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Peggy Willis Lyles

Peggy Willis Lyles

September 17, 1939 – September 3, 2010

It is with great sadness to report that on Friday, September 3, 2010, Peggy Willis Lyles passed away. She was a former Woodrow Wilson Fellow and English teacher, and contributed regularly to leading haiku journals for more than thirty years. At the time of her death, she was an associate editor of The Heron’s Nest and a member of The Red Moon Anthology staff. Peggy was revered by haiku poets worldwide. Her gentle, generous spirit touched so many, and her work will continue to touch and influence for countless decades to come (Haiku Registry).

Her most recent haiku collection was To Hear the Rain: Selected Haiku of Peggy Lyles (Decatur, IL: Brooks Books, 2002).

The Heron’s Nest, where Peggy was an associate editor, will publish memorials in the December 2010 issue. Please submit your memorial poems and brief tributes to Managing Editor, John Stevenson (ithacan@

). Those who wish to convey their appreciation for Peggy to her family should write to:

Bill Lyles

2408 Woodcreek Court

Tucker, GA 30084

Here follows is a small selection of her haiku:

first frost . . .
on a silver card tray
wild persimmons

bare branches
I choose a layer

of blue silk 

as if it were a lie the moonlit sea

into the afterlife red leaves

wind-borne seed
      I have
      my doubts

the greyness
goes right through us
autumn wind

a stone, a leaf . . .
the quiet closing
of a door

This Post Has 26 Comments

  1. I’ve only known Peggy since 2005, through her poetry and her correspondence with me concerning the f/k/a weblog and The Heron’s Nest. Peggy’s grace, insight, and caring were palpable — in pixels and on the printed page. I can give no greater praise than to say that her virtues as a human being were as splendid as her haiku.

    Many haijin have already expressed their feelings about Peggy as a poet and person at this website. Thanks to each of you for helping to create the warmth of a community that mourns her loss and celebrates her life together and as individuals.

    No poet added more to the quality and ambiance of my weblog than Peggy Willis Lyles. I felt fortunate to share her poetry as examples of the best of our genre with many readers who weren’t familiar with haiku. By going to Peggy’s f/k/a Archive Page — — you can find links to almost 60 postings that contain two or more of her haiku or senryu. I hope she could feel my gratitude, fondness and admiration whenever we interacted in cyberspace.

  2. What a perfectly pitched, sensitive, inclusive, magical voice this poet had; it was as if everything and everyone she saw she recognized as part of her family and treated with gentle kindness. The whole world was home to her and everyone, everything was welcome and sung by her. Such a one is rare in the world and will be missed by all I am very sorry to hear of her passing. I am awed by her talent.

  3. Peggy’s death was a shock to me and a lingering sadness. You know how it is when you anticipate hearing from someone special again sometime soon, and then you find out that they’ve died. It’s a little difficult to accept the reality.

    Peggy was so gracious and supportive to so many in the haiku world, as many, I believe, who came into contact with her in any way. I admired her tremendously and love her work. These are Peggy’s, from the current ‘Gean’, which went online on September 1st. I’m sorry that Peggy’s spacings won’t show here, but the beauty of the haiku will come across anyway.

    dolphin voices —
    red sun settles into
    the Marshes of Glynn

    enough snow
    to hush the children —
    dusk closing in

    the quilt’s imperfect pattern Leonids

    child’s play —
    salt from a lost ocean
    for the robin’s tail

    spring thunder
    young magicians

    Peggy Willis Lyles – U.S.A

  4. To Peggy Willis Lyles, in memoriam

    On the death-bed
    a blank sheet of paper…
    her unwritten haiku

  5. bare branches
    I choose a layer
    of blue silk

    In reading this haiku at this sad time, I became more aware of life’s choices. When the trees go bare, we have ways to insulate ourselves. Be it layers of clothing, clouds or a synthesis of both, there is a framework, a birthplace of interpretation and nuance. The contrast of images in this haiku is a remarkable indication of the sublime appreciation of life as seasonal time.

  6. mother-daughter
    small talk . . .
    snap beans

    Peggy Lyles

    It’s not necessarily the big events with family and friends that show inseparable love, it’s moments like this, doing something seemingly routine side by side.

    Condolences to her family and long-term friends,


  7. Moon
    and melon cooling
    with us in the stream
    Peggy Willis Lyles
    The Haiku Anthology

    Peggy’s haiku confirmed for me the importance of the gentle perception. This haiku always struck me as being about much more than that melon or the Moon …with a capital “M”…

  8. ” the numbness” and ” Mother’s scarf” ( mentioned
    by Chris Patchel and Michael Dylan Welch, respectively) are haiku that are literature.

  9. ” the numbness” and ” Mother’s scarf” ( mentioned
    by Chris Patchel and Michael Dylan Welch, respecively) are haiku that are literature.

  10. “Whenever I received a new haiku journal, her name has long been one that I immediately looked up in the index, and she never disappointed.” -Michael W.

    Same here. On a couple occasions I also felt moved to comment on her poems, however inadequately, via Re:Readings. This is one of her poems I don’t think was mentioned (I’m also fond of all the ones that were):

    the numbness
    of scar tissue—

    I only know Peggy through her writing, yet can’t shake the sadness of her passing.

  11. Peggy was not only a fine haiku poet, but also gracious and kind. Whenever I received a new haiku journal, her name has long been one that I immediately looked up in the index, and she never disappointed. Here’s a favourite poem by Peggy:

    Mother’s scarf
    slides from my shoulder—
    wild violets

    Such a simple and immediate image, yet how deftly she trusts it, and trusts her readers to dwell in what it might mean that a scarf slips from her shoulders, and why. And not just any scarf, but her mother’s scarf. And these are not domesticated or cultivated flowers, but wild violets, and what, too, does that say about the poet and her appreciation for nature, and perhaps her relationship with her mother? Much to contemplate and dwell in here indeed. This depth is common in Peggy’s haiku, and it is a great loss for the entire haiku community that Peggy is now gone. I will miss here.


    P.S. When I posted a message on my Facebook page mourning Peggy’s loss, a friend (not a haiku poet) responded by saying this: “Michael, thanks for posting this. I know virtually nothing about haiku, so I looked her up and read a few of her pieces. They were utterly amazing.”

  12. Peggy’s passing is a great loss to us all.

    Fortunately we have some great weblinks so that anyone and everyone around the world can read her work and her words in articles.

    Please enjoy her haijinx work as haiga:

    Peggy’s haijinx spotlight:

    Peggy says:

    What’s So Funny?

    “By now I am convinced that haiku can handle whatever epiphanies or peak
    experiences may come a poet’s way and express practically any genuine
    human feeling.”

    “…there will be smiles and laughter along the way. Haiku are about all
    of life, and humor is part of the mix.”

    Peggy Willis Lyles
    haijinx magazine
    August 17, 2001

  13. We had mutual roots and she was admired from afar until our paths blessedly crossed in a closer realm. The poet in her met the artist in me and we shared our journeys. A conversation with Peggy was something to treasure. Her friendship I will always cherish. She was a beautiful Southern lady with a graceful, humble spirit.

  14. After we put faces to names, we embraced so delicately that I thought of sparrows. As I lay on the patio this weekend, a sparrow in the birdbath splashed me before flying away.

    autumn sunset…
    a red maple leaf
    freed from the tree

    – ha

  15. A wonderful poet, mentor, and friend. She will be deeply missed. My sincere condolences to her family and friends. I sure as heck wouldn’t be writing haiku today if it weren’t for her. Celebrate her life. Remember her well.

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