1. How did you get started with haiku?
I just recently began dabbling in haiku since the passing of my father (Johnny Baranski) just about a year ago, in January 2018. He had always written haiku since before I came along. It wasn’t uncommon for him to share his love of haiku with me and my siblings in the form of stocking-stuffers, sharing his haiku when they were published, sitting silently watching the family interact at family functions or silently looking out of the window. When he was in the hospital I watched him sit there with a pensive look on his face. Naturally, I was thinking he was in pain, but when asked he responded that he was always writing. It explained so much to me. He was always writing. It wasn’t uncommon to find him with his notebook in his front shirt pocket or jotting something down as he got into his car to head home from a family function. When he passed and wrote his jisei [death haiku] I needed something to continue to feel connected to him. This was a part of his life that I had seen grow over my 42 years of life and was proud of him for it. I wasn’t the writer in the family. That was my sister’s connection with my dad. Mine was different. But now I felt that it was time to discover something new about my father. Packing up the many books and journals of my own father’s writing was also a revelation. He had some wonderful books, many of them related to haiku but also books that he read as he was an avid reader—also a goal of mine to read more. This past year I was able to connect with other poets, learn more about haiku, have a few of my own haiku published, and have begun reading much more about haiku. I am hooked and enjoy learning from others while practicing my writing. I have many haiku that are still in beginning stages and I get into slumps like many but continue to push myself to get it right.
2. Tell us more about yourself.
I am a mother of two boys ages 10 (almost 11) and 7. I am married to my best friend, Byron Williams, and this will be our fifteenth year together. I am an elementary school principal as my profession for the past five years and have worked as an administrator since 2007. Prior to that I worked as a learning resource special education teacher and early childhood special education teacher for seven years. I hold a Masters in Education degree from Lewis and Clark College and a Bachelor of Arts degree in speech and hearing sciences from Washington State University (GO COUGS!). I grew up in Portland, Oregon where I lived with my family until I moved away to attend college. I graduated from Central Catholic High School. After college I met my husband and we moved to Stayton, Oregon where we have lived for the past nineteen years. City girl turns country! My family and I still live in the Willamette valley in Stayton, Oregon where we have the pleasure of tending to our 24-acre property, which can be a lot of work. However, we enjoy the outdoors, which includes caring for our timber trees, cutting wood, riding four-wheelers, water skiing, snow skiing, camping, and more. We have two cats, Clyde and Jada, and two German shorthair dogs, Morgan and Dakota. Family is super important to me and I love watching my kids grow into neat human beings.
3. What does NaHaiWriMo mean to you?
The term NaHaiWriMo means more than just National Haiku Writing Month. It suggests to me that writing daily is an exercise much like muscular exercise, helping one to hone one’s haiku writing practices. Offering daily prompts provides a venue to practice new skills, dig deeper into emotions, or rewrite something that possibly wasn’t exactly the way you had written it the first time. Daily writing is often a way for me at the tail end of my day to become one with an experience that I have had and describe that in as few words as possible. For me that is the difficulty, as I tend to be verbose.
4. What one piece of advice would you offer to those who are new to writing haiku?
I would offer a few suggestions to anyone beginning to write haiku. One is to immerse yourself in reading all sorts of haiku, determine for yourself and from other’s reactions what is a “good” haiku, and practice writing daily. Be in touch with yourself and your surroundings in a different way than you have been, notice the little things, the birdsongs, the movement of the trees, the natural phenomenon that we often take for granted. Haiku for me comes from something that I have emotionally experienced either in a big or little way. Somewhere in all of that is a haiku that you will be able to share with the world someday! Also, should you submit your haiku for potential publication, don’t despair when you receive a rejection email or no email at all. It just wasn’t a right fit for that publication. Keep on keeping on! The last piece of advice is to be open to learning the form, ask questions, be you and original and feel your haiku come to life.
5. Please share three of your favourite or best haiku.
Here are three of my favorite and possibly best haiku:
wherever you are
wherever you go
even the butterfly
still manage to fold
(in memory of my father, Johnny Baranski)
Honorable mention in the 72nd Anniversary Bashō Memorial Museum contest, 2018