Sunday, 31 January 2021


a propos de Mallarmé

you speak in riddles,

am I expected to reiterate, as if

composure compliments meaning

within the play of words, or edits

each account, we may juggle

in essence staged, or reinterpreted,

in accord with alleged trickery,

way back to source, so why return

once limited by narrow chance,

or complete deception, why not

a certain slightness, as if leaning

in close or shying clear, while all

balls hover as though transfixed,

why wait to rehearse each time,

as if truth acted on gain or trance,

indicated within its misconception,

so pick the card of choice, there is

after all, only one, as there always is,

whatever value or meaning it holds,

within its grasp, however well it fits

the curve, whoever’s back is turned,

whoever blinks or forgets the page

of flight within its misinterpretation,

or presumption of result, a coin

tossed will never land on edge,

the lady’s skill inevitably remains

hidden, paper wraps stone

and a chance thrown

will never annul dice

for Brian Coffey


another day

from this point

stilled by the sudden opening up

I adjust sight to land falling away

seawards across soft rolling contours

of single storeys, gable ends interlocking

parallelograms of tile and glass

pines and oaks protrude from hidden

cul de sacs and crescents in a blurred grey

evening light, there is a deep feeling

of belonging, not as habitation

but quiet inner joy, a connection,

a completion, a oneness

that normally I would share

with trees hedgerows and fields

these suburbs spread across valley’s structure

speak quietly of belonging

of hidden lives

this inner voice holds all

within the stillness

of being, a wholeness

though subtle and brief

of spirit and profundity

a personal vision

impossible to convey


of being

a true solitary nature

lies within the house

we inhabit yet with

the prospect neither

may as ever return

rooms full of memories

not quite within grasped

their furniture and detail

as old clothes in order

to see backs of

windows on landscapes

in constant motion

considered worthy

of ignorance

we walk corridors past doors

that beckon rather promise

glimpse shafts of light that imply

realms of birds are infinite space

this house we have decorated

to appease comfort will always

hold the silence of indignation

until we let glances disintegrate

like rain to saturate structures

of silent separation

a true solitary nature lies within all

promises of habitation and bygones

where only if known become uncluttered

less as well as with all frills waylaid or

trimmed can achieve true remembrance

experienced without sense of completion

knobs, feet, arms, pedestals, allegedly

polished by a thousand shakes, coverings

crossed by far more in order of sense

as oneness with winds of growth and that

illusory sense of falling away below where

there is no return to knowing being

if within is in being without

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Finish To Start

cliff’s gaunt profiles soon to be reformed
by winter’s battering where gulls pass
no wing tip heed eyeing green pavements
of wet eel grass draped by receding tide
here amongst round heads of seeded thrift
and plumes of fescue or brome shivering
a clear view of sea’s authority
where only thoughts might travel

footbridge in the glen
looking down into a crown of ferns
already tinged gold

in this deep defile returning
dark pitted stop to stand and look back
through twisted thorns and demented oaks
engulfed in coiled ivy’s integrated snares
I lean on hand rail abridging small sounds
of water running deep beneath harts tongue
and moss lined rocks slow rounded rolled
there by torrents past and matted roots
of black alder’s spiral trunks

pond skaters
on a pool before the falls
play tag

what touch feels sight seals
who sees each turn and step
what bears the weight the root
that comes to hand each steepness
born to grasp the slide back scree
the bark rough skin the slow give
born weight the face reverse
tight drawn as fades and shapes
this place and stumble to regain
some depth of touch adds grace
which way abridges sense or climb
disturbs connection slight return
to choice and which support props
enough to come to grips slow hope
stone by stone blade by blade
leaf by leaf frond by frond
shaft by shaft if only spirals light
wings momentarily as pin points
reflect each way the glen’s
encompassed space cuts through
stratified encircled journeys home
wind slowly to a halt mere hole
opening on the pathway back

shaft of sun
a hoverfly as if
in suspense

Friday, 3 November 2017

Colin Blundell's review of my new book Beneath The Lighthouse

Beneath The Lighthouse, a new book of haiku, senryu and tanka

New book of haiku, senryu and tanka by John Parsons

If you’re new to the Japanese haiku & tanka forms, it’s worth knowing that you don’t need to read the whole of John’s book from cover to cover in one sitting; opening it for a random delight or insight or even outsight will very well fit the nature of both forms since in their own way, and certainly in John’s case, they are random records of sudden intimations of unsought profound understanding of the way things really are. Having said which, it’s worth lingering over the first few pages here to experience a narrative reflection on the sadness & upheaval associated with moving house and the subdued excitement of settling into a different place. That way you begin to appreciate John’s knack with words; the way they can work together to transmit a thought-complex in an economical way: ‘we pack/the house’– the whole house because it’s impossible to contemplate the parts – ‘slowly’ – because lingering over what the parts memorialise is difficult– but ‘the blank walls increase’ – there’s more of them, the sadness of ‘blank’ – but you can
also read them as serving to ‘increase/the feelings of emptiness’ (the word ‘increase’ faces both ways) – as you get a visual impression of man & wife carefully wandering around, step by step to make sure everything is packed. Such nice use of language persists: at the new house there’s a ‘still pond’ in which a feral cat drinks; look again and you read that it ‘drinks in/the silence’ – either it drinks in the silence or it drinks the silence itself or both... On perhaps a first expedition from the new house, we have ‘pier chips’ but it’s the sky that’s ‘salted/with gulls’ diving for the chips, as grains of salt fall from a cellar! From small grains of awareness, we are taken on cosmic journeys and mysteries: in the new garden, we are ‘weeding
out mares tail/roots millions of years deep’ reminding us of the ‘promises we make’ which did seem ‘deep’ at the time we made them; the ‘moon’s grip slackens’ – a mysterious first-line-of-a-haiku idea in itself but then there’s what’s called a ‘pivot line’ which you can either read as its continuation, it ‘slackens/tides within and beyond’, or connect it with the same tides that flow into the last line of the haiku, ‘tides within and beyond/keep us in touch’ – inner tides of feeling and attraction unite us, the tide of the blood matching the tide of beyond-time. Walking the Icknield Way, John becomes aware of stepping in the footsteps of the ancestors ‘under countless stars’. Such small offerings yielding up universal sensations!
There are many moments of sudden intense recognition of things we habitually choose to consider not worth noticing: there’s a ‘softening’ which is ‘that point where snow/becomes rain’; there’s a ‘pattern of stones’, on a beach maybe, which is ‘perfect for what was/just this moment’ – the imperfect tense ‘was’ is about the way the stones have been deposited by time and tide in the past, the resulting pattern is in the NOW; delayed ‘at the crossing/a hearse driver/checks his time – mustn’t be late for the funeral NOW...
There are delightful fancies whose attraction is often in the way they scramble one’s sense-awareness: we notice a slender lightning conductor on a house top, then the blackbird sitting on it, then its sudden ‘solo’ which organises, or ‘conducts’, what we see with a tune that goes like lightning into the consciousness; or else perhaps the same blackbird gathers with others on a cliff top to offer us ‘a whiff of shanty/in their song, appropriate to being by the seaside. There is an exquisite sense of absence in the fact that ‘somewhere out there/in the evening garden/remains of the day’or ‘flutters at the edge/of vision a nothingness/of wrens’. Often absence is conveyed in a way that can be called ‘the distance between’: on a tall cliff there’s a seat where lovers are likely to have sat, but time passes and ‘between memories/his end faces golf/hers the endless sea’. Golf or gulf? There are long histories conveyed with minimal nostalgic expression as in ‘as I repair/this old house with tools/my father left/an intimacy occurs/never felt so long ago’ and ‘I walk cliff paths/with long lost friends/in my head’. There are ‘smudges of blackbird/in a leafless hedge’ which can, if you choose, be compared to a ‘dark thought shrugged off’ – after all, it’s just a rather upsetting smudge. In any case, ‘why ponder/the meaning of life/when there are clouds’ ? And finally, since haiku are essentially lightly done, there’s a nice sense of humour comes through: ‘from a crossword...’ (or is it a ‘cross word’?) ‘he looks up two letters/across for hello’ (‘Hi!’ – my solution comes from years of being asked to help with the Observer Crossword on a Sunday evening!); ‘through binoculars/a tight clump of birders/swivels’ (just imagine!), similar to heads swivelling watching a tennis match; ‘day after/clearing autumn leaves/autumn leaves’. The question at a Quiz Night was – What is the name given to trees that drop their leaves in autumn? The bright old lady’s answer is ‘a nuisance’. Successful haiku and tanka leave you to make what sense you like of them; they spark off other ideas; their writer has the integrity to leave you with that option; John gives you plenty of space to wonder/wander.

Colin Blundell (editor of the British Haiku Society Journal for many years) 30th October 2017