When I began writing tanka, I was intrigued by the many reasons poets were drawn to it. Similarly with haiku; I have a fair understanding of this genre, except my experience at writing haiku is not quite tested. So I ask the question on behalf of so many wondering minds, “Why haiku?” And for those who are still unfamiliar with haiku, “What is haiku?”
I’ve written about this subject at great length in various essays. It might be simplest to just point to a few of these essays:
And for something fun:
You can also visit the Essays, Reviews, Introductions, and Interviews pages on my website for additional links.
My website also has pages for books I’ve published, haibun, haiga, haiku/senryu, longer poems, books published by my press (Press Here), rengay and other collaborations, sequences, speeches, photography, tanka, and more.
Thank you Michael. This set of links should definitely direct a budding poet in the right direction regarding haiku and its related forms. There is nothing more helpful than clear-cut directions. Back to this latest book by Haiku Northwest, how is No Longer Strangers different from other books in this genre?
As a haiku anthology, No Longer Strangers highlights the Pacific Northwest region of the United States and Canada, and includes poems by residents of Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska. We hope the book is like other good books of haiku in presenting high-quality poems, but a higher purpose of the book has been to represent the poets of the region over our twenty-five-year history. It includes both published and previously unpublished work, and serves as an introduction to the haiku poetry of our very active region.
What advice would you give aspiring authors?
Read as much as you can. Write as much as you can. Edit as much as you can. The majority of writing is rewriting. And most people can’t really write well until they’ve read a great deal. And be patient—don’t rush to publish, and don’t delude yourself into thinking there are any shortcuts.
Are there any upcoming projects at Haiku Northwest?
We plan to have a number of readings to celebrate the release of No Longer Strangers, both in the Seattle area and in a few surrounding cities where many of members are concentrated, such as Port Townsend, Bellingham, and Tacoma, perhaps even Vancouver, British Columbia, or Portland, Oregon. We’re also involved with other regular events promoting haiku throughout the region, not to mention our regular monthly meetings at which we share and discuss haiku.
Would you like to comment on specific haiku from No Longer Strangers?
I’ll start with the title poem from the book, by the group’s founder, Francine Porad:
poolside, we chat
no longer strangers
Francine, who died in 2006, was a very social and nurturing individual, a trait that continues to infuse Haiku Northwest. It was like her to chat with strangers. It didn’t matter if the topic of conversation might have been reincarnation or something else. The point was that simply talking together made a new friendship. Perhaps they shared something in common beyond the immediate topic of conversation too. This attitude of friendliness and mutual support characterizes the group, and makes this poem a perfect inspiration for the book’s title.
sketching the sapling
I will never see grown—
the quiet woods
The preceding poem, by Seattle-area poet Dejah Léger, captures nature more than human nature, yet still with an awareness of the human place in nature. The Pacific Northwest is known for its huge forests and tall trees. Here the author takes us to one of those stands of trees, and helps us be aware that the trees will outlast us.
the pregnant moose
settles into snow
This poem is by Cindy Zackowitz, an Alaska poet who died in 2012. Even if we’ve never seen a moose in the wild ourselves, this is an image we can easily imagine, and also empathize with. We don’t know when in the winter this is, but we can imagine that the mother moose is just about ready to give birth, because it seems tired and is settling into the snow. It’s a moment of acceptance. The snow’s whiteness is echoed by the moon’s whiteness. I also love the sounds in this poem—the T sounds in the first nouns or verbs to start each line, and the varying O sounds in the last words of each line. Together the sounds and images coalesce into a pleasing and vivid harmony.
The first of the three poems I’ve quoted here is entirely human-centered, and the third one is entirely nature-centered. The middle one is both. Haiku and senryu can include all three focuses effectively, and I think No Longer Strangers captures an effective range of these poems, several of them with distinctive Northwest subjects. The book is also generous for including poems by both less experienced and more experienced poets from the region.
When will No Longer Strangers be released? Is Haiku Northwest organizing a special event for the launch?
On April 17, to celebrate National Haiku Poetry Day, we will be having a launch reading for No Longer Strangers at SoulFood CoffeeHouse in Redmond, Washington. For eight years I’ve been curating a monthly poetry reading series there (for longer poetry, with haiku poet occasionally). This year, our regular reading date of the third Thursday of the month happened to fall on April 17, which is also National Haiku Poetry Day, so it seemed like an obvious idea to combine the two. I’m pleased that members of Haiku Northwest can gather to read their poems from the book. The reading will also be streamed live to the Internet (as all our readings are at SoulFood). For more information, please visit SoulFood Poetry Night and click the SoultribeTV link, or go directly. Depending on your time zone, you’d have to figure out when to tune in to watch the broadcast live (starting at 7:00 p.m, Pacific Standard Time, until about 9:00 p.m.), or save yourself the trouble and watch it later by searching for the poetry reading and the April 17 date. Please be aware that this is unedited footage, and sound and lighting levels may be uneven. Beyond this launch reading, we hope to have additional readings to promote the book. For other Haiku Northwest events, please visit the Haiku Northwest calendar.
How can readers buy this book?
We’ll have copies of No Longer Strangers at all our readings, meetings, and other events, of course, but for those who can’t join us, the book is currently available on Amazon. The price is $15 in U.S. dollars, plus shipping. Or visit the Haiku Northwest No Longer Strangers page for additional details, as already mentioned.
What about previous projects that Haiku Northwest has completed?
An appendix in No Longer Strangers lists dozens of previous publications, both large and small, two of which have won book awards from the Haiku Society of America. The complete list of these publications is also available online.
In one sentence, who should buy this book?
Anyone interested in haiku poetry is invited to join Haiku Northwest in celebrating its 25th anniversary of passionate haiku activity in the Seattle area. Please read No Longer Strangers to see how our haiku can resonate with you, no matter where you live in the world.
Thank you so much, Michael, for your time with this interview and for the interesting details that helped put this book together. On behalf of my team at Mandy’s Pages, I wish you and Haiku Northwest the very best. Here’s to a successful and fruitful launch of No Longer Strangers. Cheers!