2009: A Summary of My Poetic Year

Not previously published.

Many of the poetic activities I participated in this year involved haiku workshops and readings, starting in early March, with a national meeting of the Haiku Society of America at the University of Oregon in Eugene. I shared a PowerPoint presentation on the American Haiku Archives (I really should put it online sometime) and a workshop (also with a PowerPoint show) titled “A Moment’s Notice: Taming Time in Haiku.” Also in March I gave my “Hands On Haiku” workshop at the Vancouver Public Library in Vancouver, British Columbia.

        In April, National Poetry Month, a highlight of the year was being a presenter at the Field’s End Writers Conference at Kiana Lodge in Poulsbo, Washington. I gave a workshop on “Using Haiku to Improve Other Writing,” with a PowerPoint presentation, led a general poetry workshop with Lana Hechtman Ayers, and was featured poet reading with fiction writer Jim Lynch and the Grammar Girl herself, Mignon Fogarty. Kiana Lodge is a stunning location for a conference, too. Also in April I gave a haiku workshop for the Writer’s Block Literary Festival at the University of Washington in Seattle.

        Key events in May included teaching haiku to fourth graders at Cherry Crest Elementary School in Bellevue, Washington, and a tanka symposium with Amelia Fielden (visiting from Australia) at the Mercer Island Library. Even better in May was the annual meeting of Haiku Canada, held at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, where I gave a haiku reading and a presentation on “The Problem of Haiku Uniqueness: A Survey of Déjà-ku.”

        All year long, I continued to curate the Redmond Association of Spokenword readings (I’m on the board), and of course my own SoulFood Poetry Night series, which I started in 2006 with Lana Hechtman Ayers. A highlight for the SoulFood series was our third anniversary party, complete with a musical/literary performance by Band of Poets, held in June.

        July activities included a presentation on Japanese poetry and a reading of love tanka from my translation (with Emiko Miyashita) of the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu for the Tanabata Festival held at the Seattle Japanese Garden. The month picked up speed with a wonderful joint meeting between the Haiku Northwest group and the Port Townsend Haiku Group, held in mid July on Marrowstone Island, near Port Townsend, Washington. And even better was the annual Gabriola haiku weekend on Gabriola Island, British Columbia, where I gave a presentation on “Cracking You Open: The Joy of Haiku” at Gabriola Commons. These Gabriola weekends are always a pleasure, and a nice change of pace from the Seattle area (I really need to explore more of Vancouver Island, though).

        Next up, 5–9 August 2009, was the greatest highlight of my poetic year, the Haiku North America conference. This year it took place at the National Library of Canada (equivalent to the U.S. Library of Congress), and featured wonderful readings, presentations, displays, and more. I repeated my March presentation on the American Haiku Archives, and also gave a talk on “Fuyoh Observations: Seven Haiku Lessons We Can Learn from Japan.” A dance cruise on the river was a wonderful high note after the conference banquet. I took tons of photos, which you can view in album 1, album 2, and album 3. I was also interviewed about the HNA conference for an article that appeared in the Ottawa Citizen.

        Later in August I participated in a reading of food-related haiku at Jewelbox Theatre in Seattle, as part of a few activities organized by Bob Redmond. Another activity was having a selection of our food haiku stamped onto hundreds of grocery bags, made available at several Seattle grocery stores. The Seattle Times published a feature on these events.

        My September highlight was travelling to San Francisco to be one of four featured readers for the 20th anniversary reading in the Two Autumns reading series, sponsored by the Haiku Poets of Northern California. I was also one of the four readers at the very first Two Autumns reading, so reading this year was a great way to commemorate what has become the longest-running haiku reading series in North America. Also commemorating the reading was the publication of My Neighbor, with haiku by each of the four readers.

        In October I was a featured poet on the Daily Haiku website, and later in the month a featured poet at the Seattle Bookfest. But nothing this month could top the second annual Seabeck Haiku Getaway, which I directed. Held 16–18 October 2009, this year’s retreat at the Seabeck Conference Center in Seabeck, Washington featured Penny Harter. In addition to directing the entire weekend (something I love to do), I also gave a presentation titled “Learning from Shugyo Takaha.”

        Two more events, both in November, rounded out my poetic year. They were being a featured poet for the Tacoma Poetry Marathon at King’s Books in Tacoma, Washington, and competing, at Hugo House, in the Seattle Poetry Slam’s annual Haiku d’Etat (haiku slam). I was knocked out in the semi-finals—I guess my literary haiku were just no match for crowd-pleasing pseudo-haiku.

        Book publications this year included a short book of haiku, For a Moment, published by Marco Fraticelli’s King’s Road Press, and the Haiku North America anthology, Into Our Words, which I coedited with Grant D. Savage (and published with my press, Press Here). For King’s Road Press, I also edited Nothing Left to Say by Roberta Beary, published in August, followed by contributing poems to the Two Autumns Press book, My Neighbor, published in September. And at the end of the year I edited and published Seeing Stars, an anthology of “galactiku,” featuring haiku relating to stars written at the Seabeck Haiku Getaway (read the introduction). A real treat (which came later) was to learn that this hand-sewn book won the Best Anthology award in the 2009 Kanterman Merit Book Awards, sponsored by the Haiku Society of America.

        As for the Haiku Society of America, I served as vice president of the organization, and look forward to continuing in that position in 2010, hopefully facilitating much change and growth for the organization after several years of status quo stagnation. I also helped Tanya McDonald with the Haiku Northwest group (in addition to running the group’s website).

        Speaking of websites, on 13 October 2009, I launched my Graceguts website. This event joined the Haiku North America conference as the greatest highlight of my poetic year (perhaps more so in retrospect). The site took its title from a poem by E. E. Cummings that starts with “let’s start a magazine”—and I do see the site as a sort of magazine for my work. I added a selection of published essays reviews, reports, poems, a bio, a list of upcoming appearances, and more—and quickly started getting hits. I later acquired the graceguts.com domain, too. As I started working on the site (an ongoing labour of love), I quickly came to realize how much material I had published over the years, and how much I could add to the website (I still have much more I could add than what already appears on the site). A fair amount of early material I didn’t have electronic versions of, so I scanned it or typed it in, and I still have so much more of that to work on. But the site enables me to pull it all together as a comprehensive record of my poetry-related work. And more than that, I like to think of the site as an educational resource for others wishing to learn more about haiku, especially through my essays. Long may my Graceguts website thrive!

        And of course, here’s to 2010 and all the poetic surprises that the year ahead has in store!