1. How did you get started with haiku?
During my self-publishing book journey, I stumbled upon a discovery platform for authors called iAuthor. On their Facebook page I found daily prompts for shorts stories and haiku. That was the first time I came into contact with haiku and it intrigued me. I started to join in and wrote both short stories and 5-7-5 haiku based on their prompts. That was in 2015. In 2017 I landed on NaHaiWriMo—by chance. Or was it fate? I even got to help with the proofreading for Jumble Box, the 2017 NaHaiWriMo anthology.
2. Tell us more about yourself.
I was born in Ethiopia to Dutch parents. We lived in several countries around the world and each one became a little part of me. This means that my roots have sprawled but are shallow. Nature was a constant. The natural world was and is a major love and inspiration for all the things I do. Perhaps that’s why haiku and I get along? We always had pets at home and I have even more now—including thirteen street dogs. Most of my education has been in English. After secondary school I studied business administration because I thought it would be useful, not because it was my heart’s desire. It’s difficult to choose your direction when you finish school. Thereafter, I started to follow my creative instincts and completed a diploma course in interior design. I was active in the design world until the economic crash, which hit where I live in Portugal in 2009. Not a great time to start building a house! In 2014 a road trip to Spain eventually led to my first storybook for children, which won a Mom’s Choice Award in 2018. What a journey that has been! An illustrated storybook or picture book must be one of the hardest books to produce well, especially when you jump into the deep end like I did. I read a quote somewhere that has stuck with me and it reads as follows: “A smart man learns from his mistakes but a truly wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” When I started writing my children’s story, some critics said it was “wordy.” So I began editing. I managed to cut around 600 words. Now that I am writing haiku regularly it helps me say more with fewer words. It’s been an interesting and mind-expanding journey so far. Addictive too!
3. What does NaHaiWriMo mean to you?
NaHaiWriMo is a friendly and tolerant place for newcomers. Its moderator, Michael Dylan Welch, is a talented poet, a skilled and patient mentor, and his Graceguts.com website is a treasure trove for those who want to learn more. I feel like I landed in the right place. This may sound cheesy but NaHaiWriMo catapulted me to new creative heights. If I remember correctly, I jumped straight into the NaHaiWriMo challenge and wrote a poem daily in February 2017 and afterwards, until the end of the NaHaiWriMo challenge in 2018. After that, I started to branch out and explore other haiku paths. I don’t write haiku daily anymore but often. Photo haiku is one of the areas I enjoy the most, as I am a visual thinker. Having said that, I think photos can take away from the haiku, because without them, each of us may form a unique picture in our minds based on the words alone. It’s a skill to add to a haiku with a photo.
4. What one piece of advice would you offer to those who are new to writing haiku?
First and foremost haiku is about opening your senses. Adults often lose (or hide) their sense of wonder. My advice is to tap into your inner child and channel that energy into creative endeavors, such as writing. Second, it’s helpful to discover and accept that life is full of contrasts. There can’t be a mountain peak without a valley. Those contrasts are often celebrated through haiku. Third, reading haiku by others (apart from being a pleasurable pastime) will open your eyes to the possibilities within the craft. It takes time and practice to find and express your unique voice. That was more advice than you asked for.
5. Please share three of your favorite or best haiku.
walking the dogs
where they want to go
Honourable Mention, Haiku Society of America Harold G. Henderson Haiku Contest, 2017
Frogpond 40.3, Autumn 2017
the cat sharpens her nails
FemkuMag #3, August 2018
between the reeds
a little girl again
tussen het riet
weer even dat kleine meisje
Blithe Spirit, Volume 27, Number 4, November 2017 (Dutch translation by the author)