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New to Haiku: Advice for Beginners–Lorraine A Padden

Today at New to Haiku, let’s welcome Lorraine A Padden. Lorraine came to haiku during the Covid pandemic and quickly immersed herself in the form. Her poetry has since been honored by The Haiku Foundation, Tricycle Magazine, the Haiku Society of America, the Tokutomi International Haiku Competition, and the British Haiku Society, among others. Her first collection of haiku and related forms, Upwelling, was published last year through Red Moon Press. Thanks for sharing your haiku journey with us, Lorraine!

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, Lorraine! How did you come to learn about haiku?

Many years ago, my dear friend and fellow poet Kristen Lindquist had started a blog where she posted a new haiku every day. I was quite impressed by her commitment to that daily practice, and I found the poems intriguing–tiny bundles of words so full of meaning. At the time, I remember thinking that haiku would be fascinating to explore. Fast forward to the pandemic, and I decided it was time to finally take that plunge. So, I’ve been writing haiku and related forms for nearly four years. I’m incredibly fortunate to see many of my poems in print. and my first collection of haiku and related forms was published last year.

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

I was very lucky to study with Scott Mason and Alan Summers; I also collaborate frequently with Alan Peat. True masters all, with profound depths of knowledge that inform my own learning and practice greatly. I find myself drawn to both traditional and experimental approaches to haiku, and the ever-expanding range of haiku-inspired/hybrid forms is engaging, too. In addition to haiku/senryu I write tanka, haibun, rengay, monoku, tan renga, haiga, and split sequences. With regard to the last, Peter Jastermsky and I have written “splitters” together and it’s such a thrill to collaborate with the inventor of that particular structure.

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

I often write in a notebook sitting in my backyard, but I also keep a folder of post-it notes and scraps of paper that would otherwise completely litter the house. I’m constantly jotting down things that arise—images, memories, poems, even random resonant words. I try to carry a notebook when I’m out and about, and I’ll occasionally take a few notes on my phone which is always a last resort because I often forget about them later! Every few days I make separate Google docs for what lands in the notebook/folder that seem promising.

How do you approach reading haiku?

I read some form of haiku daily, and will often stash an issue of a favorite journal in the car so I can dip into it when I unexpectedly have some free time—right now it’s the current issue of Kingfisher! I’ll also read (and re-read) haiku before I turn in for the night. Lately my reading has increased significantly; I was invited to join the panel that’s considering books submitted for the Touchstone Distinguished Books Award. It’s an honor and tremendous gift to have the chance to dive into collections of work from all over the world.

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

Write a lot! I think it’s a highly useful practice to write haiku every day. Good or bad—doesn’t matter. Developing a daily writing practice is an enormously beneficial way to hone our craft. Workshops and classes are also great resources to absorb basic guidelines or deeply explore specific haiku-related forms. Taking part in a haiku group–either online or in person–is also an ideal way to advance skill and confidence in our writing.

The practices of sharing work, giving and receiving feedback on our haiku are just as important as writing individual poems, I think. Accomplished or not, many of us are still developing our voices which is a process best nurtured in a supportive and knowledgeable community of peers.

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

One of my favorite poems is this one:

seventh summer
we measure his height
in sunflowers

It first appeared in tinywords and was also included in The Red Moon Anthology last year.

There’s an elementary school a couple of blocks from my house. I was out for a walk one morning and noticed a woman with a child on the sidewalk ahead of me, probably on their way to school. They were just passing an area where someone had planted a few sunflowers in a foot wide strip of soil between the sidewalk and the street. So, there was this moment of comparison of three different heights – adult, child and flowers – and it brought to mind the image of growth over time, and a wondering about who might be taller by the end of the school year.

Another favorite haiku that first appeared in Blo͞o Outlier Journal #4 was honored with a Touchstone Award earlier this year:

once more around the dance floor IV pole

Monoku are a relatively new form for me; I’m still trying to discern whether a multiple-line haiku can or should be expressed as a single line. Experimentation will continue!

You received an appointment to the National Endowment for the Arts, and have served on grant panels for regional arts organizations. What advice do you have for haiku poets interested in applying for grants?

Such a good question. My experience with institutional funding is varied: I have secured grants to support my own scholarship and research; I’ve written grants that have supported various performing arts nonprofits; and, I have served on panels giving money away to various arts organizations.

Applying for grants in support of literary arts (or individual literary artists) is a less familiar process to me. But, I’m sure there are some general similarities. When I sit on a panel looking to support artists in the community, project-based support that has a robust community involvement component is likely to be more “fundable” than an appeal from an individual poet who primarily wants to complete their next opus. Collaborative projects — involving poets, diverse nonprofits, festivals that promote cross-cultural understanding, etc are interesting to consider as a way to bring haiku to a broader audience, link it to its cultural roots, but also explore how it might be relevant to new and more diverse readers/writers. I haven’t done much research into government/foundation funding for haiku poets or the community at large, but my sense is that the field might be supported in much the same way as the performing arts. And of course, funding levels vary and can be quite meager.

In addition to your work as a professional classical ballet dancer, you have two degrees in art history. (Wow!) How does your educational and professional experience in the arts color your approach to haiku?

At one point in my life, I was firmly anchored on the track to earn a PhD in art history, and then for a variety of reasons, I decided to change course. Since I started writing haiku a few years ago, what’s really shifted in my interaction with (mostly) visual art is the potential it lends to ekphrastic practice, and the great imaginative leaps those images may inspire. And, I see Hokusai, Hiroshige and their contemporaries in a completely new context.

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

Last year, Alan Peat, Diana Webb, and I embarked on a haibun adventure in which each of us writes a haibun whose title is a word/phrase borrowed from the same Shakespearean sonnet. These evocative snippets may contribute additional meaning(s) to our emergent narratives. Sometimes our individual pieces refer back to themes in the original sonnet but it’s not a requirement. We’re making our way through all 154 Shakespearean sonnets which is a great way for me to anchor my haibun writing in a weekly practice, and engage in supportive read/critique with two very fine poets.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I am so appreciative of the invitation to share some thoughts on this fine art, Julie. Thank you!

You’re welcome, Lorraine! Thanks for stopping by.

Lorraine A Padden is a Touchstone Award-winning poet and former professional ballet dancer whose extensive work and scholarship in the performing and visual arts has garnered national recognition, including an appointment to the National Endowment for the Arts. Her haiku and related short form poetry regularly appear in notable journals and anthologies. Her work has received multiple honors by The Haiku Foundation, Tricycle Magazine, The Haiku Society of America, The Tokutomi International Haiku Competition, The British Haiku Society, The Marlene Mountain Memorial Haiku Contest, and The New Zealand Poetry Society, among others. Lorraine’s work is featured in the newly released A New Resonance 13, the acclaimed anthology showcasing emerging voices in English-language haiku. Upwelling, her debut collection of haiku and related short forms was published by Red Moon Press in 2022 and is available from Lorraine appeared as a featured presenter at Upaya Zen Center’s popular Way of Haiku conference in March, 2023.

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 2 Comments

  1. I just love this column, Julie. It’s wonderful to learn more about poets I admire and to be further inspired. Lorraine’s journey is an inspiration!

  2. I remember the “seventh summer” haikai verse and commenting upon it on tinywords, loved it! 🙂


    once more around the dance floor IV pole

    Lorraine A Padden

    A song of defiance and freedom perhaps for one who is gravely ill but will not let something medically limiting to deny them a dance, even around a hospital ward.

    IV poles, or intravenous poles, are medical devices designed as a slender iron or aluminum portable pole with adjustable height, a 4-5 wheeled base for stability, and 2 to 4 hooks on the pole top that provides a secure place to hang bags of medicine or fluid for administration to a patient.

    The phrase ‘once more’ is potentially poignant, and in conjunction with ‘once more around the dance floor’ might only mean the venue is about to close for the night. Yet the last two words change everything:

    once more around the dance floor // IV pole

    Here the device of leaving IV pole are necessary, rather than bring it to the front of the senryū.

    FEATURE: The O of senryū by Alan Summers
    Blo͞o Outlier Journal senryu special New Year’s Eve (Winter) 2022 issue #4
    editors Alan Summers & Pippa Phillips



    A lot to read in Lorraine’s piece and to coming back to absorb both more, and more!


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