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Messages - Field Notes


For this installment of Field Notes, I was asked to consider my relationship to the haiku genre---in particular, the essential elements of haiku, as I understand them, and how my own work has evolved in view of that understanding.

Essential to haiku, it seems to me, are the following elements:
     1. Brevity: haiku are minimalist poems with a small number of total syllables, 17  English syllables, or thereabouts.
     2. Dependence on sensory imagery: while haiku can certainly reference abstractions or ideas, it does seem to me that the primary emphasis in haiku is on concrete sensory images, usually drawn from the natural world.
     3. An "Ah ha" moment or immediate unexpected turn or insight: while this is no doubt an element in much poetry (at least good poetry), haiku seems distinguished by a sudden realization, juxtaposition or insight, often, though not always, in the last line or portion of the poem. Since haiku are brief and concise, I think the form is especially well-suited to "pack a punch." The realization is often immediate and doesn't require extended cogitation (although how it works might be spelled out in complex ways through intellectual analysis).
     4. Self-transcendence: I think of haiku as lifting us out of our ordinary state of self-consciousness, and making us more fully aware of what's going on right now, at present.  Some writers have described haiku as creating a greater sense of "oneness" with the world, and while I think that's true, I find the more natural way to articulate its effects is in terms of a loss of ordinary self-consciousness (or mind-based "ego-consciousness"), perhaps meaning an expansion of consciousness into the world, or into a sense of self beyond ego, or both.

I am unsure whether these features are sufficient to distinguish haiku from other forms of minimalist poetry, and I'm equally uncertain whether there's a clear demarcation between haiku and other minimalist poems of approximately seventeen syllables or less—or whether there needs to be.

As for my own work in haiku, I'm interested in further exploration in two directions:

     1. I'm interested in developing a more contemporary "associative vocabulary" in haiku.  Take, for instance, the idea that the crow has been traditionally associated with autumn and with emotions such as sorrow or melancholy. Would it be possible to take such traditional symbology and upend it in some instances---perhaps have the crow turn to a symbol of renewal, or perhaps have it symbolize a more nuanced version of the traditional sorrow or melancholy?  Also, how can we augment the traditional haiku symbology (or associations) in a way that takes account of our contemporary experience, particularly our reliance on "virtual" experience via the internet and electronic devices.  I find it interesting to consider how we can convey features of 21st century experience through the traditional nature imagery and associations characteristic of haiku.
     2. I'm likewise interested in exploring new forms in haiku, in particular the arrangement of words on the page, and seeing how spacing can create ambiguity and multiple readings---while at the same time honoring the immediacy of insight and move toward self-transcendence that I find so essential to haiku.

What is your relationship to haiku now?

How, if at all, has it changed since you first took up the practice?

Before answering this question, I would like to depict the historical context within which
my early haiku emerged.

In 1975, as reviews editor for a periodical, I got a pre-publication copy of Modern Japanese Haiku (Makoto Ueda, University of Toronto Press, 1976).  Prior to this, my only acquaintance with the form had been some stilted translations in coffee table books about Japanese culture and art. Ueda's translations of twenty 20th century poets, however, rang true and revealed surprising variations of form and content.

In the U.S. and Canada during the 1970s vigorous debates occurred about what an English-language haiku should be. With the help of Eric Amann, I decided to survey the kinds of haiku that actually were being published by the foremost poets of the day. We examined the work in two major anthologies: The Haiku Anthology (Cor van den Heuvel, Anchor Books, 1974) and the Canadian Haiku Anthology (George Swede, Three Trees Press, 1979).

We discovered that about 80% of the haiku were written free-style while the rest were in the 5-7-5 mode; that over 90% were in three-lines with the rest being one-liners, two-liners, four-liners or visuals (eye-ku); that 90% included images from nature while the remainder did not, i.e., were senryu; that only 5% used abstract ideas or generalizations; and that 99% used the present tense.

(Swede, G. & Amann, E. Toward a definition of the modern English haiku. Cicada, 1980, 4:4, 3-12)

About a decade later, I did another survey, this time focusing solely on content. My source was the second The Haiku Anthology (Cor van den Heuvel, Simon & Schuster, 1986) grown to an encyclopedic size with 648 haiku (plus more in the appendix). To shrink my task, I decided to look at the work of the top dozen contributors who had a total of 350 included haiku. I figured that this was a reasonable sample size as well as representative of  prevailing haiku styles.

Three different kinds of content emerged from the analysis: nature images only (22.8%), human images only (15.7%), and both nature plus human images (61.4%).  The results decisively showed that the prominent writers of haiku in English in the 1970s and 1980s preferred to combine images from the natural world with those based on human experiences or artifacts. In that era this was an important finding because much Western writing on the definition of the haiku form emphasized that only images from the natural world should be included; any human elements turned a would-be haiku into a senryu.

(Swede, G. Elite haiku: Hybrids of nature and human content. Modern Haiku, 1992, 23:1, 65-72).

Finally, in answer to the question, my early published haiku were in concert with the results of this research, that is, most of them were hybrids (nature plus human content) and in three lines. But, I also wrote pure nature haiku as well as senryu and often switched to the one-line form for all three kinds. Moreover, during the 1970s and 1980s I began having fun with "eyeku" as well as with what I call "bifids" (two-word haiku).

What surprising (or perhaps not) influences have affected you?

Everything and everyone influences my writing. I can, however, point to some islands in a sea of undercurrents. I've already mentioned the first—Makoto Ueda's Modern Japanese Haiku, in which he features 20 poets from the 20th century (with 20 haiku each). The anthology helped change the course of my writing from mainly free verse to mainly haiku. Another landmark influence was Eric Amann's adventurous periodical, Cicada (1977- 1982). His editorial policy encouraged experimentation and critical thinking, drawing to the magazine among the best of that era's haiku poets, many of whom continue to shine today. My later writing has been shaped a bit by contemporary versions of Cicada such as Roadrunner (2004 -2014, Scott Metz being its primary editor).

Do you find yourself going deeper into haiku, or perhaps moving away from it?

I'm certainly not moving away from haiku. I'm as deeply involved as ever. But as I change, so do the perceptions that inform my haiku. The resulting poems seem to be different compared to what I was writing earlier. But these are my observations and, as literary critics like to point out, poets are poor interpreters of their own work.

Can you give an example or two of your early work as well as an example or two of recent work?

Since I've been writing haiku for four decades, I've broken it into four parts: work from the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

1970s Haiku

Plummeting to earth
a hawk seizes the feet
of its own shadow

(© 1976. Published eight times: Sun-Lostus Haiku, 1977 to Haiku Journey, Hot Lava Games, 2006)

In her large blue eyes I make a small impression

(©1977. Published six times: Uguisu, 1978 to Simply Haiku, 2006)

1980s Haiku

eyelid      cloud

(©1982.Published six times: Biased Sample, 1982 to micro haiku, 2014)

From the bridge
between my hemispheres
grandfather still fishes

(©1985. Published four times: After the End, 1986 to Joy In Me Still, 2010)

1990s Haiku


(©1990. Published seven times: Alabama Dogshoe Moustache, 1992 to embryo: eye poems, 2013)

spring flood
two wooden shoes float by
taking turns being first

(©1996. Published nine times: blue spilling over: Haiku Canada anthology, 1996 to Mainichi Daily News, 2001)

2000s Haiku

airport lounge
a Muslim man prays toward
the emergency exit

(©2001. Published seven times: Modern Haiku, 2002 to Whirligig, 2011)

a breeze from
my life cycle

(@2014. Bones Journal, 2014)

What are your thoughts and feelings about the current "state" of haiku in general?
Is it enlivening to you? vital? confusing? stale? Has it taken a wrong turn, or do you feel
there is promise in what currently appears in various journals? And how does it affect your own work?

Haiku writing today has grown more muscular and polished, much like today's professional athletes. I find the changes invigorating as well as occasionally frightening because I worry about whether my aging brain will be able to keep up.

George Swede


My relationship to poetry has always been as a bridge between something outside myself or of myself (physical, witnessed, dreamt, memory, etc.) and myself. It is a bridge of words. It is a diary entry; a moment captured—where moment is used in the widest sense. However, the "myself" is always changing.

In the past decade we've witnessed a shakeup of haiku by what we incorrectly called gendai out of Japan to more recent L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E influenced work. We've also seen a deepening of our understanding of haiku's base—i.e. traditional haiku. Logically, one would expect my bridge to become stronger because of these educating influences; that however is not the case.

Instead, the gendai/L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E influences have made me more and more aware of the limitations of language as a communicative tool, as they also open up other ways of seeing and being in this world; while influences from critics like Martin Lucas make me aware of how tone-deaf formulaic haiku can be. Lucas might question the music or "spell" of a phrase like "spring morning," preferring something more robust. Of course much of haiku history contains these code words, and if you are someone like myself who believes that sharing is a foundational block of haiku, then they cannot be avoided entirely. Specificity might suggest a way out, yet too much of that can lead to obscurity. It seems that success in haiku is a moving target.

The worst thing we can do is "define" haiku: to lock it into a single form or template, so I am delighted with the new environment where all forms and styles seem permissible.  I am delighted to see how haiku approaches other short poetry. How each feeds off/influences the other. Scott Metz's book Lakes & Now Wolves is a great example of that—yet I would be hard pressed to define all the poems as haiku.  Yet is that distinction even relevant? Perhaps most importantly, the book makes me think about what haiku is or can be. As the editor of a journal I think these are exciting times; I wouldn't be an editor otherwise. However, at the same time I feel the weight of all these choices and their consequences.

Perhaps my crossroads is the old truism that the more you learn the less you know. I like to think I have always been at that crossroads—looking for a way forward—but that is for others to decide.

Paul Miller

ps. The previous Field Notes have been a part of that change of "myself" so a substantial thanks to Peter and the other commentators for the forum.



Haiku still remains for me an insight into nature. My relationship to haiku and haiku inspiration has not really changed. So published haiku (one a contest winner) skirts the same inspiration:

early 2000's

summer heat
the little stone Buddha
buried in weeds

winter solstice
the houselight left on
for our return

late 2,000's

Ice Age cave
the path leads down
to vast darkness

just enough
reappearing for a moment
morning star

My energetic system determines the nature and quality of my insight. Sometimes that system is sorely affected.

A few changes in this current decade are perhaps a loosening up of my phrasing, perhaps influenced by the haiku of poets I respond to.

Current phrasing that is dominating published (USA) haiku (and therefore other cultures' haiku) and winning awards is on the one hand a fractured, quasi-intellectual idiom and on the other lackluster haiku in a conversational idiom. This trend is misleading to the aims of haiku poetry and the quality of haiku poetry.

Imposing old poetic turns (dada, etc.) and faux psychological "complexity" (calling it American gendai) and being rewarded for it is not going to preserve haiku.

Bruce Ross
Hampden, Maine



December 2

I don't know if he was writing about a particular Red Sox team or about baseball in general, but I recall Roger Angell saying that what kept him interested was that every game presented to him at least one thing he had never seen before.

I continue to read publications like Modern Haiku because most issues contain something I have not seem before. Recently it was Michael McClintock's

I say it loud in the dark
making a spark

MH 45.3

I like to think that this, and the kind of poem I am talking about, would delight readers of any poetry magazine. It does not require the context of haiku. It does not need to be named as such, though Michael might disagree. And yet, though one cannot know for certain, it might not have been written without long engagement with haiku.


December 4

The depths (I mean this as a singular plural) are a wordless place, and yet they are incomplete without expression. They are impersonal— nobody's possession— but rejoice when someone is present to this need, this call for completion. The impersonal depths, one might say, fall in love with the individual, the person through whom they might find particular, prismatic expression.

This is one way of saying how poetry happens— why there is poetry rather than no poetry at all— and why poets feel compelled to write, as a fulfillment of the depths, however momentary it may be. However momentous.

And as a person is prismatic, and in relationship with a various world, so
expression, or the form it takes, will vary and the depths reveal themselves now this way and now that, now from this perspective and now from that.

The wordless place cannot be revealed in its entirety, but what is revealed can imply what, as Heidegger said, is concealed by revelation. Any view of a statue— or a human being— necessarily obscures all other views. (And yet each view is dependent on what cannot be seen).

Day breaks— it conceals night and implies it. The wordless is concealed by words. Concealment is a form of revelation.

"Eternity is love with the productions of time". Blake.
Accidental mystic John Wren-Lewis spoke from experience:
"I am eternity John Wren-Lewising".

I am the universe Peter Yovu-ing. Whatever I do. Whenever I write.


December 5

I'd like to quote from the book The Long and the Short of It by Gary Saul Morson. He is writing here about aphorisms, and in particular about the need to recognize the plurality of impulses driving different kinds of aphorism. I find it useful to apply his thoughts to haiku.

The quote— italics added by me:

"Different kinds of aphorisms convey specific views of life and experience. If we are to understand these diverse views, it makes sense to classify them accordingly. Approached in this way, each genre suggests a distinct sense of life as a whole. The world of the prophet differs from that of the wit.

That was the approach to genres adopted by the Russian theorist Mikhail
Bakhtin. [He] developed a method to grasp each literary genre as an implicit philosophy, or what he called a "form shaping ideology." He meant that each genre proceeds from a particular worldview ("ideology") generating appropriate forms of expression. [For Bakhtin genres] result from a defining ideology or sense of experience.

. . . A genre resembles an entity less than it does an energy, an impulse to apply a certain way of seeing to surprising circumstances with which it interacts and, as a result, changes. Genres are restless, some more so than others.

Moreover, a genre's take on life cannot be reduced to a set of philosophical premises. [Any] reasonably complex genre's sense of experience is ultimately inexpressible. [The] genre always contains potentials for development in more directions than are apparent.  Until the genre dies, its wisdom is never complete, and if resurrected, it can develop still further.

As a genre seeks out forms, it also discovers appropriate occasions, which, like forms, reflect its worldview".

There are distinctions to be made between haiku and aphorisms, of course, though sometimes the line is blurred. Ruth Yarrow's

after the garden party  the garden

(most recently in Haiku in English)

and Eve Luckring's

so greenly history puts forth thorns

(Haiku 2014)

are two of many examples.

To be clear, Morson is saying that while such things as maxims, apothegms, dicta, etc., may all be considered aphorisms, they are also genres unto themselves, each of literary significance, and each suggesting "a distinct sense of life as a whole".

Can this be said of haiku? Increasingly, popular journals such as Modern Haiku and Frogpond are publishing a variety of forms. Haiku 2014, the first of what one hopes will be a long series of annual anthologies, seems to be predicated on the notion that a "genre always contains potentials for development in more directions than are apparent".

I don't believe this variety is merely the result of innovation for the sake of innovation, though in some instances— maybe too many—  that is no doubt the case. I would like to think that, tentative as many of the new haiku may seem, they "proceed from particular worldviews"— or inner impulses— "generating appropriate forms of expression". One may have preference for and greater receptivity to one form over another— this would be as true for haiku as it is for aphorism— but the understanding of Bakhtin's "form-shaping" worldview may serve to increase one's appreciation for diversity, and experimentation.

I like the idea that "traditional", "contemporary" and "innovative" haiku each
suggest "a distinct sense of life as a whole", and that this would be true of other "kinds" of haiku as well and include poems which have been influenced by all or any of these and yet defy classification.

In thinking about haiku, and my relation to it, I find this helpful.

Peter Yovu



                                               Haiku and the World in 2014:
                                               Still a Craftmanship of Risk [1]

I think one of the biggest things and maybe the most important thing to have changed since I began practicing haiku in the 1960's is that anyone beginning haiku now has a wealth of English language haiku as a resource.  Back in the 60's there wasn't much of that resource.  Our sources for good haiku were from Japan.  They owned the genre since they invented it and were the guiding word.  And then most us depended on translations from their language.  There were some poets who knew the language such as Bill Higginson.  Someone taking up the genre now doesn't even have to think about or deal with the haiku written by the Japanese.  Not that I am advocating that kind of isolationism.  But in the old days one was probably attracted to the haiku because they had read some translations from the Japanese.  I know I was. [2] I wonder how many of the writers coming on board now were attracted to the haiku because of what they first read by an English language writer?  That would be an intriguing piece of research.

Another thing that has changed and was hinted at in the previous paragraph is that the English language haiku has taken on a form and life of its own that doesn't depend on how it was done in Japan in the past or is currently done.  It has come into its own maturity.  This is not to say we don't or can't learn from the ancient and contemporary masters of the haiku in Japan - we have! -  but that we no longer depend on them exclusively for our direction with the haiku even though they invented it.

I think the current state of the English language haiku is bumpy at the moment.  But perhaps no more unsettled than in the past. The world of poetry in general is also bumpy and going in many directions so it is not very surprising that the English language haiku world reflects that.   It probably is confusing to those writers new to the genre.  And will be until they decide where they want to go with the haiku and develop their own voice.

After all these many years I find the haiku still has a strong pull on me.   Any number of times over the years I have wondered if the pleasure of reading and writing haiku would all go away.  So far it hasn't.  I still look forward to the next issue of the haiku journals I subscribe to and the collections by individual writers and the anthologies.  And I personally still enjoy the risk of writing them.  The challenge and excitement of creating the haiku with a short bunch of words has not yet become stale or boring.

[1] For a stimulating exposition of the craftsmanship or workmanship of risk and the workmanship of certainty check out David Pye's book, The Nature and Art of Workmanship first published in 1968.  This comes from the perspective of one whose work is with wood but can be applied to explain and understand a poet's experience with words.  He describes the risk: 
                             If I must ascribe a meaning to the word craftsmanship,
                             I shall say as a first approximation that it means simply
                             workmanship using any kind of technique or apparatus,
                             in which the quality of the result is not predetermined,
                             but depends on the judgment, dexterity and care which
                             the maker exercises as he works. The essential idea is that 
                             the quality of the result is continually at risk during the
                             process of making; and so I shall call this kind of
                             workmanship 'The workmanship of risk':  an uncouth
                             phrase, but at least descriptive. (page 20)

[2] Talked with more detail in my preface to Spilled Milk: Haiku Destinies.  Pinyon Publishing. 2010.

Gary Hotham


These new mannerisms lightly explored in Field Notes dissatisfy me and make me impatient, feeling as if I've been chewing over-mixed taffy, unbaked bread, or something made of semi-liquid plastic, like Silly Putty -- a marvelous toy product of industrial chemistry that comes with a warning to avoid swallowing.
The theories and notions touched on are not new and have, in their revisit of mostly failed experiments of the last 50 years in poetry (and clumsy attempt to over-write onto the haiku aesthetic architecture) made no case at all to stand as either new poetry or a "new" haiku. It is all a rather good example of criticism's failure to make itself the nexus and logos of what remains firmly the territory of actual haiku practice, the creation of original language art: poetry.
The haiku or poem itself is still the best teacher. Freakish intellectual acrobatics will remain, however, an attractive alternative for those inclined to be bored with actual haiku history and literature in its evolution over the centuries. To quote Larry Eigner in a letter he wrote to Charles Olson in 1956 --- ". . . as to the practical matter of communications the limitations are obviously vast . . . "  He writes a bit further about "the toppling toers [sic] of Ilium."
In my practice of haiku and tanka I want room to move around. Field Notes discussions up to this final installment appear to reflect that this is a common desire, which isn't surprising. We all live in multiple worlds and each of these is common to all men and anchored in the materiality that exhales into our consciousness our sense of space and time and all the ideas that inhabit and procreate in the mind. Kenneth Patchen once said " . . . it takes a great deal of love to give a damn one way or another about what happens from now on: I still do."
I still do, too. Everything I've written, and continue to write, is a love poem.
I don't bother much with originality. I work for authenticity and communication: small things, maybe, and almost impossible to achieve in language, but for me there is nothing else worth as much when achieved. The rest, with its mediocrity and conformity, doesn't matter a damn. The real mystery of beauty cannot be apprehended or conveyed by mocking or sentimentalizing beauty in its reality.
Field Notes discussions have been fine reminders that our poetry is exploratory: it prods and probes --- and has this in common with other poetry. In our work we appear to confront social, artistic, and other madness, in different ways --- also not surprising. We can look to the history of the literature to understand and experience what has worked and survived to be valued by new generations, and what has fallen to the wayside, to be lost, forgotten or ignored.  This latter is an outcome none of us wants and, therefore, the struggle to advance authenticity in our work trumps any bother with pretensions of originality and the usual all-consuming fires that are lit by a transient avant-garde armed with its propaganda machines, personalities, and particular species of narcissism, self-absorption, and a cooperative, enabling group delusion. Which is as expected.
These are old, tired patterns involving how the human being socializes and will not end here, but are part of the process necessary to the individual who must eventually turn away from the club, group, or herd, and pursue their art alone, if they are to achieve art at all, at any point, in their career. 
There is, on the other hand, the individual's capacity for love and wonder, and the comparison and empathy that comes from these: these are basic, clear, and uncompromising. Success along these lines will require enduring plenty of poverty and pain, political and artistic rejection, and most probably the peculiar persecutions that are the result of indifference.
Haiku is changeless and ever-changing: this is one thought. People come and go; a few people stay. A haiku conveys the world and human experience in these ways, too. There is perfect sense to it, yet nothing rational. Inside the beauty, the overall design is evident and simple.
These two older poems I close with, and the two more recent, are cut from the same world and, for me, have no particular markers relating to getting from one place to another in my practice of haiku, which has indeed been a journey but one I've undertaken without any sense of destination beyond the immediate poem. I have spent 50+ years wandering the maze without calculating where I might find the exit to some other place.
   twisting inland,
the sea fog takes awhile
   in the apple trees
   the hyena,
   outside of night:
a long bus ride
the prophetic language
of the stops
I say it loud in the dark
making a spark

Michael McClintock



When I began writing and publishing haiku, it was primarily curiosity that motivated me. In the same month that my first haiku was accepted for publication (by Brussels Sprout) I also had a page-length poem accepted for a special edition of The Wallace Stevens Journal. That issue contained poems or essays by John Berryman, Theodore Roethke, John Updike, Robert Creeley, X. J. Kennedy, Robert Pinsky, and others.
Haiku surprised me. And now, twenty-two years later, when I hear haiku poets wondering how we can get more attention and respect from "mainstream poetry," I consider that misguided. Haiku is exactly the right poetry for our time. "Mainstream poetry" would do well to come to us for inspiration.

John Stevenson



My involvement with haiku spans over 40 years. I'm not the same person I was when I began my haiku journey. I was an eager student for many years, reading all the haiku I could find, mostly Japanese haiku in translation.  This had a huge impact on my early writing.  I paid careful attention to the attributes that set haiku apart from western short verse. 

Nowadays I focus more on integration of haiku into the larger continuum of literature.  I read more broadly, not just haiku journals.  In addition to haiku I write prose poems and flash fiction as well as haibun, tanka, and rengay.  On the days that I'm frustrated with one form of writing, I can explore a different one.  When I'm tired of words, I work on collage.  The shift into colors and textures nurtures my intuition; that in turn refreshes the writing process.  But I always come back to haiku. 
Haiku is a wealth of lessons: new ones and old ones that I need to relearn.  I remain a student.   Nature is still my best teacher, but now my interior landscape and imagination informs my expression as much as the external landscape.  Writing haiku today seems to spring more from my spirit and my love of words and sound in language. 

I don't think there is one way to write haiku.  It doesn't tuck neatly into a box.  This is disquieting to some and liberating to others.  I'm optimistic about the depth and breadth of haiku.  There are publication opportunities for every mode of haiku.  I see this year's new journals and annuals such as is/let and muttering thunder as contributing vitality and encouraging a reengagement with the self and surroundings.  Haiku is not only alive but thriving. 

I write across the haiku spectrum from traditional three line 5-7-5 to the one-line modern and H21 ku.  It's exciting to contribute to the mix. 

balanced in the wind
first one foot, then the other
white-throated sparrow (1982)

war memorial
the shine on a bronze soldier
from so many hands (2009)

dusk     the new neighbor's wind chimes (1996)

raw umber the hill's shorthand for want (2014)

Cherie Hunter Day



The Tori Gate: Stepping Through
Richard Gilbert, November 22, 2014

1) What is your relationship to haiku now? How, if at all, has it changed since you first took up the practice?

My 1982 Naropa BA thesis in Poetics and Expressive Arts contained a number of haiku, adjudicated by Allen Ginsberg and Patricia Donegan (Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics). I found an old box of poetry today and this thesis may yet exist; however, pre-'pc' it's probably lost to time. The haiku were unremarkable anyway. I'd like to dwell first on the past in my response. Around 1981, my first year in the Poetics program, I found the three pieces below (two titled). These works show influence from Pat's haiku & Japanese court poetry class, intermixed with preoccupations of contemporary poetry.

Tori Gate

eating three meals today
              tonight, facing dark mountains
  young moon, new moon, old moon

Notes of Late America

     "I turned around and was shot through
with some shiny projectile."

     "I couldn't believe him. It was
cramped and awful lying down."

   the fierce wind
is not sacrifice
      in the house

Only "Tori Gate" overtly emulates haiku form—as it appeared to me then—here also the influence of Hitomaro, in From the Country of Eight Islands (Sato & Watson, trans., eds., CUP), which had been published that very year—a prized sourcebook.
   The following excerpt retains its original layout (a single-page poem in three seven-line stanzas), written to Peter Orlovsky in commemoration of his class. Peter's book, Clean Asshole Poems and Smiling Vegetable Songs, Poems 1957-1977 (City Lights, 1978, 1992) is worth reading to absorb his naïve and sometimes goofy-joyous style. Peter was a great teacher, and a most warm-hearted human being.

       .   SHORT   .

.   Oh long napkin   .
.   Having chair to feet me   .
.   Bound my eyes kiss   .
.   Dear black olive round   .
.   And word long ornament   .
.   Blue-print doggie   .

.   Holy woods brown   .
.   Tree me stop swirling   .
.   Run feathers what hanging bird   .
.   Gallons under noise running   .
.   Green leaf I know   .
.   Tree house well open   .
.   Oh life birds   !

.   Cork water bobs   .
.   Fly on train walks   .
.   Shuck corn phooey   .
.   Pickets fence a million   .

A kinship with haiku exists here too, I feel. Allen insistently declaimed (chided me), "No ideas but in things!" A statement I stubbornly resisted, being drawn to Gertrude Stein, symbolist poetry and language/image experiment. Like many interested in haiku it was that "zen" (what?) taste in Blyth's impassioned commentary throughout his Haiku volumes (1947-1964, Hokuseido) bridging haiku with the short poem—this urged exploration: if not anti-narrative (all poems are narrative to an extent), at minimum haiku strongly resist the generic-narrative-confessional "me "me" "me" rife in journals and poetry readings now and then.

   The zombie spectre of new formalism lurched as the junk bond kings of the Reagan era exclaimed triumphs of capitalism. It seemed a haven of some kind, haiku—as a "way" or path towards a delicate, nuanced and sensitively animate psychic tissue between self and literal life. Various Beats, previous Fluxus members and St. Marks poets visited and taught at Naropa, through the years. In a variety of ways they challenged previous modes of progressive formalism—through randomization (as counterpoint to intentional structure in the Burroughs "cut-up" and zen-random concepts of John Cage and colleagues), through the spontaneity of the ordinary (in dance, e.g., Barbara Dilley, later President of Naropa, who had danced with Merce Cunningham, before becoming a dancer/choreographer with the Judson Dance Theater, formed by Yvonne Rainier), and through shamanic oratory (e.g. Waldman, Rothenberg, Corso in his readings, and others). As a searching being, and as a poet, I was utterly confused.

   March 9, 1981 marked the completion of my first class on haiku and Japanese court poetry. I turned in a "Final Haiku Project" to Pat Donegan. This course was almost certainly the first western university-academic class focused on Japanese haiku (in translation) specifically directed towards possibilities of poetic composition in English—a class itself composed of budding poets. Pat's approach was designed to explore new poetic territory, expand poetic (consciousness) possibility, and inspire aspects of feminism (e.g. presenting the legendary women poets of the Heian era), and multiculturalism. Only my "Preamble to Final Haiku Project" exists in the box: students were asked to write a short personal statement of three pages. I'll post the transcription as a link:
   Found are certain preoccupations, along with errors of understanding, typical of the era.

2) What surprising (or perhaps not) influences have affected you?

In the 1980s era mentioned above, Naropa was a vibrant, non-traditional inter-arts community. It has become increasingly difficult to envision the creation of such communities, as living costs have risen and vocational careers moved to the forefront of educational systems. Though even in the early 80s, Naropa was vocationally hopeless (and unaccredited). I began to re-discover a newfound sense of community, and friendships, through the HNA conferences, beginning in 2007, and due to the prevalence of virtual tech, have been able to foster them. It's difficult to form new artistic friendships in later life and haiku do mysteriously create community: the poetry itself has also flowered as this.

3) Do you find yourself going deeper into haiku, or perhaps moving away from it?

I find that haiku depth is always a surface. And anything profound must be accidental, actually. So "deeper" really implies craft and effort; sadly, I am very lazy and distracted, and only occasionally intentionally write haiku, usually with some surprise. I've been moving "away" from haiku forever. I think "Plausible deniability: Nature as hypothesis in English‑language haiku" ( confirms this trend away from concrete literalism, concerning form.

4) Can you give an example or two of your early work as well as an example or two of recent work?

The early work above—lately, I've been interested in the haiku sequence as a way of moving into borderlands between haiku-as-such and short-form poetry. At the beginning of this exploration I wished to make each "line" (or 3-line stanza) function autonomously as a haiku, but have now moved further into a looser "weak disjunction" concept, in service of storytelling, if necessary. Moongarlic, Issue 3 (, November 2014 (pp. 53-71; about 16 "lines") presents "only so long for," with each line/poem on a separate page. Bones, Issue 5 (, November 2014 (p. 81; in seven lines) presents "Observations on the Lack of Stars" which uses objective typography and color variation in its conceptual approach.

5) What are your thoughts and feelings about the current "state" of haiku in general?

With the flourishing of a number of well-edited international online journals, the continued exploration of center, fringe and exo-haiku possibilities, and wider recognition by the literary community, a newfound sense of spring is in the air, yet much depends on where we go from here.

6) Is it enlivening to you? vital? confusing? stale?

As with fine cuisine there is much to savor; one easily passes on uninteresting dishes.

7) Has it taken a wrong turn, or do you feel there is promise in what currently appears in various journals? And how does it affect your own work?

No to wrong turns, yes to promise. I'm not sure what to do next, in criticism. The Disjunctive Dragonfly, a New Approach to English-Language Haiku (Red Moon Press, 2013: represents the completion of a conceptual approach developed over 10 years. Some may know that I recently formed SHAO NPO: "sailing for haiku across oceans" ( The site is self-explanatory—what is not is the sense of pilgrimage, challenge and risk-taking, as well as learning I wish to undertake—away from the built environment—in searching out persons, communities, sacred places and poems in and around Japan, and finding contrasts between marine and land haiku cultures. I'll add that we haven't updated this website as we have found an excellent new (1989) sailboat, and are closing in late January—after which we will redouble our public efforts and communication of the campaign. Closeness and distance, ever in the waves.

nights: a cold world
con fidence spins
worlds waves hours

Richard Gilbert
What is your relationship to haiku now?


When asked who the most important person she ever met was, Etel Adnan answered, "a mountain."  It is possible that the population of creeping things with whom I spent my tropical childhood had the biggest influence on early haiku.  Proximate influences were: Buddhist practice and study; poets such as Rilke, Levertov, Gluck, Hass, and Oliver; Neideker's The Granite Pail; and, above all, haiku (mostly Buddhist) poets.  I aspired to Issa's humility and lightness, Paul Reps's nobility, and vincent tripi's intimate transcendencies.

Owl feather
in my palm
– the feel of moonlight

- vincent tripi (Between God & the pine)

wind troubles my dreams
              how delicate
                      the columbine

- (Poems from a Garden)

Still a process of communion, haiku has become less monastic/exclusively-satori-seeking and more porous to other influences from life and art.  Beginner's mind has conspired with somatic therapies, energy cultivations, and studies in neuroplasticity.  I moved from country to town to city to town.  I look to poets who stretch the genre.


- Peggy Willis Lyles (R'r X.2, 2010)

Video intrudes.  When I started writing haiku in the late nineties, I hadn't watched TV, seen a movie, or taken a photograph for some time.  I didn't cruise the internet or read the newspaper.  My visual experience of nature, at least, was less mediated.  I bet that watching youtube clips and the surprise-endings of movies like "All Is Lost," and "Blue Valentine" (an oceanic allusion to the Sistine Chapel and a firework-sunset, respectively) has, over time, loosened a proclivity toward too-tidy or predictable "third lines."  Allan Burns's essay, "Haiku and Cinematic Technique," inspired some intentionally cinematic moves.

high in
the palm tree wind
and its wild horse


Also at work are the songs of e.g. Bob Dylan, Sam Beam, Regina Spektor, Dave Rawlings, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Jeff Tweedy, and Brett Dennen, to which I have been listening more closely lately.  A few times their long- or second-winded or irregular lyrics  – played on the stereo or in the neurological echo chamber – have carried a haiku to completion.  This is primarily a rhythm entrainment, but a review reveals some disjunctive cuts:

And she chose a yard to burn, but the ground remembers her
Wooden spoons, her children stir her bougainvillea blooms

- "Passing Afternoon," Iron and Wine (Our Endless Numbered Days)

I loved you first, I loved you first
Beneath the sheets of paper lies my truth

- "Samson," Regina Spektor (Songs)

Morning any town you name

- "Morning Morgantown," Joni Mitchell (Ladies of the Canyon)

These are a few of my influences.  If you are reading this, chances are you're among them, so thank you!  And especial thanks to Peter for so skillfully leading this forum.

Sabine Miller



After 20+ years of writing haiku and a good 10 of actually taking the time to pay attention to what haiku is I'd say my relationship to the form has deepened. If someone were to ask me in passing "why haiku?" I'd say: "Haiku connects me," And by that I mean fills me in on the details. As a writer of poems and haiku specifically, I am a reporter of things in the world. I jot things down in the little palm-sized notebook I carry in my back pocket. A few random excerpts of late include;

"house of leaves perfect globe,"

"taking refuge unconnected stars,"

"last bird heads south. . ."

Pieces of poems maybe. World fragments. Maybe just blips on the radar screen and I'm homing in on the next moment of my life. I am a net  and haiku is what catches. Every day is a flurry of words and experiences ups downs ins and outs. Haiku is for me a kind of long low hush like the tide pulling the water away down the sand. A calm ensues. It's the world taking a breath and showing me how to do the same.

When I first began writing haiku my approach was academic. A sleuth poet in search of a poem to solve with a clever twist. Now, I am slightly more in tune with this one fact: all life is a mystery. So, observe. Everything is a companion. Haiku is one way of having a conversation. May we each be so lucky to carry on . . .

Peter Newton



Perhaps because of the fluttery ineffable
I feel in response to "What is your relationship to haiku now?",
this poem immediately came to mind,
and any attempt to develop something more has escaped me.

moths gather the unfinished business of her closed door

(first published in Frogpond 37:1)

Eve Luckring



Yesterday I met with a painter to discuss the paintings of Edward Hopper, especially the late paintings. I had worked with this painter on adding haiku to her bag of tricks, so she was aware of certain universals in Basho – for example, the distinction between loneliness and solitude. But now she was on home turf; she had a degree in art history and decades as a painter to draw on. We looked at the image of the nude sitting on a bed staring out the window. The walls are bare, the woman is bare, a white light dominates the space. The woman is of a certain age. She holds herself in an almost yoga-like position. Straight spine, arms comfortably resting on her legs. Her hair is pulled-back, leaving her face exposed to the light.

When asked for her feelings about this image, the painter drew on her knowledge of the sitter, of Hopper's marriage, and so on. She made intelligent comments about the composition of the painter. She said the woman seems lonely, perhaps forsaken; the bare walls emphasize the emptiness of the space. We can't see what she sees out the window, if she sees anything at all.

Then I asked her to apply what she learned from haiku about loneliness, about emptiness, about states of mind associated with meditation. She drew a blank. I kept talking, pointing things out with this new framework. She began to see the image differently. She personally could have been this woman. She saw the woman as an image of integrity in communion with a source that transcends her.

When I got home I wrote a little essay based on this conversation. See where I analyze a haiku by Basho.

The study of haiku doesn't leave you where it finds you. It provides an alternative view of reality. The habits that go with haiku can rewire your consciousness so that you actually see things differently. Call this the haiku habitus. It is the focus of my practices as teacher, writer, and poet.

I am aware that the concept of haiku I'm fleshing out here is not often discussed by critics. Critics tend to be historicists; for the most part, the "habitus" of  haiku I draw on, rooted in Basho and in the millennial traditions going back to the Zhuangzi, does not have currency. It is considered anachronistic. We moderns must be, well, modern.


My study of haiku has helped me recover a set of habits of perception that allow me to discuss values in art that matter to me. I have taught haiku for decades now; one of my students has won awards (Madeleine Findlay). I teach haiku every week here in Portsmouth.

In my own creative work (see, I start not with Basho but with the poets collected in The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry (New Directions 2003).  This anthology develops the ramifications of the poetics developed by modern American poets under the influence of what I call her the haiku habitus. In statements given at a symposium in 1977 and excerpted in this book,  Kenneth Rexroth and Gary Snyder said, "Japnese poetry, which after all is an extremely compressed expression of Chinese aesthetics . . . " The imagery of the pond songs is as "compressed" as any haiku image, and it drinks from the same sources.

In many essays on my blogs and in my pond songs, I continue to explore the vision of reality that I draw from this haiku tradition. My pond songs don't look like haiku but they follow patterns explored by generations of Chinese poets. These patterns were adopted and adapted by Basho and centuries of Japanese haiku poets. Basho explicitly paid tribute to some of these poets. In Peipei Qiu's groundbreaking study of Basho and the Dao, the brilliant scholar-critic shows how Basho made the Zhuangzi new for his time. Along with haiku, I have become familiar with contemporary Taoist research, and this too has nourished my "haiku point of view." I like to think Basho and I are on the same page.

This study has also brought me into ecopoetics. David Barnhill's presentation of Basho leaves no doubt that the haiku vision is an ecological vision. And this vision is not reductive; the Chinese traidition of rivers and mountains poetry, so congential to Snyder, is metaphysical: it is  rooted in an awareness of the paradox of  the human presence in nature. That human language is inseparable from ecopoetics is brilliantly demonstrated by Scott Knickerbocker, Ecopoetics: The Language of Nature, the Nature of Language (2012).

Tom D'Evelyn
The question posed by Field Notes 8 is:

What is your relationship to haiku now?

--How, if at all, has it changed since you first took up the practice?
--What surprising (or perhaps not) influences have affected you?
--Do you find yourself going deeper into haiku, or perhaps moving away from it?
--Can you give an example or two of your early work as well as an example or two of recent work?
--What are your thoughts and feelings about the current "state" of haiku in general?

This is the final installment of the Field Notes series. My enduring gratitude to all who have contributed.

Peter Yovu
Field Notes / Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic #2
August 25, 2014, 04:01:46 PM
Dear George,

As neither Allen, Lorin, Paul, Philip, Richard nor Sandra have responded yet, I thought I'd just drop in a quick comment.

As much as I enjoy minimalist haiku, and I've read one word haiku and one word renku, I'm not sure about this extreme brevity, even shorter than the famous Japanese haiku of four characters:


Ōhashi Raboku

Although as a list it is a mesmerising piece.   I would imagine reading these out aloud on a stage would create an impact.   Have you done that?

warm regards,

Field Notes / Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic #2
August 25, 2014, 04:00:06 PM
Dear Allen, Lorin, Paul, Philip, Richard, Sandra,

Your discussion reveals that the theoretical underpinnings of English-language haiku are evolving as vigorously as haiku themselves.

I'm interested to learn about your views on two-word haiku. In 1984, CURVD H&Z published bifids, my collection of such ku, and, in 1986, Wind Chimes Press published, The Space Between, an anthology of two-word ku by Eric Amann, LeRoy Gorman and me. 

Here are seven of mine from these works.  I hope one or two will kick-start a discussion. The first four were included in Thomas Lynch's PhD thesis, An original relation to the universe: Emersonian poetics of immanence and contemporary American haiku (University of Oregon, 1989).

firefly      violin               

fever              ants

stars              crickets

mist              semen

eyelid      cloud

snowflakes      bricks

Hiroshima      Phoenix

Of particular interest to me is how large the space, or gap, between images can become before reader interest plummets into a yawning abyss.


Field Notes / Field Notes 7: Off-topic #2
August 25, 2014, 03:57:47 PM
George Swede has offered a new area for discussion. I will re-enter his initial post (along with a response
by Alan Summers) below, but here is a gist:

[D]iscussion [in FN7 off-topic] reveals that the theoretical underpinnings of English-language haiku are evolving as vigorously as haiku themselves.

I'm interested to learn about your views on two-word haiku.

Here are [some] of mine  . . .

firefly      violin               

fever              ants

stars              crickets

mist              semen

Of particular interest to me is how large the space, or gap, between images can become before reader interest plummets into a yawning abyss.

Of additional interest to me (PY) is just how short a text can be and still be called a poem, or still be called a haiku. What makes it so?

Thanks to George for offering some of his own work as a starting point.
Field Notes / Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic discussion
August 07, 2014, 12:11:24 AM
I have copied a conversation between Paul Miller and Alan Summers below. It was prompted by Paul's
post in FN 7: Challenge. It is an open conversation. As always, you are welcome to participate.




Hi Paul,

I just wanted to say that this "verse" really moved me when I first read it. In Britain the remembrance of the First World War (where Japan were allies with Britain) there was were many cold mathematical calculations by British Generals to burn a few thousand British soldiers for the sake of a few feet of earth won.

war dead
exit out of a blue mathematics

     -- Sugimura Seirinshi (trans. Richard Gilbert and Ito Yuki)

I have pondered and pondered this haiku, approaching it from a number of angles, and I think it fails. It is a bunch of twenty-five cent words when five cent words would have done. One challenge in this poem is to stand up to the new orthodoxy and point out its lack of pants.

--Paul Miller

The Second World War was a different set of mathematics e.g. the Nazi experiments with killing large numbers of Jewish, homosexual, Gypsy, and mentally ill people from those first dark bikes to showers and ovens.  Whatever Sugimura Seirinshi meant, I don't know, but it strikes a strong chord with me, whenever I read this haiku.


Modern Haiku
MH Essay—"From Haiku to the Short Poem" by Philip Rowland

New Rising Haiku:

戦死者が青き数学より出たり                  杉村聖林子
sennsisha ga aoki suugaku yori detari                                   Sumimura Seirinshi

war dead
exit out of a blue mathematics

Simply Haiku:

Nazi Euthanasia
Each expert placed a + mark in red pencil or - mark in blue pencil under the term "treatment" on a special form. A red plus mark meant a decision to kill the child. A blue minus sign meant meant a decision against killing. Three plus symbols resulted in a euthanasia warrant being issued and the transfer of the child to a 'Children's Specialty Department' for death by injection or gradual starvation.

I am sure the blue pencil was utilised for various record keeping and mathematics on more than one side of the war, for example:

Stalin's Deadly Blue Pencil
The editor is the unseen hand with the power to change meaning and message, even the course of history. Back when copy-proofs were still manually cut, pasted, and photographed before printing, a blue pencil was the instrument of choice for editors because blue was not visible when photographed. The editorial intervention was invisible by design.

At a meeting with Winston Churchill a few months later, the British prime minister watched as Stalin "took his blue pencil and made a large tick" indicating his approval of the "percentages agreement" for the division of Europe into Western and Soviet spheres of influence after the war.

Of course I'm seeing this subjectively, and emotionally.  As a child I watched many war films including several dealing with the Nazi Concentration Camps. 

Only a couple of years ago, I discovered that a relative, although not blood related as I'm adopted, died in a concentration camp.  Not being Jewish I never felt I'd come to know a relative died there, it touches us all, as does 911 despite not being American.

I just wanted to say how much, however much I misread that haiku, it has touched me to the quick.

Alan Summers


I just want to [end with a]  quote from Michelle Tennison's post as it moved me so much:

war dead
exit out of a blue mathematics

-- Sugimura Seirinshi (trans. Richard Gilbert and Ito Yuki)

This last haiku is in itself an effective argument for experimentation in art.  Didn't the French Surrealism of the 1920s grow, at least in part, out of the existential insanity of WWI, which many of its originators had experienced first hand? They were witness to the extremes of the "mathematics" of our rational minds, that has everything neatly identified, categorized, and tied up, i.e. our linear, left-brain culture run amok, that can lead to such violence upon ourselves and our world. The harsh light of war can help us to recognize that we are perhaps never more dangerous than when we know everything there is to know.

This kind of radical experimentation, although demanding for the reader, is healthy and has infused contemporary haiku with new vitality. It often forces us to engage more intuitive channels in order to relate. There is value, and life, and courage in tripping up the habitual mind (and habitual form) just enough to bypass ego and reason, if only temporarily, so that new realities can be allowed to penetrate awareness. The intelligence of the heart can recognize truth even when the mind cannot (and can help us transcend the sometime arrogance of reason). 

To sum up, "We don't see the world as it is, we see it as we are." (Anais Nin). I live for that moment when observation, external and internal, is allowed to newly inform my being-in-the-world. What about the moments when we do see the world a little bit more as it is, and it raises our consciousness, lifts us up and informs our choices and perceptions? What happens when we take the risks necessary to see something new that might actually change us? This is a personal challenge, and it is one of haiku's greatest gifts.



Alan, thanks for commenting. I get a meaning from the poem, and can understand how someone with a history with war could find it emotive, but it is essentially a rewrite of:

war dead
killed from calculations that I find sad

where "calculations" stands for the decisions of bureaucrats and generals.
I understand what the poet is trying to say (or I should say I get something from it) and his view is valid.

However, when I say it fails I am detaching the meaning of the haiku from its execution. I believe the writer fell in love with the phrase "blue mathematics" and wasn't prepared to get rid of it.  I think we are supposed to think it cool and clever and overlook its use. It is an awkward attempt at symbolism.



True, that blue mathematics has a zing, but then a lot of haiku poets do use blue other than for its natural image in nature.

It's possible many of us are influenced by the blue period of painting

But it's intriguing how, pre-computer, the blue pencil has been an instrument for what a computer user might now use strike-out or blue text etc... in a word.doc or spreadsheet etc...

True, we shouldn't be emotional when it comes to haiku, and war is business pure and simple. Perhaps that's why Mrs Bush dealt with so many anti-Gulf War poets and their careers.

I must admit I don't know:

war dead
killed from calculations that I find sad

Do you have a weblink for that?

I must admit that a large number of haiku leave me disinterested on any level, but I am interested in these short verses that somehow carry more than they should. When they act as a cipher beyond just a few conveniently placed words.

I must admit 'blue mathematics' is striking, but for me that would fail after a few readings.

I tend to multiple read a haiku when I first come across it, and multiple readings over the weeks and months.

A haiku has to go way beyond a gimmick to hook me.  But then what might
leave me indifferent, or sufficiently enticed into multiple-reads, might work for someone else.

war dead
exit out of a blue mathematics

war dead
killed from calculations that I find sad

For the Japanese the New Romantic notion of only originality is something
that is quite alien I would think. Yet do non-Japanese poets go for
total originality?

Bill Manhire's poem:

I was lucky enough to see him at a Bath Spa University Summer event for BA
and MA students.   He was one of the best speakers and despite almost all
BA students studying novels, he was far more interesting, and amusing for them.

But it's just my personal viewpoint, perhaps seeing blue pencil in action for something I cannot recall now might have influenced me.



I may not have been as clear as I should have been. I think having an emotional reaction to a poem is the first and most important reading you should have, so for you the haiku succeeds. But for me the abstraction distances me from a real event. The advantage realism has is that the reader is forced into a real situation that they must grapple with. "blue mathematics" is just too cute and clever for me to deal with. It also makes the poem intellectual rather than emotional--for me.

Now not all haiku need to be realistic. I find Metz's blowhole haiku to be wonderful because there are so many great links between the parts that reverberate back and forth (sea = space; blood = stars; etc). I don't get those same parallels in the war dead haiku. The "blue mathematics" feels out of place, tacked on.

The reading:

war dead
killed from calculations that I find sad

is mine. That's what I think he is trying to say. I just think he is doing it in a poor way.

Field Notes / Field Notes 7: Off-topic discussion
August 06, 2014, 09:29:12 PM
It is both inevitable and desirable that Field Notes should stimulate discussion, some of it "off-topic".
To foster such conversation, I've opened a separate (but related) subject area. If you wish to open a discussion prompted by but not directly relating to the main subject-- challenge-- this is the place to do it.

Field Notes / Re: Field Notes 7: Challenge
July 19, 2014, 07:27:37 PM

I'm challenged by writing haiku (within for the most part a nature connection) by Pound's dictum, "Make it new." There are limited subjects and many have been done to death or worn out (assuming that nature itself has not been worn out, as it seems sometimes, in the postmodern condition, with an apologetic bow to Pachamama). Such haiku seems easy to write but it isn't. Instead, linguistic and long overdone poetics elements have entered the scene, with "ordinary" speech and inflated reliance on overblown (for the small haiku form) infusions of sound poetry, surrealism, psychobabble, and the like. Far from being a Hallmark greeting, haiku drawn out of nature with some depth and a developed sensitivity to nature continues a valid and significant (perhaps more so now) focus as it always has been.

Bruce Ross
Hampden, Maine



Few things have challenged my haiku mind set more than the Martin Lucas essay "Haiku as Poetic Spell". Not since Robert Spiess rejected my entire first submission to Modern Haiku have I been so driven to reconsider almost everything I thought I knew about haiku. The Spiess rejection spurred me to an in-depth study of current and vintage haiku literature. That eventually led to publication and a certain sense of accomplishment over time. Then Lucas opened the blinds and I had to ask whether that sense of accomplishment is devolving into "conformity, complacency and mere competence"—with a tendency toward formula. Just because I've written some "good haiku," I'm not off the hook. In fact, that somehow drives the hook deeper. Any success increases responsibility. But this makes writer's block inviting by comparison. Better to suffer angst over a notebook of blank pages than to consider major surgery on notebooks filled with possibles that have lost some of their luster. Not that I'm discouraged. I return to the Lucas essay often, examining the keys that might open all the doors and windows – maybe even knock down walls. It's the ultimate challenge to any writer: forget past success; aim for the uncomfort zone.

Billie Wilson



    Why? Where? When? How?

I've written a number of articles on poetic creativity such as: Poetry As Therapy (Waves, 1975. 4:1), "Poetic Innovation" (in Larissa Shavinina, ed., The International Handbook on Innovation, 2003),  "Why Haiku?" (Simply Haiku, 2005, 3:4), "Why Do We Write?" (Simply Haiku, 2006, 4:1). Two of my books also deal with the subject: The Modern English Haiku (1981) and Creativity: A New Psychology (1993).  But, on reflection, I find my metaphorical attempts to understand cut closer to the bone.


sharply into focus     the blur     of my existence      (Endless Jigsaw, 1978)

Needle and Thread

With this pen
the needle
and these words
the thread
each day
I mend
the new holes
I find
in my head                     (As Far As The Sea Can Eye, 1979)

History Is A Tapestry

I want to be woven
into its design.
Just a thread—
red.                        (Night Tides, 1984)

She's bent over
a cryptic crossword
I over a poem—
both of us lost in our
own puzzle of existence               (Gusts, 2005, No. 2)

A new hand-held gizmo—
now even fewer will
read the poems
over which we labor
and find sustaining joy               (White Thoughts, Blue Mind, 2010)


Thoughts escape via fingers and tongue to what they imagine are freedom and fortune.

driftwood still wet—
the sea unseen beyond
the vast tidal flat                  (Frogpond, 2014,  37:2)

From Where and When?

hiding somewhere in this room  a good idea      (Endless Jigsaw, 1978)

at the end of myself pencil tip            (Eye To Eye With A Frog, 1981)

full of good ideas I weigh no more            (Eye To Eye With A Frog, 1981)

Writing a poem
of longing for her
I'm irritated
by the interruption
of her phone call                  (Tanka Splendor, 1991)

With so many
thoughts and emotions
I burden
this lone red rose
in the garden                  (Wind Five-Folded, 1994)

ant haiku
my writing
grows smaller                  (Simply Haiku, 2013,  No. 3)

Old grocery list:
perhaps on the back
I'll write
a memorable tanka
about eggs and bread               (American Tanka, 2009, No. 18)


Why Poets Become Outlaws

An image
can be more real
than what it
stands for

That's why
the imagination
certain images

And why
poets become
outlaws                     (Holes In My Cage, 1989)

Rhinos And Fedoras

The best poems
wear fedoras
and can outstare
a herd of rhinos

The next-best
describe thoughts
rhinos have
about fedoras

The rest
should be impaled
on the horns
of rhinos
wearing fedoras                  (Holes In My Cage, 1989)

Into recycling
a sheaf of poems
better off as
menus or flyers—
last snow gone                  (White Thoughts, Blue Mind, 2010)

Not there
the critical mass of neurons
for a poem—
the leaves shimmer
in the wind's metaphors               (Ribbons, 2010, 6:3)

the apple's crispness
       i put an x thru
       the new poem                  (Frogpond, 2104, 37:2)

My decision to divide the poetic process into three parts might be over-analytical as well as redundant.  Maybe this is all that needs to be said:

the answer we are
     is the riddle
   we search for                  (Joy In Me Still, 2010)

George Swede



My latest challenge is the commitment to write for Field Notes.

Recently I wrote a couple of posts for Soundings. Writing out my thoughts, as opposed to leaving them to pass unexamined in stream of conscious, clarified, amplified and simplified them.

To quote Australian architect Glenn Murcutt: "I see simplicity not so much as a disregard for complexity, but as a clarification of the significant."

Separating my mind's significant points from its more seductively complex ramblings can be daunting.

Concrete/language-based poetry presents another challenge.

From the current edition of Modern Haiku:


-Roland Packer, Modern Haiku, summer 2014

My initial reaction was "I don't get it."  Instead of shrugging and moving on, I asked myself, "what do you notice?"  The misspelling of "coin" ...  that the first three letters spell "koi"...  AHA!  Coins and koi in a pond ...maybe a bit of homage to "Tundra"?  Clever. What makes this haiku is that, within the context of a haiku magazine, it does what haiku does

This is similar to how I taught myself to "get" those traditional verses that I found more difficult in the beginning, like this one:

pencil box
the silk worm
cool to my touch

Yu Chang, Frogpond, Fall 2006

Is there an old approach I want to explore? Yes! Going back to the basics. Again and again and again.  Playing with distance in haiku that use juxtaposition. Leaving more unsaid.  Saying one thing while saying another. Trying to be more subtle.  Experimenting.

I am writing more one-line verses and I am more open to language and gendai influences, which paradoxically have opened me more to the beauty and subtlety of traditional haiku. I am writing more traditional haiku too.  Experimenting.  

Subjects and techniques that are used in classical haiku/renku that are seldom used in ELH interest me. Language, metrics, rhythm ... these too interest me. Experimenting.

Two books presently on my bedside table are, Haiku Enlightenment and Haiku: The Gentle Art of Disappearing, both by Gabriel Rosenstock.

I am also rereading A Poetry Handbook, by Mary Oliver and Rules for the Dance, a Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse, also by Mary Oliver. Teaching myself to scan is a BIG challenge.
Blyth's Haiku Volume 3 (Summer-Autumn) is also on that bedside table as well as various haiku anthologies dipped into at random and selected books by favorite haiku authors.

John Sexton is a poet who has influenced me. Here are a few of his verses:

lightening bug lantern Issa latches a gate in the cloud

the new grass stretches to the rain / tyrannies are subtle

snailed / rainbows spill at the thrush ford

they eat an eye each the gingerbread man sees no evil

(All verses above by John Sexton posting on Facebook as Jack Brae Curtingstall)

Field Notes posed a question asking what haiku poets can learn from other forms of poetry and vice versa. Another way to put that question is: what can haiku poets who write in a traditional style learn from poets who write in a gendai style and vice versa?

Perhaps the only universal limit applied to haiku is that it must be short. Once a subject is chosen a second "limit" emerges. Whatever one chooses automatically un-chooses everything else. Our limits are determined by the choices we make. The more we learn, the more our choices multiply.

"Limits" can be seen as tools. Some function as trowels "to apply, spread, shape, or smooth loose or plastic material," in this case, the plastic material of experience, memory and language.

This view of limits leads to the ongoing challenge to "make things difficult for myself," to search out those techniques that do not come naturally to me; to work with my least dominant senses; to read poetry that is more difficult for me to "understand," etc, etc, etc.  There are so many ways to cobble together hurdles to jump and/or stumble over.

I recently won third place in the Under the Basho Haiku Contest for this verse:

evergreen almost touching evergreen sound now water now wind

Vision is my strongest sense. Hearing is my least developed sense. I like this verse because it captures a moment that was difficult to capture. But mostly, I like it for something that is just out of reach. I like it because in a very real way, I do not understand it.

The greatest challenge for me, and maybe for all of us, is to grow rather than to metastasize.

Karen Cesar



Basho's example always inspires me to raise my standards both critical and creative. I spend a lot of time blogging on poetry, and a return to Basho restores my energies.  This happens especially when I return to David Barnhill's presentation "Basho's Haiku" (SUNY 2004). His Introduction, translations, and notes leave no doubt as to WHY I feel so challenged at the thought of Basho. He talks about the "assumptions" behind Basho's vision, and they are all relevant today. The assumptions transform our idea of nature: "there are authoritative experiences of nature. Some experiences are 'truer'—more deeply insightful of the essential nature of things—than others." Basho's haiku preserve his "authoritative experiences of nature." An example of this may be seen in Barnhill's comments on the old pond haiku. My own study of haiku has made me hyper-observant of the asymmetry of the two parts: two lines comprising a setting/narrative, one line presenting a moment's insight into the nature of things.

Now, with Barnhill's insistence on how the sequence of imagery creates a meaning I hadn't seen before: "a frog jumps in / and the water sounds:/ an old pond."
The essence of this poem is the sound of old water. To  hear that one must use one's imagination. One must find space in one's own oldness to hear  that sound; one must let that sound speak from within. Sure, old water is usually thought to be silent, but, if disturbed, it makes a special sound. I can't help thinking about how as one ages, one's mind becomes thick and opaque and incommunicative. Until a frog jumps in!
Haiku challenges our assumptions about the duality of man and nature. It challenges our assumptions about the deadness of the past. It challenges our taste in poetry, which tends to value verbal ingenuity over raw insight. Spending time with Basho raises my standards and quickens my spirit.

Tom D'Evelyn



Haiku: A True Challenge

I want to write one true thing. I think Hemingway said that. My challenge as a poet is to maintain an authentic voice throughout a poem. Perhaps that's why I have assumed the role of a haiku poet. Its brevity. Its tight quarters. Its ego intolerance. Its lack of wiggle room.

                                                to begin in ink the end of a pencil

For me, one challenge is to remove myself from the poem. Not that me, my or I are bad things in haiku but they inject a human presence I'd prefer to downplay. Recently, I read a line by the poet William Stafford: "The wider your knowledge, the milder your opinions." I guess I sometimes feel my poems can tend toward opinion pieces. I'd like to think I'm a better reporter on the beat than that. Just the facts ma'am.

I'd like to narrow my subject to the natural world. But that means no dragonfly poems or mentions of the moon, shadows, autumn wind, spring breezes, either solstice or any other possibly overused seasonal references. Cliches are brambles. Tricky territory. I'm all for nature but want to explore a new nature. The new/old relationship we have with nature. To reflect the increasing urgency. Haiku agenda? Is that allowed? No, not really but haiku is what we make it. A poem's gotta matter.

year spent studying
the fall
of snow

Potential subject matter for future haiku: The dire circumstances confronting the natural world in 2014. That giant Texas-sized dump of swirling plastic particles in the Pacific. The loss of the great tusked elephants to poachers. The virility-starved Chinese consumers of shark fin soup. Is the iceberg shrinking or is it business as usual--or simply mankind's expansionist habits at work.


There is no solution. I hold a dim view of man's willingness, ability or inclination to change. Poetry is a spotlight on the issue. Haiku is a pen-light. Perhaps a laser if done well. Language can be that precise. That glaring in the face of complacency. So that's my challenge. Write a poem to change the world one reader at a time.

No problem.

                             star-gazing the minutia moments I don't count

Peter Newton


Field Notes / Re: Field Notes 7: Challenge
July 19, 2014, 07:06:19 PM

In what ways, as a reader and a writer, are you challenged by haiku?

Poetry requires unblinking presence and courage. You can't have an internal edit button regarding what you observe. My haiku of the past tended to be more pretty and contrived. Now I realize they have to be honest or else nothing. True haiku are not an escape, and do not resist life. My challenge is to not resist life, either through sentimentality or habit. Thus the challenge I face when writing haiku is the same as the guiding barometer of my haiku "Truth": The question of whether I have looked deeply and courageously enough into life.

With compassion as my tool I am better equipped for what I might see, or at least that is my hope.  Compassion dispels fear and allows one to move beyond projection or sentimentality as a defense. Compassion requires humility, an open and receptive stance, and deep listening. It is a way of entering into resonant communion with the observed.  Compassion is direct engagement with life, and, in terms of haiku, when effectively actualized is at its heart.  I would say, then, that I am challenged to keep my heart open in this way as I walk through this world.

Can you show us, and talk about, one or more poems which you find personally challenging?

There are other means to deeply engage truth, as evidenced by trends in contemporary haiku. Currently haiku and senryu that employ mind and convention-bending linguistic experimentation and/or aspects of surrealism AND are still able to maintain a healthy compassion are the poems that challenge and interest me the most.

Some examples that come to mind:

the blood rushing through my blowhole winter stars

-- Scott Metz 

which shocks with its direct identification of the observed, and:

in the deep bosom
of a sniper –
myrtle blossom

-- Onishi Yasuyo (trans. Richard Gilbert and Ito Yuki)

war dead
exit out of a blue mathematics

-- Sugimura Seirinshi (trans. Richard Gilbert and Ito Yuki)

This last haiku is in itself an effective argument for experimentation in art.  Didn't the French Surrealism of the 1920s grow, at least in part, out of the existential insanity of WWI, which many of its originators had experienced first hand? They were witness to the extremes of the "mathematics" of our rational minds, that has everything neatly identified, categorized, and tied up, i.e. our linear, left-brain culture run amok, that can lead to such violence upon ourselves and our world. The harsh light of war can help us to recognize that we are perhaps never more dangerous than when we know everything there is to know.

This kind of radical experimentation, although demanding for the reader, is healthy and has infused contemporary haiku with new vitality. It often forces us to engage more intuitive channels in order to relate. There is value, and life, and courage in tripping up the habitual mind (and habitual form) just enough to bypass ego and reason, if only temporarily, so that new realities can be allowed to penetrate awareness. The intelligence of the heart can recognize truth even when the mind cannot (and can help us transcend the sometime arrogance of reason). 

To sum up, "We don't see the world as it is, we see it as we are." (Anais Nin). I live for that moment when observation, external and internal, is allowed to newly inform my being-in-the-world. What about the moments when we do see the world a little bit more as it is, and it raises our consciousness, lifts us up and informs our choices and perceptions? What happens when we take the risks necessary to see something new that might actually change us? This is a personal challenge, and it is one of haiku's greatest gifts.

Michelle Tennison



There is not an aspect of haiku that I'm not in some way or other challenged by. I suppose, if I think back, the least challenging time was when I began as a novice, because as one comes to anything new there is an innocence regarding dimension. I think this is true whether we're talking about the craft of writing, other art forms, sports, cooking, learning how to play a musical instrument, and so on. We approach the "activity" out of interest and perhaps a desire to learn more. For those who want to reach beyond form and haiku as a 5-7-5 frivolity, the challenges are endless, the frustrations tedious, and the rewards beyond measure.

Regarding specifics, I find it difficult to write a really good all-nature haiku. For me, those require a certain kind of quietude, awareness, and sensitivity that is often hard to come by in a world where the mind and body need to be on task just to exist daily. I find that the challenge is to get the "self" out of the way as much as possible and find a place of "centering" where the ego isn't circling the camp. There are many who have done and do this with seeming ease (though we can guess that isn't the case):

heat lightning
the heron's toes
grip dead wood

Peggy Willis Lyles (Modern Haiku 19.3)

night of the comet
the eye of a crow
turns to the light

paul m. (wanderlost)

whispering through the dead-nettles the sides of a vole

John Barlow (Frogpond 37:2)

a color between
flesh and bone

Eve Luckring (Frogpond 37:2)

This is not to say that I'm not equally challenged by other aspects of haiku, especially as the art form continues to evolve and expand through subject matter, content, approach, interpretation, pushing the boundaries--all of which I as both reader and writer find exciting. There is, however, still a part of me that doesn't want to let go of the desire to explore the mysteries of the universe in the vein of a leaf.

Francine Banwarth



Brevity releases language as darkness releases a star.

Harold Bloom writes of the experience of poetry (for him at a very young age) giving  " . . . the pleasures of excited thought, of a thinking that changed one's outer nature, while opening up an inner identity, a self within the self, previously unknown".

The challenge is to stay true to that inner identity, to be its scribe as it explores itself, as it changes, as it challenges one's everyday narcissism.

Cid Corman called it "livingdying".

A picture reminds. An image minds. Mind is a flowering of body.

So much of what is new and genuine and primal is subsumed by imitation. It is a challenge to sort out the original from the echo in ones own work and in that of others. Imitations can be persuasive, but one should not be so easily persuaded to publish.

Scott Metz' poems often challenge the idea that haiku are concerned with the here and now. They locate us
in a mythological or psychological somewhere.

He is explicit about it here:

fireflies are
    eating rhinos

(The fact that this is explicit tends to make it more of a picture than an image, which means it is soon exhausted, but nonetheless it is helpful in leading to other considerations).

Here is a more implicit somewhere:

in the basement
of a snowflake
blackbird and i

It is as if someone had asked a 5 year old Wallace Stevens: "What's at the bottom of a snowflake and what do you see there?" The thing is, you have to ask the right question, and of the right person— "the self within the self"—which is always a challenge.

The challenge for the writer is to present to the reader his or her own sense that there are somewheres within us that require such language, usually metaphorical, usually imagistic, strange only because they are new to us. Here and now after all.

Otherwise, we experience only dissociation, language in rigor mortis. A good poem reveals ears in us we didn't know we had. The difficulty is that the strange is easy to imitate.

With originality, the depths embrace and utilize surface.  And yet surface may co-opt depth, as imitation. The simplicity of many of Burnell Lippy's poems belie their depth and originality. And yet how many haiku that are structured in similar fashion, or use similar vocabulary, feel two dimensional?

deep in the sink
the great veins of chard
summer's end

squash vines
long and hollow
the last late evenings

summer dawn
of the egg's taper

The root remains in darkness, held in depths of earth, so that its leaves and flowers may image forth in the light, visible but unattainable. The ordinary is strange.

Peter Yovu



A Tale of Two Haiji

[Truth is] not a stream that flows from a source, but an agreement of components.  In a poem, these components are not the words and the images, but the relation between the words and images.

- Muriel Rukeyser, The Life of Poetry

Haiku sequences have intrigued and often mystified me, so this past year I decided to try a rengay.  I contacted a poet whose work I'd long admired with an invitation.  As luck would have it, she had also never done one, so we proceeded to flounder together.  And how:  Each figure/ground poem was either ground or figure to the next poem's figure or ground, with constantly shifting options; at times it felt more like that amusement park ride, The Scrambler, than the neat set of semantic nesting dolls I had envisioned.  My habitual anxiety of influence alternated with a fear of straying too far from my partner's voice.  At number 5, I got stuck on, among other things, not repeating the word "the" in all the poems.  And when I did land an inspired haiku—one of those all-wave-no-walls experiences–-my partner gently pointed out that it didn't fit our theme. 

Collaborating took one of my biggest challenges with this genre—the agreement between the fragments—and multiplied and reality-tested it.  My journals are brimming with half-haiku in search of a true partnership; like a nun who gets married because she's having a hard time communing with her God, I wasn't slated for success.  My collaborator (to whom haiku came in her half-sleep) and I inspired each other, but, within the sequence, we compromised more than we alchemized.  I wonder if all relationships—whether of a word and image, or of two fragments, poems, body organs, people—hinge on this tension between compromise and alchemy?   Put another way:  Did you ever begin to enjoy your predicament?

I've tried to piece it out, but I can't exactly say why intra-haiku relationships challenge me more than those in longer, looser, or didactic poems.  Or prose.  It just sometimes feels unnatural, like cramming my feet into toe shoes for a pas de deux when I'd breathe better doing contact improv. 

At any rate, as I was in my back yard thinking about all this, a crow broke the branch it was trying to land on.  With its wings still spread, it flew to the next branch.

And so it was that from the rengay that couldn't shine, we salvaged a net slew of single, unincorporated haiku and a hard-earned haiku friendship.

Sabine Miller

Field Notes / Field Notes 7: Challenge
July 19, 2014, 06:43:19 PM
Anyone who is serious about poetry knows that to write a good haiku, be it in a traditional, contemporary,
or experimental vein, is no easy thing. It can be a great challenge. The same goes for reading haiku: no matter the "style" in which it was written, no matter the era, each presents the reader with a challenge--
some it would seem, more than others.

Challenge is the theme of Field Notes 7. Here are some questions we hope you will find
both stimulating and challenging:

In what ways, as a reader and as a writer, are you challenged by haiku?

What is your personal challenge?  As a writer, where do you feel you need, or want to go, to further your art and craft?  Is there a new approach toward which you are leaning? An old approach you want to explore? Subject matter? 

Can you show us, and talk about, one or more poems which you find personally challenging?
Challenging, here, may mean difficult, or different, or new and in some way compelling your attention, whether one is looking at a poem by Buson or an avant garde contemporary.

We've asked a few poets to get this ball rolling.


The brevity of haiku in English can be both strength and weakness. With so few words, often fewer than ten per poem, the reader is especially sensitive to the sound of each word, to enjambment, to repetition. Unbroken meter, whether through a one-line or multiple-line haiku, holds too rigid a sway--this is true of long poems as well.

Rhythm is another matter, and sound/song. Prosody is such a lovely word, with ancient roots in utterance that nourish our own mother tongue.

If you have songbirds in your part of the world, you might be familiar with the abbreviated snippets of melodic line they often sing. They will reel out a series of notes, pause, and then repeat the line with a slight change. The practiced ear (I'm no expert) can place those snippets within longer lines that belong to the repertoire a particular species uses to communicate. I know it's a reach—bird calls and human language have little in common—but birdsong puts me in mind of the way we intuitively place snippets of compelling texts within the sea of our human song, the word-net that permeates our languages and literatures. I don't mean to imply some sort of secret knowledge. Anyone reading this has already cracked the code of language.

Moments of silence are integral to the music of a poem. In contemporary haiku, punctuation ranges from absent to sparse. I usually hear the word "space" used to describe a semantic or indicated "cut" in haiku. Silence, also, accompanies that space. The silence we honor with a pause in our reading, along with a vaster one that continues after, the way the words keep working within us. (What lies beyond "cuts" and related devices is too involved for me to tackle here...)

Before modernist poets began to disjoint line formats to generate alternate readings and expose words as themselves, people knew to pause at the end of each line of text. End-stopped lines are rarely assumed in poems now, and this holds true for haiku in English. How, then, do we sense when to pause while reading or reciting a poem, or any text? I remind myself to listen for nuance suggested by line and word placement. I try to be sensitive to regional variation in rhythm and pronunciation, to notice when my mouth needs time ending one word and shaping another. This leads to surprises. A poem can reveal itself through sound.

Peter has asked us to share some poems that engage in different ways with the topic at hand. Here are a few. The first two are by me, the others credited:

only a drawing
of a labyrinth, only
the moon's pull

deep snow
              in a dream, I find
              her password in

the river
the river makes
of the moon
     --Jim Kacian, Mainichi Daily News Contest 1997

reaching for green pears—
the pull
of an old scar
     --Peggy Willis Lyles, Global Haiku (Iron Press, 2000)

mosquito she too
insisting insisting she
is is is is is
     --Peter Yovu, Modern Haiku 35.1

Mark Harris



Here are 20 of my ear-ku (in terms of content and/or technique) from five years in the 20th century (1977-1981). They were appreciated during their time, but literary history suggests most will end up in dark and silent places while only a few might continue to speak to the imagination. Perhaps some of you will speculate on how this occurs, and possibly predict the fate of some of these poems (under each is its abridged publication record).


for the fat green frog
crouched on the log
time is flies

(11 times: A Snowman, Headless, Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1979) to Cornell's Mann Library Daily Haiku, 2011)


fresh snow on the fence
two more inches against
my neighbor's eloquence

(8 times: A Snowman, Headless, Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1979 to Cornell's Mann Library Daily Haiku, 2011)


in one corner
of the mental patient's eye
I exist

(10 times: Cicada, 1978 to Deutsche Haiku Gesellschaft, 2005)


in the howling wind
under the full moon
the snowman, headless

(14 times: Modern Haiku, 1977 to Modern Haiku, 2011—in a review of Joy In Me Still, Inkling Press, 2010)


having to guess
from the footsteps:
evening fog

(7 times: Cicada, 1977 to Haiku Journey, Hot Lava Games, 2006)


long after
the leaping buck     the quiver
of the fencepost

(4 times: Modern Haiku, 1978 to Champs et contrechamps de l' anthropologie in L'Homme, Editions de l'EHESS, 2008)


During discussion
on the meaning of life     the crunch
of a student's apple

(4 times: A Snowman, Headless, Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1979 to Almost Unseen, Brooks Books, 2000)


a bottomless well within me     no sound from my fallen pride

(8 times: Amoskeag, 1980 to I Want To Lasso Time, 1991)


night game
crack! the outfielder circles
under the full moon

(4 times: Driftwood East, 1979 to Almost Unseen (Brooks Books, 2000)


cool forest lake...
as I slip off my shorts, the snort
of a bull moose

(5 times: Gusto, 1978 to Simply Haiku, 2006)


in each eye
of the cat by the window
the singing robin

(5 times: Endless Jigsaw, Three Trees Press, 1978 to Whirligig, 2010)


with the bird songs
our dawn cries

(7 times: Endless Jigsaw, Three Trees Press, 1978 to micro haiku: three to nine syllables, Iņšpress, 2014 + PhD thesis by Tom Lynch, An original relation to the universe: Emersonian poetics of immanence and contemporary American haiku, U of Oregon, 1989)


my wife and I fight over
how to stop our sons
from fighting

(3 times: A Snowman, Headless, Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1979 to a PhD thesis by Tom Lynch, An original relation to the universe: Emersonian poetics of immanence and contemporary American haiku, U of Oregon, 1989)


calmly talking divorce
underfoot the crackle
of fallen leaves

(5 times: As Far As The Sea Can Eye, York Publishing, 1979 to Frogpond, 2001)


dropping stone after stone
into the lake     I keep

(16 times: High/Coo, 1979 to Whirligig, 2010 + PhD thesis by Tom Lynch, An original relation to the universe: Emersonian poetics of immanence and contemporary American haiku, U of Oregon, 1989)


falling pine needles     the tick of the clock

(7 times: Cicada, 1980 to micro haiku: three to nine syllables, Iņšpress, 2014)


hum of the fan
cigarette smoke streams
through our silence

(5 times: Modern Haiku, 1980 to PhD thesis by Tom Lynch, An original relation to the universe: Emersonian poetics of immanence and contemporary American haiku, U of Oregon, 1989)


a frog Picassos
my face

(10 times: White Wall Review, 1981 to micro haiku: three to nine syllables, Iņšpress, 2014)


rising like birds
from the bottom of the canyon
the children's cries

(9 times: Cross-Canada Writers' Quarterly, 1981 to Haiku Canada Review, 2012)





(7 times: Cicada, 1981 to embryo: eye poems, Iņšpress, 2013)

George Swede



When we talk about sound in a poem, we're usually talking about "harmonised
vowels and consonants," in Robert Frost's phrase. But what about the sound
of sentences, and the runs and pauses of speech? These sounds are part of
what Frost was talking about in his idea of  "the sound of sense."

For example,  a poem can use sentence rhythms as a counterpoint to the
conventions of haiku.

moths have come
around the one light left
forgotten, on

-- Martin Shea

This poem is a wandering sentence in search of a final word. I've spoken
like this when I began a sentence without knowing what I wanted to say, then
found the subject elusive and discovered it at the end, making a hash of
normal syntax. In the poem, the sentence wanders across the three lines
typical of English-language haiku, but not in the conventional fragment and
phrase structure. At the same time, the poem is bound together by the
assonance of "moths," "come," "one," "forgotten", and "on." The final word
is as ordinary and incandescent as a light bulb and the brief lives brought
together in the poem.

Haiku that use sentence rhythms in this way are probably the exception. The
omitted words and the cut in most haiku makes them sound different than
normal speech . . . or do they? When I read haiku aloud, the cut often
sounds familiar, like a sudden shift in thought.

caboose light
lost in fog
sound of carillons

-Nina Wicker

Here I must pause to confess my love for the sound of the word "caboose" --
the hard "k" sound, followed by a "b" sound and a double "o," ending in a
soft hiss. It's a fun word; nostalgic too because most trains don't have
cabooses these days. So, the light of the caboose disappears in fog . . . or
is it the sound of the carillons that disappears? The fragment and phrase
are ambiguous. There's a kind of equilibrium among the sound and images of
the caboose light, the fog, and the carillons; among the words and the
phenomena they describe.

If "The sound is the gold in the ore," as Frost said, maybe we should look
beyond the music of individual words for that gold.

Dave Russo



This topic deserves much more attention than I am able to give it. The aural qualities of a poem have always been important to me. I've had many ideas about poetry over the years. One of my first was that it was "musical speech." In addition to time constraints holding me back, there is the overwhelming task of choosing poems to appreciate in this way. Here is one of about five thousand English-language haiku whose aural qualities seem well crafted to me:

gunshot the length of the lake

Jim Kacian

For me, this is all about echoes and the timing of echoes. The first word consists of a stressed syllable and a slightly less stressed syllable. The next two stressed syllables (length, lake) are weaker but also have the added weight of alliteration. I tend to recite this quickly. In this way it registers, for me, an additional wave of not quite audible sound, which, since it is not there, produces a sensation of incredulity - did I just hear what I thought I heard?

John Stevenson
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