Saturday, October 11, 2008

Bill Higginson has died

Fellow Poets,

It is with a heavy heart that I make this blog post. Bill Higginson passed away today. I received the following email from Penny Harter a short while ago:

Dear Curtis,

Bill had been in the ICU since Monday early morning, and he was weakening some each day. And sadly, just after we were making plans today for Bill to go to hospice care within the hospital (his decision), his heart went crazy, suddenly beating up in the high 190s / 200s, he glazed over, his rapid labored breathing slowed dramatically to the last few breaths, and his heart beat on, slowing down, for about ten minutes until he died peacefully at 3:45 p.m. today. His daughter Beth and I were holding his hands and singing Amazing Grace to him.

He'd awakened early this morning saying he was "composed" and ready to stop fighting, then asked the nurses to call to tell Beth and me he wanted to speak to us. We came in early and though his voice was sometimes labored, we had an animated conversation much of the morning. He made it clear he wanted a straight DNR after all (no intubation, etc.), and then we talked about how he wanted to be remembered (memorial celebrations at Tenri in NYC and here in NJ in the spring), as well as personal things. And then I guess he was ready and just let go.

He knew we agreed with his decision, and though Beth and I cried, we affirmed that decision and said that though we'd miss him terribly, it was time. He'd been through enough. He will be cremated, and the only service anytime soon will be a family graveside ceremony in about two weeks or so. I have Beth with me and family coming tomorrow. I'll be going down to my daughter Nancy's for about a week to recover a bit from the strain of recent weeks, leaving on Tuesday or so. Then I'll start dealing with things here.

Bill and I both have been most grateful for all the cards and e-mails of support we've received over the past weeks. Bless you all! I won't be checking e-mail much while at my daughter's, but may do so once in a while. I'm not ready for engaging in much personal correspondence yet.


On a personal note, I'm honored to have met Bill at Haiku North America 2007. He and Penny have inspired and nurtured me through their poems and many books. (Practically every serious haiku poet has a copy of the The Haiku Handbook, right?) We have lost a friend and pioneer in English language haiku and Japanese poetic forms. Please join me in expressing our sincere condolences to Penny, family, and friends of William J. Higginson.

William J. Higginson
Due to this very sad news, the weekly Haiku - Three Questions post will be postponed until next week.


Adelaide said...

I never met Bill, but with his books I feel I made a friend. I learned how to write haiku through his books and will miss his voice. My heartfelt sympathy to his family.

going on midnight
his death deepens
the darkness

Adelaide B. Shaw

Anonymous said...


Thanks for sharing the news. Bill was also a great encouragement to me early on. He sent occasional encouraging notes all the way back during "Dogwood Blossoms" days, and when he accepted one of my poems for Haiku World, I thought I would bust with pride!

One of the greatest days in my poetic life was at Haiku North America 2003, on the campus of NorthWestern University, when we composed renku together. I was on Bill & Penny's team, and I really felt like I was sitting at the feet of a master as I watched him work. Seeing him on stage at HNA 2005 and listening to his stories from the Beat Poet days, and stories from Ginsberg's mother's kitchen was like peering back at the birth of our genre.

His observations and insights via email as I struggled to understand the essence of haiku both before and after that day helped me greatly in my ongoing quest to understand haiku.

His passing is like the end of an era.

snowbird said...

song sparrow
the winter's so long and cold
morning sparrow
sing for me spring's song
to fill this widow's soul

we'll miss our song sparrow a
great deal...
Merrill Ann Gonzales

Unknown said...

I'm saddened by the news of Bill Higginson's passing. I found his books to be easy to read and very instructive - at no time did I feel he condescended to his readers. That's saying a lot. Through his teachings I have tried to better my haiku in particular but also my poetry in general. Thanks, Bill, I owe you.

May his family and friends find the strength they need to get through this ordeal. Keeping his memory close keeps him closer still.


Trish Shields
Vancouver Island, BC Canada

_kala said...

Dear Curtis Dunlap,

What shocking news.
I've had a few interactions with Bill and found him absolutely friendly and open.

I can just imagine the feelings all of you must be going through having known him for many years.
He would be dearly missed by all,

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Thanks very much for posting this notice, Curtis, which I'll pass on to Lilliput readers.

My thoughts are with Penny, the family and all that knew and were touched by Bill's generosity of spirit.


Gerald (Ackworth born) said...

Bill Higginson gone
a giant has made his final leap
tears in the pond

gerald england

see William J Higginson: in memoriam.

I've still got tears in my eyes since I heard the news about an hour ago

Ed Baker said...

Old Frog
leaps into
s i l e n c e


Area 17 said...

Bill was one of those truly special people, I will miss him dreadfully.


Greg said...

a giant of a man... he will be missed.

Unknown said...

Dear Curtis,

One of the most generous men that
I have ever met, and I love him
like a father.


Norman Darlington said...

We are all diminished by his passing. In my interactions with Bill, I have always found him to wear his erudition lightly. Generous with his time and knowledge, and ever the perfect gentleman.

Although he is justly renowned for the part he has played in bringing haiku in the west to where it is today, he was also a deep font of scholarship in the field of linked verse. I count myself privileged to have written a Kasen renku, The Click of Mahjong Tiles, together with several other poets, under his direction. Bill placed the poem here on his website:

Fare well, friend!

relinquishing the menu —
today he eats the mountains
drinks the sky

Norman Darlington

haiku-shelf (Angelika Wienert) said...

He was a great teacher and he is still a great teacher!!

for example RENKU HOME

I loved to read "The Click of Mahjong Tiles" (A Kasen Renku), "The Road to Basra!" (another Kasen Renku) and a lot more.


Anonymous said...

Such a sad news, and such a great loss to the haiku world... Bill Higginson will now be a legend for us all. My deep sympathy to his family.

Thank you for this announcement, dear Curtis -- I posted this in my Live Journal too:


Neil Muscott said...

Sadly, I never met Bill, but one time he sent me a personal note of encouragement regarding my haiku. That meant a lot, that someone as busy as Bill would write a note to a novice haiku poet. I think that is a sign of a class act from one the great influences on modern English Haiku. He was about the art, not the ego.

Neil Muscott

Michael Dylan Welch said...

I am deeply saddened by the news of Bill's passing. I am crying as I type this. Bill's death is beyond sad. He meant a great deal to me and I counted him as a friend. He also meant a great deal to the worldwide haiku community. This is a sad day for the entire haiku community around the world. Bill was a careful and challenging poet, a fine scholar, a precise writer, a considerate and inspirational teacher, and a devoted husband and father. I was thrilled to first meet Bill nearly twenty years ago, and every occasion when we met or could talk on the phone or exchange letters or e-mail was treasured. I long admired his commitment to and passion for the study, appreciation, and promotion of haiku literature, and wished to emulate him in so many ways. Bill was a giant haiku pioneer who continued over many decades to lead and explore, who continued to be the leading conduit of information about Japanese haiku in North America. He was a stalwart pillar of leadership in the English-language haiku community and should be remembered equally with R. H. Blyth and Harold Henderson. I will miss him terribly, as I'm sure so many of us will.

My heart goes out to Penny and the family -- I wish my arms could reach across the country to embrace you, and I wish you every ounce of emotional strength in the days and months ahead. I hope it will be solace to be reminded by all of us who loved Bill how much we appreciated and admired him and his accomplishments.

Haiku poems move mountains with just a few scant few words, yet on Bill's passing, there aren't enough words in the world to say how grateful I am for his presence and contributions. Dear bill, requiscat in pace.

Michael Dylan Welch

shanna said...

such sad news my prayers to his family and friends
his helpful comments shall be sorely missed..much aloha from paradise


terrytip said...

An ancient pond

A frog jumps in

A sound heard 'round the world

This says it all. I only knew William J. Higginson through his books snd posts on the internet but he will be missed by alll


Carolanne Reynolds said...

[not sure followed steps to send this so trying again]
such a shock and so sad; indeed a scholar and a gentleman, will be much missed
just got the news (here at Pacifi-kana) that included Michael Dylan Welch's msg with a link to this site.
read Penny's post of the end and sent my immediate reaction to her re Bill:

   a haiku candle
      sputters and is gone ~~~
            now, that light is in the stars


sprite said...

autum mist -
a pen poised to write
'in memoriam'


for Bill that i would have liked to get to know more and regreat the missed opportunities offered...
for the little we exchanged i'm extremely grateful and will cherish for as long as it must

mattm said...

There is little that I can add to the kind and loving words abut Bill expressed above. While I never met Bill his kind words and support to me were greatly appreciated and my condolences go out to Penny and family members. Sad times indeed.


Fûseki said...

I was privileged to work with Bill on the Kiesen Renku "A Click of Mahjong Tiles". I found him an immensely kind and patient Sabaki and teacher, endlessly generous with his time and knowledge; especially with a novice. His legacy to me went far beyond words. He gifted to me my haigô which I use here with great pride to honour him. I am so sad not to have ever met him in the flesh, yet I will always hold his memory as a wonderful influence in my life.

abandoned cottage
scarlet leaves fall slowly
this windless day


Cornwall, UK

Shelley said...

Bill will be missed all over the world. I have long been grateful for his work, which has given so many of us the help we needed to meet the world wherever we were.

autumn fog -
we walk the path
from memory

Anonymous said...

October chill
the pine trees pass through the moon