Jessica Malone Latham

NaHaiWriMo daily writing prompter for September 2018

1. How did you get started with haiku?

I was first introduced to haiku by my dear brother, someone who has read more books on every subject than anyone I know. He directed me to begin with the greats: Buson, Bashō, Issa. He patiently and politely steered me away from the beginner’s 5-7-5 mindset. This was around 2010 while I was also completing my Spanish master’s degree—I spent hours immersing myself in Spanish, English, and Japanese poetry. I joined the Willow Glen Poetry group, and there I heard a member of Yuki Teikei Haiku Society, Judith Schallberger, read several of her haiku. Among other styles of poetry, I began to dabble with haiku, and she kindly read some of my first attempts. I would sit for hours witnessing the present and trying to capture magical moments with my words. As time progressed, I yearned to publish a poem or two but that wouldn’t happen until several years later. In the meantime, I graduated, traveled, began a family, and then decided to follow that dream to publish haiku. My first poem ever published was in The Heron’s Nest after I’d convinced my husband to follow my wild heart and quit his job to travel several parts of the world with me.

changing seasons—

from donating to Goodwill

to shopping there

2. Tell us more about yourself.

As a San Diego, California girl with a “bubbly” voice, I often surprise people with my ability to write poetry and speak Spanish—I guess what I mean to say is, there’s more to me than meets the eye. I wanted to be a writer as a young girl, winning library story contests and high school mystery writing contests. Instead of following my heart after high school, I listened to others telling me to pursue a degree in business, but knew I needed more, so I also completed a degree in communications and Spanish from the University of Arizona. I used my ability to tell stories as a wine educator for a family-owned winery, E. & J. Gallo Winery, sharing stories along the Russian River in gorgeous Sonoma County land on Fred MacMurray’s old property turned Gallo vineyards. It was there I met my husband. We completed our master’s degrees from Sonoma State University while working and tutoring. Then we traveled, and then settled back to Sonoma County.

After my first son was born, I did not go back to work, but I wrote constantly. Poems seemed to flow out of me. I wrote longer poems and stories, but as he got older, and time wouldn’t permit me to write longer pieces, I continued with haiku, tanka, and some occasional haibun and cherita. The birth of my two sons brought me to publish Cricket Song: Haiku and Short Poems from a Mother’s Heart (Red Moon Press, shortlisted for 2017 Touchstone Distinguished Book Awards) and the chapbook Clouds of Light (Wooden Nickel Press). I have another chapbook, All this Bowing(Buddha Baby Press), about humbly finding our way through the world.

My Japanese poetry has appeared in dozens of journals and anthologies, I have been featured in the “Seasons of Haiku” path at Holden Arboretum in Ohio, and on Mann Library’s Daily Haiku. I am honored to have judged the 2018 Tanka Society of America’s Sanford Goldstein International Tanka Contest with Neal Whitman.

It seems that I cannot live without writing. Several of my prose pieces have been featured on NPR local radio, and in several books and anthologies. I have written commercials, I write weekly haiku for Osmosis Day Spa, and have commissioned projects that bring me such joy. I began a project called “Poem for Your Pocket,” where I write personal haiku for people in need of inspiration (see a few examples). I have also led online courses, “Presence is the Present: Haiku Your Way through the Holidays” and “28 Days of Love and Haiku,” as a way to encourage everyone to see that each day brings opportunities to write. I hope to create more courses in the future to help others tap into their creativity.

I also hope to revive my blog, “Rowdy Prisoners,” something I have not made time for, as two young boys take most of my energy. That blog is filled with poems, interviews, and prose about daring to live a life of passion, authenticity, and love.

Along with spending time with my husband and two young boys, I love constantly learning and bettering myself. I enjoy a simple life along the Northern California coast where, when not writing, I enjoy practicing daily yoga, meditation, and shamanism. I value time in nature and have learned how to honor my sensitive spirit. To see more of my work, please visit my website.

3. What does NaHaiWriMo mean to you?

NaHaiWriMo means more than simply responding to a prompt. I believe it is a way of connecting consciousness with creativity. When a prompt is provided, we are invited to tap into memories we have experienced from being in the present moment. Each day, we are filled with the opportunity to create, and NaHaiWriMo is a fun and inviting way for writers of all levels to create a poem, an experience, a story.

4. What one piece of advice would you offer to those who are new to writing haiku?

I believe the best poems come from inspiration or the heart, rather than form or structure. Instead of over-analyzing or using your head, try connecting with your senses. What are you smelling, seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting? By truly living in the moment, you are living the poem. From there, you can write.

I know I’m only asked for one piece of advice, but I think it’s important to note one more thing. I suggest writing and reading as much as you can. With as much reading and writing as you can manage, you can start to immerse your mind and heart with language that will help guide you. Use poems from others as your teachers, your helpers, enabling you to find your voice and your own way of expressing the world.

5. Please share three of your favourite or best haiku.

body scan

how many butterflies

have lived inside me

I tell my son

it’s ok to be fragile . . .

basil blossoms


the many kinds of woman

in me