Opening the Haiku Window

First published as a Facebook post, in a slightly different version, on 18 April 2017. Originally written 29 January 2017. Speaking of windows, “Open Window” is also the title of my first online haiku and photography collection, published by Brooks Books in 2000. See also “My Window Opens: A Personal Haiku History.” +

On 18 April 1988, I received my first acceptance of a haiku submitted to a haiku journal, Modern Haiku. In fact, it was my very first submission of poems to any poetry journal, other than school publications. I made my submission, complete with a carefully prepared self-addressed, stamped envelope, on 31 March 1988—a first-class stamp was only 25 cents back then. I heard back from editor Robert Spiess nearly three weeks later, on 18 April 1988, and was the happy recipient of that crisp dollar bill that Bob paid for each haiku—I still have that bill somewhere. Here’s my poem, which appeared on page 13 of Modern Haiku XIX:3, Autumn 1988:

my window opens

a hundred frogs

sing to the moon

I don’t have a record of when I wrote the poem, but it was almost certainly in the ten or so days before I submitted the poem (in April of 1988), because I had been inspired to write the middle phrase by having just bought Hiroaki Sato’s One Hundred Frogs: From Renga to Haiku to English (not to be confused with the shorter flip book, One Hundred Frogs, published years later by the same editor). I had purchased Sato’s book on 22 March 1988 at the wonderful old Oriental Bookstore in Pasadena, California, where I ended up buying hundreds of haiku books before they went out of business ten or fifteen years later (clearly I should have bought more haiku books). My poem arose not just from the title of Sato’s book (though I hadn’t read it yet) but also from the fact that the frogs were really loud in the irrigation culvert outside my apartment window in Riverside. I had originally submitted the poem with “one hundred frogs” in the middle line, but immediately liked Bob’s suggestion to say “a hundred frogs” because a specific number wasn’t needed—or knowable.

I think I was exceedingly fortunate to get an acceptance from my very first haiku submission anywhere, and as a result, this poem was my first publicly published haiku, not counting school publications. I suspect, too, that it was the first piece of creative writing for which I was paid. And now, thousands of published haiku later, I can point them all back to this poem—my window now very wide open to haiku poetry, and to the worldwide community of haiku poets. And it cost me just 25 cents to start. I’m grateful.

after all these years

the garden window

still wide open