Tag: haiku

five books

I’ve always acquired books at an alarming rate, but in the past I also read books at an alarming rate, so my life was kept in a pleasing state of equilibrium. Now that the internets have turned me into a distracted, flighty creature with the attention span of a dragonfly, books pile up in untidy drifts around my house, often unread or even unopened, no matter how eager I was to read them when I acquired them. 

When I do manage to finish reading a book, it’s usually because it was so good I couldn’t help myself, and then, perversely, instead of moving efficiently along and reading some new book, I go back and read it again. I’m a voracious re-reader. I probably spend at least half of my reading time re-reading things, through most of the process asking myself in alternate anguish and admiration, “How did they do it?” Usually I don’t figure it out but it’s worth it, to be so amazed and delighted so much of the time.

In case some of you could use some amazement and delight, here’s a rundown of what I’ve been re-reading lately.

Welcome to the Joy Ride: Haibun, by Peter Newton

This book contains many wonderful things, among them my new favorite sentence: “A fine mist wets the garden and by garden I mean produce section.” This is the first sentence in the haibun “Daydreaming at Night,” which you have to read. (I keep wondering whether Peter had one of my favorite non-haiku poems, Allen Ginsberg’s “A Supermarket in California,” in mind when he wrote it — what peaches and what penumbras!) You also have to read the haibun “Welcome to the Joy Ride,” “Prayer for a Stranger,” “The Deli Clerk,” “Home Remedy,” “Unspeakable,” “Pinwheels,” “The SX-70,” “Borderline, “My America,” and okay fine, you have to read the whole thing. Peter’s style is light and deft and funny, insightful and enlightening without being heavy-handed — basically perfect for haibun, which should take itself neither too seriously nor too flippantly. Just read it, ok? and tell me if you figure out how he did it. 

Haiku 2015, ed. Lee Gurga and Scott Metz

This series is only two books old but it’s already established itself as the best way to save time if you’d like to quickly find fifty or sixty or a hundred new haiku that you really, really love. Like these:

the beach road the beach house the beach painting the rain

–Adan Breare

one dark bird in snow rummaging the invisible

–Susan Diridoni

snow through        teeth in
…….the window        a glass

–Eve Luckring

cosmos as cranium as cavern as temple as map as board game

–Michael Nickels-Wisdom

the pill I’m told to swallow
has a name
like a remote moon

–Chad Lee Robinson

This edition honors the late Martin Lucas and the principles in his classic essay “Haiku as Poetic Spell,” something else you should just go read immediately if you’ve somehow managed to miss it.

see haiku here, by Kuniharu Shimizu

When this book arrived at my house all the way from Japan, there was much rejoicing. For years I’ve been in awe of Kuni-san and his spare, beautifully designed haiga, and I got, um, slightly excited when he illustrated some of my haiku a few years ago. There are actually two volumes in this series; one contains haiga with haiku by Basho and the other are Kuni-san’s own haiku, which quite frankly stand up very well against Basho. Sometimes when I look through this book I think we probably should just hire Kuni-san full-time to illustrate All the Haiku because, you know, they look better that way. Also, they kind of force you to spend the proper amount of time that should be spent reading haiku, instead of whipping through them like a maniac the way I sometimes have a sad tendency to do. Here’s one of my favorites of Kuni-san’s own:

IMG_6781

Out of Translation, by Aubrie Cox

It’s true that I have a personal attachment to this chapbook because Aubrie selected and sequenced the haiku in it by lining up little slips of paper on my living room floor one day last winter. (This is the kind of thing that happens to you when half your friends are haiku poets.) However, the rest of my attachment comes from my amazement at how effectively Aubrie’s haiku transport me to and through the childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood of a girl in the countryside of central Illinois, where I have never been and, if I am being perfectly honest, never have any desire to go, except sometimes when I’m reading Aubrie’s poetry. She writes with utter simplicity and clarity and the kind of emotional honesty that can be a little heartbreaking sometimes.

rainy Monday
another crumpled
paper crane

country church
forget-me-nots
between the floorboards

spring rain
a joker taped
to the spokes

toys
my father couldn’t fix…
spring rain

opening the shed–
cigarette smoke
from last fall

Into the Light, by Harriot West

I wrote a review of this book of haibun and it appeared in Frogpond 38.2so reading that is probably the best way to find out what I think about the book (spoiler alert: I like it a lot). I think I read Into the Light at least three times before I wrote the review and I’ve probably read it another three times since, so that’s like six times in less than a year which, you do the math. I need Harriot to write some more haibun so I have something else to re-read.

 

(he himself)

sea bottom

 

sea bottom
he himself
the monster

Haigaonline 16.1


The current issue of Haigaonline has a theme of found haiku and contains all sorts of interesting and innovative work. I’m a featured artist, with a series drawn from Orwell’s 1984 (there are four pieces besides the one above). This was one of the more interesting projects I worked on at the end of last year. Must remember to do more haiga. Sigh. So much poetry to write, so little time.

 

 

 

 

time to submit

I can’t remember whether I mentioned that I am now, along with Johannes S.H. Bjerg and Aditya Bahl, one of the co-editors of Bones, which is one of the most exciting, innovative haiku journals around. I’m thrilled to have this chance to work with Johannes and Aditya, two of my favorite poets, and to read so much great poetry.

Our submission period for the next issue starts tomorrow (May 15) and goes through June 15, so please do take a look at some of the previous issues if you haven’t already, check out the submission guidelines, and send us some poetry if what you see looks congenial to you.

 

poetic service announcement

For the information of anyone within shouting distance of Madison, WI this weekend, check out the announcement below the line. Tl;dr: On Sunday afternoon (5/17), I, and several other excellent haiku poets, and a whole bunch of other poet-type people will be reading our work at one of my favorite places in Madison: Olbrich Botanical Gardens. The haiku will be going on from 2:15 to 2:45.

I’ll also be reading (very) briefly at some point between 12:30 and 1 because, and I cannot emphasize this enough, being shallow and easily thrilled, they are going to put one of my poems on a city bus, and all of us bus poets are going to peddle our wares together. Don’t worry, if I ever actually see the bus in question I’ll take a picture so you can all share the thrill. 

I’d love to see some of you there, but I realize the vast majority of you will probably be busy being in other states and on other continents and stuff. Enjoy whatever you’re doing!


The 23rd Madison Poetry Annual at Olbrich Gardens Poetry Reading will take place Sunday, May 17th, Noon-4 p.m. Organized by Madison poets laureate Sarah Busse and Wendy Vardaman, the gathering features winners ages 7 – adult of the Metro Bus Lines 2015 contest, as well as spoken word, haiku, and poetry arranged by this year’s guest curators. Breaks between sets to socialize & trade books. Bring your chaps, full-length collections, broadsides, journals and other ephemera! Readers include Melissa Allen, Gayle Bull, David Mckee, Aubrie Cox, and Brent Goodman (haiku); Anna Vitale, Megan Milks, and Oliver Bendorf performing embodied experiments in queer-ish writing across multiple genres; Wisconsin Poet Laureate Kimberly Blaeser reading with Toby Wray and Soham Patel; and Dasha Kelly with Wisconsin winners of the Brave New Voices contest. Free Admission. For more info, contact wendyvardaman@gmail.com.

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

ma

careless laughter
filling blue watering cans

ms

at the Picasso exhibit
a shadow
crosses the wall

ac

in the lake shallows
someone has dropped eyeglasses

ma

the moonlight
wanes
on ranked hay bales

ms

a quick spinal adjustment
for the unfinished scarecrow

ac

the last chapter
I trace letters
on your back

ma

crumpling together
on a bed of fallen leaves

ms

not quite dawn
rushing the bin
to the curb

ac

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

ma

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)

Things

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swallows swooping…
a dent in my memory
that wasn’t there yesterday

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That’s a new genre up there. The YouTube video haibun. The Youbun?

Also…I know. I know. It’s been…forever. I’m sorry I didn’t warn you about the little blog vacation I was going to take. That’s because I didn’t know I was going to take it. But I started a new job and my brain went, whoa. One thing at a time, buster. Whole new lifestyle. Crazy amounts of stuff to learn. Too little sleep. No blogging for you!

There’s still, you know. The newness. And things to learn. So many…things. And sleep, I must figure out what to do about that. But I missed you all. Don’t let me go that long without saying hi again.

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Instamatic

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It was just too damn easy to take pictures then and too damn hard to throw them out. All those packets from the drugstore, full of awkward poses, distorted colors, guillotined heads, red eyes, blurry faces, dim lighting. You looked at them only once—in the car on the way home from picking them up—and winced, all the joy suddenly drained from whatever occasion they had failed to adequately commemorate. But what can you do, it’s family. They’ll be in that box in the basement until you die.

my reflection
in stagnant water
…snow arriving

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last words: four myths

1.

Contrary to rumor, there are many boxes that I haven’t opened. It’s no harder for me to resist temptation than for anyone else. And honestly, I’m still not sure I’m sorry.

leaf skeleton key to an unlocked door

2.

I never expected to look back until I did. My fingers fumbled on the strings; I was suddenly afraid that she had fumbled too. Those last few sour notes still ring in my ears.

long winter evening a song in every shattering

3.

Yesterday we flew pretty close to the sun, but today we’ll fly even closer. The wax is hardening in the molds. We pace restlessly, raising and lowering our arms like fledglings who know they have wings for a reason.

in a sky full of clouds only one cloud white enough

4.

He measures out six seeds for me, six small poison pills, six ways to forget my life, six small deaths for me to die.

…and the last hum of the cicada the same as the first

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Random…

…places where you can find stuff by and about me, lately.

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“Editing Haibun and Tanka Prose: A Haibun Today Colloquium”

18 editors of haibun, including me, share their thoughts on editing haibun in the most recent issue of Haibun Today.

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THF Haiku App

There’s an app for me now. Well, okay, for me and a whole bunch of other poets. A couple of months ago The Haiku Foundation released an updated version of THF Haiku at the App Store. (I reviewed the first version a while back.) There’s a whole new selection of several hundred haiku and one of them is mine. No, I’m not going to tell you which one. You’ll have to go get the app to find out. (It’s free.) Because I’m diabolical like that.

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Sari Grandstaff’s Haiku Library (on Pinterest)

As some of you may know, I am attending library school and some day I even plan to finish. Three of my classmates there started an amazing project last year called the “Library as Incubator Project,” which aims to document and encourage artists who use libraries to inspire and assist them in their work. (That’s my summary of what they do. I hope they’d agree with me.)

Anyway, back in April, which was National Poetry Month, they asked Sari Grandstaff, who is a haiku poet and school librarian, to put together a Pinterest board about haiku. And she did. There’s a link to this blog on it, for which I feel very honored and slightly freaked out. My worlds collide.

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“A meditation on namelessness” and “summer vacation”

On his blog “haiku and commentary and tales,” Jim “Sully” Sullivan writes commentary about various haiku that interest him. More of us should probably do this. A while back (I’m slow, people) Sully wrote about a one-line haiku that I posted on Monostich. Then more recently he wrote about a haiku I published in Kokako and also posted here. He is way more philosophical than me but almost everyone is. I enjoyed reading his commentary.

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When I Dreamed This

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In the first dream I remember — and unlike many of my stories, this one is true — Dracula chained me in my attic. I was five when I dreamed this. Our attic was a large unfinished space that ran the length of the second floor of our house, behind the real rooms where we lived our daily lives. The attic was a shadow house, full of castoff furniture and household belongings. My younger sister and I played there all the time: Hide-and-seek, House, Scare-your-sister. It was dimly lit, and not climate-controlled: in the summer you could hardly breathe there for the heat. It didn’t scare me to be there but I had a proper respect for the place, I took it seriously. I had an unarticulated feeling that things could happen there that couldn’t happen in our house proper, that it was an alternate world full of alternate possibilities.

speeding neutrinos
somebody counts
to ninety-eleven

The details of the dream are fuzzy now but I can remember being wrapped in chains in a back corner of the attic, watching helplessly as Dracula flew in through one of the tiny windows in the form of a bat, then changed into Dracula and taunted me for my helplessness. Was Frankenstein there too? I seem to remember Frankenstein. I begged them to let me go but they wouldn’t. They wanted me to stay in that attic. I wanted to go. We didn’t come to any form of agreement before the dream ended.

rainy day
the storybook’s pages
bleeding

It was a nightmare, of course — I was terrified while it was going on, and shaky when I woke. But though I was so young I took it pragmatically. I knew there was no Dracula and no Frankenstein. I knew no one would chain me in my attic. I didn’t acquire any fear of the place. In fact, I may have spent more time there than ever, now that I could see what it was really good for: It was a breeding ground for stories. Some about things that could never happen, and some about things that almost certainly did.

mousehole
a line of ants
walks out of it

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Where I See Myself (Or, The Current Political Situation)

He stopped in my office one afternoon and began asking the kinds of questions I had always hated. Where do you see yourself in ten years? Where would you go if money were no object? What are your three favorite books, your five favorite songs, your ten best memories? What do you think of the current political situation? Why do you write poetry?

moonlight my reasons unreasonable

I told him I had a lot of work to do and couldn’t talk right now. A little while later I made a trip to the vending machine to get a Snickers bar. He was standing in front of it, trying to decide between Pop-Tarts and Hostess Cupcakes. I made a face. He shrugged. “They’re both terrible, of course. But if you were starving, which one would you choose?”

“I would choose Snickers,” I told him, and retrieved my change from the little hole at the bottom of the machine. I had to ask him to move in order to retrieve my Snickers. Somehow I got my hand stuck in the flap when I was pulling it out, sort of like those monkeys who get their hands caught in jars because they refuse to let go of the banana. I refused to let go of the Snickers. But I finally got my hand out anyway.

He didn’t say a thing.

what’s in between the root and the flower downpour

Back in the office, I opened up Word and started a new document. My Favorite Books. I couldn’t narrow it down to fewer than eighty. Another one. My Favorite Songs. Oh, please. Forget it. Now that we all have iPods we all have five hundred favorite songs. Another one. My Best Memories. I could only think of four. Memories are overrated.

the way birds start singing when you aren’t even thinking about them

I gave up on the lists and worked for a while on a spreadsheet that someone else wanted me to work on. It contained no useful information, but it looked really great. Then I made some phone calls and asked some questions with easy answers. No one appreciates difficult questions, people.

Why do I write poetry anyway?

tennis the ball never occupying exactly the right space

As I left the building he was standing by the entrance with an umbrella, which I never think of bringing. It wasn’t raining, but he held it over my head anyway. “How do you define poetry?” I asked him.

“I’ve given a lot of thought to that,” he told me. “Is this your bus?”

“I’ll just take the next one,” I said. “If money were no object, I would go on a tour of all the major mountain ranges of the world.”

“That doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “I think you write poetry as a substitute for mountains.”

ten times ten is always one hundred secrets you never meant to keep

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