 

police cars burn
on the morning news
stovetop bacon’s hiss

Lex Joy

collective action
a means to an end
pogoing mass

Mark Gilbert

in all this shit butterflies

Caroline Skanne

black and white house

empty speech is there room in Lincoln’s grave to turn

if all lives matter, motherfucker

Tim Gardiner

*Hifsa Ashraf’s acid rain poem was first published in The Haiku Foundation – haiku dialogue, social issues, November 2019*

Post-punk poetry

Tim Gardiner

When choosing a poetic form to document my own thoughts and feelings in 2011, I was struck by the minimalist style of haiku poetry; it’s conciseness and brevity giving the words room to resonant with the reader. The spare use of language and its tight rhythm drew me in just as post-punk music did in my teenage years. I soon realised that the wabi-sabi (transience of time) of Basho’s poetry was also present in the music and lyrics of early 1980s bands such as Sad Lovers and Giants and The Chameleons, whose stark, jangling guitar riffs and nihilistic lyrics evoked the inner turmoil I was experiencing. The following haiku from Judy Kendall was composed after she heard The Chameleons track ‘In Shreds’ (1981) in my car:

on the car radio                                
I’m in shreds                                                
on the bonnet                                              
rolls a buttercup head                                              

Judy’s haiku captures the despair of the song; hinting at the end result of such intense melancholy and the impermanence of wabi-sabi. Her poem has an economy of expression, simple language, and a clear rhythm to deliver its bleak evocation of modern life in much the same way that their source material does. Post-punk was often closely associated with goth rock in the early 1980s, both genres having dystopian music and lyrics; for example, early recordings from The Cure embrace spartan musical arrangements to create a gloomy, foreboding atmosphere in songs such as The Forest. Modern poets such as Maria Laura Valente channel the bleak, but beautiful energy of Joy Division into haiku:

final judgement
the shadow play
in mother’s eyes

Maria Laura’s poem clearly references a Joy Division song (Shadowplay, 1979) in the second line while evoking the imagery of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film ‘Psycho.’ The interplay between post-punk and gothic elements in her haiku combines with a simple rhythm and syllabic sparsity. Even within subculture poetry there is a clash between traditional and experimental approaches. The following haiku is from Jeff Cashdollar’s book ‘Media Boy’s Short History of Punk Culture in Haikuish Form’ (2016):

X-Ray Spex bondage
a lot going on for a
seventeen year old

Poly Styrene, the late singer of X-Ray Spex captured the spirit of punk more than most singers. Subversion and teenage angst are delivered with humour within the confines of Jeff’s 17 syllable poem. The well-known punk haiku by John Cooper Clarke reinforces the public perception that 17 syllables is the accepted format, with his trademark, mocking wit:

to convey one’s mood
in seventeen syllables
is very diffic

The anger of punk acquiesced to post-punk; groups such as Killing Joke developed an industrial sound through heavily distorted guitar riffs and tribal drum beats in the late 1970s. To see them perform at the Rebellion punk festival in Blackpool was unforgettable. This spirit of post-punk defiance was also found in haiku of the time, particularly those of experimental writers such as Marlene Mountain, who published rebellious one-line poems in Pissed Off Poems and Cross Words (1986):

well, who do you think fucked it up, caterpillars

Haiku has long embodied the impermanence of existence, the central theme of so many post-punk songs such as The Eternal by Joy Division (1980). Although relatively few haiku have been directly inspired by the post-punk movement, a good haiku and song have similar characteristics: spare use of language, space between words/notes, tight rhythm, emptiness, emotional sensitivity, experimentation and avoidance of cliché. The existential element of post-punk can also be seen in haiku typifying the essence of wabi-sabi. The less is more approach in post-punk musical arrangements, is essential to haiku where every syllable used must be justified. The postmodernism of post-punk is embedded in excellent haiku which have many different interpretations (layers of meaning).

The beautiful emptiness of human existence and nature’s persistence fuse to form powerful poetry, where the poet is not afraid to experiment. Perhaps, post-punk poetry is a sub-genre where the hybrids between haiku and senryu reside? To illustrate this, a strong post-punk haiku by Lori Minor (Failed Haiku, December 2017), displays the innovation and simple isolation of post-punk:          

desk flowers
this longing
for escape

This essay was first published in Blithe Spirit, journal of the British Haiku Society in 2020.

At Home He's A Parkrun Tourist - Gang Of For By Tim Gardiner

As a parkrun 'tourist' I've started working towards various badges such as Stayin' Alive (Bee Gees) which involves running three parkruns beginning with B and three with G. Moving away from the disco, Gang of Four's post-punk classic 'At Home He's A Tourist' provides a chance for an alternative parkrun challenge. There are four parkruns in the UK conveniently beginning with For:

Gang of For

Ford, Ulverston
Forest of Dean, Berry Hill
Forest Rec, Nottingham
Fort William, Scotland

Fittingly, to complete the challenge you must tour the north of the land, possibly passing within spitting distance of Leeds, the home of Gang Of Four! Us southern softies will also spend a lot on travel, but to hell with poverty! Forest Rec and Fort William also require a little hill running (over 200 ft of up over the 5 k) which is not what we all want.....good luck!


The Top 10 Punkiest Parkruns By Tim Gardiner

The free, weekly 5 k (3.1 miles in old punk money) parkruns are an excellent example of the DIY ethos of punk rock. Started in 2004 in Bushy Park, London, by Paul Sinton-Hewitt with just 13 runners, there are now over 5 million registered parkrunners and over 1400 events globally. The following is a rundown of my Top 10 punkiest parkruns (I’ve run all but Blackpool), mainly in the East of England.

1. Blackpool, Lancashire. The home of punk because of the annual Rebellion Festival in August. Why not sober up with a Saturday morning parkrun followed by a fry up and pint? Mosh on!

2. Colchester Castle, Essex. The place where Boudica led the Iceni rebellion against the Romans in AD 60 or 61. It’s also a devilishly hard parkrun with a long stretch of uphill path. What could be more punk than this?

3. Sizewell, Suffolk. Run past two nuclear power stations: Sizewell A and the giant golf ball that is Sizewell B. A windswept run through the dunes that is exceptionally hard. One for the nuclear family or environmental protestors.

4. Maldon Prom, Essex. You run around the statue of Brithnoth, the warrior who took on the Vikings in the Battle of Maldon; perhaps the first punk. Nuff said.

5. Catton, Norfolk. A lovely run in Catton Park that is home to the annual Bloodstock Metal Festival which has featured Ipswich’s Cradle of Filth and several punk bands. This is a hardcore parkrun that is very enjoyable.

6. Kesgrave, Suffolk. Run though woodland towards John Dobbs Lane, a tragic shepherd who Ipswich punk legend, Rikki Flag, wrote about with East Town Pirates. It will be your bones rattling from their grave if you push too hard on this one.

7. Great Notley, Essex. The punkiest thing about this parkrun is the punishing Hill of Doom halfway through. My first ever parkrun was here, where I was soundly beaten in a sprint finish by a work colleague. I knew then that I needed to improve.

8. Fritton Lake, Norfolk. The closest you’ll get to running on the forest moon of Endor, minus the Ewoks. It’s also a toughie, with two laps under the pines by the Lake.

9. Moors Valley, Dorset. They ring a bell to signal the start of the sprint to the finish in this picturesque tour of the woods and heaths of the New Forest. That’s punk enough for me.

10. Lowestoft, Suffolk. The most easterly parkrun in the UK. You get to run up the short but steep CEFAS Hill twice. It’s like a
punch in the gut the second time. This town is coming like a ghost town….


The tribute, called Ever Fallen, is below. Make of it what you will. By Tim Gardiner

Ever Fallen - a tribute to Pete Shelley

The Arts Centre slowly fills up, the gig is a sell-out. After a can of Jamaican lager is consumed, I thread my way towards the stage, passing through legions of skinheads and punks. The usual throng of misfits inhabits the moshing area near the front. An old man sits on a foldable seat, head bowed over a pint of bitter, seemingly passed out. The warm up band are pretty good for once, a high energy local band. It’s not long before a mobile phone blocks my view, a young punk films the entire first song. Irritatingly, a goth spills half of their pint on my shoes; naturally, I apologise. The band is on stage just after nine, launching into What Do I Get? Two lads immediately invade my pogoing spot, pushing me further back into the crowd. A 140 kilo man, sweating profusely, takes his t-shirt off and bulldozes the mosh pit. The vibrations are enough to wake the old man from his stupor, a smile creeping across his chiseld face.


morning after
tinnitus makes
an encore

Well Worn

The game of t-shirt bingo commences. It doesn’t take long to tick off the Ramones or Pistols. There’s a strong goth contingent so the card features Bauhaus and The Sisters of Mercy. As the light dulls and The Cure take to the stage, I’m pleasantly surprised by a Dead Kennedy’s shirt, closely followed by Killing Joke. In the enclosure, several Joy Division fans pogo around, arms flailing. Nevertheless, I need The Chameleons to complete the card.

setting sun
a faded t-shirt
changes colour

Tim Gardiner our resident prose and haiku poetry man was inspired to write this while at a Cure gig in Hyde Park this year which also happened to be his 40th! Some of us can remember that birthday - just! Anyway its a light hearted look according to Tim and the diversity of band T-shirts on show that evening..


We like to try something a little different at SD so have a look below at another contribution from Tim Gardiner of his work.

This is a Prose and Haiku piece with a Dr Feelgood (Canvey Island) and environmental theme.

(Editor’s note - I had to look up this style of writing which is Japanese in origin from Haibun prosimetric literary and can combine autobiography, diary, essay, prose poem, short story and travel journal)   

Down by the Jetty on the seawall near the Lobster Smack I find my first wall butterfly, flushed up from the gravel path.

It quickly vanishes across the water but its not long before I spot the pair spiralling higher in a delicate courtship dance.

The main quarry for the day is the Shrill Carder-Bee, a Bumblebee which has one of its last remaining UK strongholds along the Thames Estuary.

On the jetty immortalised by Dr Feelgood the steps up to the top deck have been removed and a temporary ladder is in place for the fishermen willing to risk a fatal plunge into the mud.

Sea breeze a rope swings from the disused jetty.

After resting in the shade of the jetty on this hot September day I recommence my search for the Shrill Carder-Bee on sea wall vetches and clovers.

Worker Bee the distant buzz.


The following piece of prose and poetry is in memory of John Lever, drummer in seminal Manchester post-punk band, The Chameleons. One of their masterpieces is View from a Hill from the Script of the Bridge album. The melancholic song is about Tandle Hill in Middleton, a site I visited on the way home from the Rebellion Festival in 2016.  Tim Gardiner

Tandle Hill

Drawn by the lyrical lure of the chameleon, I begin my walk under the suppressing shade of beech trees planted to discourage radicals from marching after the Peterloo Massacre of 1819. Colour is rationed carefully on these slopes; darkness making the dappled light clearer. Nearer the summit, a small patch of grassland is a haze of fescues jostled by the wind.

withered roses
tied to the railings...
from a tussock
the rat-a-tat-tat
of a grasshopper

Reaching the war memorial my view expands in all directions. Manchester’s dark chimneys and office blocks stretch southwards, Saddleworth Moor rises to the east, and the Welsh Hills line the horizon to the west. Wind turbines turn slowly on an exposed hilltop.

dad sits
on the hilltop seat
without his kids...
boys climb
a stunted oak

The downhill steps lead through pines, a gold crest’s mohican rebelling against the monotony of the plantation. Fireweed attracts the attention of a bumblebee drone, buzzing from flower to flower. Parched grasses are interspersed with flashes of trefoil and knapweed.

a dense cluster
of rowan berries hang
ready for the fall...
some already

Returning through an avenue of cypress, I visit the Field of Hope. A morass of bulbs wait for rebirth next spring, yellow trumpets just a memory.

faded ringlet...
arms outstretched
a coat over her head
the girl pretends
to be a ghost

*hilltop seat poem published in Ribbons 12.3 (2016)


  1. White rocket in orbit
    Blackrocked streets
    Divide America

    1. yep, US and UK are bitterly torn apart, love the haiku

  2. Wow, powerful thought provoking read over lunch