haiku first published in Modern Haiku 42:3
You know how it is: time is on your side. Then it isn’t. You cartwheel down the sidewalk one day in spring and watch yourself drive by, ten years older in the passenger seat with your head on your boyfriend’s shoulder, twenty years older in the driver’s seat carpooling to your son’s soccer game, thirty years older in the back seat of the lead car in your father’s funeral procession, your mind emptier than it’s been in years, turning your head to follow the progress of the little girl cartwheeling down the sidewalk. You never noticed her before.
the mistakes in my mirror image of myself
Well, but why should you have noticed her? Maybe she was never there before. And then again, why shouldn’t you have? Is a little girl really a less permanent feature of the landscape than the house behind her, the one that looks eerily like your childhood home? Houses fall down, streets cave in. Even hills, like this hill your car is climbing to the cemetery, even hills wear down over time, don’t they. Yes, someday someone will pick up this hill without thinking and put it in his pocket. And give it to his little girl when he gets home.
seismic movement my errors in judgment
The stars are coming out now, it’s that late in the day, the dark comes early now that it’s winter, though surely it was spring earlier today. You step out of the car and join the stream of your father’s mourners, all of you shrinking and fading as you move toward his grave in the darkness. Stars, you think: now they’re eternal — and then one winks out as you glance at it. Yes, it had a good run, but it’s cold and dark now, and everyone living on the planets that spun around it winked out themselves long ago. Time flies like an arrow, only faster. You’ve wasted time, but no need to get so upset about it, everyone does. It’s there to be wasted. And then it’s not there anymore; or more precisely, it is, but you’re not.
eight minutes later the truth finally dawns
(Photo: William Warby)
I didn’t know
This haiku was also here before, in a slightly different version.
Maple trees are not as ubiquitous here in the Midwest, but in New England, in the fall, it can sometimes feel like the entire world is made of maples. This is not a bad thing. They are blazing and glorious. All summer you hardly notice them, they just blend in with the other trees, but then suddenly, in late September, there they are… maple after maple.
It’s getting to be that time of the semester. The time when you start muttering, “Oh, that’s good enough.” Not that I don’t have unwaveringly high standards of excellence. (Did you hear that, professors? Unwavering!) It’s just that… life is a matter of priorities. A balancing act. Term papers, haiku, term papers, haiku… okay, haiku, but just this once.
however the planets align a stack of pumpkins
— Mark Holloway, Beachcombing for the Landlocked
A spring evening I ride a car with an ordinary man
Having got used to the depth of war I love a dog
A spring evening is wound down toward the apple skin
— Fujiki Kiyoko, translated by Hiroaki Sato on antantantantant’s blog
harigane to harigane karami aki no kure
a wire and a wire
— Maya Okusaka, translated by Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World
the morning glories
gain the second floor
half a million dead in Iraq
— Ellis Avery, on antantantantant’s blog
poems and pictures (please visit the links to see the pictures)
Hear the sough of rain
I whisper a secret
so that I can get in
— Tomas Tranströmer, most recent winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, illustrated by Kuniharu Shimizu at see haiku here
blossoming witch hazel
I pound a stuck storm window
with a Chinese dictionary
— Dave Bonta, Woodrat Photoblog
I think twice about
destroying this web
— Kirsten Cliff, Swimming in Lines of Haiku
night rain –
he tells me
he slept well
— sanjuktaa, wild berries
ą ɖįƒƒɛŗɛɳʈ čȏɳѵɛŗʂąʈįȏɳ
įɳ ʈɧɛ ɳįǥɧʈ
— Rick Daddario, 19 Planets
a monarch floats
among falling leaves
— Aubrie Cox, Yay Words!
(Also, written anything about tea and/or monsters lately? You might want to think about contributing to Aubrie’s Monster Mash. Deadline Oct. 29.)
Not long ago Johannes S.H. Bjerg gave a wonderful interview to an Indian magazine, okiedoks. Read it here.
I like to “stretch” the language, I want to take it where it almost loses sense because of its inadequacy to express exactly what is inexpressible. This sounds cryptic, and it is. Language can go only so far … but how far before it becomes sheer nonsense … It’s a bit like pricking a hole in “reality” to find another “reality.” And this is where it makes no sense talking about anymore. Only the poem can do that.
— Johannes S.H. Bjerg
It has always been my contention that the haiku community needs to get past the beginner’s mind of definitions and rules and get on with the celebration of the diversity of the genre that is rich and strong only to the extent that there is a wide range of practice, a surprising freshness of voices and perspectives. We need to embrace and celebrate haiku writers who relish dense language and the naming function of words, haiku writers who live in the woods and tap into the biodiversity of ecosystems there, haiku writers who protest injustice and go to jail, haiku writers who resist the male ego dominance of English, haiku writers who meditate and seek the quiet voice within, haiku writers who celebrate being social and the significance of being in community, haiku writers who are religious within a variety of spiritual traditions, haiku writers who are all about people, haiku writers who write senryu and don’t care about the distinction, haiku writers who are international citizens of the world using haiku to bridge cultures, haiku writers who are so local nobody but friends at the local pub understand them. This diversity of writers and approaches to haiku is the strength and rich surprise of elasticity found in this literary genre.
— Randy Brooks, Modern Haiku 40:1, Winter 2009
Dead Tree News
I generally hate to quote and run but this time I think I’ll just toss a few of my favorites from the most recent issues of two of my favorite journals at you.
From Frogpond 34:3 —
after the argument
lights and darks
— Kristen B. Deming
after she leaves
of hanging apples
— Marsh Muirhead
the mean streak in me
— Aubrie Cox
From Modern Haiku 42:3 —
as if each promise
carried a different weight
— Angela Terry
the construction cranes
— Dietmar Tauchner
the salamander basking
— Ernest Wit
the knife resting
on the spoon
— Francine Banwarth
i feed him
— Tyrone McDonald
the need to formulate an archival appraisal policy for born-digital materials … what was that? Oh, sorry, I opened the wrong window on my desktop again… well, while I’m here at this window I guess I’ll look at the sky for a while.
into the fog the stars are no exception
(Photo: Jay Otto)
who invited the man
in the moon
October Moon Viewing Party, Haiku Bandit Society
Come on, give me a kiss, he says, offering up his cheek. The other waitresses don’t look at me. I’ve seen them dutifully bestowing their kisses, expressions flat, then moving away, on to another task. Give me a kiss, he repeats. The dishes clatter in the sink. I lean over and peck his cheek, which is damp and round and red. I’m just like the other girls now. I can do the job.
He comes over to me one afternoon while I’m sitting filling salt shakers. No one else is there — it’s a lull between shifts. I’m going out to do errands, watch the place while I’m away. I say okay, looking down at my salt shakers, trying to keep from spilling. He keeps standing there until I look up. And then — it’s like a bird flying in my face — his tongue is in my mouth. It flicks in and out. He laughs, turns around and walks out. In the doorway he briefly obscures the sun.
What I can never forgive myself for: I laughed too.
leaning against a cold stone wall —
trying to explain
chasing a new generation
Haiku first published at DailyHaiku, 7/22/2011
The craters on the moon, the valleys, the mountains … everything the moon has is higher and wider and deeper than the things we have and this is because the moon has no air, nothing to get in the way of things falling or rising. If only you could breathe there you could grow, you could be a fine seven-foot specimen with an attenuated spine and a pianist’s fingers and delicately pointed ears. You could ride a racehorse forty hands high across the Planitia Descensus just in time to meet two tiny men in wide white suits, flailing along in terror of a fall. You could catch them up joyfully in your arms and set them behind you on your mount, you could take them back to the city you’ve built, full of spires and minarets and elegant hundred-foot lampposts. You could tenderly remove their awkward suits and tell them to breathe, to just try breathing, it’s not so hard once you get the hang of it …
and as a monument to their failure you could erect the tallest grave marker in the city.
the length of a vine
and its shadow
(Photo: Jay Otto)
in the corner
of the war memorial
a new spiderweb
this morning, three kinds of blue pills
and a bird
(For the first interview in this series, with Peter Newton, and a more in-depth explanation of what it’s all about, look here.)
After having admired Susan Diridoni’s poetry for a while and gotten to know her a bit online and through email, I had the great pleasure to meet her in person at Haiku North America in August. We share an interest in gendai and other modern developments in haiku and had many stimulating discussions on this and other topics. I knew that with her unique poetic voice and her pronounced and fascinating opinions on so many poetic matters, she would make a great victim for my “Questions to Annoy Poets With.”
And I was right. Susan took my questions and shaped her answers to them into a coherent essay detailing her development as a poet, her reading and writing habits, and her haiku aesthetic. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.
The Interview: Susan Diridoni
[Note: For a thorough detailing of my path into the writing of haiku, please see “Three Questions—Susan Diridoni” at Curtis Dunlap’s blog, Blogging Along Tobacco Road. For my essay titled “My Accidental Slip Into Gendai Haiku,” see the next issue of Modern Haiku (43.1 Winter-Spring 2012).]
The most salient feature of my haiku-reading practice is my alertness to find haiku poets whose work thrills me, whose work I admire. This includes years of reading printed journals such as—Modern Haiku, Frogpond, Bottle Rockets, Presence, Acorn, etc.—and online journals such as—Roadrunner, Simply Haiku, Chrysanthemum, The Heron’s Nest, etc., and blogs such as—Don Wentworth’s Issa’s Untidy Hut, Melissa Allen’s Red Dragonfly, Fay Aoyagi’s Blue Willow Haiku World, etc.
I also purchase numerous recommended books such as—titles from Red Moon Press [individual authors as well as anthologies], Poems of Consciousness by Richard Gilbert, The Haiku Universe for the 21st Century edited by Gendai Haiku Kyokai, multiple titles by Makoto Ueda, Hiroaki Sato, Haruo Shirane, Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen, etc. Also, I find good leads to pursue in the periodic book reviews posted by Don Wentworth and by Melissa Allen in their blogs.
In my search for poets who thrill me, I survey features on poets which appear in Roadrunner and Chrysanthemum and Simply Haiku [both its earlier and its current versions], and happily these sometimes spotlight foreign poets, such as: Chrysanthemum’s [#9, April 2011] feature on German poet Udo Wenzel, and Roadrunner’s [X:2] brief interview with French poet Alain Kervern.
These profiles provide a real service, their translations allowing access to international poetic sensibilities. Ever more online haiku journals are opening language borders—including the varied blogs of Johannes S.H. Bjerg—and I welcome them all. In the years since my teenage discovery of Rainer Maria Rilke, I have—with passionate hope!—tried countless translations, including intriguing finds of new Rilke translations [Martyn Crucefix’s translation of Duino Elegies (Enitharmon Press, 2006) and Damion Searls’ translation, The Inner Sky (Godine, 2010)]. Needless to say, the flow of better Japanese translations of both past and present poets and commentators offers the international English-language haiku community a stunning platform of worthy reconsiderations! How felicitous is progress with translation!
This diverse and continuing reading accomplishes several goals. First and foremost, my reading allows me to elevate my poetic aspirations (about which I will say more, later). My eyes are being opened to stylistic discernment. For example, some of the haiku poets whose work frequently employs metaphor can be quite beautiful to me, but also so different from my own tendencies that I can only marvel at their work—these include the relaxed and sensitive work of Marjorie Buettner, the lovely work of the tragically deceased Svetlana Marisova, the lyrical work of Robert Wilson and Claire Everett, etc.
In addition to style, I have found myself noticing certain content. After reading a few appearances of Eve Luckring in Roadrunner, I emailed her to express my appreciation of her socially-conscious haiku. Her answer was bracing: that I would not believe how many virtual waste-baskets she fills before arriving at those published haiku. Wow, o brave new world!
Peter Yovu’s haiku has intrigued me, including some brilliant social commentary. Though finding so trenchant the social focus in haiku by Eve Luckring, Peter Yovu, and occasionally Scott Metz, I never expected myself to be writing such haiku. My first venture into this territory was occasioned by a seemingly enormous full moon, as if sitting upon the Berkeley (California) hills, looking dull since the sun had not yet set in the Pacific. I worked with this dull moon coinciding with December 1st, long-designated as World AIDS Day. This was published in the final online issue of 3LIGHTS:
unlit moon World AIDS Day
My strongest social impetus early this year was the “Egyptian Spring”—the February ‘11 pro-democratic events in Cairo (and later, elsewhere). My visit to Cairo five years ago had deeply sensitized me to social circumstances there. Yet only one month later, on 3-11, the world was shocked by the enormous quake and resultant massive tsunami in Japan’s Tohoku region (and subsequent nuclear reactor risk). I could not address the tsunami for several weeks, I found it so distressing, but when this door opened, it would not easily close. [See the soon-to-be-delivered Frogpond (Vol. 34:3/2011) to read my tsunami haibun, “was that river”.] Examples from these events:
texting dissimulation under an eroding sphinx
[Frogpond 34:2, 2011]
hard lessons fill the train where goes life as-wave
The “gang” of more-or-less regulars in Roadrunner (including the poetry of co-editors Scott Metz and Paul Pfleuger, Jr.) include many poets I pay close attention to. Sometimes I have had the impression that poets in Roadrunner occasionally take something—a feeling, a visual, something physical or even temporal—and they “translate” it from a simple description into a new realm of perception, as if it were delineated in slow motion, molecularly or in some other modality.
This brings to mind the way that Virginia Woolf’s descriptions through the lens of a character’s mad spells could turn simple visual details into distracting grotesqueries. The gendai haiku may take recognizable aspects of life, but these may then explode or unfold or wax lyrically into unsuspected dynamics. I might be hard pressed to analyze one of mine—
arsenal reduced to ruins just bright your speaking
–but this haiku jives for me, its atmosphere crackling with a surprisingly up-beat closing comment. While Richard Gilbert was offering the first-ever “William Higginson Memorial Lecture” at the HNA Seattle, August 2011, he occasionally screened haiku from a recent Roadrunner [11.1]. A strikingly dense haiku by Cherie Hunter Day elicited a question from the audience, “What does it mean?” Cherie answered, “I don’t know, it came intuitively.” A definite group of like-minded poets nodded and smiled appreciatively, while a muffled groan rose from another segment of the audience!
When I abandoned poetry to begin psychology studies and forge a career, I found a way to keep alive my creative lyricism. I used the writing of cards to friends and family as a serious effort to pour out lyrical prayer for circumstances of suffering or to construct lyrical wishes for celebratory occasions. Those years of careful writing taught me that making an intention can start the simmering process, a simmering that can be on-going for hours until pen and paper must be sought. Sometimes a person’s affliction for which I intended to write was daunting, so taking time for the simmering, deliberately, was actually needed.
Almost always, welcomed revision would occur as I copied my writing into the card I had chosen. This revising was so inevitable that just re-typing something into a typewriter (later, PC) would accomplish improvement. This is still true, to such an extent that if I start with one brief phrase (for a one-liner) that attracts me [in other words, that begins the “simmering”], just typing it and seeing it on-screen may bring me nearly spontaneously to the rest of the one-liner. I might “hear” the completion, faster than I can type it. This is how the following pair occurred [both appeared in Don Wentworth’s “Wednesday Haiku” (#6 and #19), a feature in his multi-faceted blog, Issa’s Untidy Hut]:
this brimming reddened west your heart today
step back into the fragrance our histories mingling
My life has featured only sporadic periods of routine; thus, creativity—when I have desired productivity—can occupy center stage for a spell. I’ve had time to notice that certain circumstances are strong triggers for writing. Among the strongest triggers are emotionally charged events, but almost as compelling are very strongly registered perceptions—registers that may be emotional, visceral, visual, intellectual, or memories.
So for me, haiku is not the traditional “haiku moment” though some important haiku of mine have emerged from powerful moments. As Scott Metz recommends, why not bring all of who we are—now, in our various cultures and histories—into our haiku! A closing haiku from “Wednesday Haiku” (#37):
the sum of our visit the stars cluster
“ … to elevate my poetic aspirations”—these inspiring-muses [the poets who thrill me] can form a kind of gallery of supporters, exhorters, and models who I celebrate & by celebrating sometimes gain an approach into that air, that high, fine air, the quickening places that we are sharing, here at Melissa’s Red Dragonfly!
— Susan Diridoni, September 2011