Kris Hemensley’s “Four Haiku”

Hearing a poem anew is one benefit of this Poetry DNA method. In this case, the poet, Melbourne-based Kris Hemensley, hadn’t listened to his original recording in awhile, so revisiting it along with hearing the new musical version gave a double freshness. Thankfully, he liked the results and agreed to me posting them here.

The vocal DNA made an interesting contour for a melody, and a natural minor scale seemed to resonate with the content and audio. An arpeggiator device applied to chords built from the melody notes resulted in some unexpected trills coinciding with the text’s “ahoy!”

Four Haiku (iii)

A second version places the music of the third haiku in context of all four haiku:

Four Haiku (all)

One initial idea, abandoned, was to set the rhythm in alternating measures of 5/4 and 7/4 time, kind of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”-meets-haiku. However, those skills proved beyond me and will have to wait for another haiku.

–Jr. James

Four Haiku
by Kris Hemensley
(for Robert Grey)

caged by dappled light
unlike Rilke’s beast     content
this side of heaven


perennial green
ephemeral butterfly
what time’s time enough?


red roof in full leaf
sail now grey threatening sky
cry blue land ahoy!


in this green waiting
birds trill leaves quiver then time
interjects its train!



Recipient of the Christopher Brennan Award from the Fellowship of Australian Writers, Hemensley has been writing and publishing poems for decades. A short bio on the Poetry Foundation site gives these details (updated a bit for this post): “Born on the Isle of Wight to an Egyptian mother and an English father, poet Kris Hemensley was an infant in Alexandria, Egypt, where his father was stationed as a member of the Royal Air Force. Hemensley grew up in Southampton, England, and moved to Australia in 1966 after visiting as a sailor. In Melbourne, his many jobs included railwayman, teacher, postman, and freelancer on radio. He edited several literary magazines, including Our Glass, Earth Ship, The Ear in a Wheatfield, and The Merri Creek, or Nero. He has published more than 20 collections of poetry, often with small independent presses, including The Going and Other Poems (1969), Domestications: A Selection of Poems 1968–1972 (1974), and Trace (1984). His prose includes The Rooms & Other Prose Pieces (1975) and No Word, No Worry: Prose Pieces 1968–1970 (1971).” His most recent poetry collection is Your Scratch Entourage (Cordite, Australia) from 2016.

He also is a bookshop pilot. Connect with him on the social here.

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