AHS Winter Solstice Haiku String

Myron Lysenkosays:

jonquil shoots
early again this year
shortest day

the hyacinths
shooting everywhere
war in Ukrayina *

climate change
a place of last resort
on the mountain

*Ukrayina is the correct pronunciation of Ukraine

Myron Lysenko
(Woodend, Victoria)


Launch speech for Lysenko’s ‘a ghost gum leans over’ by Alice Wanderer

a ghost gum leans over by Myron Lysenko, Flying Island Books 2021 ISBN 978-99965-57-53-8 Series editor: Christopher (Kit) Kelen, rrp $10

I am honoured to be able to launch Myron Lysenko’s collection of haiku, A Ghost Gum Leans Over today. As I think everyone here will know very well, Myron has been writing haiku a very long time and has a distinctive style.

Myron’s haiku are sparse, highly disciplined and written directly from his experience. Each haiku can be read as a whole poem, but four of the six sections in this collection also loosely combine to tell stories. One section consists of occasional haiku and includes 33 haiku each dedicated to specific friends.

Sarcoma, the series which begins the collection, presents some of the most significant points across ten years of his daughter, Luca’s, experience of bone cancer. It does so mainly through descriptions sharp as photographs:

closed pink coffin –

her bald teen friends

cry together

or bare reports of states of affairs:

low platelets

her immune system

is zero

Occasionally, there is, the traditionally indispensable requirement of haiku, a nature reference

black orchids

the pain in her knee

is still there

The austerity with which this series of haiku avoid the direct expression of Myron’s no doubt intense emotion shows a careful recognition that, while a parent’s experience of a child’s life-threatening illness is extraordinarily difficult, it is the child who bears the full brunt of the horror and the dread.

Although many of Myron’s other haiku do contain a nature reference, it is the interpersonal and interpersonal not the natural world that is his main focus. I here pick out some of a very few of his haiku that restrict themselves to natural description:

dying fern –

roses in a vase

drop their petals

the leaf falls

against a fence

foggy night

newly laid egg

in the chicken coop

a trapped sparrow

But even here Myron does not use observation to direct the mind away from its human concerns. All three come from the long section titled Project 354 (2016) which charts a year of the unravelling of his marriage, and in context are objective correlatives, conveying nuances of grief, dread and entrapment.

In this section there are also some haiku that largely serve to drive the story forward:

someone else

buying her drinks

I go home

It is easy therefore to rush your way through this book, reading the various stories for their narrative. A slower reading allows Myron’s often deadpan observation of incongruity to fully hit home.

Melbourne Show

her first show bag

full of bags

It’s what’s in the bags that matters. Or is it? The repetition of both the words “show” and “bag” is clever. Show implies what you see is what you get. Bags often hide their contents. Or worse they can be empty. So, a bag full of bags? Anticipation? Disappointment? Anticipation-disappointment-anticipation-gratification? Anticipation-disappointment-anticipation-disappointment? This is a” first show bag” – probably Myron’s younger daughter Zaidee’s first show bag. Does this haiku commemorate a rite of passage, or a tiny step in the road from innocence to experience? Are they separable?

Puns or implied puns are one of his signature tactics:


I’ll give him a piece

of my mind

Here the set up with its suggestion of generosity (“I’ll give him”) makes the animosity of the punchline, which deftly works with the implied pun of spitting chips, all the more ferocious.

A punchline can also be used to deflect from the full force of the punch:

aged birch

my father beats me

at chess again

This one appears as the last of five haiku about Myron’s not always easy relationship with his father at that time in aged care. Since some rivalry over chess has already been mentioned, the pun on “birch” and its connection to beating, might be missed by a reader intent on the events and atmospherics of the story.

On the other hand, too slow a reading might miss the subtleties of the story itself. The haiku that introduces that group of five is

stumbling toward

my sixtieth birthday

cool change

His father in aged care, Myron too feels the chill of his own approaching final years. But this is handled very lightly. After all, a cool change in the weather is usually a most welcome thing.

Some of Myron’s haiku use the beauty of nature to underline the poignancy of loss. The penultimate poem in Project 365 is the tender:


this bruised plum was once

a blossom

Once again, Myron subtly thwarts the reader’s conventional expectation – here the expectation that a bruised plum was once a juicy ripe plum so tempting, so very good to eat.

He also uses the beauty of the natural world to point toward the mystery and beauty of those he loves:

new trampoline

a rose petal bounces

under the clouds

her face

after make-up

a tulip

And also, despite the generally deprecatory tone of his self-portrayal, he is able to celebrate himself:

a plover glides

over the cliff face

my open heart

If a ghost gum leans over records some years of poignant, often painful experiences, often in the form of an absorbing narrative of a haiku novel, it does not lack the occasional touch of surrealism

haunted house –

the murdered wife’s grave

under my mattress

Or some political commentary:

Australia Day

a huntsman vanishes

under the desk

Chornobyl –

what seemed to disappear

has returned

In this collection, Myron presents a dynamic web of personal relationships, moods, beliefs and preoccupations, shows how these go towards making a life and how effectively this complexity can be conjured in less than 300 very sparely written haiku. Like the tiny stars that comprise our vision of a galaxy, they are simply points that sketch shapes in a much larger whole. The white of the empty page stands for the dark matter that can only be guessed at.

child cemetery

a ghost gum leans over

the graves

This is a book that deserves to be on every poet’s bookshelf. I hope you will not just buy one for yourself, but one for a friend today.

Alice Wanderer

a ghost gum leans over is available in print copy and PDF e-book. Purchasing details:


Hetherington reviews Lysenko

Review in KALIOPE X, Issue 2, Autumn 2022

a ghost gum leans over
Myron Lysenko

Cerberus Press/Flying Island Books, $10.00 pb, 105 pp.

It’s been 17 years
 since Myron Lysenko’s last haiku and senryu collection. Even so, this new work can be seen as a companion volume to a rosebush grabs my sleeve from 2005.

The titles are clearly related, but a ghost gum leans over is darker in tone, more varied in technique, and contains more poems.  There are, by my count, 280 pieces, and close to 100 pages.

The sheer amount of poetry may seem overwhelming at first (especially to the reader just beginning to read these Japanese-related forms), but the accessibility and humour allows easy entry.  It helps, too, that the book is divided into five sections, with noticeably contrasting moods.

In the intervening period, Lysenko’s writing has become more compressed, refined, and emotionally charged.

There are superb examples of haiku/senryu on nearly every page, and even a few attempts to alter the shape of the form, particularly successful in the two mother-related pieces in the first section. The second of the two appears as follows:



Here, as throughout a great deal of the book, death gives deep vivacity to what is alive. The link between two worlds is an emotionally resonant one. In good haiku, the lines take the reader beyond linear time, and we experience a single moment’s subtle momentousness.

Haiku started out as a kind of humorous verse. Readers familiar with Lysenko’s previous writing will know that his wit is sly, dry, noticeably black at times. Here it is often based around clever punning. We find a chuckle, or at least a knowing smile, in some of the darkest of places.

a chance to beat my father
at chess

[p.51] The humour continues through what is the most affecting section in the book: the first. Titled ‘sarcoma’, and beginning with pieces based around the poet’s teenage daughter’s cancer diagnosis, Lysenko’s characteristic understatement ensures the avoidance of getting too close to melodrama or writing that is overwrought:

taxi to hospital
she tells me to stop
telling jokes

[p.9] Here, the poet becomes the joke. This type of self-awareness and humility is present throughout the book, and is one of the elements that supplies the lightness of touch that the original haiku master Basho termed karumiThe rest of the poems in the section are similarly handled, especially noticeable in what are perhaps the collection’s strongest pieces. Those on the theme of romantic relationships, their challenges, ironies, and difficulties. Reminiscent of American poet Alexis Rotella’s work in On a White Bud and After an Affair, they are, at times, achingly honest and brusquely self-disparaging. The sequence is, in a sense, book-ended by the two following senryu:

Valentine’s Day
the toddler listens
as we argue


we break up
just in time
for Xmas

[p.47] Despite being the book’s shortest, the final section, ‘rural’, also contains many quality pieces. Here, we encounter more haiku than senryu. But there is also a new kind of relationship with nature, which is based on hardship and the ruthlessness of both natural laws and human mismanagement:

he decides it’s time
for a haircut


freeway –
another kangaroo dead
at the Woodend exit

[p.99] The shorter, Japanese-inspired forms of poetry have come to dominate Lysenko’s sensibility and poetic output in the last two decades. This is reflected in the quality of a ghost gum leans over, as well as the scope of the book. For me, this work places Lysenko at the forefront of Australian hainjin, that is, one of the country’s finest short-form poets. There are far too many great pieces here to reference in a review, so I’ll end with three of my personal favourites.

overgrown lawn
the old man’s poems
getting shorter


I’ll carry your hand


a plover glides
over the cliff face
my open heart


Matt Hetherington is the author of many books of poetry, including Kaleidoscope and The Love of the Sun. He also makes music under the name of ZAZIZ. www.matthetherington.net.


Connections & Shared Histories: Sherryl Clark reviews ‘a ghost gum leans over’ by Myron Lysenko & ‘In This Part of the World’ by Kevin Brophy

a ghost gum leans over by Myron Lysenko, Flying Island Books 2021.  In This Part of the World by Kevin Brophy, Melbourne Poets Union Inc 2020

Myron Lysenko and Kevin Brophy have a long history together as poets, as editors of the journal Going Down Swinging many years ago, with Hit & Miss Productions (publishing), and as friends. It seemed fitting that their books be reviewed together, not so much to compare as to have an opportunity to chart their different paths in poetry. It gave me an opportunity to pull previous collections by both of them off my shelves and do a little looking back as well.

Myron Lysenko’s first collection, Coughing with Confidence, created a reputation of a poet with dry humour and dark, wry observations on life, enhanced by his live readings. Since then, while retaining his unique voice, he has continued to expand his repertoire. Lysenko has been focusing on haiku for some time, including the version called rooku, and a ghost gum leans over is his second collection of haiku and senryu.

The poems don’t adhere to the traditional form where the number of syllables (17) must be exact, so this gives them licence to grab the reader in other ways. Lysenko uses surprise and small turns, but more often he employs what I call sleight of hand – a seemingly simple poem has something that nudges at you; you read it again and suddenly you see it. A double meaning or a tilt sideways into another possibility. Working through the poems becomes an adventure, one not to be rushed or skimmed over.

The collection is organised in sections and the first is ‘sarcoma’ where the poems tell of Lucy Lysenko’s journey with a diagnosis of Ewings Sarcoma in 2008. One prose poem in the middle (‘Bloom’) sets the scene for further poems of the devastation of chemo and then remission. The next section is called ‘project 365’ (2016) and charts the breakdown of a marriage over a year, contrasted with other events in the poet’s life and in the world. Again, these are poems to re-read and ponder:

black dog
the bark of a tree
at night

The two sections – ‘in the light’ and ‘in the dark’ – have poems that startle and slap. Life is laid bare:

the typewriter
without a ribbon…

But then:

my brother’s coma
comes to an end –
window at dawn

At times the poems provide a sense of story where several in a row depict ongoing events and experiences; others sit on their own, keen observations of life contrasted with images of nature, as traditional haiku do.

As with any poem where the reader has been where the poet has, an extra meaning floods in:

our car rolls
backwards up the hill
marriage on the rocks

There is a road near Hanging Rock in Victoria where, if you leave the handbrake off on your car, it seems as if your car is going backwards UP the hill. It’s actually an optical illusion due to the countryside around you, but in this case, it adds a hidden layer to the poem.

Sometimes a poem leaves an unspoken line hovering in your mind (my line in brackets):

white lie
the transparent
rock pool shrimps
(I can see right through you)

This also is a benefit of reading more slowly, allowing other lines to be imagined. In one section there are poems dedicated to other people, so of course there is one for Kevin Brophy:

the poet’s deep
understanding of friendship
banksia bush

I googled ‘banksia’ and pondered the photos of glowing yellow candles of flowers.

Along with the haiku and senryu are one-liners which some people call a monostitch. These are more opaque, requiring the reader to re-read and puzzle out, with no line breaks as a signpost (and you then realise how much the line breaks in the poems guide your reading):

A breeze moves the leaf peak hour traffic

As with any collection, there were poems that I didn’t quite connect with, but mostly the small gems caught the light and showed me bits of the world in a different way, something that I enjoyed. I can imagine picking up this book on a regular basis, opening random pages and re-reading a few at a time. There is an art to packing so much into such small poems, creating depths and echoes that linger. They are also poems to share and discuss. I’m now thinking of doing one of Myron’s haiku workshops and writing some of my own!

In This Part of the World is Kevin Brophy’s tenth collection, the 28 poems making a slim but meaty book. Brophy’s poems have always been accessible on a first reading, not deliberately obscure, and then bearing repeated readings that reveal layers and deeper ideas. I opened the book and the very first poem is dedicated to Myron. Brophy makes the connections between them as well, their shared histories going much further than poetry endeavours:

… neither of us can ever be quite over
whatever it was our fathers pressed upon
us in the slow-motion accidents of their lives
histories of the twentieth century screaming
along the veins in their foreheads.

The first section, titled ‘Here’, focuses on poems about the everyday, capturing small moments and observations (which of course most poets do) in ways that illuminate and delight. ‘Butcher Birds, Mt Buffalo’ creates a picture of ‘thick-shouldered’ birds toughened by life in the high country, and mountain seasons ‘blind and ravenous as angels’. Similarly, ‘What the Finch Knows’ brings us a tiny bird in “twisting flight”, “small, bright, neat, fast”, while reminding us of the human threat to wildlife through the wind that “hisses/ like a cruel husband frightening/ his latest wife.” After such portraits, the poem, ‘Flight Again’, about an azure kingfisher smashing into the kitchen window is even more sobering.

‘Back Yard Ladders of Surrender’ turns the idea of humans taking and plundering forests on its head in a disturbing way – here trees just surrender, initially to birds but then also to the axe and the fire:

The trees surrendered long before us.
They said make weapons of our arms,
make stretchers and crutches
snug gun-butts, make boxes of us,
make carts and beams and targets of us,
anything. We won’t fight you or anyone.

Often, a poem will turn something sideways, or shine a light from a different direction, and stop you in your tracks. Brophy does this with whole poems at times. I re-read ‘Stones’ many times, thinking about the images and the idea of “stillness/ is another way of moving/ through the narrow throat of time”.

In the second section, ‘And There’, we are in Palermo and among Roman ruins, up mountains, on rocky roads, in forests; none of these are in Australia, even if not actually identified by place. Each poem transports us somewhere different, yet anchors us with vivid imagery. In ‘What We Walk Towards’ I was struck by “The night like a cave lies ahead./ It will take us in, no-one too homeless for it.” The image of the homeless rises also in ‘Winter’ where they sleep on the streets “with their friends made of cardboard and dog”, piercing reminders of what we take for granted.

The ‘And Back’ section doesn’t so much return us home as to an idea of what home might mean, with many references to the sea or to water. ‘A World Beyond’ suggests we imagine what it would be like if our world was undersea and the earth was ‘another world/ somewhere close beside’. Other references to water appear in ‘The Quiet Day’, an unsettling poem about a 97-year-old and the image of rising water:

…I could hear water lap up to the crumbling
base of my house, floating a generation of drowned beetles
and dead grasshoppers up to the front door.
The few trees left around the house
looked down over the water
up to their knees in amazement.

And also in ‘For Judith’, a poem for Judith Rodriguez, that depicts her wide range of subject matter, finishing with:

though you always reach for the rose in each of us
and with the deep shock of the sea coming at us
you turn your face to the ‘slow politics of justice’
lest we lose sight of something beyond what we are.

The final poem in the book, ‘Ocean/Fishing’, sharply reminds us what the sea can do, even more so the rocks:

They would hand the fisher to the shattered sea,
throw birds into the sodden air,
hide crabs, anemones from the worst of it.

There are several prose poems sprinkled throughout the collection. I found these less engaging, perhaps a subjective reaction from a reader who prefers white space and gaps for myself. Overall, the poems in Brophy’s collection reward second and third readings (and more) and are well worth keeping on the bookshelf and delving into one future day, maybe when we are surrounded by water.

 – Sherryl Clark


Sherryl small

Sherryl Clark has published two collections of poetry and five verse novels for children. Her new verse novel Mina and the Whole Wide World is published by UQP. She was the supervising editor of Poetrix magazine for 20 years.




My poems – Living Senryu Anthology

The senryu were published here:


rose petals
she begins to lose
her hair

Creatrix Anthology 2008-2012

missing teeth
the comb also
missing teeth

paper wasp Vol 19 #4, Summer 2014

even after death
each one is different—
leaning headstone

tinywords 23 August 2006

Christmas lunch—
after the presents we continue
our arguments

Creatrix 28, February 2015

pine forest
a naked doll face down
in the mud

paper wasp 21.1, Autumn 2015

a chance to beat my father
at chess

Free XpreSsion XX11.9 Sept 2015

wild wind
she asks me to take

Wild Plum 1:2, Winter 2015

old jogger—
I wave to him
in my pajamas

Prune Juice 17, Nov 2015

news of refugees
the oak leaf crushed
in my hand 

Modern Haiku 47:1, 2016

unstable cliffs
he pulls his daughter away
from the ice-cream van 

Barenuckle Poet Anthology 2015

For H Gene Murtha

bare limbs
not too macho
for haiku

Failed Haiku Vol 1, #3, 2016

our car rolls
backwards up the hill
marriage on the rocks 

Shots from the Chamber Anthology 2016

the way
to a lonely man’s heart

Failed Haiku #6, June 2016

pointed in the right direction
by a blind man

a rosebush grabs my sleeve, Flat Chat Poets, 2005

morning swim
discussing relationships
in the deep end

a rosebush grabs my sleeve, Flat Chat Poets, 2005

echidna tracks

My page at Echidna Tracks:


replacement bus
the widower smiles
at the widow

Myron Lysenko

June 29, 2020

in the leaf-strewn yard
a bare hills hoist

Myron Lysenko

dawn driveway
the last bugle notes float
through birdsong

Myron Lysenko

footy fans
shuffle through elm leaves
fallen scarf

Myron Lysenko

August 7, 2018

2020 AFL Grand Final Haiku Kukai

– smoke and lasers by Rob Scott (Haiku Bob)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2020gfkukai.jpg
haiga by Rob Scott

Well into the future, the year 2020 will need no introduction. Like every legendary age that preceded it, 2020 will go down as a larger than life, deeply transformative time that puts every other calendar year with a dark story to tell in the shade – especially for those who lived through it. Covid-19 shocked, rearranged and reinvented the world. Things we took for granted became nuggets of irrational desire – like going to the movies, having dinner out, visiting our mums and dads, and toilet paper!

More than any city in the country, Melbourne bore the brunt of the metamorphic shock of the global pandemic. Two lockdowns, one lasting 4 months, are testament to that. Collateral damage of the Covid-19 pandemic included the 2020 AFL season. Border closures and quarantine regulations posed the biggest threat to the completion of a VFL/AFL season since WW2. For the first time in history, football was played in front of no crowds, with not a single game (including the Grand Final!)  played in Melbourne after Round 5. Bubbles, hubs, quarantine breaches and the permutations of rolling fixtures and shortened quarters dominated the back pages as we sat on the edge of our couches, crossing our fingers for a meaningful, if not satisfactory resolution to a season no one had anticipated.

With the grand final wrenched away from Melbourne, and with much of the country forced to watch it from their living rooms, it was always going to be a different day. For everyone, including haiku poets entering the 9th running of the Grand Final Haiku Kukai, it was a time of curious anticipation. In true form, they rose to the challenge.

In the days leading up to the game, haiku poets reflected on the poignancy of the event:

as two thirty nears
ghost siren over Punt Rd
my bones feel the roar

Amanda Collins

grand final parade
pigeons strut through
the mall

Myron Lysenko

Grand Final—
yellow and black daisies
on my brother’s grave

Mary Stone

The afternoon of
the first night grand final –
bugger all to do

Clem Byard

grand final day
at mum’s

Glenn Harper

grand final day
the MCG fills
with seagulls

Louise Hopewell

a lone seagull
looks for a chip

Jeanie Axton

Here near St Kilda
I don’t hear any neighbours
barracking at all

Hamish Danks Brown

Some of our haiku poets follow the footy as much, if not more, than the average supporter, and engaged in some of the pre-game banter of the build-up with their uniquely fanatical and humorous offerings:

Eastern Standard Time
– Pop go the Pies
in Gabba Bubble

Bill Wootton

Something in the air
– Tom Hawkins
denies it

Bill Wootton

Late change
AFL rethinks presenting premiers
with Cartier watches

Michael Potter

smoke and lasers
the singer’s
single hit

Glenn Harper

But it’s in the clinches where all haiku poets worth their salt belong, and from the first bounce to the last, they put their heads over the ball and produced the most prolific performance in the 9-year history of this event to date. This year’s kukai generated 450 haiku in total including 330 during the game itself – approximately 3-4 per minute. A blistering pace. The highlights reel is below.

As usual, a huge thanks goes out to the poets all over the country and beyond. It was another cracking kukai. ‘Til next year at the ‘G (hopefully).

– Rob Scott (aka Haiku Bob)

playing her role
from the toss of the coin
lady luck

Simon Hanson

Geelong kicks one way
Ablett’s shoulder
goes the other

Rob Scott

each man
has four shadows-
first quarter

Jade Pisani

first goal
all the cat’s eyes
look away

Ron C. Moss

lip reading…
smooth flow
of epithets

Madhuri Pillai

balmy in Queensland
you’d think the pitch invaders
would discard their clothes

Kim Jeffs

quarter time –
more sausage rolls
than the scoreboard

Glenn Harper

it’s an even game
the lagging Facebook refresh
and my vodka brain

Derek Begg

Second quarter –
Cats give the goal posts 
a good spray

Jen Worthington

who scored that goal?
I find the replay in a haiku

Myron Lysenko

my lover
and the football
blue sky danger

Alan Summers

half time . . .
all the haiku poets
kicking goals

Ron C. Moss

Game to be won
Danger and Dusty
move forward

Ian Gostelow

go kukai poets
final half of footy
to find the goals

Ross Coward

momentum change –
she says
its over

Glenn Harper

all of a sudden
it’s close

Bee Jay

one-man supporter
painted in the colours
of the losing team

Adjei Agyei-Baah

Spellcheck hates Riewoldt
Like, seriously hates him
Wonder if he knows?

Ivana Dash

on the sidelines
Annastacia Palaszczuk
stifles a yawn

Kim Jeffs

A neighbour cheering
or is it because Uber
Eats has just arrived?

Hamish Danks Brown

spring moon –
the bald head of Ablett
still centre stage

Rob Scott

tv free house
celebrating neighbours are
my final siren

Lucy Annicka Lysenko


Rob Scott’s report reprinted from the Australian Haiku Society webpage:


Paperbark Haiku WA, Zoom Winter Ginko

Report of a Zoom ginko

Australian Haiku Society

On a glorious winter’s day, 5th August, 2020, in Perth, Western Australia, I contemplated the healing power of the sun as it entered my study windows through thin vertical blinds.  Outside, the succulents were busy showing off their light and shade, their colour and variation; inside, I was preparing for the two hour Paperbark Haiku Zoom Winter Ginko gathering.

View original post 512 more words


Wonderful to see so many Australian Haiku Society members doing so well in contests and with publications. Congratulations to you all.

Photo by Ryutaro Tsukata on Pexels.com

Australian Haiku Society


To Helen Davison for winning First place in the annual Peggy Willis Lyles Haiku Award hosted by The Heron’s Nest and judged this year by Susan Antolin with:

police siren—
a swarm of moths
flat on the wall

Helen Davison

All the selections and judge’s comments can be read here.

Quendryth Young has generously supplied some context to the writing of this haiku…

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