Sunday, November 2, 2008

Charlie Smith - Three Questions

Charlie Smith lives in Raleigh, NC. He has had haiku published in Asahi Haikuist Network, Beneath the Willow Tree, Mainichi Daily News, Moonset, and Valley Voices. Several of his bilingual (Japanese and English) haiku appeared in the 10th anniversary book Meguro International Haiku Circle. He received honorable mention in the 8th Mainichi Haiku Contest. His free verse poem Sakura appeared in the July 2008 issue of Magnapoets.

Hi Curtis,

I am an amateur at haiku, but maybe you would like to have a spectrum of folks with interest in haiku answering the three questions.

1. Why do you write haiku?

Two answers:

First answer: as a way to communicate with other people and with myself. Many of my friends live a distance away. Also, I enjoy writing as a way to try to be creative. The time scale for completing a haiku draft is much shorter than for a scientific paper. Many times they are just a way for me to remember a feeling or a ‘haiku moment’; occasionally they are something I want to share with a larger group of people.

Second answer takes a little longer to explain. In fall 1999, a year after my father died, I was on a two month sabbatical leave at Osaka Univ. I was living alone in the dorm for international visitors. I remembered that my father had taken me to a Japanese garden in Miami when I was 16. In the garden was a large stone with a haiku written on it in Japanese. I had told him that I would write one of those someday. I had forgotten about that trip for many years. One of the graduate students in Osaka gave me a bilingual version of Basho’s haiku to read. So after several weeks I had a fall haiku. I placed it on my father’s grave upon returning from Japan. Then I decided I needed one for the other three seasons. So my first four haiku were in Japanese. Then I found out that haiku in English was alive and well in many places. I was blessed to be living in a location containing the North Carolina Haiku Society which has some outstanding haijin. Friends in Japan continued to mentor me, explaining about KIREJI and such, and kindly reading some of my attempts in English and Japanese. They also tried to make me understand about KANSEI and KANDOU. Roughly speaking, KANDOU is something that touches your heart or is being touched by it. KANSEI is the sensitivity to appreciate KANDOU well enough. I think I will always regard myself as a beginner striving for an ideal but having some fun at times along the way.

2. What other poetic forms do you enjoy?

I like to read haiku, tanka, haibun, sonnets and free verse. Also I grew up on some songs of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and others that can be viewed as poems. I have only one free verse poem published, it is called "Sakura" and was in the July 2008 issue of Magnapoets. I hope to have a haibun published sometime in the near future.

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

Three of my favorites are below. The first was placed on my father’s grave, and also has a number of different interpretations. The second was the favorite of a close friend and mentor that passed away in 2005. The third was my first published haiku.

kasane zuki                    ( double moon )
yaenadeshiko                    ( double petaled dianthus of )
utsukushisa                    ( beauty )

English and Japanese version Moonset Nov. 2007

kara no niwa                    ( my empty garden )
hotaru ga kaeru                    ( lightning bugs returning home )
ama no gawa                    ( river full of stars )

English version Asahi Haikuist Network Aug. 09, 2004

English and Japanese calligraphy version, Moonset, Oct. 2008

eyes and ice                ( kouri to me )
both cold                    ( dochira mo tsumetai )
one melts                    ( hitotsu toketa )

Mainichi Daily News “Haiku in English” column Jan. 2001

Keep up the great job you are doing of writing and promoting haiku.


Charlie Smith
Raleigh, NC

Angelika Wienert will be our guest poet next week.

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