Sunday, March 14, 2010

Catherine J.S. Lee - Three Questions

Catherine J.S. LeeCatherine J.S. Lee lives, writes, teaches, and gardens on an island on the coast of Maine near Canada, where she began her haiku journey after many years as a published short-story writer. All That Remains, her haiku collection, recently won the 2010 Turtle Light Press Haiku Chapbook Competition. Many online and print journals and a few anthologies have published her haiku and senryu; some of her poems have done well in competitions and kukai. She was one of six featured contributors to the Spring/Summer 2009 edition of DailyHaiku.

1) Why do you write haiku?

I write because I have to; it's my way of making sense of the world. After many years of writing fiction, I came to haiku in the summer of 2007 by a serendipitous route that would take too much space to recount here. Quickly, I was drawn to haiku as the polar opposite of story, focusing on the moment rather than the narrative, the essence rather than the epiphany. It was as if the world had opened anew in a startling and satisfying way.

Devoted to details, I find joy in the acute and accurate observation necessary for writing haiku and in the way the most fleeting moments can become lasting images on the page. Even when I don't succeed, I love the challenge of giving readers a moment of significance that resonates with something in their own lives. I love the fact that the haiku world is small enough that for the most part, we know each others' work and names, and I love the fellowship among us, even if it is by Internet. I am grateful every day that haiku and I found each other.

2) What other poetic forms do you enjoy?

Most of my reading time not devoted to lesson planning and education issues is spent keeping up with haiku and its cousins in journals and anthologies. I also enjoy sonnets, especially those of my fellow Mainer, Edna St. Vincent Millay.

I’ve dabbled in writing haibun, tanka, and haiga, but none was quite the right fit. (I do like creating haiga, but as a photographer, I’m pretty much incompetent.) So I stick to haiku and senryu, and that is enough.

3) Of the many wonderful haiku you've written, what do you consider to be your top three?

I hope I've written a few “wonderful haiku”, but I don’t believe I've reached “many” yet. Among what I have written, my preferences change daily depending on my mood, so take this not as a definitive answer but as a snapshot of one day’s choices.

cold snap
waking to the creak
of house timbers

The Heron’s Nest, December 2009

this hush
before the coming of crows
winter dawn

DailyHaiku, April 13, 2009

summer night
a freighter’s horn lengthens
through the fog

Shiki Kukai, August 2009, and
All That Remains, to be published in fall 2010 by Turtle Light Press

Thank you for all the work you do to make Blogging Along Tobacco Road what is, in my opinion, the most informative, inspiring, and entertaining haiku blog. It provides a wonderful sense of community as well as being a great way to keep current on contests, news, and calls for submissions. BATR rocks!

If you've been enjoying this weekly series and have not contributed, please consider sharing your response (whether it be for haiku or tanka) to the three little questions that Catherine answered. You must be a published poet to participate.


Area 17 said...

Dear Catherine J.S. Lee,

I was very impressed by your winning haiku for the Turtle Light Press book competition.

summer night
a freighter’s horn lengthens
through the fog

Shiki Kukai, August 2009, and
All That Remains, to be published in fall 2010 by Turtle Light Press.

I love this haiku!

Turtle Light Press had this to say about Catherine's collection:

"Almost every poem is exquisite in this collection about grappling with loss as the author tries to come to terms with the changing circumstances of her life. Lee has skillfully arranged the haiku in an emotional arc from the first poem to the last..."

Please do buy the book, you won't regret it for a second.

Another haiku that I think is fantastic because it's so simply laid down, and yet there is so much inbetween the lines:

For instance, in the opening poem that sets the locale, it’s the forbidden nature of a return to one’s childhood that is captured so well in this image:

hometown visit
no trespassing signs
where we used to play

This is another big favourite of mine.

weblink: Alan’s Area 17 blog

Jessie Carty said...

really enjoyed your haiku.
i wonder if being a haiku writer now influences your fiction at all?

Anonymous said...

hi cat
good to see you here
i hope you find "many" more great haiku on your journey


Unknown said...

ALAN, thank you so much for your very kind words. I so appreciate them.

JESSIE, being a haiku writer has influenced my fiction in a big way -- I enjoy writing haiku so much that I haven't even written fiction for a long time. ;-)

COL, thank you.