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Bookstories 21: Joseph Kirschner’s Edges

libraryofbabelEvery book tells its story, but what of the other story, the story behind the book? Bookstories offers an opportunity to tell that story. If you have a story about a book or poem you would like to share, contact us and we’ll help you make it happen. Thanks for letting us know the rest of the story!


I came to this book of haiku as a recently retired academic. Publishing was where I got my strokes. So, why not with haiku? My inspiration for this book came about due to an accidental encounter. I knew next to nothing about haiku, though I had been trying my hand at short verses I called ‘haiku’ for some half-dozen years. One day I saw an ad for the 1993 Haiku North America Conference being held in Chicago.

I drove down to the city with my companion. Knowing no one there we sat at the back of a large auditorium. On the way out after all was over I overheard a guy talking about looking for the best way to get to Evanston. Since we were going there we offered him a ride. This chance encounter evolved into a lasting friendship. He was Charlie Trumbull, an editor at Britannica. He also happened to run a small press that published books on haiku. He wound up publishing mine.

As I look over these early haiku I find myself tempted to revise. Shades of the academic! Most of my haiku were short poems containing two images, a la the ‘rules’ of haiku. Of course I counted syllables when I drafted these early haiku. This was before I had ever read the haiku of others, much less any essays on the subject. The process seemed simple enough. All I needed was seventeen syllables and two images, along with a season word. This made a verse haiku. Now all I needed was to give the book a theme by finding related haiku and voila! a book. I also knew the images pairs had to differ enough to generate some tension. I wound up choosing two—image haiku that had an edgy quality.

—Joseph Kirschner

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Dear Joe, I remember meeting you in the mid-1990s at Chi-ku, and also your book. Revision is interesting to contemplate years later. Sometimes my best thought is to leave a poem alone. Perhaps I could make it better, but would the poem lose something else, that I was able to bring to the work at the time?


    Even though I was not able to continue with the group, I remember the kindness and devotion to haiku and craft. You, Charlie, Lidia Rozmus, Lee Gurga, Randy Brooks, and others of course – all that has been achieved since then, and going forward. And Bob Spiess through Modern Haiku and the mail, those years, and seeing the way Modern Haiku has grown since then.


    Thank you and best wishes, Ellen

  2. A nifty bookstory, Joe. I love synchronicity — and this is a pretty special example of that — bringing you and Charlie into each other’s lives. –Billie

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