Across the Haikuverse, No. 16: National Library Week Edition

A line of people hold up a banner reading "Books Not Bombs"

Hi haiku folk,

This is the beginning of National Library Week in the U.S. I don’t care where you live, you are going to be celebrating this with me, because in case it hadn’t registered with you before, I am studying to be a librarian when I grow up. (In case, you know, the whole fame-and-fortune-through-haiku thing doesn’t pan out for me.)

So here’s my obligatory public service announcement: Please do your part to support libraries so that I will be able to find a job when I graduate from library school so that we can facilitate the free flow of information that is necessary to the health of a democratic society. Or something.

… No, seriously. I know you all probably love libraries already, but in case you didn’t know, a lot of politicians don’t. They think libraries are frivolous institutions that exist only to provide a lot of namby-pamby middle-class people with books of poetry (honestly, could anything be more…irrelevant…than poetry?) and the latest romance novels. They don’t see any relationship between the health of libraries and the health of the economy. They think everyone gets their information from the Internet these days anyway. They’d rather spend the cash on bombers.

Guess what? More people use libraries now than ever before. In America, a huge percentage of the population has access to the Internet only through their public library. Librarians help them look for jobs, figure out how to pay their taxes (did you hear that, politicians?), study to become more qualified for jobs, determine whether those emails from the nice Nigerian businessman are actually legitimate, and yes, occasionally even obtain print and audiovisual materials that improve their lives in a myriad of ways. And that’s just public libraries. Don’t get me started on all the other kinds.

So if you haven’t been to the library in a while, why not make a trip this week? And say something nice to the librarian. And if you happen to run into your local legislator somewhere, tell him or her about all the stuff I said. Forget the bombs…bring on the books.

(Note: Because this blog believes in truth in advertising, all the blatant public service announcements promoting libraries in today’s column will be printed in bold. Enjoy.)


Haiku of the Week

A couple of great red dragonfly haiku showed up in my feed reader this week. Because I am shamelessly self-centered, they get to go first.


From Lunch Break:


water aerobics-
the red dragonfly
flitting past

— gillena cox 2011


From see haiku here (as always, includes a haiga that must be seen):

red dragonfly —
I am now alive
admiring the height of sky

— Natsume, Soseki (with haiga by Kuniharu Shimizu)


Next in order of priority are the cherry blossom haiku. Japanese cherry blossom haiku. Need I say more? Both of these are from Blue Willow Haiku World.

From March 31:


花冷えの鍵は鍵穴にて響く      冨田拓也
hanabie no kagi wa kagiana nite hibiku
cherry blossom chill
a key resonates
in the key hole

— Takuya Tomita, translated by Fay Aoyagi

From April 2:

文字は手を覚えてゐたり花の昼               鴇田智哉
moji wa te o oboete itari hana no hiru
characters remember
who wrote them
cherry blossom afternoon

— Tomoya Tokita, translated by Fay Aoyagi



Okay, the rest of you can be seated now.

From La Calebasse (sorry, no translation today, but French really isn’t a difficult language to learn — run along now and pick up some instructional tapes from your local library):

la première abeille
jusqu’au quatrième étage
pour la première fleur

— Vincent Hoarau


From old pajamas: from the dirt hut:


Hurry, children we could not have  //  Come cross the lotus bridge //
Play with mother under the plum tree

— Alan Segal


From Mann Library’s Daily Haiku:


spring plowing
a flock of blackbirds
turns inside out

— Tom Painting



From Crows & Daisies:

a housefly
on the tax form…
all day rain

— Polona Oblak



From jornales:

magnolia petals
in the wind—
the rush at my wedding

— Alegria Imperial

From Morden Haiku — a great echo of Basho’s famous haiku:

day after day
on the inspector’s face
the inspector’s mask

— Matt Morden



From Beachcombing for the Landlocked:


following their directions i find myself in someone else’s lost

— Matt Holloway


From haiku-usa:

long afternoon
a squirrel’s leap
from tree to tree
— Bill Kenney
(Bill’s helpful kigo note: “Like ‘long day,’ ‘long afternoon’ is a traditional spring kigo. To be sure, summer days are longer still, but our awareness that the days are growing longer is a phenomenon of spring.”)


From Haiku Bandit Society:

the queue come full stop
a stolen glance
at the nape of her neck

— William Sorlien


From Daily Haiga (with, naturally, a haiga…go look, pretty please)

summer solstice
i touch it
four times

— Brendan Slater


Wonders of the Web


Springtime with Issa

Tom Clark of Beyond the Pale gives us an explosion of Issa spring haiku, accompanied by amazing photography. Just go read it and look at it and breathe. We made it through again. (This link courtesy of Don Wentworth . He always knows about the coolest stuff. Probably because he’s a librarian.)


Asahi Haikuist Network

Sheesh. Somebody should have told me about this a while ago…a whole column in a Japanese newspaper featuring English-language haiku. There’s a different theme for every biweekly issue, which includes commentary by the editor, David McMurray. (You can send him your own haiku — see the directions at the bottom of every column.)

Stacking firewood
my son wants to know
all about tsunami

–Ralf Broker (Germany)



On the NaHaiWriMo Facebook page the other day, Alan Summers shared a link to an amazing animated haiku presentation by Jeffrey Winke, and now I have to go there every single day and stare at it. Very moving haiku. In both senses of the word “moving.”

cooling grasses
tears that start in her eyes
run down my face

— Jeffrey Winke



At the Border of Silver and Tacky: Meet Ed Baker

Ed Baker is a sui generis poet whose poetry sometimes looks like haiku and sometimes like itself; he likes to call a lot of what he writes “shorties,” which works for me. He’s also a painter and a sculptor. You should get to know him a little bit, which you can do by going to visit him with Geof Huth of dbqp: visualizing poetics. Geof spent a day with Ed a few years ago and has the photos to prove it. (Thanks to Joseph Hutchison over at The Perpetual Bird for sharing this link.)

Afterwards (or beforehand, I suppose, might be even better), you should go over to Ed’s own site and read what he writes. Like this:

far beyond___frog___moon leaps

— Ed Baker, from Neighbor Book 6 Afterwards


How To Get Rid Of Your Money

An anonymous haiku fan who apparently has some spare cash (I knew there had to be at least one!) has offered to triple any donations given to The Haiku Foundation in the month of April. So if you got a bigger tax refund than you expected and you have all the groceries you need for a while, you could send them some money to fund, you know…haiku stuff.

(Then if you have any more spare money? There’s this deserving not-quite-young-anymore haiku poet and blogger who’s accepting donations to fund her lavish haiku-writing lifestyle. Contact me for details about where to mail the check…)


Dead Tree News

I really hope I’ve mentioned this before, but all the women out there in the Haikuverse need to think about submitting your best haiku (and senryu) to Aubrie Cox for her groundbreaking anthology of women’s English-language haiku. The deadline is April 15th. The relevant email address is paperlanternhaiku AT gmail DOT com and you should include 5 to 15 poems, your name, country, a brief bio of 150 words or less, and any applicable publication credits of submitted poems.

When Aubrie started this project she mentioned that although no anthology of women’s English-language haiku had yet been assembled, Makoto Ueda had put together a fine one of Japanese women’s haiku, called Far Beyond the Field. So I got it and I’ve been wandering through it delightedly for the last month or so. It’s a physically lovely object, tall and narrow and outwardly dressed in spring green, with lots of white space inside to create room for thought around every haiku. There’s lots of space for thought around every poet, too; Ueda has created a substantial section for each woman with a preceding brief critical and biographical essay.

I don’t want to blather on about this too much because the haiku stand on their own, and if you’re interested you should find yourself a copy of the book. (This is a link to the WorldCat library catalog, which will help you find a copy of this book at a library near you.) I’ll just throw out a few of my favorites to make your mouth water and then run away and leave you hanging, because I’m heartless that way.


the butterfly
behind, before, behind
a woman on the road
— Chiyojo

lost in the woods —
only the sound of a leaf
falling on my hat
— Tagami Kikusha

no longer seeking
the sun, a magnificent
— Takeshita Shizunojo

home from blossom viewing —
as I disrobe, many straps
cling to my body
— Sugita Hisajo [1919]

[Ueda’s note: “Kyoshi said at the time that this was a woman’s haiku that no man could imitate.”]


the baby carriage
and the wild waves
side by side in summer
— Hashimoto Takako


up on a hydro pole
the electrician turns
into a cicada
— Mitsuhashi Takajo


their lives last
only while aflame —

a woman and a pepper-pod
— Mitsuhashi Takajo


at spring dawn
something I’ve spat out
gleams serenely
— Ishibashi Hideno


a man enters
the room, disturbing the scent
of daffodils
— Yoshino Yoshiko


the instant it flies up
a dragonfly
loses its shadow
— Inahata Teiko


saffron in bloom—
the movie yesterday
murdered a man
— Uda Kitoko


each fresh day
inflicting new wounds
on a white peony
— Kuroda Momoko


with a pencil
I torture an ant
on the desk at night
— Katayama Yumiko


choosing a swimsuit —
when did his eyes
replace mine?
— Mayuzumi Madoka



Thanks for your attention, folks…Hey, where did everybody go? Oh, to the library? That’s all right, then.

8 thoughts on “Across the Haikuverse, No. 16: National Library Week Edition

  1. Great article as usual!

    I either didn’t know you were training to be a librarian or had forgotten! 😉
    My two big projects to create 1000 verse renga each time were with libraries. The South West project was with Bath Libraries, which gathered just over 1000 verses from both local people and haiku writers worldwide.

    The 3000 plus contribitions I received (most of these live, in person) was from Hull Libraries for the Hull Global Renga. A renga singularly written by people living in Hull, and across all class, social, and cultural barriers.

    The Hull Global Renga was so successful because it was completely funded by one of the great past Quaker business families, namely The James Reckitt Library Trust. Because I was paid and had travel and accomodation covered, I was able to go to town with this project.

    The libraries can be more ground-breaking in a down to earth sense, and although the final figure was 3,300 contributions for the renga, I would say I helped over 4-5,000 people as we had rotating displays of verses on display surfaces, plus those 3,300 verses on cards throughout the entire ground floor book shelves at the Central Library, and at three branch libraries.

    The project was June 2010 to January 2011 and has had a profound effect on individuals, refugees, the unemployed, the ordinary working class people from 7 years to 97 years old, as well as people from other backgrounds.

    We even had the support of the former Home Secretary Alan Johnson (Member of Parliament) who is a thoroughly decent man, and loved the Hull Global Renga pen and magnetic bookmark we gave him. 😉 He had actually composed a decent contribution himself, not someone else, himself.

    As I recorded his verse on the renga sheet display the evening he was doing his surgery, it had a dramatic effect on a library user the following morning. In the space allotted for a renga verse she put down a plea for help. This was the early morning, so when I arrived at 10am to check in before I went roving, I spotted it. It was heartbreaking. I emailed Alan Johnson who quickly replied and said he was on it, even if it wasn’t his constituency. Obviously as it was private and confidential I took that renga sheet (display on a table in the foyer) as it contained personal details and a phone number.

    I know Alan Johnson would have acted on it, so I feel okay leaving it to him, as he is widely respected in Hull and elsewhere as a good man.

    So even though this wasn’t a poetry contribution, the Hull Global Renga serves its extra purpose, via the library, to make people feel good about themselves when they are up against a hard rock. There are more stories, some will make even a hardened person cry. This is the power of libraries and poetry when they come together.

    Libraries are vital, especially in poor areas, and Hull, which has got to be the friendliest city in Britain, desperately needs its funding, which has now been cut by 50%. Fortunately their private trust fund will allow for writers and artists to continue projects, although probably not as big as the Hull Global Renga.

    Hull Global Renga was the very first project once the trust fund was made available for activities throughout all the libraries, as originally it was just for the James Ricketts library which had to be closed down.

    You’ll love Alan Gibbons, a superb children’s fiction writer, who has saved innumerable public and school libraries with his Campaign for the Book, and is now urging for the first Saturday each February to be National Library Day.

    The Campaign for the Book

    On another note you mention Far beyond the Field which is a stunning book, but a must have companion book is A Long Rainy Season superbly edited by Leza Lowitz, Miyuki Aoyama, and Akemi Tomioka (editors):

    Please buy it direct from Stone Bridge Press, but you get a look inside at Amazon:


    Winner of the 1995 Benjamin Franklin Award, this is a landmark anthology of traditional short verse. In haiku and tanka fifteen Japanese women poets reveal universal female themes through the lens of a challenging spiritual and physical Japanese environment.

    You will fall in love with this book as much as the equally wonderful Far Beyond the Field. 😉

    Alan, With Words

    • Wow…someday I’m going to have to pop by Hull and watch you in action, Alan, it must be quite a sight. 🙂 Or else I need to start saving up for your airfare to the U.S. so you can knock some life into our libraries … 😉

  2. Thanks for another rocket-ride in the haikuverse, Melissa! Thanks, too, for hanging my ‘magnolia-wedding’ haiku in the galaxy, Melissa! This note comes so late because haiku-in-NHWRM has been consuming me; too, my free verses ‘ignited’ by my haiku-writing.

    I’m turning into a ghost in real existence–rushing and huffing to appointments as if in the wake of a plumber coming late or some other emergencies morphing out of nowhere; the truth is, I’m always lost in imagery, walking under the moon in broad daylight! Yet, I feel full or whole maybe is a better word. Snags do not bother me as much they used to and for the first time in my life, I’m writing for myself and not for an editor. And this for me is a total release, a great emancipation!

    But come back I must to the topic of this haikuverse. Am quite envious of you! One of my late-in-life (and that’s now) dreams is to work in a library. I’ve haunted libraries most of my life and I still do. I’m terrified to take up a course on it though when I read through a prospectus. So recently at the seniors center thrift shop which I frequent, I’ve agreed to help put some order to the books in the shelves.

    It’s quite a riot everyday with new donations coming in huge bins and with people who browse putting books back to the wrong shelves. What I love in how I live the past lives of most books–some books I recognize in childhood and some I’ve always wanted to own like an early edition on William Blake’s poems and a hard bound pocket sized edition of the Elizabeth Browning’s sonnets. Did you know that Thomas Hardy wrote poetry? It’s there, too.

    But what treasures especially the books in art, music and literature that have come from parts of Europe obviously during those wars that drove people to escape to other countries. Half a dozen tri-lingual dictionaries in French, German and English of various sizes dance around. Books on begonias and roses, how to care for a chameleon have turned up. Several books on European royalties, too! As you know, this is where I found the first real haiku book I bought for a quarter though it was at Enoch Pratt Central Library in Baltimore where I pored over my first readings on haiku. In a way, I feel I’m living a bit of that dream.

    But I do go to the Vancouver Public Library a block away to browse the spines on shelves controlling my greed to bring home a dozen. And then to talk to a woman who has staked a corner computer where she surfs the web, a stack of index cards ready for her research. She practically lives in that corner, her ‘life things’ in a shopping cart parked by the side. I had asked her what she does with her ‘research’, and she said just to be informed. We sometimes talk of what she has just unearthed and I’m shamed at what little I know. Yet she carries no hint of the world’s miseries–she smiles through dentures long gone, her eyes retracting into the muscles that contract when joyful. There’s life at the library, indeed!

    I’m sorry, this has turned as long as Alan’s significant comment and all I intended to say is a huge, “thank you” for aligning jornales again among the big planets!

    • what wonderful musings on your life with books, Alegria…thanks so much for sharing! This brought back so many memories of all the bookstores, libraries, book sales I have haunted over the years, all the books that have fascinated me and that I have fallen in love with…Sitting here in my living room surrounded by bookshelves and feeling very lucky. 🙂

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