Owen Bullock is originally from Cornwall and lived for 25 years in Aotearoa New Zealand before migrating to Australia in 2014. He began writing haiku in 1999 and has published four collections: Wild Camomile (Post Pressed, 2009); Breakfast with Epiphanies (Oceanbooks, 2012); Urban Haiku (Recent Work Press, 2015), and River’s Edge (Recent Work Press, 2016). He is a former editor of Kokako, New Zealand’s only specialist haiku magazine, and was one of the editors who produced Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka,Vol IV (Kei Books, 2012). He has also published three books of longer poems, Sometimes the sky isn’t big enough (Steele Roberts, 2010); Semi (Puncher & Wattmann, 2017), and Work & Play (Recent Work Press, 2016), as well as the novella, A Cornish Story (Palores, 2010). Owen holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Canberra where he currently teaches.
These haiku were written over three summers, camping on our piece of land near Waihi in Aotearoa New Zealand, and, for contrast, one winter sojourn there in our newly-built gypsy wagon. The land is bordered by the Mataura stream—which means ‘red face’. We call the place ‘Land of the shining stream’ or ‘River’s edge’. The eels are named Brad and Angelina. One day, we’ll build a house there. In the meantime, we’re developing the land along permaculture principles, and noting moments both practical and transcendant.
In this new collection, Owen Bullock asks ‘what constitutes work for someone who must play in order to create?’ It’s a question addressed through formal contrast, aural unpredictability, and a genuine immersion of all the senses.
In Owen Bullock’s second haiku sequence with Recent Work Press, he explores the wisdom garnered from his period as a care worker for the elderly in New Zealand. These haiku display the riches of Bullock’s keen sense of observation married with his ability to get to the essence of any subject with his deft use of this most precise of Japanese forms.
Owen Bullock shows that haiku is a form that can deliver us worlds with deft subtlety and cutting precision. Each of these poems builds on the last to deliver a strong sense of place and of people. Urban Haiku has an eye for the absurdities of contemporary life, as well as its quieter, less noticed moments.