My kindergarten teacher was worried about me because I liked to read. In those days kindergarteners were supposed to occupy themselves only with playing, and socializing, and coloring in the letters of the alphabet on worksheets just to familiarize themselves with the shapes that they would be introduced to more thoroughly in first grade. But I could already read and I was tantalized by the books on the shelves behind the teacher’s desk, which she read aloud to us before naptime. When the teacher’s back was turned I scrambled up on a stepstool and grabbed books and ran off with them to a corner to devour them before she could find me and take the books away and scold me for reading and send me back to play with dolls or something else I had no interest in. I felt like a criminal. I felt like a rebel. I felt like a five-year-old who was sick with love for stories and kept having her heart broken, day after day, by never being able to find out what the ending was.
Sometimes I dreamed the endings. Sometimes I wonder whether my own endings or the real ones were more satisfying.
first day of school —
out of time to decipher
the cicada’s drone
Haiku, Tanka, Haiga From All Over
I broke one of my own unwritten rules this edition. I usually try not to feature more than one poem per poet per edition, but I nearly went mad deciding which of the below three haiku by Johannes S.H. Bjerg I should include, so in the end I said the hell with it and decided to inflict them all on you. Please address any complaints to my alter ego, Ms. I.N. DeCision.
still air -
will a dead butterfly
become a butterfly?
stille luft -
vil en død sommerfugl
blive til en sommerfugl?
— Johannes S.H. Bjerg, 2 tongues/2 tunger
swallows leaving youshouldhavesaidsomething
svalerne forsvinder duskullehavesagtnoget
– Johannes S.H. Bjerg, 2 tongues/2 tunger
yoshino cherry tree—
it was never a question
— Johannes S. H. Bjerg, Tinywords
high heat index–
my mosquito bite
the size of a fat raindrop
— Kathy Nguyen, Origami Lotus Stones
off key crooning
in the darkness:
a neighbor braces for fall
— Gene Myers, genemyers.com
All I can do
is point and say
— Kris Lindbeck, haiku etc.
sugar crystals travelling
— Stella Pierides, Stella Pierides
eastern daylight time
(this is a wonderful haiga; please go check it out)
— Angie Werren, feathers
from the beginning –
the moon &
love note after love note
— Patricia Nelson, Moon Viewing Party, Haiku Bandit Society
hiroshima ya tamago kû toki kuchi hiraku
to eat an egg
I open my mouth
– Sanki Saito, translated by Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World
Fay’s Note: This haiku does not have a kigo, but it is one of 8 haiku titled ‘Famous City’ by Sanki Saito (1900-1962). Soon after an atomic bomb was dropped in Hiroshima, Sanki visited the city. When he started to eat a boiled egg for lunch, he noticed that was the first time he opened his mouth that day. He had been speechless with what he saw.
wet rain . . .
you keep telling me things
i already know
[Modern Haiku 40.1]
— David Caruso, DavidHaiku.com
Web Wide World
I’m just going to snap a bunch of links at you real quick like a bunny with a minimum of commentary because, you know, school’s starting soon and I should be doing stuff like buying textbooks and notebooks and sharpening my pencils and polishing shiny red apples to put on the desks of all my professors on the first day so they will be favorably disposed toward me and hopefully forgive me for scribbling haiku in the margins of all my notebooks around my notes on Electronic Resource Management. Ready? Here we go.
A Brief Survey of Senryu by Women, by Hiroaki Sato
This essay, published in Modern Haiku 34.1 in spring 2003, first makes a quick stab at trying to define how senryu differs from haiku, with a note that “the senryû is expected to deal with matters of human and social nature, often in a playful, satirical, or knowing manner” but also acknowledging that the line between haiku and senryu these days can be blurry in the extreme. Most of the piece, however, is taken up by samples of modern (mainly twentieth century) senryu by Japanese women, which are absolutely fascinating — not least because many of them make no attempt to be funny at all, in fact can be quite serious, and I suspect would not be considered senryu by most American haiku poets. They are powerful, compelling poetry, however, and I keep coming back to read them over and over. They seem to me to painfully and eloquently express the difficulties and limitations of many women’s lives.
The moment it blooms with full force it’s cut
– Inoue Noboku
The snow’s falling the snow’s falling these two breasts
– Kuwano Akiko
He leaves and I put away the lonesome sound
– Saigo Kanojo
Okay, so here’s something that’s genuinely funny. One workshop I was sorry I had to miss at Haiku North America was Jessica Tremblay’s session about her well-known “Old Pond” comics based on haiku. The next best thing, though, was discovering that Jessica had drawn a series of strips about her experiences at HNA. I laughed and laughed with recognition at so many of these and if you were there, or have read my reports from the conference, I guarantee you will get at least a chuckle out of them as well.
Another HNA connection: After I saw Eve Luckring’s amazing presentation on video renku at HNA I came home and Googled her straight off because I had to know more about her work, and discovered her astounding website, filled with her photography, short films, art, and poetry, which are often combined in wildly imaginative and original ways. Please go explore, you’ll be happy you did.
A funny and fascinating article by Marlene Mountain on English haiku poetics vis-a-vis Japanese haiku poetics made the rounds of Facebook a couple of weeks ago, provoking lots of interesting discussion: The Japanese Haiku and So On, first published at Paul Conneally’s haikumania (which is worth a look around) in 2004.
re zen. whatever.
– Marlene Mountain
If you haven’t discovered the “Montage” archive at The Haiku Foundation website, you need to run right over there and check it out…for about nine months in 2009 Allan Burns put together this fascinating weekly gallery of haiku, each week featuring haiku by three different poets on a different theme. The whole thing has been turned into a book now which can be yours for a $50 donation to The Haiku Foundation, but while you’re saving up for that, you can download each week’s gallery as a PDF and enjoy yourself mightily reading some amazing poetry.
Charlotte DiGregorio is the Midwest Regional Coordinator for the Haiku Society of America, which is my region and so I get to benefit from her energy and organizational ability as she organizes so many enjoyable and successful events for us here in flyover land. She also has a blog on which she posts many interesting musings about haiku. Quite often she invites audience participation and recently she sent out an email soliciting answers to the question, “Why do you write haiku?” The answers she got back were thoughtful, often funny, usually thought-provoking, and all over the map: well worth reading. Check them out.
Roadrunner published a new issue a couple of weeks ago, which besides being, as usual, one of the most thought-provoking reads in the Haikuverse, is also graphically appealing this time around. Every ku is enclosed in a box with a background of a different color and with a different typeface, and with the author’s name left off — only to appear at the end of the issue in a box matching the color and typeface of his or her contribution(s). (Full disclosure: I have a ku in this issue, in a highly appropriate color, but I’m not gonna tell you what it is.)
I don’t usually think of myself as someone who is overly influenced by the famous “fourth line” in haiku, but I was amazed at how different an experience it was to read these poems without knowing who had written them. I had to force myself not to keep scrolling to the end to read those names. But I ended up wishing that more journals would do something similar. See how you feel.
And finally, here’s an announcement for what promises to be an exciting new online journal, A Hundred Gourds:
The editorial team of ‘A Hundred Gourds’ welcomes your submissions to our first issue, which will be published online in December, 2011. ’A Hundred Gourds’ is a new journal featuring haiku, haibun, haiga, tanka, resources (articles, commentaries, reviews and interviews) and special artwork. ’A Hundred Gourds’ is managed by its editorial team: Lorin Ford, Melinda Hipple, John MacManus, Gene Murtha and Ray Rasmussen. Ron Moss will continue to support us in his valuable role of contributing and consulting artist. We are dedicated to producing a high quality journal, and look forward to your submissions. Books for review (hard copy only) may be sent to John McManus or the haiku, tanka, haiga or haibun editor respectively.
Submissions for the first issue of ‘A Hundred Gourds’ close on September 15th, 2011. Submissions and enquires may be addressed to : Lorin Ford, Haiku Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org ; Melinda Hipple, Haiga Editor: email@example.com ; John McManus, Resources Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org ; Gene Murtha, Tanka Editor: email@example.com ; Ray Rasmussen, Haibun Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Dead Tree News
Once again, lots of print, little time.
Journals: Bottle Rockets, Ribbons
I love both these journals and you should too and here are some examples of why:
From Bottle Rockets 25:
was it the dark
or the candle
— Susan Marie La Vallee
wet bike seat
must be a poem
— Lucas Stensland
here with me distant train
— John Hawk
a low stone wall
neatly topped with snow
— Bruce Ross
on the concrete path
very still with ants crawling
over my skin I did feel loved
— Joey Jenkins
And also in this issue of Bottle Rockets, you must read the wonderful anthology/essay by Michael Fessler, Remarkable Haiku, a collection of the author’s favorite haiku with trenchant commentary on what makes them so memorable for him.
From Ribbons 7:2, Summer 2011:
outside, the crickets
continue to sing,
though they would
never think of it
— Rosemary Wahtola Trommer
oh the places
rather than go
straight to the place
we’re all going
— John Stevenson
snow melt —
watching the world
— Paul Smith
Books: Beyond the Reach of My Chopsticks (Fay Aoyagi); Where I Leave Off/Waar Ik Ophoud (Jim Kacian); Penguins/Pingviner (Johannes S.H. Bjerg)
I’m slowly working my way through the stacks of haiku books I bought this summer: first at Gayle Bull’s amazing bookshop in Mineral Point, Wis., The Foundry Books, which may have the best haiku book selection in the United States and is, terrifyingly, located only an hour from my house; second at Haiku North America. I’ll start with a couple of little books (little only in the physical sense) because somehow that makes them seem less intimidating, although on the inside they are as big as any haiku book ever written.
Fay Aoyagi’s third collection of poetry, Beyond the Reach of My Chopsticks, is as thrilling as her first two, Chrysanthemum Love (2003) and In Borrowed Shoes (2006), and is even more thrilling for the fact that it includes extensive excerpts from both these books as well as a large selection of new poetry. Fay manages to employ fairly traditional haiku aesthetics — kigo, kire — in the service of extremely striking and original images and ideas, often funny and subversive.
another day without
steals my pen
he criticizes my graceless use
in the pool
she sheds everything
she wants to shed
a plum tree
in its third trimester
– Fay Aoyagi
Jim Kacian’s Where I Leave Off is both a collection of one-line haiku and an examination of the poetics of one-line haiku: When and why do they work? He briefly describes various one-line techniques (these were also the subject of the talk by Jim I attended at HNA) and gives numerous striking examples from his own work.
1. “One-line one-thought”: “Rather than a piling up of images upon the imagination, a single image is extended or elaborated into a second context, stated or implied.”
reading the time-travel novel into the next day
– Jim Kacian
2. “Sheer speed”: “The rushing of image past the imagination results in a breathless taking in of the whole…”
in this way coming to love that one
– Jim Kacian
3. “Multiple kire”: “The advantage of one-line poems is that any of several stops can be made by the reader, and a different stop each time.”
where the smoke from a chimney ends infinity
– Jim Kacian
4. And then there’s “one-bun”: “a haibun where the prose element must be contained in a single line.”
the second week
traveling by myself i cross the continental divide, and everything that once ran in one way now runs in another, down and down
on the surface of dark water my face
– Jim Kacian
When Johannes S.H. Bjerg’s (yes, him again) new chapbook, Penguins/Pingviner, appeared in our mailbox last week, there was much rejoicing in our household, since we are all both rabid penguin fans (no, not fans of rabid penguins, for goodness’ sake) and also staunch Johannes fans. So we sat around the kitchen table reading and laughing and musing philosophically. Go ahead, try it.
on the backside
of the moon
the need for bridges
of chrome and sugar
no respect for
in softdrink vending machines
hole in the sky
penguins knead a blue scarf
into a human
in all things flying
– Johannes S.H. Bjerg
And on that note… I think I’m going to drift off to sleep now, off to the far reaches of the Haikuverse, where the penguins fly and no one ever makes you stop reading just when you get to the good part. You’re welcome to join me, that is, when you’ve finished reading everything I tell you to. What, you thought you were gonna get out of doing your homework? Think again, kids.
Did I have any idea what I was getting myself into when I announced this topic? No, I did not. I had no idea that so many people would send me so much varied and amazing poetry about dragonflies. Just as I had no idea there were so many kinds of dragonflies until I started doing a little (okay, a lot) of research…
I’ll launch into the poetry in a minute, but first off, for those among you who like me have to know every. single. thing. there is to know. about something before you can possibly just enjoy reading about it (yes, we are annoying)… here is the Wikipedia article on dragonflies (which fascinatingly contains an entire section on the role dragonflies play in Japanese culture and even references haiku) and here is the page on dragonfly kigo from Gabi Greve’s World Kigo Database.
Okay, I’ll shut up now and let you enjoy this dream of dragonflies.
(Photo by Jay Otto)
aki no ki no akatombo ni sadamarinu
The beginning of autumn,
By the red dragon-fly.
– Shirao, translated by R.H. Blyth
toogarashi hane o tsukereba akatonbo
put wings on it
– Basho, translated by Patricia Donegan
(Photo by Jay Otto)
a dragonfly lands
on a stranded paper boat…
– Polona Oblak, Crows and Daisies
within his armful
of raked leaves
this lifeless dragonfly
– Kirsten Cliff, Swimming in Lines of Haiku
(Artwork and poetry by Rick Daddario, 19 Planets)
the soft blur of time
in another land
(Photo by Jay Otto)
out of myself just briefly dragonfly
adding a touch
of blue to the breeze -
(Magnapoets Issue 4 July 2009)
fading light -
everything the dragonfly
has to say
– Paul Smith, Paper Moon
(Artwork by Amy Smith, The Spider Tribe’s Blog)
a crimson darter
skims the mirror-lake…
your lips on mine
may never come
twisting and turning
a dragonfly splits
a ray of light …
he says he loves me
in his own way
(Simply Haiku Winter 2011)
the blue eye of the breeze
(Simply Haiku Spring 2011)
– Claire Everett, At the Edge of Dreams
(Photo by Jay Otto)
on the water lily
remains of a dragonfly
(Evergreen English Haiku, 1995)
to sedge to sedge
with a few brushstrokes the dragonfly comes alive
like the moon
a few scarlet leaves
– Pamela A. Babusci
(Artwork by Rick Daddario, 19 Planets)
in the wind
crisscross the air in silence:
A cirrus sky
one hundred dark dragonflies
with golden wings
– Kris Lindbeck, Haiku Etc.
(Photo by Jay Otto)
It tried in vain to settle
On a blade of grass.
— Basho, translated by R.H. Blyth
Perches on the stick
That strikes at him.
— Kohyo, translated by R.H. Blyth
the instant it flies up
loses its shadow
— Inahata Teiko (1931-), translated by Makoto Ueda
(Artwork by Rick Daddario, 19 Planets)
on my shoulder, what
rank do I have?
a damselfly touches
— Michael Nickels-Wisdom
born in the year
of the dragon-
— Mary Ahearn
(Photo by Jay Otto)
from the tip of my shoe
the red dragonfly
(South by Southeast 18:2)
dew on grasses
in a wrinkle
– Donna Fleischer, word pond
(Poetry by Melissa Allen; illustration clip art)
through and through the gate dragonfly
– Melissa Allen
at break-neck speed—
(Modern Haiku 35.1)
– Susan Diridoni
(Photo by Jay Otto)
on the dried husk
that was an iris blossom
we came here
and the speedboat
– Christina Nguyen, A wish for the sky…
(Artwork by Kitagawa Utamaro: “Red Dragonfly and Locust [Aka tonbo and Inago]”, from Picture Book of Selected Insects with Crazy Poems [Ehon Mushi Erabi]). From the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.)
this brief life a dragonfly
where there is water
– angie werren, feathers
tombô ya ni shaku tonde wa mata ni shaku
flying two feet
then two feet more
– Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue
(Photo by Jay Otto)
a break in the rain…
of the dragonfly
– sanjuktaa, wild berries
how much of me
do you see?
– Alegria Imperial, jornales
the still air
(South by Southeast Vol. 12 #1)
– T.D. Ingram, @haikujots (on twitter)
teetering on its perch
a red dragonfly
(Haiku Pix Review, summer 2011)
.– G.R. LeBlanc, Berry Blue Haiku
a red dragonfly skims
across the sound
– Margaret Dornaus, Haiku-Doodle
(Haiga by Polona Oblak, Crows and Daisies)
– Mark Holloway, Beachcombing for the Landlocked
Steel blue flash
– Robert Mullen
the hospital intercom
repeats her name
with the password
to her sanity
hard to see
how her Ph.D. matters
tell me the old stories
one last time
the dragonfly returns home
on new meds
letting go of her walker
she lifts into the night sky
– Susan Antolin, Artichoke Season
Sick of everything around here being flat and quiet? I found some moving stuff that makes noise for you too.
and on this general theme…
perched on bamboo grass
the low notes
of a dragonfly
(Haiku inspired by Tif Holmes’s Photo-Haiku Project: http://tifholmesphotography.com/cphp/2011/07/july-2011-series-entry-11/)
– Kathy Nguyen (A~Lotus), Poetry by Lotus
for when even
the music stops—
– Aubrie Cox, Yay words!
(Photo by Jay Otto)
a dragonfly and I
bound for Mississippi
in and out of view
the computer-drawn dragonfly
on the web page
– Tzetzka Ilieva
at 60 miles per hour
those giant eyes
– Johnny Baranski
(Photo by Jay Otto)
a dragonfly hovers
– Cara Holman, Prose Posies
– Linda Papanicolaou, Haiga Online
In this forest glade
The snail gone, a dragonfly lights
On the mushroom cap
– P. Allen
‘Oh! Catch it!’
‘I heard they eat their own tails’
When I was a child, living on an Air Force base in Okinawa, it was a common belief, among the elementary school set, a dragonfly would eat itself if you caught it and fed it its own tail. I looked online and didn’t find any references to this notion so maybe we were all sniffing the good Japanese glue.
Anyhow, even though we constantly snagged lizards and grasshoppers and cicadas, I never saw any one ever catch a dragonfly, as common as they were.
we play in the puddles
afraid to get close
– Steve Mitchell, Heed Not Steve
(Photo by Jay Otto)
on the rock face
(From the sequence “Ten Haiku: For the Dodge Tenth Anniversary Hike” in The Monkey’s Face)
on my fingernail
looks at me
(From Wind in the Long Grass, edited by William J. Higginson [Simon & Schuster, Books for Young Readers, 1991])
An old tree
No bud and no leaf
full of dragonflies.
— @vonguyenphong22 (on Twitter)
a dragonfly hums
(raga Megh(a)=a raga for the monsoon season. Neti neti= a key expression from the Upanishads: “not this nor this” or “not this nor that” alluding to the essence of things.)
”the sky’s gone out”
on the radio – and then
I mark an unpaid bill
– Johannes S.H. Bjerg, 2 tongues/2 tunger
(Photo by Melissa Allen)
in and out the reeds
a blue dragonfly
mother keeps sewing
water and sky together
– Paganini Jones, http://www.pathetic.org/library/5644
boys playing games
stones miss the darning needle
– Jim Sullivan, haiku and commentary and tales
dragonfly heading to the lemon hanging in the sun
– Gene Myers, genemyers.com, @myersgene (on Twitter)
(Artwork by Kitagawa Utamaro, “Dragonfly and Butterfly,” from A Selection of Insects)
escapes the empty cottage
where children once played
(1st place Kiyoshi Tokutomi Memorial Haiku Contest 2009)
on the bus
to the children’s museum
– Roberta Beary, Roberta Beary
from flower to flower
a blue damsel
lights upon the lotus
— Margaret Dornaus, Haiku-Doodle
(Photo by Jay Otto)
a dragonfly dreaming
the flying parts of
– Stella Pierides, Stella Pierides
reeds pierce the moon
(The Mainichi Daily News, May 30, 2009)
– Martin Gottlieb Cohen
I know you’re probably sick of me by now after my interminable rambling about HNA, but here’s your chance to get your revenge by making me read your writing for a change.
Remember back last month when we all went crazy for mushrooms? Mushroom haiku. Mushroom tanka. Mushroom haiga. Mushroom photos. Mushroom drawings. It was so much fun I feel like doing it again. No, not with mushrooms. I think we’ve played out mushrooms. Wonderful as they are.
Yes, I do have a vested interest in dragonflies. And I always feel like I don’t see enough dragonfly haiku. Issa wrote a lot of them, which makes me happy, but more recently I feel like their currency has fallen off. And you guys always surprise me. In a good way. I’d love to see what you have to say about dragonflies.
Not to mention, I have a large collection of dragonfly photos and artwork all ready to accompany your brilliant words. It’ll be awesome.
Once again, I’m taking haiku, tanka, and haiga. Published or unpublished. You can send them to reddragonflyhaiku AT gmail DOT com.
Deadline: Sunday August 14. (They’ll be posted next week sometime.)
The fine print:
1. If I post poems on my blog, they count as published for the purposes of most journals’ editorial policies, so don’t send me anything you are hoping to publish in an edited journal.
2. You will retain all rights to your work after it has appeared here. I will not publish it anywhere else or post it here more than once unless we make other arrangements to do so.
3. Make sure you send me whatever name you want your poem signed with and any link(s) you want me to include — to a blog, website, Twitter feed, whatever.
4. If your poem has been published, make sure to send me the publishing credits because publishers like it when you credit them.
5. Also, I can’t guarantee to post everything people send me, sorry. (What if I get 500 of these things? I won’t, but what if?)
6. Once again: Deadline: Sunday, August 14, 2011. Midnight, wherever you are. (Nobody in the world is more than seven or eight hours behind me, so whatever I see in my inbox when I get up on Monday morning is it.)
7. Feel free to spread the word about this request to your friends and enemies.
8. Any other questions or comments? That’s what the comments box is for. Or the email address above.
Thanks in advance for the wings,
What do you do at a haiku conference when you’re done conferring? When all the books and handouts and PowerPoint slides have been packed away, when all the lecturers have had their last sips of water, when half the conferees have departed by plane or train or automobile…but you can’t. quite. stop.
You go for a boat ride, of course.
The last official activity of HNA was a tour on Argosy Cruises out to Blake Island in Puget Sound and back. (That’s Katharine Hawkinson up there. She’s a haiku poet and a tour boat captain. She didn’t captain us, though, because she was too busy making sure none of us got lost. She’s very good at doing that.)
It’s Seattle, so it was foggy in the morning. My photos all turned out very…wabi-sabi. Yes. That’s what I’m calling it.
However, we kept our spirits up, some of us by pretending to be frogs…
… and some of us by listening to our great tour guide, Jim, telling stories about Chief Seattle and his tribe and the way they assisted the generally hapless European settlers. The old American story.
Blake Island is, in fact, where Chief Sealth (later Seattle) was born. It’s a state park now with campgrounds and hiking trails and so on, and also something called “Tillicum Village” where the heritage of the native peoples of the area is celebrated.
Half a dozen of us got the idea to circumnavigate the island on the 3-mile-or-so trail that skirts the water’s edge. We had a couple of hours to kill before we had to be at Tillicum Village for a smoked salmon lunch and Native dance performance, so this seemed like plenty of time. We started out at an extremely leisurely place, stopping to ooh and aah over the fauna and flora, trade the names of things in Japanese and English (did you know the Japanese also call forget-me-nots forget-me-nots? I mean, you know, in Japanese), and take notes either mentally or on paper for possible future haiku.
(In case you can’t tell, that’s Billie Dee in the background watching the deer.)
sound of waves
the haiku poets all reach
for their pens
(Terry Ann Carter, Emiko Miyashita, Lidia Rozmus — reaching)
Forty-five minutes from Seattle by boat, and sometimes it felt like we were lost in the wilderness.
We kind of liked it that way.
(Wow…I just noticed those bright flashes of red in this landscape.)
(Top to bottom, left to right: Charlie Trumbull, Fay Aoyagi, Emiko Miyashita, Terry Ann Carter, Fay Aoyagi again, Lidia Rozmus)
At some point in this lovely idyll we realized that our poet’s pace was not going to cut it if we wanted to make it back to Tillicum Village in time to eat our smoked salmon, so we had to start panting instead of poetizing. But we managed to hit the front porch of the lodge just as the steamed clams were being served. And as they were finishing up smoking our salmon in the traditional manner in the front hall.
One thing our tour guide Jim mentioned on the boat was the fact that although in early times Native Americans in most other parts of the continent had to spend up to ninety percent of their time hunting or gathering food in order to survive, the incredible abundance of salmon on the coast meant that in this area, the Native Americans had plenty of leisure time to create complicated, sophisticated, large-scale works of art, such as totem poles and paintings and elaborate costumes for elaborate dances.
It reminded me that the development of art in all times and in all places has depended on a certain degree of wealth that facilitates a certain degree of leisure. Leisure to sit around reading and writing poetry, leisure to travel halfway across the country to meet other people who like to do these things. We’re lucky people, in other words. I try to remember that.
The salmon was delicious, the storytelling and dancing was fascinating, and I was thrilled to get a chance to chat over lunch with Abigail Friedman, the author of The Haiku Apprentice, which I have discussed here several times and is still one of my favorite books about haiku. And with Fay Aoyagi, who has long been one of my favorite haiku poets.
The whole week was like that. Meeting so many people who have shaped my haiku and my thinking about haiku in such important ways. And meeting new people who I can tell will be shaping it in the future. Talking constantly, about haiku, about poetry in general, about words, about our lives with words and our lives in general. It was very different from my “normal” life, which is quite solitary, really, and very quiet. I need a lot of space around me as a rule, but I was happy to be crowded this week. To fill my brain with other people’s sparkly exciting ideas instead of just bouncing my own around the echo chamber of my skull.
Not that there wasn’t some time for solitary reflection this week. Sometimes you just have to slip away and stare out to sea.
(That’s Abigail Friedman and Lidia Rozmus talking up on top, and then Lidia looking out at Puget Sound.)
For the amazing job they all did preparing and executing this conference, shepherding and entertaining us, dealing gracefully and cleverly with the inevitable snafus … huge thanks to the HNA planning committee: Michael Dylan Welch, Tanya McDonald, Dejah Leger, and Angela Terry; to key volunteers Dianne Garcia, Katharine Hawkinson, and Tracy Koretsky; and to a whole host of other volunteers and supporters way too long to list.
Here’s Tanya, walking and thinking at her usual speedy pace late in the day on Sunday. That’s half of Michael in the background, in his trademark “Watch out, Michael has the camera out” pose. (And Emiko Miyashita between them, determinedly leading us around Pike Place Market on a mission to inspect the fish…
… and score some smoked salmon samples for us. She is a force of nature.)
My day, my conference, ended with a slightly drunken, more than slightly exhausted dinner at a seafood restaurant with those three, Katharine Hawkinson and her husband Kevin, Fay Aoyagi, and Makoto Nakanishi, a Japanese haijin.
And then a sleepy ride back to the hotel on the monorail. Feeling sated in so many ways. Thanks, everyone.
(I would especially like to say thank you to my mother, Sheila Allen, for substantially underwriting this trip despite not really understanding what this haiku stuff is all about. Mothers are like that. Love you, Mom.)
In the last installment of this thrilling diary, as you may recall, we left our heroes at a bar in the small hours of the morning. After the small hours of the morning, I’m sure you’re aware, come the large hours of the morning, and if you haven’t slept very much in between the small hours and the large hours, the large hours can be very painful.
All this is by way of excuse for my missing the first event of Saturday morning, a panel discussion by Maggie Chula, Penny Harter, Jerry Ball, and Garry Gay called, “Who Wrote That? How My Haiku Has Changed Over Three Decades.” I heard from reliable reporters that it was a fascinating discussion, but I don’t think I would have enjoyed it while holding my head and moaning. To distract you from the fact that I have nothing to report from this session, I will now present some placeholding Pretty Pictures from Around the Conference.
Great ikebana, eh? Beautiful courtyard sculpture. Now what were we talking about?
… Oh yes. The second session of the morning. Of many tempting options I chose to attend Paul Miller‘s talk on “Stretching Western Haiku (Gendai Haiku in the West).” The question Paul posed to us was, “How far can you stretch haiku and still consider it haiku?”
I’m not sure he or any of us came to a definitive conclusion on this, but Paul did an excellent job of analyzing Japanese gendai haiku and dividing it into some broad categories, including: Haiku that are metaphors or similes; Haiku that are “fantastic transformations” (in the “fantasy” or surreal sense of the word) where one object turns into another in a way that is impossible in real life; Haiku that are “fantastic metaphors”; Haiku that are “just fantastic”; Haiku that directly tell; Haiku that are “private discourse,” depending on associations known only to the author; and Haiku that contain abstract language. In Paul’s estimation, only the second, third, and fourth categories are really effective as haiku. Here’s one from category two that most of us really liked:
After a heated argument
I go out to the street
and become a motorcycle.
— Kaneko Tota
I might not place all Paul’s examples into the same categories he did, I might not have the same categories, and I might not have the same opinions about which haiku and which categories are effective. But as he said, this is just a place to begin thinking and talking about gendai and how it works. There will certainly continue to be endless discussion in the years to come.
…And oh yeah. Charlie Trumbull didn’t announce this until later in the day on Saturday, but here would probably be a good place to report that Paul will be the next editor of Modern Haiku, starting in the spring of 2013. Congratulations to him. Here he is (he’s not this blurry in real life):
Shortly after this session ended we were all shooed in the direction of the Space Needle (a few blocks from our convention center) for the HNA banquet. You know how banquets work, right? You have them in landmark buildings in rooms with spectacular views … no, wait. Usually you have them in dark, dull hotel banquet rooms with no windows. Thanks to the HNA planning committee for making ours more interesting.
We did have some more normal banquet features, such as banquet tables that everyone takes an endless time to get settled at because they’re all busy talking to each other.
Also, a charity auction with a highly entertaining auctioneer who is also a haiku poet, named David Ash. It was called an Unsilent Auction because mostly it was a silent auction except for the part where David was talking. If you see what I mean.
Silently, I won (by cleverly bidding four dollars over the cover price) a copy of John Martone’s Ksana, which I have wanted since the moment I first heard it existed. No, you can’t borrow it.
… Oh yes. And what haiku conference would be complete without a visit from Elvis?
Not HNA, that’s for sure. That’s Carlos Colon all dressed up there (with HNA volunteer and organizer extraordinaire Katharine Hawkinson). Without video or audio I cannot fully convey to you the brilliance of Carlos’s performance as Haiku Poet Elvis. There were many hardened poets laughing so hard that tears came to their eyes and they nearly needed to be resuscitated. If I hadn’t been laughing so hard myself I would have written down Elvis’s entire haiku repertoire, which amounted to several dozen poems, but here are a couple I managed to control myself long enough to record. These were all interspersed with appropriate Elvis-like patter. Again, it had to be seen to be believed.
out of the water
out of her suit
it bounces off the head
of a heckler
— Carlos Colon (“Elvis”)
Carlos was a tough act to follow but unfortunately I had to follow him. Not just me, of course — me, Fay Aoyagi, Gene Myers, and Don Wentworth, who had to hustle down from the Space Needle and get back to the conference center for our presentation on Haiku Blogging. We were delayed a bit waiting for the audience members who were still in the elevator trying to get off the top of the Needle. Still, we had a fairly entertaining discussion and not a bad crowd at all considering most of them were still trying to digest banquet food and the amazing spectacle of Carlos Colon as Elvis. I don’t have any pictures, sorry, I forgot to give my phone to anyone to record me for posterity. (There are some pictures floating around Facebook, though, if you hang out there in haiku circles. I look like a tired, short woman sitting at a table.)
Far more interesting was the next presentation, by Eve Luckring, on “Video Renku: Link and Shift in Visual Language.” Eve is a photographer and filmmaker as well as a highly original haiku poet. She began by discussing the film technique of Sergei Eisenstein, including his theory of “montage” and the different visual effects that could be used by filmmakers to evoke different emotional responses. We saw numerous clips from Eisenstein films such as “Battleship Potemkin.”
Then, brilliantly, Eve drew parallels with these montage techniques and the linking techniques used in renku, such as word association and the elusive concept of “scent.” When our minds had been sufficiently blown by this comparison, she introduced an exercise: Giving us all prints of photographs, she asked us to write a renku link to them, concentrating primarily not on the subject matter of the photograph but on its visual elements (see below for Eve’s slide describing these).
It’s difficult to explain without presenting these photographs exactly how this exercise worked or how brilliantly compelling it was, but when I get home I am going to do some more of this. I found it really worked to knock loose unusual images and unexpected comparisons from my mind. This was one of my favorite presentations at the conference.
After this, I found myself once again compelled by exhaustion to miss a couple of events I would have loved to have seen and heard excellent reports of later — the folk music of La Famille Leger (Dejah Leger and her husband), and Terry Ann Carter‘s presentation on the history of haiku in Canada.
Instead, I went off and had a bite in the hotel courtyard and breathed for a while, and then came back to hear Charlie Trumbull‘s fascinating, comprehensive talk on the history of haiku in English. Can you say “forty-eleven well-designed PowerPoint slides accompanied by a well-structured, erudite, but eminently listenable speech that all must have taken Charlie the better part of forever to put together”? I thought so.
Here’s one of his slides pointing out the effect that the writings of Thoreau and Emerson had on early haiku poets in English. Obviously. Duh. I knew that.
I was especially grateful for Charlie’s presentation during the next event of the evening. It was a “Haiku Bowl,” created and moderated by Charlie and Jim Kacian, and featuring two teams facing off, striving to win glory and honor by answering questions about haiku history. The Frog team featured contestants Eve Luckring, Michael Dylan Welch, David Lanoue, and Fay Aoyagi and the clacking alligators they used to signal when they knew the answer to a question. The Bird team featured contestants Emiko Miyashita, Cor van den Heuvel, Richard Gilbert, me, and our bird whistles. (I would just like to state for the record that it takes longer to produce a sound with a bird whistle than an alligator clacker.)
Mostly I sat back in amazement while the other Birds and the Frogs brought forth all kinds of obscure haiku knowledge from the depths of their powerful brains. When I knew the answer to something, it was usually because everyone did. We were all greatly helped, though, by having just attended Charlie’s lecture. Our team was further assisted by having one of the questions be “What was the title of Cor van den Heuvel’s first published book?”
It was a fun, light-hearted contest and the two teams took turns being in the lead, ending with an elegantly arranged near-tie. Okay, technically the Frogs won, but only because they had a better idea of what the population of Livermore, California is. Don’t ask. But we all had a great time, and we also all got prizes. The Frogs got a box of flies and the Birds got a box of worms.
This rip-roaring pseudo-entertainment was followed by some real entertainment by talented people — La Famille Leger once again, providing the music for a square dance. It looked the kind of thing that would be great fun if you weren’t ready to topple over with exhaustion. So I stuck around to take a few pictures and then went back to the hotel. Where I stayed up too late blogging. But hey! At least I hadn’t had any fun square dancing!
… And that was the end to the official conference-type activities of Haiku North America 2011. Coming tomorrow: The official tourist-type activities of Haiku North America 2011. Featuring fog, panting hikers, totem poles, and salmon. Don’t miss it.
Long day. Long post. I’ll see what I can do but my usual sparkling repartee may be a little off. Feel free to insert wisecracks and trenchant observations of your own wherever you feel they’re appropriate.
Okay. (Deep breath.) Got up all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on Friday morning and ran off to a presentation by Wanda Cook on Erotic Haiku. (Actually, Wanda prefers to call them “sensual.”) In case you were wondering how many haiku poets actually write erotic/sensual haiku, Wanda’s unscientific survey of 30 haiku poets revealed that 28 of them do and the other 2 were offended by the very suggestion that they would do such a thing. Also, about the same percentages of men and women publish erotic haiku as publish haiku in general. (55% men, 45% women, more or less.) Here she is telling us all these things.
Wanda herself has been writing sensual haiku for a while (but her grown son doesn’t want to know about it, so shhh) and has collaborated quite a bit with Larry Kimmel on erotic haiku sequences.
– Wanda Cook
She broke us up into small groups and gave us some sensual haiku to look at and try to decide whether it was written by a man or a woman and, I don’t know, how sensual it was exactly. Our group had a lively discussion about a haiku involving blackberries and lips (as Billie Dee asked, “Which lips?”). We mostly all thought it was written by a woman. It turned out to have been written by Michael Dylan Welch. So we were wrong.
And below are a few of the other attendees at the presentation, doing likewise with their own assigned poems. (Dejah Leger, Johnny Baranski, Lidia Rozmus, Carolyn Hall, Charlie Trumbull, Tina Grabenhorst)
The mood turned a little more somber in the next hour as Marjorie Buettner presented a tribute to all the haiku poets that had died in the two years since the last HNA. It was meticulously researched and prepared and extremely moving.
Then we were herded like cats by Michael Dylan Welch down a flight of steps to have our group picture taken. I took a picture of the photographers, because I always feel that zoo animals should be given cameras to record our crazy antics.
Don has a great new chapbook out called Past All Traps which you should buy and read.
mistake after mistake
after mistake, adding up
to just the right thing
— Don Wentworth
(This is my new motto for life.)
We rushed back after lunch so as not to miss Carlos Colon‘s presentation on concrete poetry. (Do a Google search for “concrete poetry” and click on “images.” Your mind will be blown.) It was a blast. Here are some examples from Carlos’s handout.
Then moving right along, to a great lecture by David Lanoue on the portrayal of frogs in the poetry of Issa – specifically, the way Issa attributes human qualities to frogs (and sometimes vice versa), which David attributes to Issa’s Pureland Buddhist beliefs about the essential equality of the souls of all creatures.
karisome no yomeri tsuki yo ya naku kawazu
a fleeting moonlit
— Issa, translated by David Lanoue
Here’s David, being thoughtful.
… And zooming over to another room, for an open mic “Poetry Continuum” reading of the longer poetry of us haiku poets. I couldn’t believe the percentage of haiku poets who write non-haiku poetry. There was some great, great stuff. It was unanimously agreed that this should be a feature of all future incarnations of Haiku North America.
Here’s an assortment of poets who have taken off their haiku hats for the evening. (Cherie Hunter Day, Tracy Koretsky, Johnny Baranski, Ernesto Epistola, Margaret Chula, Kathy Munro, Terry Ann Carter, Tanya McDonald [waving the edition of A New Resonance her poetry appears in), and Ruth Yarrow)
After a lively dinner with Susan Diridoni, Tracy Koretsky, and Kathy Munro (can you imagine, there was more conversation about poetry), we headed back to hear yet another open mic, this one by poets who had recently published books (including Don). Didn’t get any pictures, sorry, I was too busy listening and admiring…
Then it was time for Richard Gilbert to give the William Higginson Memorial Lecture (this is the first time that one has been given). His topic was “Social Consciousness and the Poet’s Stance in 21st Century Haiku: From Kaneko Tohta to the Present.”
Richard lives in Japan, is one of the world’s experts on gendai haiku, and is both extremely erudite and extremely passionate about his subject. He presented us with some dense, abstruse, but thought-provoking scholarship on modernist and post-modernist literature, including this passage from Charles Bernstein’s essay “Revenge of the Poet-Critic” which I may have to hang over my desk:
Words so often fail us. They do so little and they are so disappointing, leading us down blind alleys and up in smoke. But they are what we have, what we are given, and we can make them do what we want. Every poem is a model of some other world, a practice of some other reality; but it always leads back to this one, for if words give a way to envision possible worlds they don’t provide the way to inhabit them. …There is no place words cannot take us if we don’t take them as authorities, with fixed codes hardwired into the language, but as springs to jump with, or as trampolines to hurl ourselves, inward and outward, upward and downward, aslant and agog, round and unrounded.
– Charles Bernstein, from “Revenge of the Poet-Critic” in My Way
Then, in support of his contention that literature and in particular haiku should move away from strict realism towards more challenging and inventive uses of language, he presented us with numerous examples of avant-garde haiku from the most recent (February) issue of Roadrunner. A, shall we say, lively discussion ensued. Traditionalists muttered while gendai enthusiasts raved. The lecture went far past its scheduled expiration date and the discussion ended up moving to a pub where twenty or so of us stayed until closing time, ranting about poetry (just so you know, I mean this in the very nicest way) and causing endless trouble for the extremely patient waitstaff.
I wish I’d gotten a picture of Richard Gilbert and Cor van den Heuvel leaning intently over the table toward each other, each nursing a scotch and cordially discussing their very different points of view on poetry (and their opinions on scotch). The theme of this year’s HNA is “Fifty Years of Haiku,” and it was amazing to see Cor, who’s been writing haiku for all of those fifty years and more, exchanging ideas with Richard, whose ideas may be pointing the way toward what much haiku will look like in another fifty years. It’s not too often you feel like you can see as far back into the past as you can see forward into the future. It was a privilege.
For some reason I didn’t have quite as much energy on Day Two of HNA as I did on Day One. Which might account for why when I went to download my photos from my phone, I realized I hadn’t actually taken any pictures. Well, okay, a few. But this post will be a little less visual than yesterday’s. I’ll try to make up for it by annoyingly sticking my camera in everyone’s face all day long today. You’re welcome.
We started the day with a reading by the authors of the HNA anthology, Standing Still, which is a thing of beauty.
That wonderful drawing on the cover is by Dejah Leger, who also did the wonderful illustrations inside, such as this one…
There was a choice of activities after this and I chose to attend Jim Kacian‘s lecture on one-line haiku, which he is trying to get us all to call “monoku.” Hmmm. Aside from that, though, the lecture was dense with interesting information. Although I got a bit lost during his lengthy comparison of the history of tennis strokes and the history of English-language haiku, since on the few occasions I have attempted to wield a tennis racket…let’s just say that I don’t play tennis. (Jim is a tennis pro in his money-making life.)
He examined haiku with many other line lengths and then a wide variety of one-line haiku, and tried to identify the elements that make a particular haiku work as a one-liner. I won’t give you a precis of the lecture, I’m sure it will be published at some point. It worked to make me go out to the book fair and buy Jim’s book of monoku, though.
Naturally I bought a ton of other books as well (who buys only one book at a time?), but the one I would most like to show you is this one by my roommate here, Lidia Rozmus, the transcendent beauty of whose art (stunning, minimalist ink brush painting) and writing (haiku and haibun) are in direct proportion to the transcendent beauty of her kindness and generosity. This is a book about her emigration to the United States from Poland and her adjustment to life here.
Here’s Lidia herself in the courtyard of the Inn at Queen Anne, where I retreated after the morning activities with a chicken salad sandwich and a bottle of hard cider to gather some energy for a busy afternoon (read: keep from fainting with exhaustion).
Another excursion in the afternoon: On the monorail downtown to (your choice) Pike Place Market or the Seattle Art Museum. I’ve been to the Market. I went to the museum. This may not have been a good idea, since as I think I have mentioned before, I have a severe mouse phobia and this was one of the first things I saw there.
There was other art that made up for it, though. They were having a special exhibition of American landscape painting. One thing I noticed that many of the artists had in common was that they would incorporate a splash or two of something bright red (usually something man-made) into a landscape that was otherwise more drab in color.
Maybe there was something about this in the interpretive signs, I don’t know. I’m not very good about reading museum signs. It seemed to me that perhaps this was one way of asserting man’s dominion over nature: your eye was naturally drawn to that bright red, making it seem like the most important thing in the picture.
Sometimes I wonder if haiku does something similar to our experience of nature, by focusing our attention on one tiny aspect of it that a human being has noticed.
After the museum a bunch of us stumbled around looking for a place to eat, finally giving up on the tourist traps of the Market and heading back to our home base of the Queen Anne neighborhood for some Thai food. As we prepared to board the monorail, a man noticed the excellent NaHaiWriMo-inspired T-shirt (see sample below) that Michael Dylan Welch was wearing and asked him, “So you must not like haiku?”
…Oh. You have never seen a man so happy as Michael was at that moment. The (gentle) lecture that followed started with, “Actually, I’m the first vice-president of the Haiku Society of America, and I love haiku!” and ended with the poor questioner walking away with his eyes glazed over, trying to grasp that everything he had ever thought he knew about haiku was wrong. Or else that he had just run into a pack of lunatics.
At the restaurant, Michael first tried to get us all to write haiku individually, and met with some pretty stiff resistance because we were all, you know, completely wiped out. But then Carlos Colon suggested the much more palatable idea of writing renku, so that’s what we did. This is one of those occasions that I really wish I had been alert enough to think of getting a picture of.
Renku participants: Katharine Hawkinson, Michael Dylan Welch, me, Carlos Colon, Marilyn Hazelton, Garry Gay. Present, but malingering: Carolyn Hall, Susan Antolin. Result: A summer junicho entitled “Racha Renku” (Racha was the name of the restaurant we were in.)
a single cloud
the baby points at the sky
– me, verse 10 of “Racha Renku”
The first event of the evening was a reading of haibun by featured reader Cor van den Heuvel and anyone else who cared to read haibun. I have to admit that since I was feeling utterly exhausted, I went back to my room for a quick nap and didn’t make it to this reading until quite late, but I really regret it now because I love haibun so much and the few readers that I did hear presented some outstanding examples.
Also, here is where I am going to cheat and show you a picture of Cor reading at Haiku Circle, which I attended in Northfield, Massachusetts in June. Because (naturally) I didn’t get a picture of Cor reading last night, but actually the picture of him reading outside in June is better than any picture I could have taken under the Seattle Center’s fluorescent lights.
The final event of the night (at least that I attended) was a panel on haiku publishing moderated by Michael Dylan Welch and featuring Don Wentworth, Ce Rosenow, Jim Kacian, and Charlie Trumbull, all of whom run presses ranging in size from teeny-tiny to small. (Unstartling revelation of the evening: Small haiku publishers do not make any money from publishing haiku.)
There was a lot of discussion of various ways to structure manuscripts of haiku, including by subject, season, tone. And also discussion of how to submit manuscripts to publishers. (Some want you to send them a zillion haiku and let them pick out which ones they want to put in the book. Some just want you to send them a few poems and tell them what the rest of the book will be like. So ask them, I guess is the lesson.)
After that panel I threw in the towel and went to bed early last night. Well…I guess it’s more accurate to say I went back to the hotel early. Then Lidia and I spent a while talking, partly about how much we love haiku poets and how happy we are to be here. There is so much talking here. You can’t get any of us to shut up. It’s as if seventeen syllables really weren’t enough to say everything after all.
I’m back in the garden of the Inn at Queen Anne. Taking a break. Writing to you. My brain is too full not to dump a little of it out onto the page. So here’s the story of yesterday.
On my way to register for HNA at the Seattle Center, I met Susan Diridoni in the courtyard…
We talked one-line haiku and infuriating politicians. Two of our favorite subjects.
monomania the cure for wildflowers
First on the agenda after registration was a walk to the Olympic Sculpture Park down by the harbor. Michael Dylan Welch had a camera permanently attached to his face so the only picture of him I was able to get was one I took while he was taking a picture of me.
Debbie Kolodji and I found ourselves reflected in one of the sculptures….
I’m not sure if our reflections count as “touching” in the eyes of those who wrote this warning sign. I also find it interesting to ponder the difference between visual art, which can indeed be harmed by indiscriminate touching, and haiku, which haiku poets encourage our readers to put their grubby little hands all over, knowing that will only make it more interesting.
It’s Fleet Week in Seattle, so there were ominous-looking ships mulling around the harbor. On the plus side, they interacted well with the sculpture.
These flowers were everywhere, growing low all over the ground. I love them. Somebody tell me what they are.
This was my favorite sculpture. Anyone under the age of 35 who knows what it is gets a prize.
This metal-plated tree enchanted me, if only because I don’t like to let well enough alone where nature is concerned.
Back at the Seattle Center, Michael showed us this stone with a haiku of Basho’s engraved on it. (Rhyming couplet, awesome.)
Went out for a late lunch/early dinner with a few people, then back to the hotel, where Charlie Trumbull and Jim Kacian were scheming in the courtyard. (All their schemes were legal and ethical. I checked.)
Then to a dessert reception and open mic reading at the Seattle Center, where I met people at a ferocious rate.
… Wonderful people.
(Lidia Rozmus [my wonderful roommate], Wanda Cook, Carlos Colon, Don Wentworth, Marjorie Buettner, Sarah and Gene Myers, Marilyn Hazelton)
I talked until my throat got sore, and then I went off to a gendai haiku writing workshop and talked a whole bunch more.
Here we all (okay, about half of us) are listening to Emiko Miyashita telling us about gendai haiku in Japanese. (That’s Charlie Trumbull, Garry Gay, Kathy Munro, Billie Dee, Sheila Sondik, Jim Westenhaver, Emiko Miyashita)
At the end we all tried our hand at writing more gendai, and I finally managed to get a picture of Michael without a camera in front of his face.
It was past eleven by the time we finished. Wild and crazy haiku poets, that’s us.
A few of us had a late-night snack, and by the time I got to bed it was about three in the morning in Wisconsin. Which is the time that counts, after all.
I’ll write about today tomorrow. See how that works?
Hope you’re all having a great time whether you’re in Seattle or not.
o-matsuri no akai dedachi no tombo kana
dressed in red,
off to the festival
– Issa, translated by Robert Hass
Yes, that is my front door. Yes, that is a red dragonfly door knocker next to it. Yes, I do have a perfectly functional doorbell. And a door to knock on. But if you ever come to my house you must use the red dragonfly door knocker that my sister gave me for my birthday, because otherwise how will I know that there is a haiku enthusiast standing outside?
I’m leaving my house and my door knocker today to go to Seattle for Haiku North America. Will try to report back at intervals. Stay tuned.