1. How did you get started with haiku?
Reading haiku has been a long-time practice. However, once time seemed to open up for me after retirement, I wanted to spend that time learning, writing, and studying haiku and some of its related Japanese forms. I had read poetry for enjoyment over decades and then graduated to reading haiku, encouraged by my friends (who were a good influence on me). I started attending workshops and meetings. The first haiku book I bought was a 5-7-5 collection that I had found in an obscure (and subsequently derelict) bookstore in 1994. My second book was William J. Higginson’s The Haiku Handbook, which has remained a resource that I delve into over and over again. I’ve been writing various things for some years yet have been entranced for about a decade by haiku and its potential for not just communicating but for interacting with a reader on an often unexpected level. Observing and learning about the way people think is fascinating and haiku seems to bring me that information more than other forms. Also, like many others, I am enamoured by how difficult it is to write good haiku and how fascinating it is to learn about peoples’ reactions.
2. Tell us more about yourself
For thirty years I was involved in sport and event management. After my last extensive contract it came time to “retire”—although that is not the word I would use. Widowed and with a grown-up family, it was time to follow my passion for haiku. I worked for twenty years as the office manager (and manuscript layout person—ahh, those PageMaker days long gone now) for my husband’s company Leslie Investments Limited, a mineralogical consultancy in British Columbia. I’d been regional rep of Ontario Ladies Curling Association before that organization merged with a province-wide group in the early ’80s, also president of British Columbia Ladies Curling Association before that group merged with Curl BC. I was also a curling official, coach, competitor at the provincial level, and instructor over the years. I was awarded the Janette Robbins Award in 2002 for “Dedication and Commitment to the BCLCA” and the Eugene Reimer Award in 2004 in recognition “in the field of sport, education, and recreation for persons with a disability.” Historically, my family is generally a “right brain” family—and then for some reason my sister is a musician and I am a haiku poet. I was feeling very much less confident after starting to focus on poetry and haiku than in writing sport-related reports or instructional material, and in the spirit of the “renewed me,” I found myself unexpectedly vulnerable.
My haiku journey included a trip to Japan for six weeks in 2017, which has had a transformative effect on me in significant ways—hopefully travel does that anyway—but I am now a different person because of that particular trip. I fell in love with Japan and the people and places—others can be more articulate about that process, I’m sure. My heart has been tugged open. I do not know how exactly to describe the insights into haiku I got from that trip—way more personal insights into my own self, perhaps. It would be fair to say that a respect for the simplicity and austereness of words was brought home to me. Words, signs, landscapes, even bus and train procedures, and the cultural traditions in Japan seem to be precise and/or exact—“truthful,” in a sense, simple in many ways, and profound in others without verbiage or pretense. I felt so at home in Japan—as if I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
3. What does NaHaiWriMo mean to you?
It is a significant challenge and a realistic goal to write one poem a day, as well as satisfying and fun! NaHaiWriMo is a safe and encouraging environment. It is possible to ask for and receive positive constructive feedback. There is enough scholarly material that, as one writes more, one can begin a real study of the art form (without academia if you are so inclined). Many accomplished poets believe as I do that haiku really comes alive as it is shared. The world of haiku broadens one’s perspective and provides an opportunity for growth and friendship among like-minded people. NaHaiWriMo provides such a world.
4. What one piece of advice would you offer to those who are new to writing haiku?
Read read read. Learn to identify good haiku at first, and then branch out as you gain confidence in your reading and writing. Talk talk talk with other poets. Immerse yourself in the world of poetry and haiku by attending get-togethers, haiku readings, conferences—both formal and informal gatherings of like-minded people who love haiku in all its myriad forms.
5. Please share three of your favourite or best haiku.
leading the way
flowers in my
in mother’s eyes