first skiff of snow-
a tidings of magpies
confer on hard ground

—Richard Stevenson

Richard Stevenson,, notes: "Tidings of magpies" is the collective noun for a small brace or gaggle of magpies, and dates from the fifteenth century books of venery: tidings because of the superstition that the future, for good or ill, was foretold by the number of magpies one chanced to see. . . . "Skiff of snow" is common parlance in southern Alberta for the first snowfall, and I rather like the assonance and sibilance, which seems appropriate. "Skiff" implies a light snow fall -- one that will disappear with the first snort of a chinook in southern Alberta. That is a very regional detail, the sort of detail that would allow a Saijiki anthologizer to place the poem in the exact seasonal context.

About the author: Richard Stevenson lives and teaches in Lethbridge in southern Alberta, Canada. He is the author of twenty books, including, most recently, Live Evil: A Homage To Miles Davis (2000), Hot Flashes: Maiduguri Haiku, Senryu, and Tanka (2001), and Parrot With Tourette's (2004).


Responses to the haiku for 3 January 2001 by Richard Stevenson

    bob richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2003-12-21 23:54:25

    such somber kites
    circling round and round ...
    raptores in flight

    john tiong chunghoo
    2004-02-05 02:15:13

    first snow
    how apt the japanese
    description of light makeup

    Narayanan Raghunathan (mahashishta at hotmail dot com)
    2004-02-07 02:40:57

    Christmas night~
    alone in the park
    chrchbells chime

    the bells fade~
    the dark breeze echoes
    the frog's croak

    a shooting star~
    memories of unborn dawns
    in fragrant dreams

    darkness all around~
    birds sparkle music
    invisible bird light

    bob richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2004-05-02 08:46:14

    nervous flighty blackbird
    nest fallen to the ground ...
    three fledglings cry out


    punctuating spanish moss
    shady black cherry tree ...
    lurks the chinch