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New to Haiku: Advice for Beginners — Lenard D. Moore

Today at New to Haiku, let’s meet Lenard D. Moore. Author, poet, educator, and jazz collaborator Lenard D. Moore has served as the executive chairman of the North Carolina Haiku Society since 1994 and co-founded the Washington Street Writers Group. A former president of the Haiku Society of America (2008-2009), Lenard has also served as the honorary curator of the American Haiku Archives from 2020 to 2021. Lenard has won numerous awards for his writing, including the North Carolina Award for Literature in 2014. In 2018, he won a Kanterman Merit Book Award for best haiku anthology from the Haiku Society of America for One Window’s Light: A Collection of Haiku. You can listen to Lenard speak about his life and career as a haiku poet in this National Public Radio interview from 2016 and his most recent interview with Poets & Writers. Thanks for sharing your haiku journey with us, Lenard!

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. You can read posts from previous Advice for Beginners interviewees here.

Welcome to New to Haiku, Lenard! How did you come to learn about haiku?

After my service term ended in the U.S. Army, I returned home. During the winter of 1982 — in fact, I think it was January of 1982 — I was lying in my childhood bed. At that time, I had the flu. I guess I got bored lying in bed. I noticed my textbook, which we used in a creative writing class at the University of Maryland, Global Campus, in Stuttgart, Germany. I got out of the bed and clasped the book and browsed it. I saw Japanese haiku, which were translated into English. I thought they were easy to write. I wrote some haiku. I did not succeed at writing good haiku. I kept reading, studying, and writing haiku.

Do you have a haiku mentor? Did someone else’s haiku greatly influence your own?

No, I do not have a haiku mentor. Decades ago when I submitted haiku to Dragonfly: A Quarterly of Haiku, the editor Lorraine Ellis Harr made comments on haiku that were submitted. There were times when I read haiku to Elizabeth Searle Lamb over the phone. Vincent Tripi, Nina Wicker and I sometimes read haiku to each other over the phone.

When I started writing haiku, it was long before there was email and social media. At that time, I didn’t know anyone else who wrote haiku. Early in my haiku career, I met Rebecca Ball Rust and Barbara McCoy. To that end, I joined the North Carolina Haiku Society (NCHS). I learned about the NCHS annual haiku conference called Haiku Holiday. In the early ’80s, we didn’t hold haiku workshops. We only held Haiku Holiday once a year.

I read all the books on haiku that I could find. I read the haiku magazines: Dragonfly, FrogpondModern Haiku, and Wind Chimes.

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

I write haiku wherever I am at the time, such as on a ginko, at a concert, at a basketball game, at a baseball game, at a softball game, at a football game, at a track and field meet, etc. My writing process is attempting to write the best haiku humanly possible.

I strive for originality and music in my haiku.  Of course, I examine other literary elements in my haiku. However, I keep working toward doing something new with my haiku. I believe in being innovative with my haiku writing.

How do you approach reading haiku?

I approach reading my haiku in regards to subject matter and purpose. For example, I would read a jazz haiku differently from a natural world haiku or nature haiku.  So it also depends upon the feel of the haiku.

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

For those just starting out with haiku, I advise them to read the following:

  • An Introduction To Haiku by Harold G. Henderson
  • The Haiku Handbook by William J. Higginson and Penny Harter
  • The Haiku Seasons: Poetry of the Natural World by William J. Higginson
  • Haiku World: An International Poetry Almanac by William J. Higginson
  • How To Haiku: A Writer’s Guide to Haiku and Related Forms by Bruce Ross
  • The Haiku Anthology by Cor van den Heuvel
  • Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years edited by Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, and Allan Burns
  • Haiku: This Other World by Richard Wright
  • African American Haiku: Cultural Visions edited by Jianqing (John) Zheng
  • American Haiku: New Readings edited by Toru Kiuchi

I also advise them to study haiku diligently and write one haiku daily for an entire year. In addition, I advise them to learn all of the rules and write haiku for 3 to 5 years, employing those rules—then bend the rules and make them their own. In other words, I stress experiment with the haiku form and do something new. In short, write haiku their own way.

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

I have used haiku with jazz and played jazz in my poetry classes and literature classes. I have read and performed my haiku with jazz bands. There were times when I performed my haiku with one jazz musician, such as a bassist. I have taken my poetry classes to a rose garden, where they wrote haiku. I have also collaborated with other writers/poets, visual artists, and dancers.  For example, the renowned Black Arts Movement poet Eugene B. Redmond and I collaborated on the chapbook, Gathering at the Crossroads: The Million Man March. Redmond’s photography is featured in the chapbook. My haiku are featured in the chapbook. Of course, there are many other ways that I have employed haiku at events and in my classes.

Do you have a favorite haiku that you have written? Can you share a story behind it?

I don’t think I’ll select a favorite haiku that I’ve written, because that’s like selecting your favorite child. There’s no way I could select just one of my haiku. I select all of my haiku! I think I’ll leave the selection of favorite haiku of mine to my readers.

I enjoyed the reading of One Window’s Light: A Collection of Haiku given by the Carolina African American Writers’ Collective at HNA 2019. As I recall, your group sold out of books at the conference! I’d love to learn more about this ground-breaking anthology. How did it come to be? Can I still get a copy?

I’m delighted to know that you’ve enjoyed the reading of One Window’s Light: A Collection of Haiku given by the Carolina African American Writers’ Collective (CAAWC) at HNA 2019.  Yes, our group sold out of books at the conference. I wanted to edit an anthology of haiku by the Carolina African American Writers’ Collective because we have some exceptional haiku poets. We’ve workshopped haiku at our CAAWC meetings/workshops. To that end, I wanted the world to know about our CAAWC haiku poets. Yes, you can still get a copy from the publisher, Unicorn Press. There also are distributors selling the book. Please consider searching the internet for additional places.

Your latest poetry collection, A Million Shadows at Noon, is forthcoming from Cuttlefish Books. I’m enjoying reading the poems as they are released by the publisher on Instagram — I feel like I’m walking alongside you. What can you tell us about this collection? Can you tell us about the event that inspired the book?

I don’t want to give away too much information about my newest book, A Million Shadows at Noon, from Cuttlefish Books.  I’ll only say that the book is one long poem or a sequence about the Million Man March.  I hope my readers will read the book for themselves without any backstory.

Okay, this isn’t an official question, but I’m hoping that you will agree to let me share this story about you. I’ve been interviewing haiku poets for 2 1/2 years now, and I don’t think anyone else has given me the advice you gave me at lunch one day at Haiku North America this past summer. You said that you can learn a lot about writing haiku from studying your own body of work and seeing which poems have been published and which ones have placed in contests. You told me then that you didn’t want to be quoted on this because it sounds egotistical, but I thought it was great advice and it has really stuck with me. If you are writing unique haiku — let’s say you represent a different demographic or your work is cutting edge or innovative — it’s not always useful to look at what other poets are writing and publishing. It’s best to write as the best version of you. 

OK, please feel free to include what I told you about haiku this summer, especially because you say it really stuck with you.

Thanks, Lenard!

Thank you so much for the interview.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Haiku is a way of life for me.  I love writing haiku.  Most of my writing is haiku. Of course, I write longer forms of poetry, essays, and fiction, but haiku is me. And I am haiku.

Lenard D. Moore is a poet, fiction writer, essayist, playwright, photographer, jazz collaborator, educator, editor, anthologist, book reviewer, consultant, public speaker, conference presenter, and workshop leader. He’s the author, co-author, co-editor, and editor of many books, including The Open Eye; Forever Home; The Geography of Jazz; All The Songs We Sing; One Window’s Light; and Long Rain. He’s the recipient of numerous awards, including the Haiku Museum of Tokyo Award (2003, 1994, and 1983); Margaret Walker Creative Writing Award, and North Carolina Award for Literature. His poetry has been translated into several languages and published in many countries. He has taught Creative Writing and African American Literature. He is former two-term president of the Haiku Society of America. During the summer of 2020, he was appointed Honorary Curator of the American Haiku Archives at California State Library in Sacramento, California. Since 1994, he’s served as the longtime Executive Chairman of the North Carolina Haiku Society. He frequently collaborates with other writers, artists, musicians, and dancers, including Miho Kinnas.

To learn more about Lenard, please visit the following links:

Daily Haiku Special, Aug. 13, 2023 with Lenard D. Moore: Book Announcement | Charlotte Digregorio’s Writer’s Blog (wordpress.com)

Chapbook Interview: Lenard D. Moore at Allyson Whipple’s Poetry and Practice Blog

27 Views: Episode 16: Gardening With Poet Lenard Moore

Poets & Writers: Lenard Moore on Apple Podcasts

Cuttlefish Books Summer 2023 Book Launch, including Lenard D. Moore’s upcoming book, A Million Shadows at Noon.

We’d love to hear from you in the comments. The Haiku Foundation reminds you that participation in our offerings assumes respectful and appropriate behavior from all parties. Please see our Code of Conduct policy for more information.

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 One Comment

  1. Very inspiring to me, who’s in a Haiku slump right now at the age of 75. Keep up the good work, Lenard!
    PAZ

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