Karla Decker

NaHaiWriMo daily writing prompter for September 2014, April 2017, and August 2018

Karla’s friend, Marilyn Dorf, reads Karla's work in the 2017 NaHaiWriMo anthology, Jumble Box.

1. How did you get started with haiku?

I don’t really remember how I started writing haiku. I suspect it was in the 80s. My life was very busy during that time and it seemed a good fit with my lifelong interest in writing and all things Eastern. I have a copy of The Haiku Handbook by William J. Higginson and Penny Harter that I bought new. The date inside says 1985. Some years later I found Jane Reichhold’s book, Writing and Enjoying Haiku: A Hands-on Guide. There was no turning back.

2. Tell us more about yourself.

I was born in Greeley, Colorado, grew up in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, and after college moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota—then the frigid weather chased me out and I moved to Nebraska.         Life was good when I was five. I’d spend my days drawing pictures on the insides of envelopes, on the backs of old calendars, or on any blank paper I could find. Life got much more complicated after I started school and learned you could turn certain squiggles into letters and into words, and you could arrange them on paper to express ideas I could only express previously in drawings. I enrolled in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as an art major but I soon found more friends I could talk with in the English department and began taking those classes, too. After five years, including summer schools, the University said, “Hey, look! You have enough credits for a degree, if you will simply take this four-credit laboratory science class, we can give you a degree and call it good.” I moved to Minneapolis instead.

I got married. After two years in the frozen north, we moved to Omaha, Nebraska, intending to stay for a year. This was in 1963. I’m still here. Three beautiful daughters, one certificate of divorce, and one aborted move to New Mexico, and I think I’m entrenched.

Someone once referred to my work experiences as “odd jobs.” I didn’t find them odd at all, though I did move around a bit as new opportunities arose. In college, I worked at the Unicorn Coffee House, the first one on the scene in the 50s. I became known as the coffeehouse queen of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In Nebraska, I ran an art gallery, worked in an animation studio, ran a shopping center based on a country theme, worked for two years at a prairie pioneer museum, and then finished my working life running a recreation center in inner-city Lincoln, Nebraska. The center catered to a low-income, low-aspiration population. I scheduled workshops on subjects I was interested in: writing, art, t’ai chi, yoga, and so on. It worked out well for the neighborhood. They discovered creative outlets they might never have experienced on their own. Other centers in town focused mostly on sports. We ended up drawing participants from all over the city.

3. What does NaHaiWriMo mean to you?

After many years of following my haiku interest in isolation, I finally found the NaHaiWriMo page on Facebook where I could pursue my interest with other folks all over the world. For a number of years I belonged to the Haiku Society of America, which helped relieve the isolation I felt. There was on occasion another member from Nebraska but mostly it was just me. I did attend a workshop/retreat in the summer of 1999 in Wilder Forest near Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota, called the Midwest Haiku Writer’s Retreat. It was a wonderful three days but then it was back to isolation. NaHaiWriMo gives participants community, a feeling of being a part of something, and Graceguts is a terrific resource to discover and explore the many aspects of writing good haiku.

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

Join NaHaiWriMo, participate in the daily postings, read what other people post, and devour the essays on the Graceguts site.

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

feral cat

in the circle of her tail

snow falls faster

two geese

swim across the pond

braided wake

milkweed seed

floats across the field

slow wind