Typos Happen!


In the Fall–Winter 1993 issue of Frogpond (page 25), I had the following poem appear:
        when the leaf falls
        a golden cup
        disappears into darkness
I remember Alexis Rotella writing to me shortly afterwards to say what an unusual poem it was for me, and how mysterious it seemed to her. And she said she liked it. I like it, too, more or less. But it was a typo. Here’s how the poem was submitted:
        when the leaf falls
        a golden carp
        disappears into darkness
I like my original poem, even though it’s more predictable and perhaps more pedestrian, and may suffer from a cause-and-effect structure, but I also somewhat like the accidental version, and that’s why I never wrote to the editor to point out the error. Which version do you like better? Ultimately, the “cup” version is a mistake, and is really too odd and mysterious to be wholly satisfying, but I’m still intrigued by the new meanings that this typo created.
        At any rate, I guess I survived this misprint. However, for most haiku, the slightest typo can radically change a poem, usually detrimentally. Because haiku are so short, they are affected by typos much more strongly than any other kind of poetry. Careful proofreading couldn’t be more important than it is for haiku poetry.
—1 November 2009


In 2015 I had the following poem appear in (29:10, Spring–Summer 2015, page 11), a Japanese haiku magazine:

        my shoelace united—
               tiny junco pecks a seed
        spilled from the feeder

Of course, the first line should have said “untied,” which readers would surely understand, but it’s interesting to let the poem take you where it will if my shoelace is somehow united.
—14 May 2015


In the 2017 Haiku Society of America members’ anthology, On Down the Road, edited by LeRoy Gorman, a poem of mine appeared as follows:

      ate for the bus—
        petals swirl
        in a hearses wake

Kind of cryptic, eh? The first line, of course, should be “late for the bus. I received a note of apology from the book’s producer, Mike Montreuil, and an errata statement appeared in the HSA email newsletter, for which I’m grateful.
—7 October 2017


I 2002, I received two Tanka Splendor Awards in the last Tanka Splendor contest run by Jane Reichhold. Here’s one of the two poems, which was first published online with all contest winners:

         summer breeze
         lifts a corner
         of our picnic blanket—
         I place a grape
         on your outstretched tongue

Sometime after I created my Graceguts website in October of 2009, I typed up this and other poems to add to the website. For some reason I typed “basket” instead of “blanket,” resulting in a poem where the wind lifts a corner of a picnic basket, which doesn’t really make sense. Yet the version with “basket” stayed on my website (on my “Luggage Poems” page) until February of 2018. I first posted this page on 2 September 2011, so that error persisted for more than six years.
        I discovered this typo when Maxianne Berger asked for publication credits for this poem in seeking to publish a set of my tanka with French translations in Cirrus magazine. I keep track of published haiku and tanka on index cards (a system I started before I even had a computer). When I looked up the publication credits for this poem, and reviewed her translation, I noticed that she had translated the poem to say “panier pique-nique” (picnic basket) rather than “couverture pique-nique” (picnic blanket). My index card said “blanket,” which correctly matched what appeared on the Tanka Splendor Awards page, so where did the error come from? That’s when I realized that I had created the error myself on my “Luggage Poems” page. I then found various copies of the poem on my own computer with the same error. I’ve now fixed all of these instances.
        There’s a bit more to the story, though. In commenting on my poem on the Tanka Splendor Awards page for 2002, Jane Wilson wrote, “This tanka is playfully erotic. Just as the speaker in the poem is enjoying the sensuality of placing a grape on a lover’s outstretched tongue, the picnic basket appears to be enjoying the sensual play of the summer wind.” Basket? Yes, that’s what she wrote. It seems that she typed the wrong thing too. The phrase “picnic basket” seems to be welded into our brains (thank you, Yogi Bear), and it’s easy to type that even if we might be thinking blanket. And yet this wasn’t the case for Maxianne Berger. In originally translating the poem, as she told me via email on 7 February 2018, she misread my incorrect version as saying blanket. She said, “When I originally worked on this poem I misread ‘basket’ as ‘blanket,’ [and] translated it as ‘couverture,’ and later caught my error.” But it actually wasn’t an error, and subconsciously she must have realized that “basket” did not make sense and that her translation should have been “couverture” (blanket) all along. At any rate, I’m glad to have this typo corrected at last.

—7 February 2018