Background on the Poet
Cyril Childs was a cricketer, scientist, leading haiku poet, and editor of national haiku anthologies in New Zealand. He was born in Invercargill in 1941. He became intrigued with haiku while living in Matsuyama, Japan for several months during 1989-90. He was a past president of the NZ Poetry Society, edited both of the NZ Haiku Anthologies published by the NZPS (1993,1998), and co-edited Listening to the Rain (Small White Teapot Group, Christchurch, 2002) – an anthology of haiku and haibun by Christchurch writers.
His own book, Beyond the Paper Lanterns: A Journey with Cancer, dedicated to his first wife, was published in 2000.
Cyril judged three NZPS haiku competitions and was co-judge, with Jerry Kilbride, of the HSA’s Henderson Award in 2000. Cyril also wrote in other poetic forms like free verse. His poetry appeared widely in international magazines and anthologies such as contemporary haibun online, Modern Haiku, Frogpond, and Wind over Water: an anthology of haiku and tanka and in New Zealand journals, including Poetry NZ, JAAM, Kokako, CommonTatta, and Bravado. His book reviews appeared in JAAM, New Zealand Books, and on the NZ Poetry Society website. Childs also had a keen interest in sports such as rugby and cricket and in 2010 appeared in the cricket poetry anthology A Tingling Catch: A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems 1864-2009.
After a career as a scientist, Cyril retired to Port Chalmers in a home overlooking Otago Harbour and also enjoyed spending time at his beloved bach (crib) in Riverton. A biography of his uncle’s wartime exploits absorbed most of his writing energy in later years. The book was under contract for publication at the time of his death. Childs died on 27 January 2012, only a few months after himself being diagnosed with cancer. He is survived by his son Norris, his daughter Lia and his second wife Christine.
(From The Living Haiku Anthology, with edits)
full white moon
touching . . . not touching
the top of the hill
© Cyril Childs
Down to our basest essentials, we are something that sways in and out of existence. Our virtual particles flash with life and death. And this relates to enlightenment as well. It is not an assured thing—something that can be pinned down with the stroke of words. However, we can portray it through conundrums, especially presented in poetic form.
This haiku, in my mind, shows this confusion with significance. The moon touches the top of the hill with its light, but doesn’t at the same time, as the light it emits is not itself. In many traditions, the full moon is a symbol of spiritual enlightenment and fulfillment (and “white” gives a sense of symbolizing purity). However, the experience of it is not something that can be properly defined. That is why in Buddhism, ultimately, there is no difference between the cycle of suffering that we live in and the heightened consciousness of enlightenment.
Why is that? Enlightenment is simply being. It is not as grandiose as one might believe. Suffering is not knowing how or not being willing to be simply one’s self. Yet, suffering leads to the experience of the self, and enlightenment owes its realization to it. Suffering and enlightenment is a single process. There is no goal. Your suffering self is already enlightened, if you would only look a little within, past thought, emotion, and bodily sensation.
“The top of the hill” could be the summit by which we imagine ourselves when enlightened. After reading so many books about nirvana, when one might believe that it can be conceptualized. As this haiku confirms, it cannot.
– Nicholas Klacsanzky