How to Respond to a Haiku

First published in The Aurorean 22:1, Spring/Summer 2017, page 17. Also published in the Olympia Poetry Network Newsletter 27:9, March 2018, page 1. Also featured in the “Ars Poetica: Fiber Art and Poetry Intersect” exhibit, with a fiber-art interpretation by Mary Ann Tollefson, in August and September of 2020 at the Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network (BARN), Bainbridge Island, Washington, with an online launch reading on 21 August 2020 (artists’ statements and photo below). Published in Ars Poetica at BARN, the poetry/art book produced in conjunction with the exhibit (three photos below). Originally written in September of 2016. Listen to a recording of this poem at “Pictures of Poets.”  See also The Clarinet and “Your Second Heart,” poems featured in other “Ars Poetica” exhibits.       +

If it’s a classic by Bashō or Buson, you

nod your head a few times, slowly,

and say mmmmmmmmmm, just under your breath.

Bonus points if your eyes are closed.

My family does this to mock me

when I share one of my poems—

lovingly, I’m sure.

If it’s a haiku by Issa,

then you might chuckle,

unless it’s the poem about the roof of hell,

then the requisite nodding is in order,

with a dash of chin rubbing for good measure.

Jess Henderson introduces my poem in front of fiber art by Mary Ann Tollefson created for my poem, exhibited in August and September 2020 at the BARN Gallery, Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Exhibit catalog for Ars Poetica at BARN, the poetry/art book produced in conjunction with the exhibit. See the complete booklet on the BARN website (PDF).

Artists’ Statements

Poet: Michael Dylan Welch

I teach and publish haiku poetry extensively, so I’ve frequently encountered the experiences described in my poem. The poem is making a bit of fun of haiku, or at least the way the public so often misunderstands it (for example, you don’t have to count syllables in English), but haiku is something I usually take seriously myself.

Fiber Artist: Mary Ann Tollefson

Reading this poem, “How to Respond to a Haiku” by Michael Dylan Welch, quickly caught my attention and confirmed my shared observations of the ways viewers approach and respond to my abstract art. Studying the “simple complexity” of haiku or a painting might be puzzling or revealing, but there is always a hope that there may be a personal response and appreciation for the spirit of the work.