Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cyril Childs's NZ cricket haiku

The New Zealand poet Cyril Childs is primarily a haiku writer, known both locally and internationally. Like Christchurch haiku poet John O’Connor and others like Joanna Preston, Tony Beyer, the late Bernard Gadd, Patricia (Pat) Prime and Catherine Mair (who instigated the Katikati Haiku Pathway), Childs has done much to nurture the development of haiku and other Japanese forms in New Zealand and has edited national haiku anthologies in 1993 and 1998.
Childs, however, has another string to his haiku bow. He is also an accomplished writer on cricket. A Tingling Catch features several of his cricket songs in haiku form, and he tells me he has more cricket haiku that he has written over the years. Here are some more cricket haiku that Cyril sent me to share with you:


in evening cool
when the players have gone
           tree shadows
                                        (Presence, #20, p. 29)

signalling start of play –
   the umpire's
      crooked finger
                                        (Presence, #20, p. 29)

crisply hit
the hook to square leg
disarrays the umpire
                                         (Presence, #20, p. 29)

emptying field
   the old umpire winces
      as he draws the stumps
                                          (Presence, #20, p. 29)

summer evening
   the old umpire's shadow
      leads him from the field
                                           (Presence, #17, p. 13)

backyard cricket
   Dad and I pick up
      the kitchen window
                                           (Kokako, forthcoming)

Poems © Cyril Childs

Another significant haiku by Cyril is not in the haiku given above but is in his moving chapbook, Beyond the Paper Lanterns, written as a diary of his wife Vivienne’s nine-year journey with cancer. Vivienne passed away in June 1997. In 2000, Cyril gave me a signed copy of the book to review for JAAM magazine that I was editing. That year my own mother died from the disease. The book had special meaning for me and perhaps for others whose family members had been claimed by cancer.


I watch the cricket –
the honey liquid drains
from your side

© Cyril Childs 2000

The haiku was written after Vivienne, suffering from pleural effusion, had fluid drained from her side. The haiku is reminiscent of another poet’s poem from A Tingling Catch:


My Elderly Father Watches Television

How can he sit there enjoying the cricket
when there’s death to think about?

© Geoff Cochrane, 1999

Both poems share a similar idea: that we find something pleasurable to immerse ourselves in even at the most terrifying and painful moments in our lives. The immanence of death approaches us and yet we find some comfort still in our daily pleasures. Later in the book, Cyril describes how his wife comes home from hospital to watch the 1997 Super 12 rugby final. Sporting events take on that special importance in our lives, they help distract and take some of our pain away.

Article © Mark Pirie 2011

(Sources: Email conversations with Cyril Childs; Beyond the Paper Lanterns – a journey with cancer by Cyril Childs (Lower Hutt: Paper Lantern Press, 2000)

Beyond the Paper Lanterns
by Cyril Childs
(Paper Lantern Press, 2000)

1 comment:

  1. moving string of poems and comment.
    thanks, cyril and geoff.
    thanks, mark.