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New to Haiku: Advice for Beginners – Djurdja (Đurđa) Vukelić Rožić

In Advice for Beginners posts, we ask established haiku poets to share a bit about themselves so that you can meet them and learn more about their writing journeys. We, too, wanted to learn what advice they would give to beginning haiku poets.

This week, New to Haiku is pleased to interview Djurdja (Đurđa) Vukelić Rožić. Thanks for sharing your haiku journey with us, Djurdja. This interview was updated on March 8, 2023, to include a version in Croatian, shown in italics. My thanks to both Djurdja and Miroslav Vurdelja for taking the time to put together this translation.

New to Haiku: Savjeti početnicima – Đurđa Vukelić Rožić (Preveo Miroslav Vurdelja)

(objavljeno na internetskim stranicama The Haiku Foundation 13. lipnja 2021., razgovor vodila Julie Bloss Kelsey)

Ovoga tjedna u rubrici New to Haiku zadovoljstvo nam je razgovarati s Đurđom Vukelić Rožić. Hvala Vam, Đurđa, što možemo s Vama krenuti na haiku-putovanje.

1. Welcome to New to Haiku, Djurdja! How did you come to learn about haiku?

Being a passionate reader, I met haiku here and there in my youth, and I myself wrote poetry and stories. Haiku was acceptable to me, but it did not punch me in the right way at first. When Croatian haiku poet Darko Plažanin won the Ehime Prefecture Grand Prix in 1990 at the National Cultural Festival in Japan, it was written about in the Croatian daily papers. Darko’s haiku appeared very awesome to me:

after the storm
a boy wiping the sky
from the tables

Immediately, I saw grayish/white tables of a terrace bar and a young, nimble waiter wiping the remaining drops of the rain from the tables. The reflection of the sky was disappearing; the boy unaware of erasing the whole sky from somebody’s eyes, probably not even seeing the sky on those tables himself.

This haiku had it all. It told me to look at the sky, reflections come and go. You will have storms in your life but there will always be a clear sky afterwards. You are presented with many gifts, don’t wipe them off the table…

For, haiku is an open poem, it touches the reader’s imagination. Some other time, some other mood, the same haiku may be experienced differently.

Upon his return from Japan, Darko started the Samobor Haiku Meetings and a dear friend of mine gifted me with the joint collection of this haiku gathering. She said, “This is something for you!” And so it was.

1. Dobrodošli u New to Haiku, Đurđa! Kako ste saznali za haiku?

Kao strastvena čitateljica povremeno sam se susretala s haikuom u mladosti jer sam pisala poeziju i priče. Prihvatila sam ga, ali mi u početku nije "sjeo" od prve na pravi način. Kada je 1990. hrvatski pjesnik haikua Darko Plažanin osvojio nagradu Ehime Prefecture Grand Prix na Državnom festivalu kulture u Japanu, ta vijest bila je objavljena u svim hrvatskim dnevnim novinama. Sjajan mi je bio taj Darkov haiku:

Nakon oluje
dječak briše nebo
sa stolova

Istoga trena vidjela sam sivi/bijeli stol na terasi bara i mladoga okretnog konobara kako briše preostale kapljice kiše sa stolova. Odraz neba je nestajao, dječak nije bio svjestan da briše cijelo nebo iz nečijih očiju, a vjerojatno nije čak ni on sam vidio nebo na tim stolovima.

Ovaj haiku sadrži sve. Govori mi da gledam u nebo, a odrazi dolaze i prolaze. Bit će oluja u vašem životu, ali nakon njih uvijek dolazi čisto nebo. Obdareni ste mnogim talentima, nemojte ih brisati sa stola… Jer haiku je otvorena pjesma i pobuđuje maštu i osjećaje čitatelja. U nekome drugom trenutku, u nekome drugom raspoloženju, isti haiku može biti doživljen drugačije.

Po povratku iz Japana, Darko je utemeljio Samoborske haiku susrete, a moja dobra prijateljica poklonila mi je zbornik radova s ovoga haiku-druženja. Rekla mi je: “Ovo je nešto za tebe!” Tako je i bilo.

2. Do you have a haiku mentor? What advice did they give you? Did someone else’s haiku greatly influence your own?

After reading haiku and books on Japanese culture by Vladimir Devidé and some foreign authors (we had no internet yet), I wrote a letter to Devidé, presenting him with my first works asking his opinion and advice. In his early answer, instead of telling me my work was not even haiku, he asked me to translate poems into English and send them back to him.

At that time I was an excited beginner with much enthusiasm and everything around me was haiku. But, I had to adopt the form and its rules. Time for much studying.

Soon, I became a member of the British Haiku Society and it was a great honor to have my work published in Blithe Spirit. The editors of English haiku magazines throughout years have been kind, giving me much needed advice and help. I must say, even after thirty years in haiku, I’m still learning, and often, from much younger authors and editors than I. Many years later, I see how I could’ve written some poems in a much better, shorter way. But, that’s the beauty of learning. Not every haiku or every story we write will become a masterpiece. The important thing is, it illuminates and enriches our life while we create it. Then it will do so for our readers.

2. Imate li haiku-mentora? Kakve Vam je savjete davao? Je li i netko drugi značajno utjecao na Vas?

Nakon čitanja haikua i knjiga o japanskoj kulturi koje je napisao Vladimir Devidé, kao i nekih inozemnih autora (tada još nismo imali internet), napisala sam pismo akademiku Devidéu i poslala mu nekoliko prvih radova zamolivši ga za mišljenje i savjet. U odgovoru, umjesto da mi kaže kako moji radovi uopće nisu haiku, on me je zamolio da ih prevedem na engleski i pošaljem mu ih natrag. Bila sam tada ushićena početnica, puna entuzijazma i sve oko mene bilo je haiku. Međutim, morala sam usvojiti formu i pravila. Vrijeme za puno učenja.

Uskoro sam postala član British Haiku Society i bila mi je velika čast da su mi radovi objavljivani u časopisu Blithe Spirit. Urednici časopisa na engleskom jeziku svih su godina bili ljubazni prema meni, pružajući mi toliko potrebne savjete i pomoć. Moram kazati da čak i nakon trideset godina s haikuom, još uvijek učim, često i od znatno mlađih urednika i autora od mene. Nakon mnogo godina spoznala sam kako sam neke pjesme mogla napisati na puno bolji i kraći način. Ali, to je ljepota učenja. Neće svaki haiku ili svaka priča koju napišemo postati remek-djelo. Dok stvaramo haiku, važno je da nas on osvjetljava i obogaćuje naš život. Nakon toga, natakav će način djelovati i na naše čitatelje.

3. Where do you most often write? Do you have a writing process?

To me, there are two different meanings of the word haiku: as an event, and as a written down poem. Haiku is an involuntary happening in my surroundings that enters my consciousness unannounced and unexpected, a very special a-ha moment that connects my inner world with the rest of the Universe. For a jiff, it wangles me from my thoughts and everyday things. A feeling for haiku is among the most valuable gifts I was lucky to be presented with. So also is haiku’s doctrine of simplicity, awareness and modesty. This not only affects all my writing in a positive way, it impacts the way that I live.

Like lightning, an a-ha moment disappears quickly. It is important to write it down the very moment it happens. Latter editing and translating is a very serious work to be done and sometimes it takes even months to polish a certain haiku well enough. No matter how many haiku poems a poet has published, for true haiku – one that indeed connected the poet’s being with nature and touched his/her haiku spirit – he/she will always know when, where and how this connection happened, will have the whole story to tell, and will enthusiastically relive that moment again. Desk haiku do not have the roots and thus wither soon.

3. Gdje najčešće pišete? Imate li poseban postupak pisanja?

Smatram da postoje dva različita značenja riječi haiku: događaj i napisana pjesma. Haiku je spontano događanje u mojem okruženju koje mi u svijest prodire nenajavljeno i neočekivano, onaj posebni a-ha trenutak koji povezuje moj unutarnji svijet sa svemirom. Na trenutak me odvlači od svakodnevnih misli i stvari. Osjećaj za haiku je među najvrjednijim poklonima kojima sam imala sreću biti darivana. Haiku je također učenje o jednostavnosti, osviještenosti i skromnosti. To utječe pozitivno na sve što pišem i na način moga života.

Poput munje a-ha trenutak brzo nestaje. Važno je zapisati ga u trenutku nastanka. Naknadno uređivanje i prevođenje vrlo su ozbiljni poslovi i ponekad su potrebni mjeseci rada da bi se haiku dovoljno dobro “ispolirao”. Bez obzira koliko je haikua objavio, za pravi haiku – onaj koji je istinski povezao njegovo biće s prirodom i dotaknuo mu dušu – pjesnik će uvijek znati kada, gdje i kako je nastala ova povezanost, imat će cjelovitu priču za prenijeti i s oduševljenjem će ponovno proživjeti taj trenutak. Zanatski haikui nemaju korijen i brzo uvenu.

4. How do you approach reading haiku?

Nowadays, I read and translate a large number of haiku. In earlier years, most of my reading time was spent trying to get acquainted with the culture of great Japanese haijin, the founders of haiku as we know it today. I wished to become familiar with quality authors from Western culture as well. Haiku went global and has been created in many different cultures and languages. Sometimes, in order to be able to understand haiku, the reader should do some research about the author, and the place and time he’s lived (or lives) in.

Also, there are haiku poems that are timeless. It’s Issa I’m thinking about every time some stubborn fly is around me. When the moon is in the window (untouched by the thief), Ryokan is on my mind:

The thief left it behind:
the moon
at my window

Or during the winters, I’ve been watching the sparrows on a bough through J. W. Hackett’s eyes:

Bitter morning
sparrows sitting
without necks.

During harsh winters sparrows “have no necks.” Just like people, they squeeze into themselves trying to maintain their own body warmth. But I never realized it before. It was that a-ha moment. Yes, indeed, it is so. Why wasn’t I aware of it earlier?

When reading a haiku new to me, I relax and let it take me into the world that it has already taken its author to. I know, no haiku is read the same way twice. Every reader experiences haiku in his own way. Even reading the same haiku within several days, one may discover an entirely new view of the poem which touches the reader in an unpredictable way.

Studying haiku is a serious and long-term adventure!

4. Kako pristupate čitanju haikua?

Čitam i prevodim veliki broj haikua. Ranijih godina, većinu sam vremena provodila pokušavajući se upoznati s kulturom velikih japanskih haiđina, utemeljitelja haikua kakav nam je znan danas. Također sam željela upoznati kvalitetna djela pripadnika zapadne kulture. Haiku je postao globalni fenomen i pišu ga pripadnici mnogih kultura i jezika. Ponekad, da bi mogao razumjeti haiku, čitatelj treba ponešto istražiti o autoru te o mjestu i vremenu u kojem je on živio
ili živi.

Usto, postoje haikui koji su za sva vremena. O Issi razmišljam svaki put kada oko mene kruži neka uporna muha, a o Ryokanu kad je mjesec na prozoru (izvan dosega lopova). Zimi gledam vrapce na grani očima J. W. Hacketta:

Studeno jutro
vrapci sjede
bez vratova.

Za vrijeme oštrih zima “vrapci nemaju vrat”. Baš kao ljudi, i oni se uvuku u sebe pokušavajući održavati tjelesnu temperaturu. Ali, prije poznavanja haikua nisam to tako uviđala. To je bio onaj a-ha trenutak. Da, stvarno jest. Zašto ga ranije nisam bila svjesna?

Kada čitam novi haiku, opuštam se i dopuštam da me odvede u svijet u koji je odveo svoga autora. Znam, nijedan haiku ne može biti pročitan dva puta na jednak način. Svaki ga čitatelj doživljava na sebi svojstven način. Čak kad se isti haiku čita kroz nekoliko dana, može se otkriti potpuno novi pogled na pjesmu koja neočekivano djeluje na čitatelja.

Proučavati haiku ozbiljan je i dugotrajan pothvat!

5. For those just starting out, what advice would you give?

Be true to yourself. Read quality haiku as much as you can, meet with and write to haijin who will gladly share their experiences with you. The haiku community is very friendly, join it!

Respect all living beings, live with all your senses open, and haiku will find your poetical soul and enrich your life.

5. Što savjetujete onima koji su na početku?

Budite iskreni prema sebi. Što više možete, čitajte kvalitetne haikue, susrećite se s haiđinima i pišite im, oni će rado podijeliti svoje iskustvo s vama. Haiku-zajednica prijateljski je nastrojena, pridružite joj se!

Poštujte sva živa bića, živite otvorenih osjetila i haiku će pronaći vašu poetsku dušu i obogatiti vaš život.

6. What are some of the fun ways that you have used or experienced haiku?

Since my husband is a haiku poet as well, often we share our haiku moments. So, there was this crow in our back yard lawn, standing on its left leg and holding a chicken wishbone in its right leg in the air, pecking at it very studiously. Hubby was just around the corner of the garage, and I knew, if I had called him to see this enchanting sight, the bird would fly away.

Still and numb, I watched the crow, realizing it had kept an eye on me as well. Should we tag the wishbone, a humorous note went through my mind? Then, my husband walked into our quiet and beautiful connection and the bird and its brunch took off…

No trifle is a trifle at all! Everything is worth our attention and respect.

One day during fall, I was watching the poplars on the parking lot thinking of a haiku by Enes Kišević:

Look, a fish skeleton
planted by the river:
poplar in the Autumn.

Then it appeared to me, each of the poplar tree fish skeletons had a very special, green arrow on the top of it! Those were the youngest twigs with belated green leaves not touched by the frost yet. And it looked to me as if poplars point the arrows to the sky. My friend – after my pointing to the phenomena and after thoughtful study of the leafless trees – gave me one of those weird looks. She was not able to see the arrows, just like I did not realize they might be the heads of those fishes. That I understood several years later, lol!

6. Jeste li kada haiku doživjeli na zabavan način?

Budući da je moj suprug također pjesnik haikua, često dijelimo naše haiku-trenutke. Jednom je u travi našeg stražnjeg dvorišta vrana stajala na lijevoj nozi dok je desnom u zraku držala prsnu kost pileta kljucajući je vrlo studiozno. Moj suprug bio je iza ugla garaže i znala sam, ako ga pozovem da je pogleda, ptica će odletjeti.

Mirna i bez glasa, promatrala sam vranu svjesna da i ona mene drži na oku. Prostrujala mi je humorna misao: A da nas dvije kidamo tu koščicu i poželimo svaka svoju želju? Tog trenutka moj se suprug ušetao u vraninu i moju lijepu vezu i ptica je odletjela s užinom…

Nijedna sitnica nimalo nije sitnica! Sve je vrijedno naše pažnje i poštovanja.

Jesenskog dana promatrala sam jablane na parkiralištu razmišljajući o haikuu Enesa Kiševića:

Gle, riblji kostur
zasadili uz rijeku:
jablan u jesen.

Tad pomislih kako svaki jablanov “riblji kostur” ima posebnu zelenu strijelu na svome vrhu! To su bile najmlađe grane s kasno izraslim zelenim lišćem koje još nije dotaknuo mraz. Meni su izgledale kao da su jablani usmjerili svoje strijele u nebo. Nakon što sam prijateljici skrenula pažnju na tu pojavu i nakon što je zamišljeno prostudirala gola stabla, čudno me je pogledala. Ona nije mogla prispodobiti strijele, kao što ni ja nisam doživljavala još zelene vrhove jablana kao možebitne glave onih riba. To sam shvatila nakon nekoliko godina, okašnjeli a-ha trenutak!

7. What are your favorite haiku that you have written? Can you share a story behind some of them?

I was caring for my mother, severely handicapped and demented in her eighties. It had been a very difficult and stressful time for me, yet at times she recognized me and we had much fun together. I learned to value those hours with all my heart. On a particular summer day, after duties around my patient, kitchen, and the household ended for the time being, I took a rest on the bench in the garden, in the front of my mother’s window, with a cup of coffee. There we have a few large fruit trees. Tired and emotionally exhausted, I raised my gaze towards a clear blue sky among the canopies. Not a single cloud there. Silence without even a single bird chirping, no cars passing by. Then this breeze…Instantly, I was far away from all my problems:

forest clearing
summer breeze suddenly changed
contour of sky

In the evening, at sunset, from my office I was bird viewing the town below my window with a feeling of tranquility and peace. A strenuous day was over. I felt much tenderness and empathy for destinies under those roofs, I was to join them as well. We all have problems, each in his own way; one can only wonder what they are, but the sun will rise again…

all these shiny roofs
and just enough moonlight
to tuck in every tile

I was biking on some village road at time cows were taken to the pasture. A bit tired, I had to slow down and could not pass two cows, probably both pregnant on a very narrow, dusty road with deep ditches on both sides. The cows followed their master, innocent and unaware of me, working off their obligatory life to the welfare of a village family. They were covered with flies and gadflies. At first angry, somehow their steady and slow steps calmed me down. I then realized I loved them for being just the way they are. I had no idea how much they suffered from bites of all those insects. Their large udders were swinging … Suddenly, I had respect for them and life they live; to feed man and his children with milk, give him calves that will be taken away from them way too early. They’ve taught me something very important. It is not I, my feelings and needs, that is the most important thing in the world. We all are and should be equally respected: the cows, the birds, people…

cycling in the country –
a couple of cows slowly
pulling their tails

7. Koji su Vam Vaši omiljeni haikui? Možete li nam ispričati kako su nastali?

Skrbila sam o svojoj majci ozbiljno narušenog zdravlja i poljuljanog pamćenja u njezinim osamdesetim godinama života. To je bilo vrlo teško i stresno razdoblje za obje, ali povremeno me je prepoznala i tada smo se znale lijepo zabavljati. Naučila sam iz dubine srca cijeniti te sate. Jednoga ljetnog dana, nakon što sam posvršavala poslove u kući, kuhinji i oko svoje pacijentice, odmarala sam se uz šalicu kave na klupi u vrtu, baš ispred prozora sobe moje majke. Ondje je nekoliko velikih voćaka. Umorna i emocionalno iscrpljena, pogledala sam u čisto plavo nebo obrubljeno krošnjama. Ni oblačak ga nije zaklanjao. Potpuna tišina bez cvrkuta ptica i buke automobila. A onda taj povjetarac… U trenu sam bila daleko od svih problema:

šumska čistina
lahor naglo promijenio
obris neba

Navečer, pred zalazak sunca, s osjećajem spokoja i mira iz moga ureda u neboderu gledala sam na grad iz ptičje perspektive. Završio je naporan dan. Oćutjela sam toliko nježnosti i suosjećanja za sudbine stanovnika ispod krovova omanjih kuća podastrijetih među ulicama, te sam poželjela pridružiti im se. Svi imamo probleme, svatko se bori na svoj način; netko može samo zamišljati kakvi su, ali sunce će opet zasjati…

svi ti sjajni krovovi
i baš dovoljno mjesečine
da ušuška svaki crijep

Biciklirala sam seoskom cestom u vrijeme kad su krave bile išle na ispašu. Pomalo umorna, morala sam usporiti jer nisam mogla zaobići dvije krave, vjerojatno steone, na vrlo uskom prašnjavome poljskom putu koji je s obje strane obrubljivao duboki kanal. Krave su slijedile svoga gospodara, nevine i nesvjesne mene, izvršavajući svoje životne obveze na dobrobit seoske obitelji. Bile su pokrivene muhama i obadima. Na početku sam se bila naljutila što ih ne mogu zaobići, ali su me umirili njihovi postojani i mirni koraci. I tada sam shvatila da ih volim baš zbog toga što su takve. Nisam znala koliko su dugo trpjele ubode onih insekata. Ljuljala su im se velika vimena… Iznenada, osjetila sam poštovanje prema njima i načinu njihova života; hraniti ljude i djecu mlijekom, davati im telad koju će prerano odvojiti od njih. Naučile su me nešto vrlo važno. Ni ja, ni moji osjećaji i potrebe, nisu najvažnija stvar na svijetu. Svi mi jesmo i trebamo biti jednako poštovani: krave, ptice, ljudi…

biciklom kroz selo –
dvije krave polako vuku
svoje repove

8. What haiku-related project are you currently working on that brings you joy? What do you like about it?

I’m working on the haiku magazine IRIS and I enjoy sharing the fun with other poets on the editorial board. I also coordinate the haiku contests. I’m thankful for having the ability and opportunity to give my contribution to strengthening ties between man and nature and among poets by means of haiku poetry, thus sending messages about modesty, respect and empathy through the haiku community. Many a member of today’s materialistic society still needs to learn to win over his own greed and wrongful aims, which endanger life on our planet altogether. For four centuries, the haijin have been telling us that we are a part of nature, not its owners and masters. And of course, I’m thankful for all my haiku-friends with whom I share my love of the written word, poetry and haiku. It’s a way to live a full and creative life and share it with others. I cherish it.

8. Koji Vas sadašnji haiku-projekt raduje? Što Vam se u njemu sviđa?

Uređujem časopis za haiku IRIS i dijelim radost stvaranja s ostalim pjesnicima iz Uredništva. Također koordiniram natječaje za haiku. Zahvalna sam što imam mogućnost i priliku dati svoj doprinos snaženju veza između čovjeka i prirode, kao i među pjesnicima putem haikua, šaljućiporuke o skromnosti, poštovanju i suosjećanju u haiku-zajednici. Mnogi članovi današnjega materijalističkog društva još trebaju naučiti pobijediti svoju pohlepu i nepravedne ciljeve koji svima ugrožavaju život na ovom našem planetu. Tijekom četiri stoljeća haiđini nas upućuju da smo dio prirode, a ne njezini vlasnici i gospodari. I naravno, zahvalna sam svim svojim haiku-prijateljima s kojima dijelim ljubav prema pisanoj riječi, poeziji i haikuu. Na taj način čuvam i njegujem svoj kreativni život i dijelim ga s drugima.

Djurdja (Đurđa) Vukelić Rožić (1956, Croatia) edits the annual haiku magazine IRIS, now in its 15th year. As a translator and editor, she has worked on a number of anthologies and joint collections. A writer with 26 published books, she creates in Croatian, Kajkavian, and English. She has received a number of awards at home and abroad for her work.

Đurđa Vukelić Rožić (1956., Hrvatska) uređuje časopis za haiku IRIS koji je u 15. godini izlaženja. U svojstvu urednice i prevoditeljice, pripremila je brojne antologije i zbornike. Objavila je ukupno 21 knjigu, a piše na standardnome hrvatskom jeziku, kajkavskom dijalektu i na engleskom. Za svoj rad primila je brojne nagrade i priznanja u domovini i inozemstvu.

(Objavljeno i prevedeno na hrvatski s dopuštenjem The Haiku Foundation i autorice razgovora Julie Bloss Kelsey.)

Julie Bloss Kelsey is the current Secretary of The Haiku Foundation. She started writing haiku in 2009, after discovering science fiction haiku (scifaiku). She lives in Maryland with her husband and kids. Julie's first print poetry collection, Grasping the Fading Light: A Journey Through PTSD, won the 2021 Women’s International Haiku Contest from Sable Books. Her ebook of poetry, The Call of Wildflowers, is available for free online through Moth Orchid Press (formerly Title IX Press). Her most recent collection, After Curfew, is available from Cuttlefish Books. Connect with her on Instagram @julieblosskelsey.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Really interesting read, and great advice.

    Where can we find the submission guide for IRIS? I couldn’t see it anywhere in the journal on the website.

    Thanks 🙂

  2. Hello Durda,
    It is nice to meet you. I enjoyed reading about your haiku journey. I have only been writing for a short time and haven’t met many haiku poets personally yet but I am struck by the patience and kindness in the community.

    All the best to you
    Allison

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