Fig Newtons: Senryu to Go

Fig Newtons: Senryu to Go

Michael Dylan Welch, editor

Contains 111 humorous senryu by six San Francisco–area poets: Laura Bell, Garry Gay, Christopher Herold, vincent tripi, Michael Dylan Welch, and Paul O. Williams. Edited and introduced by Michael Dylan Welch. +

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1993, saddle-stapled, 32 pages, 5½ x 8½ inches, ISBN 1-878798-09-X

  • Honorable Mention in the 1994 Merit Book Awards sponsored by the Haiku Society of America (for books published in 1993). A most amusing collection.

  • “For a moment, distinctions between haiku and senryu are not important; if just one poem makes you chuckle, then this book has met its goal.” —from the introduction

  • “Senryu is a kissin’ cousin to haiku. Where haiku speak of nature and its seasons, senryu tend to show human nature in any season. Much debate has besieged the definition of senryu and its differences from haiku. But what matters here is its spirit—playful, joyful, often humorous. This book is a collection of 111 senryu by six California poets. Each of them can tell you when they wrote their first haiku, but their first senryu? They haven’t a clue. Their poems, selected and introduced by Michael Dylan Welch, offer wry and sometimes ironic observations of the human condition—about jobs, relationships, dogs, cars, children, grocery shopping, and baldness. Garry Gay, Paul O. Williams, and Christopher Herold have each served as president of the Haiku Poets of Northern California. Garry has also been president of the Haiku Society of America. Michael Dylan Welch, vincent tripi, Christopher, and Paul have each edited Woodnotes, HPNC’s quarterly haiku publication. The poets represented in this book all live on solid ground around the San Francisco Bay, except for Laura Bell, who lives on a houseboat.” —from the back cover

  • [Fig Newtons], a first anthology of senryu in English, as far as I know, deserves a joyous welcome. Its arrival is a signal event. . . . [Fig Newtons is] a collection with more range than these few poems [quoted in the review] suggest, and a much higher hit rating than most haiku anthologies these days. We should also bow to the careful editing that groups these poems superficially by subject, while maintaining a clear ear for variety, tone, and pacing. . . . The judges and editors of contests and magazines who previously published some of these senryu as ‘haiku’ should be run out of town. (Not seriously, though I wish they had as clear an idea of the differences between the two as we see here.) But for editor Welch and his cast of California senryu poets, the ticker-tape parade. Meantime, get your own copy of Fig Newtons and ease your mind.” —William J. Higginson, Modern Haiku XXV:1, Winter–Spring 1994, pages 103–105

  • See the Woodnotes review by Kay F. Anderson, in which she says it is the senryu poet who writes to bring us smiles and shared guffaws of understanding. Fig Newtons offers just such comic relief, a spirited recess from the serious concerns of modern life.

Senryu Reading in Golden Gate Park

The following report appeared in Woodnotes #19, Winter 1993, page 43, describing the launch reading for Fig Newtons.

An enthusiastic crowd met outdoors at the Redwood Classroom in Golden Gate Park’s Strybing Arboretum [in San Francisco, California] for a reading of humorous senryu on Saturday, October 23, 1993. The readers were the six poets in the recently published Press Here book, Fig Newtons: Senryu to Go. The crowd included at least 250 . . . but 220 of that number were mosquitoes! Marianne Monaco welcomed everyone with an engaging story, and passed out fig newton cookies to the audience. We ate the cookies while the mosquitoes ate us—but other than the few bugs, the day was perfect and the weather clear and warm. Paul O. Williams preceded the reading with a short synopsis of the history and nature of senryu. Then the six poets read in turn for about 15 minutes each. Laura Bell began with her delightful “performance” senryu, followed by Garry Gay, Christopher Herold, vincent tripi, Michael Dylan Welch, and Paul O. Williams. After an invitation from Michael to purchase the book, Marianne then closed this enjoyable event with another story. A good time was had by all. And a few of us were had by the mosquitoes . . .

Laura Bell was born in a Kansas blizzard in 1925. Now she’s a retired nurse, living on a house boat in Sausalito, California, north of the Golden Gate. She has kept herself busy as a long-distance operator, a Boeing bomber riveter, miner, and dancer. She writes without regard for definitions, but you can’t help but smile when she reads her poems. Her first haiku came to her in 1990.

Garry Gay is a professional photographer represented by The Image Bank in New York. He was born in 1951 in Glendale, and now lives with his wife and daughter in Windsor, California. He has served as president of the Haiku Poets of Northern California (1989–1990) and the Haiku Society of America (1991). He discovered haiku in 1974, when he found a book on Bashō.

Christopher Herold was born in Suffern, New York in 1948, and now lives in a cottage in the redwoods of Woodside, California. As a drummer in the band Kingfish he toured the country in the 1970s, performing to millions. Today he focuses on nature, and wears hearing aids, a constant reminder of his past. He has coedited Woodnotes, and is the 1993–1994 president of the Haiku Poets of Northern California. In 1968 he unwittingly wrote his first haiku.

vincent tripi was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1941. Now living in San Francisco’s Inner Richmond district, he occupies his time with writing, yoga, meditation, and extensive correspondence. Trained in psychotherapy, vincent is active in environmental issues. He is a former editor of Woodnotes, and wrote his first haiku in 1983.

Michael Dylan Welch edits computer books for trade publishers. He was born in Watford, England on a spring day in 1962. He now lives along a salt-water lagoon in Foster City, California, fifteen miles south of San Francisco. He has served as editor of Woodnotes since 1989, and is also publisher of Press Here haiku books. He wrote his first haiku in 1976.

Paul O. Williams is a science fiction novelist, poet, and English professor. He was born in 1935 in Chatham, New Jersey, and now makes his home in Belmont, California, in the peninsula bills south of San Francisco. He has served as Woodnotes coeditor, and as the 1991–1992 president of the Haiku Poets of Northern California. He has been writing haiku since 1964.

the dentist—

all his ten fingers

and thumbs in my mouth

Laura Bell

Hole in the ozone

my bald spot . . .


Garry Gay

cropped grass—


the tethered goat

Christopher Herold

50th high school reunion:

lined up to slow dance

with the fortune teller

vincent tripi

at his favourite deli

the bald man finds a hair

in his soup

Michael Dylan Welch

in the next booth—

patient with the ketchup

but not her baby

Paul O. Williams