Sunday, March 30, 2008

Charles Trumbull - Three Questions

Charles Trumbull was born in Michigan, grew up in New Mexico, and was educated at Yale and Notre Dame universities. Trained as a specialist in the foreign policy of the Soviet Union, he worked in jobs that had to do with American-Russian communication at the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Inc. When the U.S.S.R. disappeared, he jumped over to a job as Director of Yearbooks at Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., in Chicago, from which he was retired in 2007. He lives in Evanston, Ill.

Charlie got reacquainted with haiku in 1991, literally on a bet. Immediately bitten by the haiku bug, he has since served as newsletter editor (1996–2002) and president (2004–05) of the Haiku Society of America, a founder of Chi-ku, the Chicago-area haiku club, an organizer of Haiku North America—Chicago (1999), and proprietor of Deep North Press, a publisher of haiku books with 14 titles in print. Since March 2006 he has been editor of Modern Haiku, the oldest haiku journal outside Japan. His work has appeared in publications in ten countries, has won several haiku contests, and has been frequently anthologized.

Charlie shares his response to Haiku - Three Questions with us this week.

1. Why do you write haiku?

I suppose because I can do so. I am not a very creative person, and that fact frustrates me enormously. I have had a modicum of success with haiku, so I keep plugging away at it, imagining that I am being creative.

2. What other poetic forms do you enjoy?

I disagree with the phrasing of the question, which seems to suggest that haiku is a form. I think haiku, or haikai, is a genre. Moreover, I question whether a haiku should be considered a poem in a Western sense at all. Standard definitions of (Western) poetry fit haiku badly, and everything about a haiku makes it different from a Western-style poem: length, format, content, structure, poetics, aesthetics, etc.

If you are asking what kinds of poetry do I enjoy, not much, actually. Of contemporary poets I like the more accessible ones and those who write more imagistic works, such as Billy Collins, Ted Kooser, Theodore Roethke, Donald Justice, ... I generally dislike confessional and language poetry, and in the kind of poems that are published in magazines, I find myself counting the similes. I guess my appreciation for such work has been ruined by haiku!

3. Of the many wonderful haiku you've written, what do you consider to be your top three? (Please provide original publication credits.)

Some months ago I sent out a selection of my haiku to six friends and asked them to rate each: two points for a great haiku, one for a pretty good haiku, and none for ones best forgotten. These three took top honors, and would be among my own favorites as well:

late to the office
my desk already piled high
with zucchini

South by Southeast 6:1 (1999); Thin Curve (RMA 99)

the swell of her breast
against the watered silk
summer moon

Modern Haiku 33:1 (winter-spring 2002)

in his garden
my neighbor has hung mirrors
this August heat

Heron Quarterly 2:3 (July 1998)

Next week, Richard Straw.

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