1) Why do you write haiku?
For all the reasons given by others who’ve responded here at Tobacco Road, but I’ll add a bit anyway. When I was in 4th grade, I wrote my first poem. In an instant, I heard an inner voice – informing, “I’m going to be a writer.” Decades later, I wrote my first haiku. And in that instant, it seemed as though the world opened itself to me in an intimate new way. That was way back in the 1960s when 5-7-5 was all most poets knew, and it was as if my heart began beating in 5-7-5. Sounds a bit much by today’s more sophisticated ways of discussing haiku, but you asked
2) What other poetic forms do your enjoy?
I once couldn’t read or write enough free verse. W. S. Merwin was a favorite. I went through a sonnet stage for about five of my “flower child” years, and practically memorized everything Edna St. Vincent Millay ever wrote. But now, I’m 99.9 percent committed to haiku. I spend an hour each morning reading vintage books and journals – as well the many modern journals to which I subscribe. I’ve tried my hand at tanka, but it is still a challenge for me. I enjoy haibun, but don’t seem to find the time to write as many of those as occur to me.
3) Of the many wonderful haiku you've written, what do you consider to be your top three?
I can hardly believe how warmly the haiku community has welcomed me into the fold. It is a splendid fold, to be sure, made up of some of the most generous-spirited folks I’ve ever known. I must admit, though, that most of the time, I still feel very much the rookie. Most of the time, when a decent haiku pours out of my pen, it still feels like a fluke. I used to write as many as a dozen bad haiku every day. Since learning more about good haiku, I sometimes am lucky to write one or two decent ones a month. My standards have been set so much higher by reading the work of much-admired and respected haijin, so sometimes I don’t even bother to put an idea on paper. So, I pretty much aim for “decent”. If “wonderful” happens – wow! Maybe these?
a cradlesong sung
in an ancient tongue
The Heron's Nest Editor’s Choice Award VIII:4 (2006); and Readers' Choice Poem of the Year
the rustle of field mice
Winner for December 2004, The Haiku Calendar (Snapshot Press)
from a beach near Savoonga—
First Place, Harold G. Henderson Award, 2003
If you've been enjoying this weekly series and have not contributed, please consider sharing your response to the three little questions that Billie answered. You must be a published poet in order to participate.
Dan Schwerin will be our guest next week.