Month: July 2012

(first date)

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first date—
he tells me there’s an app
for the moon

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bottle rockets 27

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I’m interested in people’s speculations about what, exactly, this moon app does. Someone asked me and I had to admit I had no idea. For one thing, I just made the whole thing up. (There was no first date either, sadly.) It just seemed to me that there’s an app for everything else, so there had to be one for the moon. Suggestions for a sequel welcome.

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icicle. new moon. cradle.

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icicle —
one clear word
out of all the murmuring

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new moon . . .
the map folded
with home at the center

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“icicle,” Modern Haiku 43.2; “new moon,” Frogpond 35.2

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Yes, well, as I was saying, I, along with all right-thinking people, spent last weekend in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, at the Cradle of American Haiku Festival, being entertained and delighted by my haiku compatriots. Or co-conspirators, or whatever they are. Among them Charles Trumbull and Francine Banwarth, who edit the two journals referenced above and were kind enough, in their most recent issues, to print these works of mine, which seem to have some bearing on our weekend activities. Clarity: I think we’re all seeking that, as we muddle around with this unwieldy language, trying out various combinations of words, trying to find those that will surprise and enlighten us. And home: when we’re not running away from it, we’re traveling towards it, and I think most of us who were in Mineral Point last weekend, even if we had left home to get there, felt that in another sense we had returned home. No one understands poets quite like other poets, and there’s nothing like being understood to make you feel at home.

Other reflections/observations/fond memories from this weekend:

  • Charlie Trumbull gave us a thought-provoking paper on black haiku poets, many of whom were influenced in their work by the rhythms of jazz and blues. Which made me think again that we need to spend more time thinking about the musicality of our work, or at least the lyricism. It’s easy to forget, I think, that words are units of sound as well as meaning.
  • It’s still amazing to think about how relatively young the English-language haiku movement is–our host for the weekend at Foundry Books, as always, was the inimitable Gayle Bull, whose late husband Jim, along with fellow professor Don Eulert, started the first English-language haiku journal, American Haiku, in 1963. That’s less than fifty years ago, for those who are counting. Don was at the conference this weekend too, visiting from California, where he uses haiku in his work training clinical psychologists. It helps teach them about objectivity, he says, which I found fascinating, since I’m crummy at being objective. Maybe I’m better at it than I used to be, though, I don’t know. I’m not objective enough to tell.
  • If I studied sumi-e for the next four hundred years or so I might have a hope of being able to wield an ink brush with a tenth the skill of Lidia Rozmus, who set us up with the beautiful traditional tools of the Japanese ink painter and attempted to show us how to use them. She makes it look so easy, and I think she was sadly baffled by my complete lack of ability to paint something that did not look like a blob of ink. But since she is one of the world’s kindest people, she didn’t say so, just took my hand and tried to make it do something intelligent. I think it may be a lost cause, though–I have yet to discover any evidence that my hands are actually linked to my brain.
  • Overheard at the wine bar where we were giving a reading on Saturday night, during a moment of almost complete silence when we were listening respectfully to the work of a fellow poet: “These haiku people are getting out of hand.”
  • We had a rowdy session on gendai haiku on Sunday morning. It’s always fun to get people riled up about poetry before lunch on a weekend. If anyone wants a copy of my handout from the session, shoot me an email (reddragonflyhaiku AT gmail DOT com). Rest assured, I didn’t write any of it, it’s all quotes from other people, plus a selection of Japanese and English poetry that may or may not be gendai depending on who’s reading it and whether they’re squinting that day. You can let me know what you think. Hecklers, as always, welcome.

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Summer Visitors

a junicho renku

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summer visitors
the children show off
marble-sized pumpkins

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careless laughter
filling blue watering cans

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at the Picasso exhibit
a shadow
crosses the wall

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in the lake shallows
someone has dropped eyeglasses

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the moonlight
wanes
on ranked hay bales

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a quick spinal adjustment
for the unfinished scarecrow

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the last chapter
I trace letters
on your back

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crumpling together
on a bed of fallen leaves

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not quite dawn
rushing the bin
to the curb

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clack! the llama’s teeth
meet in my migraine headache

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pasta al dente
golden courgette flowers
at dusk

ms

tiles swept clean
lean on the broom a moment

ac

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Ashley Capes (sabaki), Max Stites, Melissa Allen

A Hundred Gourds 1.3, June 2012

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By the time this renku appeared in print I’d almost forgotten about writing it. The process of composition was slightly dreamlike, taking place as it did in slow motion, across a span of nine months in 2010-2011, in a collaboration between three very busy people living on three different continents. (Ashley is Australian, Max a U.S. native who’s lived in the U.K. for many years.) Looking at it again brought back pleasant memories of all our discussions and revisions and of Ash’s expert guidance through the sometimes-exciting, sometimes-infuriating restrictions and stipulations of renku. (Ash also frequently guides the development of renku over at Issa’s Snail, in case you’re interested in seeing some of his other work.)

It’s interesting to me how renku, which started, really, as a party game, is more likely these days to resemble a leisurely pen-pal correspondence. When I have, so to speak, “played” renku as a party game — Live! In Person! One Night Only! — I’ve found that my interest in it rises dramatically. It’s not that I don’t at all enjoy the slower, more contemplative pace of long-distance renku composition, but to me, much of the point of renku linking is the real-time, in-person sparking between human minds and the way it both facilitates the creation of poetry and acts as a strikingly effective icebreaker to create a warm, relaxed group dynamic. (If you’re doing it right, that is. I’ve heard of people leading renku sessions in such a stern manner that they made participants burst into tears. That’s a sad story. Don’t do it that way.)

Writing renku long-distance can also, of course, be a highly enjoyable social experience–certainly composing this one was–but I think that for me it allows my perfectionist tendencies too much free rein for it to be entirely comfortable. When you’re composing more in real time, perfectionism is a luxury you can’t really allow yourself. The point is to have fun, not to come up with the most perfect link that could ever be conceived. Also, as far as I can tell, most of the time writing renku is about a thousand times more fun than reading it anyway; the elusive, subjective nature of renku linking, which makes it so much fun and gamelike to compose, also often makes it a challenge to enter into as a third-party reader. This means that the number of people who actually read even any published renku is likely to be vanishingly tiny–even tinier than the number who read haiku. So even more than with most forms of art, I think, the process really is more important than the product.

Your mileage may vary, of course. I guess all I’m trying to say is, if you’ve never joined a live renku party? Try to do that sometime. Also, Ash and Max? It was a pleasure getting to know you. If we’re ever all on the same continent, we’ll have to do this again.

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Please stay on the line…

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…your readership is very important to us.

Floating around out in the Interether right now are some interesting fruits of my labor from earlier this year. Since I’m not coming up with a whole lot of new material at the moment, think of this as hold music. Only, you know, better. I hope.

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  1. Issue 1.1 of Multiverses has been released! I picked out all the haibun, so I really like them all. Some other really talented people picked out the haiku, tanka, haiga, and features, so I like all those too. Seriously, it’s a great selection of poetry and I’m pretty sure I’d be impressed by it even if I weren’t on the editorial staff. Go take a look.
  2. Back in March Aubrie Cox featured on her blog Yay Words! the brilliant new subgenre of doodleku–she drew a doodle for every day and invited her readers to write haiku and tanka linking to it. Now she’s put together an awesome PDF called Things With Wings, containing the doodles and her favorites from among the daily submissions. I really enjoyed this collection because the ku cover a wide stylistic range and the link between doodle and poem is often subtle and thought-provoking. Also, the doodles? Adorable.
  3. Also back in March, I had the honor of judging the Robert Spiess Memorial Award Haiku Competition, which is sponsored by Modern Haiku.  I shared this task with Carlos Colon (a.k.a. Haiku Elvis), so I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that I had a blast. It’s a hard job reading hundreds of great haiku and choosing the best ones, but somebody had to do it. Also, it was kind of cool to be judging a contest honoring a fine editor who lived here in Madison, Wisconsin and published Modern Haiku here for 24 years.

Okay, I’m off to go for a walk and hopefully come up with some ideas for things to put on this blog that I worked on more recently than four months ago. Trust me, an operator will be with you shortly…

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The Cradle of American Haiku: Come see me…

…not to mention a lot of other people who are a lot more interesting than I am. I probably should have said something about the event described below quite a while ago–it’s happening in three weeks, which makes planning difficult for those of you who live at some distance from Mineral Point, Wisconsin. However, if you can make it, I cannot possibly recommend it highly enough.

The second event in this series was the first haiku conference I ever attended, two years ago when I was new to haiku and had even less idea than I do now what I was doing. I found myself surrounded by kind and talented and generous people, many of whom are now very close friends of mine and have supported me, challenged me, educated me, and generally made my life infinitely more wonderful. Most of them will be there again this time. I’d love to meet you too, if I haven’t already.

Important: If you’re interested in coming, please contact and register with Gayle Bull at the email address listed below. She is one of the world’s great hosts, but she’d like to have some idea of the number of people she’ll have to host.

And if you have any other questions about this event that aren’t answered below, feel free to ask me, I love to talk about it!

THE CRADLE OF AMERICAN HAIKU FESTIVAL 3

will be held in Mineral Point, WI, July 20-22. The Cradle Festivals celebrate the importance of the Midwest in the development of English-language haiku. The first Cradle Festival honored Raymond Roseliep of Dubuque, Iowa, one of the best of the early American Haiku poets; the second Cradle Festival honored Robert Spiess of Madison, Wisconsin, one of the best early poets and editors of English-language haiku journals. This Cradle Festival will honor the development of American Haiku magazine, the first magazine devoted exclusively to English-language haiku, started in Platteville, Wisconsin. Don Eulert, one of the founders of American Haiku, will be among the honored guests and presenters.

The three days will feature readings, presentations, food, and fun. Some of the presenters and panelists are Charles Trumbull, Jerome Cushman, Gayle Bull, Marjorie Buettner, Charlotte Digregorio, Francine Banwarth, Melissa Allen, Bill Pauly, Aubrie Cox, Mike Montreuil, and Lidia Rozmus. A complete schedule of events is below.

The fee for the three-day Festival is $45.00, which will include all the presentations, workshops, readings, and the Saturday night picnic. We encourage pre-registration to make it easier to determine the amount of food and the facilities needed.

Throughout the Festival, there will be coffee, tea, iced tea, water and assorted goodies on the front porch at Foundry Books for those who just want to sit, relax, talk and write.

We look forward to seeing you at the CRADLE OF AMERICAN HAIKU FESTIVAL 3. Check mineralpoint.com for accommodations.  If you have any questions, please contact Gayle Bull at info@foundrybooks.com.

SCHEDULE

Friday, July 20—
3:00 – 7:00  Registration (Foundry Books)
7:00 – 8:00 Opening Reception and Welcome (Foundry Books)
8:00 – ?  Open Reading (Foundry Books)
 
Saturday, July 21
8:00 – 9:00 Registration (Foundry Books)
8:00  Farmers Market at Water Tower Park (lots of good inspiration for Haiku came from this last summer)
9:00  Welcome (Opera House)
9:15 – 10:15 Charlie Trumbull — Black Haiku: The Uses of Haiku by African American Poets. From the earliest years that haiku has been written in the United States, African American poets have been among the foremost experimenters in the genre. The result has been, for the most part, a tradition of haiku writing that runs parallel to what we might call the haiku mainstream. This presentation will trace the history of “black haiku” in America, from the Harlem Renaissance movement of the 1920s and ’30s to the Black Arts movement of the 1960s and ‘70s to today¹s “blues haiku” of Sonia Sanchez and the jazz haiku of Kalamu ya Salaam and others. (Opera House)
10:30 – 11:45   AMERICAN HAIKU PANEL – Don Eulert, who with Jim Bull founded American Haiku magazine; Gayle Bull, Charlie Trumbull. Jerome Cushman will moderate the panel. (Opera House)
11:45 – 1:00 Lunch on your own
1:00 – 2:00  Marjorie Buettner –- There is a Season: A Memorial Reading, 2011 (first presented at HNA, Seattle, 2011). “Whatever circles comes from the center. We circle what we love.” Rumi. The memorial reading will have a combination of Powerpoint presentation, music, and a memorial flyer. It will be an hourlong presentation reviewing the lives and haiku of 22 haiku poets who have died in the past couple of years.

2:30 – 5:30 Breakout sessions
2:30 – 4:00 Charlotte Digregorio — “Polish Your Haiku for Publication.”  This workshop will include lecture, analysis of great haiku, and critique of participants’ work. Participants will receive training on the finer points of writing haiku to ensure that their submissions are first-rate. Handouts will include samples of haiku, along with an extensive bibliography and list of resource tools for haikuists to take their writing to publication level. Highly recommended for beginning and intermediate haikuists.  (Opera House)
2:30 – 4:00 Aubrie  Cox — “Why Did My Teachers Lie to Me?”: Teaching Haiku in and out of the Classroom. Teaching haiku can be both challenging and rewarding. We will discuss the fundamentals, benefits, and possibilities of teaching how to read and write contemporary English-Language haiku in classes, workshops, and on a one-on-one basis. (Pendarvis Education Center)
2:30 – 5:30  Lidia Rozmus — “One brush stroke.” Sumi-e and traditional haiga workshop by Lidia Rozmus. There will be 2 back-to-back sessions with each session lasting 1.5 hours.(Limit 10 per session.) (Foundry Books)
4:00 – 5:30  HAIKU WORKSHOP. Francine Banwarth, Bill Pauly, Charlie Trumbull, Jerome Cushman. This is a critique session.  Bring your haiku or just come and listen to some top poets and editors talk about haiku. (Pendarvis Education Center)
4:00 – 5:30 Mike Montreuil, Haibun Editor of One Hundred GourdsTELL ME A STORY: Writing Haibun. The first half of this 90-minute workshop will present two Japanese Masters of haibun: Basho, the originator of the form, and Issa. A small discussion on why haibun lost its appeal until its resurgence in the late 20th century will follow. We will also look at a longer haibun from Robert Spiess, who was one of the first writers of English North-American haibun. Next, modern and shorter haibun by Roberta Beary and Jeff Winke will be read. Finally very short haibun by Larry Kimmel will be presented. The last half of the workshop will focus on writing haibun. Attendees will be asked to either complete a haibun from a partially completed text that I will supply or write a haibun using their own ideas. I will ask those attending the workshop to rework them and then e-mail them to me, if they wish, so they may be considered for a future issue of A Hundred Gourds. (Foundry Books)
5:30 – 6:30  Free time
6:30 – 7:30 Midwest Picnic (Foundry Books)
7:30 – 8:30 Open Reading (Foundry Books)
9:00 – ? Public Reading at Wine Bar

Sunday, July 22
9:30 – 10:30 Ginko at Pendarvis
10:30 – 11:30  Melissa Allen — Become a Motorcycle: Understanding and Writing Gendai Haiku. In Japanese, “gendai” means “modern,” and when applied to haiku this word signifies that a poem has moved away from traditional haiku poetics, whether in subject matter, structure, or language use. Bring a gendai haiku you have written if you have one (please feel free to attend if you don’t, and even if you know little or nothing about gendai!). We will briefly discuss the nature of gendai and read some well-known examples (such as the “motorcycle” haiku by Kaneko Tohta quoted in the workshop’s title); then we will discuss our own haiku and in the process try to understand better what is meant by “gendai.” (Pendarvis Education Center)
12:00 – ?  Lunch, ginko readings and closing remarks (Gray Dog Deli)