Peggy Hale Bilbro

NaHaiWriMo daily writing prompter for January 2016

1. How did you get started with haiku?
As most everyone, I was first introduced to haiku in school with very strict rules about the number of lines and syllables, and subject matter—not fun! Fast forward to my years of teaching Spanish and I discovered that my own students felt more comfortable writing in a very short format, but with more flexibility as to how they applied the possible format. I always wrote what I assigned, so I got a bit of experience writing in a variety of short poetic forms. However, it was not until my friend and haiku guru, Terri Hale French, reintroduced me to modern English haiku in 2011 that I really began to explore the genre. I joined the local haiku group, now known as Mimosa, of the Southeast region of the Haiku Society of America. I have discovered that I enjoy the challenge to express large ideas in few words, but still have the freedom to explore the format. Haiku forces me to focus on the small miracles that lead the eye and the heart to the infinite. It is a bit like adjusting a yoga pose slightly to get that extra stretch towards the sky.

2. Tell us more about yourself.
Questions about where I am from always leave me in a metaphysical quandary. My roots are West Texas, hardscrabble cotton farm family, and I still call that where I am “from.” However, I grew up in northern Colorado in an area so achingly beautiful that I still miss it so many years later. After school and marriage, I moved to north Alabama, where we raised our family and followed our careers and now live out our second lives. This is lovely, soft green country but I still sometimes wonder how it is that we are still here. Since retiring from teaching Spanish, I have begun to follow my long-time desire to create through art and photography. Some of my photographs are at PMBilbro ArtPhotography. I’ve written longer poetry in English and Spanish for many years, and still do so, along with my haiku. I live with my husband and my few remaining houseplants—my green babies—since my human children are grown and scattered and we travel too much to have pets. Three of my four adored grandchildren live in Tennessee just a couple of hours up the road. Our passions now are travel and family. My literary studies are founded in Spanish so my favorite poets include Pablo Neruda, Jorge Luis Borges, Federico García Lorca, and Miguel de Unamuno. I am still a neophyte in traditional haiku, but consider Bashō to be the wellspring. Among writers I see often online, I admire tremendously the poems of Caroline Skane, Sandi Pray, and Alan Summers. There are many others, but those always seem to have a special pop to their haiku.

3. What does NaHaiWriMo mean to you?
NaHaiWriMo is a wonderfully supportive community that encourages and supports haiku writers in a nonjudgmental way. When I am feeling particularly uninspired, I can always find in NaHaiWriMo examples of stunningly beautiful and profound jewels of poetry to inspire me. Most of all, NaHaiWriMo urges me to practice, even when I don’t feel particularly creative.

4. What one piece of advice would you offer to those who are new to haiku writing?
How about several pieces of advice? Be humble. Look for the haiku moment. Cherish the tradition but be adventuresome. Practice. Be willing to write a lot of bad poetry to finally get that one perfect piece (a lesson learned from my photography). Don’t be dismayed by the dry spells. Sometimes we need to let the dough rest to give the yeast time to work its magic.

5. Please share three of your favourite or best haiku.
This is hard, but here are a few (more than three) picked at random—neither my best nor necessarily my favorites, just some that I like at the moment.

popping
like soap-pipe bubbles
suddenly forsythia

leaning
into the desert sunset
over the cliff edge
my shadow

millones de soles
en un cielo luciente
a buscar la Estrella Polar


millions of suns
in a shining sky
search for the North Star

grasshoppers
across the overgrown field
karate practice