First published in Deep Breath: A Book of Haiku Evolutions, edited by Terry Ann Carter (Lantzville, British Columbia: Leaf Press, 2017), pages 60–61, slightly revised since then. Originally written in January of 2017. See also “Desert Heat: A Haiku Revision,” my afterword to the same book. The first poem below is quoted on YouTube in a video, and in another video.
I tend to work out a haiku in my head before writing it down, so I rarely have much of a record of my revisions. Then my haiku sit for several years before I rake through a finished notebook to choose poems to publish. This patient approach gives me an objective perspective. I may make some revisions at this point, but tend mostly to sift the poems, deciding to publish just particular haiku and senryu, abandoning others. When a journal rejects a poem, that’s sometimes a signal that it might need revision, but not always. I’ve won contests with poems that well-known haiku journals have rejected—you have to decide if you believe in the poem. If it keeps getting rejected, I eventually stop sending it out rather than revising it. I recall a Doritos advertising slogan from many years ago: “Crunch all you want—we’ll make more.” + + + +
Here, though, is one poem for which I remember the revision. It was written on 19 June 1992, in Palo Alto, California. Summers in this university town near San Francisco can be cool with fog—as Mark Twain once reportedly wrote, “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.” Indeed, it was chilly out. My girlfriend wanted to get to a warm coffee shop, and her hand pulled eagerly at mine. Usually I walked faster than her (in what she called my “Disneyland walk”—always in a hurry to get to the next attraction), so the pull of her hand arrested my awareness. I knew immediately that I wanted to write about it. But “summer breeze” just didn’t seem right. And “coffee shop” lacked the joie de vivre I felt through her hand. So I immediately thought of making it spring, and to evoke childlike joy through a pet store. Japanese haiku masters sometimes revised the facts in their haiku, and I was writing poetry, not journal entries, so I had no hesitation in deciding on the following, revising details to serve the core experience:
the pull of her hand
as we near the pet store
I published the preceding poem in Woodnotes #19, Winter 1993. Almost twenty years later, in 2012, marijuana was legalized in the state of Washington, where I live. I can’t resist closing with a new revision of my own poem, which was published in Modern Haiku:
the pull of her hand
as we near the pot store