1. How did you get started with haiku?
As a little girl, my mom would have us write haiku during rainy-day boredom. I felt a little dismissively about it until attending a college lecture at Saint Mary’s of California given by Robert Hass. He was working on Issa translations for his upcoming book, and we debated 5-7-5 in translations. That dialog led me to my fascination with structured forms of writing. During that same time, I was taking every class I possibly could from Brenda Hillman. It was with her encouragement that I knocked all of my eye-rolling about poetry out of my twenty year old head. She taught me to craft my voice through words, but I still had not begun writing haiku. After a breakup, I started diving into Zen Buddhism to get my head back on straight. I decided I needed a “practice.” I found it through reading and writing haiku. In 1999, I entered my very haiku in a contest called “Life in Alameda” and it won first place. On the third date with a new fellow, he gave me a book of haiku by Chiyo-ni. Needless to say, I was won over and we’ve been together fifteen years. In fact, I let him choose two of the favorite poems below. I write a 5-7-5 haiku every day. While I am not a proponent of 5-7-5 overall, I enjoy it for discipline and focus. It’s a photograph in words, it fits in its little box, then I set it free. If I am particularly happy with a haiku, I will edit it away from the counts so it flows more naturally. Most days, they are set free “as is.” I like playing around with structured writing forms, and I would love to write a proper Shakespearean sonnet one day.
2. Tell us more about yourself.
I live just blocks from the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco with my guy, our pug, and a twenty-five-year-old box turtle. The fog and sea are endless inspiration. I manage a café by day and consider myself a certified coffee and tea nerd. I keep a garden under foggy skies (if haiku is my meditation, gardening is my yoga). I graduated from Saint Mary’s College of California in 1990 with a degree in literature. In the cyber world, I can be found at haikuclouds@twitter. That is where my daily haiku flutter off from. As far as paper publications . . . I have been known to sell my haiku in jam jars at garage sales.
3. What does NaHaiWriMo mean to you?
I discovered NaHaiWriMo when I noticed that most of my favorite haiku writers on Twitter were hash-tagging it. I quickly found a community that was like-minded in keeping this art thriving, as well being amazingly diverse. I love that there is a workshop feeling at times, and then a casual playfulness at other times. I’ve loved watching the list of participants grow over the last year. It’s a community where you don’t have to feel brave when posting because you are with a group of people who are just happy that you are writing.
4. What one piece of advice would you offer to those who are new to writing haiku?
Know why you are writing haiku! Are you trying to become published? Are you writing to ground yourself? Is your intention to keep a very old art form alive? All of these reasons are legitimate, but knowing why you are writing will help you set your course. Then just write and write and write. Follow all of the rules, break all of the rules, or make up new ones. Never worry or over-think if it is good enough. You will know when you have that gem.
5. Please share three of your favourite or best haiku.
Fire escape Sunday
butterflies and autumn leaves
hover . . . never land
of the old potting bench
sleeps the neighbor’s grey cat
I should mind
but I let the striped moth
flutter through the room