Saturday, March 21, 2009

Billie Wilson - Three Questions

Billie Wilson was born in 1941 and grew up in rural Indiana. She moved to Alaska in 1962 and lives in Juneau with her husband Gary who was born in, and introduced her to, North Dakota. All three states continue to influence her haiku. She began writing "haiku-like poems" in the 1960s, but it wasn't until 1997 that she discovered the worldwide haiku community and began a serious study of the genre. Studying led to a deeper appreciation of the haiku potential and a desire to begin her development as a haiku poet. Her work has appeared in many of the leading haiku journals and anthologies. Some of her awards include the Harold G. Henderson Memorial Award, the Gerald Brady Memorial Award, and The Heron's Nest Readers' Choice Poem of the Year.

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?

winter wind—
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

prairie dusk—
the rustle of field mice
wintering in

Winner for December 2004, The Haiku Calendar (Snapshot Press)

from a beach near Savoonga—
winter rain

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.


Unknown said...

hello Billie,

The haiku community is wonderful and so are you. Your poem "winter wind—" did make my top 10 poems of the year for the Award issue of The Heron's Nest, and I have enjoyed so many poems over the years of yours, but my favorit is still "winter nears –" Editor's Choice v4:12, 2002 The Heron's Nest. Thank you.


Anonymous said...

HI, Billie.
Nice to see some of your outstanding haiku here. I think we both started writing serious haiku about the same period circa the year 2000. I still remember and appreciate the pointers and direction you gave me in getting started in haiku. I too have changed from writing and posting several haiku a day, to maybe one or two a month. I recall being told sometime early in my writing, that we are all considered novices for at least the first ten years of writing. That may be true in my case. But, you have certainly exceeded that rule, and have been producing top quality haiku for many years now. Keep up the fine work.

Darrell Byrd

Karen said...

HI Billie,
Your haiku really resonate with me. I respond to their mood and feeling so strongly. Maybe that's because I was born and raised in North Dakota and you have captured that sense of place.
Karen Klein