Terry Ann Carter is a past vice president of Haiku Canada and Education Chair for The League of Canadian Poets. She has organized four conferences for Haiku Canada at Carleton University (visit this link for William J. Higginson's photo essay on Haiku Canada's 2007 conference) and will take on HNA (with the help of a local committee) next summer. She is co-founder (with Marianne Bluger) of KaDo Ottawa, a local haikai group that meets seasonally and launches a broadsheet each spring at the Japanese Embassy in Ottawa. (crimsonbamboo.ca)
1. Why do you write haiku?
Haiku came to me through my mentor and friend Marianne Bluger, the "godmother" of Japanese literary forms here in Canada. With her encouragement I began the slow process of trial and error. "Take a risk", she used to say. I write haiku as a kind of death poem for a particular moment, a moment I will never experience exactly the same way again. With Marianne's death in 2005, haiku is even more intrinsically bound to this notion, for often she is mystically present in the poems where I am reaching deepest into the core of nature, into the core of myself. I write senryu as a kind of comic relief, to find humour in the small spaces and chaos of my life. Together, these two approaches: death poems and comedy, inform and inspire my poetry. With two sons living in distant cities: Singapore and Vancouver, British Columbia, I often have opportunities to travel. I love writing haiku in small spiral bound notebooks as I move around the world...for no other reason than to simply say yes, I am here, and it is wonderful to be alive.
2. What other poetic forms do you enjoy?
As a member of The League of Canadian Poets, I have been writing free verse (lyric poetry) for many years, and have published two collections: Waiting for Julia, Third Eye Press, 1999, (now out of print) and Transplanted, Borealis Press, 2006. An example of a recent lyric poem can be found at the website for Tree Poetry, Ottawa's oldest reading series – http://www.treereadingseries.ca/TreeLeaves/100608-TerryAnnCarter.html. Just as my musical tastes run from opera to rhythm and blues and from Jazz to folk (depending on my mood and the weather) my poetry horizon is always stretching. I enjoy composing tanka, and haibun and creating haiga with travel photos and artworks from friends. My lyric poetry readings always include a recent haiku or senryu and as a poet-in-the-school under the sponsorship of The League, I try to give as many haiku workshops as I can. Part of the great experience of writing any kind of poetry is the tremendous pleasure in sharing what has been composed.
3. Of the many wonderful haiku you've written, what do you consider to be your top three? (Please provide original publication credits.)
This is an impossibly difficult question to answer, (as other poets have noted) but I have come up with three favourites.
for the moon
R. H. Blyth "People's Choice Award" 2005
young boys shoot cherry petals
into the net
Best Canadian Poem, Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, 2007
in my mother's log cabin quilt
my father's red shirt
Carpe Diem: Anthologie Canadienne du Haiku/Canadian Haiku Anthology 2008
I would like to add a note of explanation to "street hockey". This poem was composed in Shaughnessy, a very affluent section of Vancouver, British Columbia, where homes sell for millions of dollars and celebrities from Hollywood and all over the world are often cited. This particular spring afternoon, I was with a friend who was picking up her daughter who attended a private school there. As I waited in the car, I happened to spy a few boys probably 6 or 7 years old. They had gathered a huge pile of cherry petals that had fallen onto the street into one amazing heap. Then they took turns whacking it with their hockey sticks. Street hockey is a culture unto its own for many young Canadian boys and girls (who often use regular pucks or frozen dog turds in winter) and it was an indelible moment as I heard their laughter in this simple old fashioned game that they had created with the resources around them. To watch the sprinkling of petals as they fell for a second time, earthbound, was indeed, an added pleasure. I was surprised that the poem went on to win an award a number of years later, for I had not written it for that purpose, but of course, I was pleased to receive the recognition which included an engraving on a large stone in the VanDusen Botanical Garden, Vancouver.
Thank you Curtis, for this opportunity to share some thoughts with my wonderful American poet friends, south of our border. The archive of other poets is also a treasure. Thank you for all your diligent work.
Terry Ann Carter
Matthew Paul shares his response to Haiku - Three Questions next week.