Kathabela Wilson

NaHaiWriMo daily writing prompter for July 2012, June 2013, and January 2020

1. How did you get started with haiku?

My father was a poet and read me poetry before I could read. Great Poetry of the English Language was my bedtime story book. This included short poems I noticed and lines he underlined especially. These sang in my mind. I was fortunate to be a born poet and I wrote my first memorable poem, three lines, and variations of the order three times. It was an expression of wonder: “oh the moon / oh the stars / oh the sun.” I continued to write and learn poetry since then without any interruptions! And studying Asian poetry began early. I felt it like breathing—often not calling the forms by name, until later and saying oh, that was haiku! Since then haiku and other short forms have been key elements in my experience, capturing wonder, curiosity and details of life in language. I was given Blyth’s set of haiku books as a gift in my teens and they were my treasures. I gave them up painfully to a library for library fines my boyfriend incurred, and am now intent on replacing. I bought one at the Wild Graces haiku gathering gratefully from Stan Forester just a couple years ago! Attending Haiku North America conferences, our own Southern California Haiku Study Group, and the encouragement of Deborah P Kolodji have all been big factors in my refinement. My taste has deepened and haiku is essential to my life.

2. Tell us more about yourself.

I grew up in New York and after taking ten years to get my BA in literature and philosophy, I left the east coast with my two children when they were just five and six, looking for a better home. We reached the other side of the continent, and there was a sign that said “Zoo, Next Left.” We are ready for this, I thought. This was in Santa Barbara, California. We settled there for thirty years and I supported my husband and two children by making and selling my handmade jewelry. I called that “Poetic and Musical Designs” and later “Little People and their World.” I still wrote serious poetry constantly all those years, but was too full of responsibility to even think of publishing. I am trying to catch up. My life changed when my husband died in 2000 and I married my dear friend Rick Wilson, mathematician and flute collector and player. We began a new life of world travel, and he shared my passions. We founded Poets on Site and perform together worldwide. We host three meetings a week in our home and local gardens. International poets visit, give presentations and participate in our events. Tanka poet Mariko Kitakubo has frequently visited “planting tanka seeds” in our groups (I’m also secretary of the Tanka Society of America). I also sing, dance, and play percussion and tamboura. Glass Lyre Press published my first book, Figures of Humor and Strange Beauty, in 2019. Moria Press, Locofo Chaps, published my two chapbooks Driftwood Monster (haiku) and The Owl Still Asking (tanka), in 2017.

3. What does NaHaiWriMo mean to you?

NaHaiWriMo has been a constant comfort and stimulus to me since I discovered it ten years ago. Especially during difficult times it has emerged as a lifeline of creativity and community. I wake in the night and find the stream flowing . . . a dependable underground spring. I sip and then drink deeply often. I find it brings out memories and new ideas I might never have encountered otherwise.

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

Read and write constantly as much as possible. Keep an beginner’s mind open to the world around you. Be confident that diligent work is a treasure. Keep what you write—and edit later. The initial detail that stimulates your response will be unforgettable and precious. You may later realize a better way to capture it. But keep that moment intact as a constant beginning.

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

stirring the soil

of different lands


Third Place, Santōka International Haiku Contest, 2018

bonsai winter

I shovel around the pine

with a teaspoon

The Heron’s Nest, September, 2018


on the ferry floor

the wild bay at bay

Akitsu, Spring, 2017