North American Haiku
Michael Dylan Welch’s Haiku
Michael Dylan Welch is originally British, but he grew up in Ghana, Australia, and then Canada. Currently he is living in the United States near its northwest coast in Sammamish, Washington, near Seattle. However, in the short email correspondences that I had with him, he said he visits Vancouver [British Columbia] frequently. Therefore, it is appropriate to consider him a haiku poet of the North American west coast who brings the American Canadian essence to his haiku.
According to Michael’s personal website, he has been interested in haiku since 1976, discovering the literary essence of haiku since 1988.
Since then, he has done a lot of work on haiku in both personal and public ways, including cofounding the Haiku North America conference in 1991 and the American Haiku Archive in 1996, and founding the Tanka Society of America in 2000 and the National Haiku Writing Month in 2010.
All in all, he can be considered one of the most active figures in North American haiku today, who organizes haiku workshops to introduce and teach beginners throughout the year.
Over the years, Michael has won first prize in numerous contests for haiku and related poetry, and has edited and written dozens of poetry books, and lectured at many literary conferences. His haiku in New Zealand are carved in stone, printed on balloons in Los Angeles, and recited for the Empress of Japan and at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Of course, he was able to balance his activities in haiku by receiving a Master’s degree in English literature and teaching English poetry at various places, while experimenting with other forms of poetry. Michael was the keynote speaker at the 2013 Haiku International Association convention in Japan (which he often visits with his Japanese wife), and one of his translations was printed on a postage stamp in 2012 with a circulation of 150 million. His writing has been published in magazines, quarterlies, and yearbooks of haiku and Japanese poetry. In 2009, Michael launched his own website, www.graceguts.com, where he also collects and shares his published writings including but not limited to haiku.
The Haiku Anthology edited by Cor van den Heuvel is one of the best and most comprehensive books for introducing English haiku. In the preface of the third edition (Norton, 1999), van den Heuvel mentions Welch and writes:
Welch intertwines memories of childhood with the present, giving his work an immediacy blended with nostalgia. His images are more urban and domestic . . . and he varies the form more so that his haiku create fresh shapes on the page. Welch is also very important to the haiku community as an editor.
He is very interested in the art of haiku writing to create different spaces with the same themes. One of his favorite themes is the train, many of which follow here.
He also has written many haiku in which he mentions specific trees and plants and many of these plants are native trees in some areas. Due to this fact we may not be able to find the proper equivalent in Persian for them.
Using these specific names, in some cases, brings another level of poetic forms to the haiku that may not be possible to translate easily at the same level of poetic form in Persian.
For example, this haiku:
distant church bells . . .
a sparrow’s breath
lost in the holly berries
Holly is a type of shrub that has small fruits. This type of tree is used for Christmas decorations and there is a relationship between holly and church. In Persian we call this shrub “Khâs.”
Or in another haiku he writes:
between the pages
of the Audubon book,
It has happened sometimes that we have taken a book from a library or from somewhere else and then we find a dried flower or a dried leaf among its pages.
Here, among the pages of a book written by John James Audubon, describing and categorizing North American native birds, the poet has found dried flower petals of a “do not forget me” flower.