1. How did you get started with haiku?
I came to haiku through studying formal poetry. I published a few lyrical verse poems, won a few awards and then fell in love with haiku around 2000. I said goodbye to my mentor of several years, and joined the World Haiku Club. This is where my confidence grew and my voice was honed. I eventually took on the position of one of their mentors in their first-class haiku workshop classes. I enjoyed modest success in the early days, partly, I believe, because of my knowledge of poetics and my appreciation for understatement, enough that I had a good body of work ready to publish in 2008 (my book, A Company of Crows, from Black Cat Press). I like to think of haiku in Aristotelian terms, which suggests the golden mean or golden middle way as being the desirable middle between two extremes; excess and deficiency. An excess of words, or too few, telling too much, showing too little. Similar to the white space we speak of in haiku, in sumi-e, in fact, all of the arts. I love a poem that leaves room for the reader to enter. This is my challenge and I bring to it all of the Japanese aesthetics I’ve come to love over the years. I’ve always felt a strong affinity to nature so these little poems attracted me right away. I believe in the power of these poems to connect our inner worlds to the natural world of which we are a part. Haiku bridges cultures, offers healing and connection to the environment and to the greater world in general. These are the things that keep me going. I am moved by universal experiences. I am an open book, and in fact, I am my haiku, and like haiku in general, in constant flux. Haiku is constantly evolving.
2. Tell us more about yourself.
I am a dual citizen living on the 49th parallel with my feet and my heart in both the United States and Canada. I am fortunate to live in a geographic anomaly, a blue hole which results in overall temperate weather. I am surrounded by delta land, rich in migrating birds and other creatures, along with berry farms. My peninsula, Point Roberts, Washington, is bordered by Canada to the north and surrounded by the ocean with its rich sea life on the other three sides. The coastal mountains overlook it all. A writer’s paradise. I also practice meditative photography that melds well with my poetic pursuits. It encourages awareness, offers insights, invites compassion, and keeps me in thrall to the miraculous that I discover so often. I like to see into the heart of things. These days I’m caught between two worlds, photography and poetry. I’ve presented slideshows at several haiku events and enjoy combining my images with haiku. Both of these pursuits are a vital part of my life. I’m working on a second book manuscript, albeit slowly, and am also drawn to considering a book that unites both of my interests. I’ve put years into participating and giving back to organization through board positions with the Tanka Society of America, the United Haiku and Tanka Society, and Haiku Canada, cohosting conferences, coediting books, coordinating contests, and judging many haiku and tanka contests throughout the years and this continues to today. I try to find time to volunteer when I can as I feel it’s important to give back to the communities that give us so much. With my remaining years, I am concentrating on building up a final body of work to leave my kids and plan on writing haiku and practicing meditative photography for as long as I can.
3. What does NaHaiWriMo mean to you?
Prompts can trigger memories and associations. It is a tool used by many writing groups and useful to haiku in the same way. It can spark a lazy muse. Ignite your emotions. NaHaiWriMo offers our poets (and me) the opportunity to exercise our minds on any given day of the month, to hone our craft, and most of all, to encourage the discipline of simply “showing up on the page.” Writing comes through practice and this forum offers the opportunity to take home a month’s worth of useful first drafts for honing later, or as we’ve seen, solid poems ready for publication.
4. What one piece of advice would you offer to those who are new to writing haiku
Impossible to pick just one piece of advice, because everything is so interconnected when it comes to the writing practice, but I would encourage the study of Japanese aesthetics as paying homage to the origins of the form. These aesthetics continue to direct my writing today: yugen, mono no aware, wabi, sabi, karumi . . . all contain the emotion, the lightness, the grace we feel in some of the best haiku and in fact, in some of the best poetry no matter the form. And to me, the most important lesson is to try and understand what draws you to certain haiku. An understanding of other’s work will do much to help you develop your own unique voice.
5. Please share three of your favourite or best haiku.
Here are three favorites I chose today. Tomorrow, it could be otherwise . . .
the horse blinks away
a gnat’s life
Haiku Friends Vol. 2, Masaharu Hirata, ed., Umeda Printing Factory, Osaka, Japan, 2007
dawn . . .
I watch the New Year
spill down the mountain
Snapshot Press Haiku Calendar, Snapshot Press, Ormskirk, United Kingdom, 2016
I offer myself
to the mosquito
Erotic Haiku: Of Skin on Skin, George Swede and Terry Ann Carter, eds.,
Black Moss Press, Windsor, Ontario, 2017