Online internet courses by Call of the Page

Are you interested in a Call of the Page course? We run courses on haiku (beginner and intermediate, and advanced). We also run workshops and courses on tanka; tanka stories/prose; haibun; shahai; and other genres.

Please email us at:
We will let you know more about these courses.

Call of the Page (Alan & Karen)

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

hidden and embedded haiku, and flash fiction - flash: BLUE — short-shorts on a theme - blue touch-paper

flash: BLUE — short-shorts on a theme

It’s a blue-grey day, pointillism of trees shivering in the wind, and driving rain. It’s late, I’m tired, and I just want a train to get me home safe. Everywhere there are tones of blue, a couple entwine into a single long scarf. The train arrives, and I’m in, the couple sit opposite me giggling through a game of paper rock scissors. They endlessly punch out rock to rock or rock to scissors. Long journey into night, there is never paper wraps rock. I count down minutes after minutes to my stop, everything fast and slow, fast and slow, all its own blur. The train doesn’t really take forever, and I am sure paper gets to wrap rock. The train hits my stop. I race up the hill. A trashcan lid clangs for no reason: It could be cats, a fox, or something escaping the empire of owls that control this time. At this hour I’m also ready to light the blue-touch paper of a different kind, for the one waiting. We can retire for the remains of the night. There’s a fledgling moon, it lies on our bedroom ledge, where stars can slip.    
    - Alan Summers

flash: BLUE — short-shorts on a theme

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Tanka Prose aka Tanka Story - prose narrative with tanka 5-line lyrical poems

Tanka Story
A small tanka prose (tanka story) description:

Tanka are five line poems well-grounded in concrete images yet infused with lyric intensity, with an intimacy from direct expression of emotion tempered with implication. They contain ingredients of suggestion colored by shade and tone, setting off a nuance more potent than direct statement. Almost any subject, explicitly expressing your direct thoughts and feelings can be contained in this short form poetry.

Tanka Prose is similar to the prose of the haibun, but a little more subjective perhaps, and emotive, as influenced by the tanka poems themselves. 



Not just any steps, but Covent Garden underground tube station when the lifts don’t work.

It’s not just the slow rumble of different sole thicknesses
absorbing the trains as we climb:

It’s more than humanity, it’s those bloody steps,
those stairs are in love with us, they must be, don’t you think?

the moon
at my shoulder
a child cycles
across the Sea 
of Tranquility

Alan Summers
Publication Credit: Blithe Spirit 26.2 (May 2016)

Covent Garden Tube Station:

The stairs and steps of Covent Station:

The station itself:


Sky Fishing 

When there are fish that drop from the sky, they are not necessarily dead, just visiting.

I know this woman who waits for fish to die. Mary is not mad; she is just not a fish killer. 

She tells me she hangs around for them to dive
from cars, aeroplanes, or from tankers in busy shipping lanes. 

Once a fish fell off a cliff, and Mary was driving
an open top bright green Volkswagen round and round. 
There’s always a plate of salad on the passenger’s side.

I look even now to see if there’s a fish flapping in a lay-by. 
A soft-top car isn't good in a city full of crime but it can be good for fish dropping in. 

this black hole
in my coffee
I fold the dirty laundry
back into myself
window-rattling a moon

Alan Summers
Publication credit:  Blithe Spirit Vol. 27 No. 2 May 2017

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

ekphrasis - poetry and art, and when haiku met art

      our dialogue as a haiku poet with art

There are many ways into writing about a particular artwork.

For instance, what memories, from childhood or young adulthood etc... are evoked by a certain painting or other artwork you saw somewhere?

If it's a tanka there is more than room enough to add the title of a painting, and maybe the artist's name, and to a certain degree that can also be done in a haiku.


Monet’s Haystacks
a group of crows tug
at twilight

Alan Summers
Publication credits: Asahi Shimbun (Japan, 2010)


Monet’s pain–
the shadows of haybales
lengthening the sunset

Alan Summers
Publication credits: 
The Bath Burp: Poetry, Music & Arts Monthly Issue No. 10 (2012)

See Monet's haystacks:

van Gogh’s wheatfield
the width of a hand fills
with crows

Alan Summers
Publication credits: 
The Bath Burp: Poetry, Music & Arts Monthly Issue No. 10 (2012)

Wheatfield with Crows

Auvers-sur-Oise, July 1890 Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890) oil on canvas, 50.5 cm x 103 cm 

such old steps 
I water the sunflowers 
for van Gogh

Alan Summers
Publication credit: 
Stardust Haiku Issue 9 - September 2017

van Gogh's sunflowers:

4-line haiku from a talk at Victoria and Albert Museum about Japanese art, and in particular netsuke (pronounced 'net-ski).

the blue
of the aubergine
a spider is caught
in the netsuke

Alan Summers
Publication credits: Snapshots Seven (2000)

The aubergine netsuke at the V&A:

the hare with amber eyes
jumps back in again

Alan Summers
Publication credits: Mainichi Shimbun (Japan, May 2011)

the crows changing
into their colours

Alan Summers 

Siena rooftops
sketching the shapes
in my mind

Karen Hoy
Yomiuri Shimbun, Go-Shichi-Go Haiku in English / Using poetic color in haiku  (Japan, 2004)

The rooftops of Siena, Italy:

Madame Camellia
a teabag discarded
in autumn leaves

Karen Hoy
Publication credit: 
Blithe Spirit Vol. 27 No. 1 (February 2017) ISSN 1353-3320

La Dame aux Camelias aka Madame Camellia

Description by Karen Hoy:
I was walking home on an autumn day, and noticed that someone had chucked a teabag into the fallen leaves accumulated where the flagstone pathway met people’s front garden walls.  I had to think for a moment about why the image piqued something in me – it was a sludgy brown colour among autumn shades – it didn’t stand out.  

But then I realised that the tension was between these exotic cast-off leaves [tea being the dried leaves of a camellia bush, I believe] and the local autumn leaves.  And I had the image of some tragedy, of a decline, but without a loss of self-respect or dignity.  A sort of forbearing.  

I must have been influenced by the title Madame Butterfly too.  Also the film “La Dame aux Camelias” where the heroine has tuberculosis (which I think subconsciously linked to the dampness of the teabag – I can’t remember whether the autumn leaves were damp or dry, I think perhaps they were in-between).

from the Afterword by Alan Summers for Ekphrasis Between Image and Word

When we attempt ekphrastic forays, into the landscape of painting, haiku could be seen as two brushstrokes frozen in mid-air. Or, using another analogy, while attempting to capture the energy of painting, it’s not unlike the techniques made famous in The Matrix movie; freeze frames that an actor moves around, at will, while everyone and everything else is an individual ‘still life,’ or an intimate and suspended panorama.

When I write about a painting through my own poetry I am both telling a story, but also attempting to tell a story, all at the same time. 

[T]ravel the paintings, hear the echoes in between, and tell your own story too. 

Afterword extract from Alan Summers from the forthcoming book:
Ekphrasis Between Image and Word
Paintings by Maria Pierides. Haiku responses by Stella Pierides
Foreword by Robert Lamoon 
Afterword by Alan Summers
Fruit Dove Press 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Lost Paper: flash: BLUE — short-shorts on a theme

Lost Paper: flash: BLUE — short-shorts on a theme: It’s a blue-grey day, pointillism of trees shivering in the wind and driving rain. It’s late, I’m tired, and I just want a train to get me h...

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Haiku and The Reveal: A device to create surprises in a narrative

The Reveal:
A device to create surprises in a narrative.

Reveal (narrative)
The reveal (also known as the big reveal) is a plot device in narrative structure, and is the exposure to the reader or audience of a previously hidden key element of plot… 

This may result in a plot twist, and could be the key plot turn or unexpected coda in the story – in the mystery genre, for example.

The reveal is a “dropped as if from the sky” information that changes our understanding of a story, from what's happened so far and what will happen over time. It’s where you have to rethink what you thought was the entire story. 

It is not as easy as it reads, because it’s not a cheap gimmicky surprise ending that we witness, occasionally, in various genres: It has to resonate and maintain a tension as the reader unfolds for themselves all the “what might happen scenarios.” 

Just as in haiku, haibun can work really well by having a reveal, or partial reveal, if we can get the reader to want to move forward and fill in all the negative space/white space. If that happens we’ve succeeded in bringing one of the defining moments of great storytelling in our haiku (and haibun).

Alan Summers Friday 5th May 2017

A reveal is simply a moment where some previously unknown piece of information is presented to the audience. The reveal is reserved for a big, central piece of info that changes our understanding of the entire story, even what's happened so far. In all cases, after this reveal, you have to rethink the entire story. —James H. Kelly (August 2010)

You use "reveal" to mean "big twist," whereas I've always thought of it as smaller epiphanies that occur throughout a narrative. What happens, though, is that the writers end up playing cat and mouse games with different types of viewers: those who are already anticipating what the reveal would be based on the clues given and those who are more innocent and more likely to be surprised by "obvious" twists. —Nate Stearns (January 2011)

Here are some "smaller epiphanies":

another hot day
a leaking water pipe stopped
by the jackdaw’s beak

Alan Summers
Honourable Mention, 14th Mainichi Haiku Contest (Japan 2010)  

wild peppermint
a dock leaf shadow
clings to the bee

Alan Summers
The Basho Museum Memorial Anthology (2001)

down the sidewalk
an old vagrant
daisies in his mouth

Alan Summers
Hobo (Tasmania, 1999)
Issa's Untidy Hut (2011)

strong wind
the juggler's elbow catches
a pocket hanky

Alan Summers
Publication credits: BBC - Cumbrian haiku (2004)
Anthology: BHS members anthology: Other (2004)
Article: The Moon is Broken: Juxtaposition in haiku article Scope vol. 60 no. 3 (Fellowship of Australian Writers, Queensland,  April 2014)

Valentine’s Day
my wife reads up
on Henry VIII

Alan Summers
Magazine/Journal credits: Blithe Spirit vol. 20 no. 3 (2010)
Anthology credit:  The Humours of Haiku ISBN 978-0-9565725-4-7 (Iron Press 2012):

the sticky label
over the christmas card
the new boyfriend’s name

Alan Summers
Anthology credits: 
Raku Teapot: Haiku (Raku Teapot Press/White Owl Publishing, California 2003)
Collection: Does Fish-God Know (YTBN Press 2012)

sunday lunch
the chatter of children
among hard drinkers

Alan Summers
Editor’s Choice, Haiku Harvest  vol. 4  no. 1 (2003)
Favourites each fortnight’ on Serge Tome’s tempslibre 2002
Anthology: Haiku Harvest: 2000 – 2006 (Modern English Tanka Press 2007)

crowded street
the space
a dog’s deposit

Alan Summers
Publication credits: Presence 7 (1998); UKMO™ Collection (2004)
Collection: Does Fish-God Know (YTBN Press 2012)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Presence: A core part of haiku poetry – Article in progress for Writing Poetry: the haiku way by Alan Summers

A core part of haiku poetry

An article in progress for Writing Poetry: the haiku way 

“There is no good singing, there is only present and absent.” 
― Jeff Buckley

“The thing is that I also like to have lyrics that are inclusive, that give you space to be inside them, to put your experience on to them, so that they can move through other moments.”
― Jeff Buckley

Presence and Absence in Modern Poetry
Hans, James S. (1980) 

"Presence and Absence in Modern Poetry," Criticism: Vol. 22: Iss. 4 , Article 2. 
Available at:

‘Modern Poetry’… [is] “something” [that] has been called everything from a return to “reality” to an emphasis on self-reflexive poetry, but the reality these poets see is so various and the reflexivity of their poetry so different that another approach to their work seems necessary. 

"One could say that presence and absence ultimately come to be defined in terms of the relationship between language and reality, but for both TS Eliot and William Carlos Williams the problem was more profound than that."

Hans, James S. (1980) 
"Presence and Absence in Modern Poetry," Criticism: Vol. 22: Iss. 4 , Article 2. 
Available at:

James S. Hans says that although he's not in total agreement that he is still indebted to the following works:
J. Hillis Miller, Poets of Reality (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1965)
Joseph Riddel, The Inverted Bell (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press 1974)

In "Of Modern Poetry" Wallace Stevens says

"It has to be living, to learn the speech of the place."

In the Analyzing the poem section of Wikipedia, it says:

"the act of the mind is not past, present, or future. It is ongoing."
I feel that haiku have to do this, and in so doing it has its own presence (and absence) at the same time.

Presence definitions:

noun: presence
The state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present.
attendance, attending, appearance, residence, occupancy
antonym: absence
A person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen
ghost, spirit, spectre, phantom, vision, wraith, shadow, poltergeist, manifestation, apparition etc…

Ezra Pound’s Metro poem, considered to be an early hokku
or haiku includes the word apparition:

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Ezra Pound
Lustra, 1916

And William Carlos Williams brings the presence of a simple
red wheelbarrow and white chickens into "a precision of

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Williams, William Carlos
"XXII", Spring and All (New York: Contact Editions / Dijon: Maurice Darantière, 1923).

Origin of the word presence:

Middle English: via Old French from Latin praesentia ‘being at hand’, from the verb praeesse (being present

French: présence d'esprit, Latin præsentia animi.

Definition of presence for English Language Learners: 
the fact of being in a particular place : the state of being present. The area that is close to someone: someone or something that is seen or noticed in a particular place, area, etc.

noun  ab·sence  \ˈab-sən(t)s\

Definition of absence

  1. 1:  a state or condition in which something expected, wanted, or looked for is not present or does not exist :  a state or condition in which something is absent an absence [=lack] of detail In the absence of reform [=without reform], progress will be slow.
  2. 2a :  a failure to be present at a usual or expected place :  the state of being absent

    absence noun (NOT EXISTING)

“Haiku play in this way with presence and absence, and also with the present as “ever-now,” presence as an un-fleeting eternal. The very brief non-narrative poem lives and dies, brightens and fades in the way we attend through presence, in reading and contemplation. Such “edgy” aspects of context, background and backstory promise haiku romance.”
From the opening section called As fireflies from The Romance of Endings in Haiku by Professor Richard Gilbert

I would like to put forward that haiku operates as both a poem of presence as it does with an absence of something, and that the absence of that something is as vital as placing a presence of a something or somethings. 

In the final version of Writing Poetry: the haiku way there will be haiku by various poets. For now I will show examples of my own haiku, and as the main title is called Presence, these will be examples from the highly regarded haikai magazine Presence:

hot sandwiches
the railing spikes collect
children's gloves

Of course we don’t need to see the actual children who have dropped a glove or two over time, but think of all the children who have, as they are lost in the moment perhaps. Then of course we could also remember news stories of displaced children due to war and famine.

On another serious note:

   In the UK, a child is reported missing every 3 minutes

We cannot imagine what the effect is on a parent and a sibling when a child is unexpectedly 'absent' perhaps for ever.

down side streets -
gulls turning the sky
in and out

A biographical haiku again (experiential). The sky is not really visible to the naked eye, nor do birds really ‘turn’ the sky, but themselves. There are absences that form major parts of a presence, such as 'sky', the air that we breathe, the moon that effects our large and small bodies of water, and other liquids such as our own human bodies. We are constantly 'turning' in one form or another.

the grimace
of the roadside cat
its last

You could say this is almost like Alice when she is only seeing the Cheshire cat’s grin. Cats are often famous for their fastidiousness. This could be seen as the last act of fastidiousness.

The Cheshire Cat is a fictional cat popularised by Lewis Carroll in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland where one of its distinguishing features is that from time to time its body disappears, the last thing visible being its iconic grin: 

crowded street
the space
a dog’s deposit

I was amazed that people on a very busy and bustling street crossing were unaware or disregardful of people’s personal space, yet somehow the “low on the ground” dog faeces was somehow visible amongst hundreds of feet, and respected in its way, moreso than our fellow humans. 

train whistle
a blackbird hops
along its notes

Do we see the train? Do we need to see the train?  Does the bird need to "see" the train for what it is in order to sing? Singing is a form of vibrating and reacting to other vibrations. We don't often 'see' vibrations, but they are not really absent.

deep into winter 
the sun measured 
in kettle clicks 

Perhaps we don’t need to see the kettle, and perhaps the kitchen itself where someone is alone and regularly makes hot beverages by boiling water. Its absence except for the sound of being clicked on, and later automatically clicked off is perhaps enough, and a symbol of the passage of time. The click of a kettle both on and off is unconsciously soothing for something we know, or no longer recognise, as absent. Yet that iabsentia is a tangible presence.

my father's war 
a story of the dark 
collecting its own

My father did not suffer the horrors of war as much as his brothers and fellow participants within the arena of World War Two. He mostly told of the great experiences of Africa and India, but once, only once, did he tell me the horrible experience of picking up some blown up body parts of fellow soldiers for identification purposes in the deepest night, with no light allowed, after strafing by enemy aircraft.

the buddleia
and the butterfly...
vanishing stars

It’s always a wonder to see the multitude of stars during the dark hours of the night and very early morning, only to witness them disappear. Of course they are always there.

The other side of the mirror is often not seen but its presence is very much there via the front facing actions of the reflective surface we see. There is not always a need to see the smoke to 'see' the mirror.

Childhood is absent in us as we grow as adults, isn't it? It's absent from our lives as adults. But can we truly operate as adults if we make our 'once-childhood' really absent in our lives?

dry stone wall
Paddington Bear
out in the rain

Do we see ‘Paddington Bear’? Do we just think of him at Paddington Train Station arriving from Peru all alone and initially friendless? Is Paddington Bear, the fictional creation of Michael Bond, a symbol of loneliness, or of adventure? Is this the first great adventure of a child finding their independence? I can let the reader decide.

Paddington Bear:

Photos by myself yesterday at London's Paddington train station.

Michael Bond (13 January 1926 – 27 June 2017)

For anyone interested in becoming part of Call of the Page online courses in haiku and related genres please do drop Karen a line at our email address:

Call of the Page
(Alan Summers & Karen Hoy)