I am deeply honored that my poem “Dementia Unit Art Gallery” has been published in the most recent issue of The American Journal of Poetry.
Dementia is a theme I revisit frequently in my work. I have not yet found a way to communicate the full scale of devastation that all forms of dementia bring about. So while I despair of the reality of dementia itself, I keep trying to convey the profound feelings of horror, loss, and sorrow that dementia brings about in those whose lives it touches.
In imagistic language and an experimental graphic format, “Dementia Unit Art Gallery” casts a cold eye on the childlike state of cognition and creativity to which dementia relegates its victims.
I am deeply grateful to editor Robert Nazarene for bringing this poem out into the world.
I am greatly honored that my haiga “concrete jungle” has been selected for the online exhibition in the World Haiku Association’s 159th Haiga Contest.
Whether you live deep in the heart of a city, or commute to and from an urban area, we are surrounded by the elephants of the modern world – highways, bridges, overpasses, train tracks, skyscrapers, and all other marvels of engineering. They help us get from Point A to Point B in (usually) record time. They help us maximize vertical space in an overcrowded world. And they help us traverse and even inhabit spaces normally friendly only to fish or fowl.
But while these gargantuan structures my seem miraculous, as products of steel and cement – and no small amount of blood, sweat, and tears – they, like us, are destined to decay and disintegrate.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
I shot the photo in my ‘concrete jungle’ haiga beneath an overpass that spans a busy urban thoroughfare. The pile of concrete shards on the ground at the foot of the wall that supports the overpass is a metaphor for the decay that will eventually claim all things born of the human intellect and made of human hands.
I am most grateful to judge Kuniharu Shimizu for selecting my haiga for this honor.
I am honored to have been named runner-up for Haiku Master of the Week recently on NHK World TV’s Haiku Mastersseries for my haiga “finding the way back.”
I took the photo for this haiga while descending a rock staircase on a pueblo in New Mexico. The spiral staircase reminded me of the spiral shape of a chambered nautilus, an amazing creature that, as its flesh grows to fill the existing chambers inside, actually creates new chambers to accommodate future growth.
I was intrigued by the idea of growing into oneself as a metaphor for the journey of life. And while the spiral staircase in the photo actually leads outward to light, I read that light as a metaphor for the true enlightenment of coming to know oneself deep within. From my vantage point looking down into them, the spiral steps that lead into the light move clockwise, so I placed the text of the poem on the image so as to move the eye counterclockwise around the image. The haiga, thus, unites text and image in interlocking swirls.
Here are Haiku Masters judge Kazuko Nishimura’s comments on my haiga:
A nautilus grows to fill up the space in its shell, with an interior that can resemble a spiral staircase. This work does a wonderful job of representing the author’s drive to center oneself by returning to one’s origin. The way the text in the photo is written in the shape of a nautilus’ shell is also very well-done, successfully bringing the photo, text and haiku into one cohesive work.
I am most grateful to Ms. Nishimura for these comments and for bestowing this honor on my work.
I am deeply honored that my haiga ‘beefsteak,’ above, received first Honorable Mention in the Second Annual Jane Reichhold Memorial Haiga Contest, photographic haiga division.
This particular beefsteak tomato came from my garden, so creating this haiga was a labor of love right from the beginning – from planting the tomato seeds which bore the fruit, to photographing the tomato, to editing the image, to letting the edited image inspire the senryu that now accompanies it.
Here are photographic division judge Linda Papanicolaou’s comments on my haiga:
A salad of self-deprecation and a dash of bawdiness, this is a wonderful example of how good text-image linking can create a synergy that makes a whole that is more than its parts. The poem is all wordplay, from Shakespearean idiom to twentieth century Americanisms, in which tomato referred [to] a sexy woman. It brings an aura of ineffable mystery and sacrament to the whole. The named variety hints punningly at “beefcake,” slang for a well-muscled man. The image, illustrating not the meaning of the poem but just the literal meaning of the first line–a tomato on a chopping block–layers the poem by framing the reminiscence as a conversation during food preparation.
My deep gratitude to Linda Papanicolaou, editor of Haiga Online, for selecting my haiga from among the 132 entries in her division, and for her kind and insightful words about my work. Deep thanks also to editors Steve Hodge and Mike Rehling, whose journals Prune Juice and Failed Haiku, respectively, sponsored the contest, and who have published my honored haiga in the most recent issues of their journals.
It was actually the edited version of the photograph in “synapse” that inspired the haiku that now accompanies it. The edited image is above; here is the unedited photograph:
In the unedited, photo it’s a bit more clear that the light yellow network of fibrous tentacles is actually a meandering aquatic plant floating in water – in this case, a pond – just beneath the surface.
In editing the photo, I wanted to bring out the contrast between the yellow plant and the greenish hue of the water. So I moved briskly to the electric end of the color spectrum and also applied some other filters to add a retro urban feel.
I sat quietly for a while looking at the edited photo and exploring my inner landscape in relation to it, asking myself how the colors made me feel, what, in the abstract, that yellow thing kind of looked like, and so on.
Then I listened to my intuition, which told me that the yellow tentacles looked like either a subway map or a medical image of a nerve cell ganglion – no, they looked like both at once!
The two contrasting interpretations of the photo’s subject practically handed me the two components of the haiku on a platter: “synapse,” as in a nerve cell synapse, and “the distant rumble / of the outbound train,” referring to the subway map interpretation of the yellow vine.
My deep thanks to DailyHaiga editor Linda Pilarski for again publishing my work.
I have never carved my initials into a tree. Here’s why: Imagine what it would feel like if someone were to gouge some random etching into your flesh with a sharp – or worse, a strong but more or less blunt-edged – instrument.
Every word I’ve heard has left its mark on me on a cellular level. Such is the nature of who we are as human beings interconnected in a web of emotions. More to the point, the scars of those I love, and of those I once loved, are still with me and may always be.
I am most grateful to contest judge Kuniharu Shimizu for selecting my work for this honor.
I was delighted to have another haiga published recently in the journal DailyHaiga.
Pictured in this haiga is a detail of the bottom of a water chain surrounded by pebbles, a wooden border and fronds of a plant. I took the photo during summer in the Japanese Garden at the phenomenal Schnormeier Gardens in Gambier, Ohio.
The tranquil elegance of this distinctly Japanese scene gave rise to thoughts of a lazy summer day and to the haiku that I included with the image.
And even though summer’s over and we’re deep into a glorious autumn, we can take that summer feeling – warm, lazy days when everything seems to move at a slow trickle – wherever we go.
I am extremely grateful to DailyHaiga editor Linda Pilarski for again publishing my work in this major haiga journal.
Three of my haiga, all on the theme of water, were published recently in the journal Haiga Online.
The issue, “Borrowed Water,” features water-themed haiga by poets and artists around the world.
I shot the photographs in all of these haiga in June 2017 at the stunning Schnor-meier Gardens, in Gambier, Ohio, then used various digital photo editing techniques to add borders and other effects.
In “the drift,” shown at the top of this post, and in “the cool slide,” each of the visual images in its edited form inspired the haiku that accompanies it.
In “the drift,” water becomes one with the sky reflected in it. together, they take on the role of a fluid, boundless medium through which thoughts can flow as freely as a summer breeze.
The photo in “the drift” is of one of the garden’s amazingly beautiful lily ponds, which were coming into full bloom during my visit. I decided on the particular combination of editing filters because of the effect they created on the clouds, which swirl in that lazy summer afternoon kind of way.
In “the cool slide,” water becomes the pathway for a kind of experience with dementia that differs from the horrifying response this traumatic condition usually evokes. The eye slides from a rocky shore into gentle sky-blue water, metaphorically away from the harsh ugliness of the world and into peaceful depths. Maybe there can be spiritual benefits to forgetting.
The image in “the cool slide” is of the edge of one of the lakes in the Schnormeier Gardens’ Serenity Garden, which also features trickling streams, two waterfalls, a young forest of more than 200 rare conifers, and a Japanese garden house.
In “spring tide,” the rough edges of the piece of sea glass became the idea that guided me to create a poem about the wabi-sabi kind of beauty in one’s own rough edges, and the special compassion of the people who choose to accept them and, indeed, even see beauty in them.
Many sincere thanks to Haiga Online editor Linda Papanicolaou for selecting my work for this special “Borrowed Water” issue.
My whimsical poetic take on a weed on my beaten path in Columbus was recently published in the journal DailyHaiga.
Haiga – haiku + visual art – is a venerable art form. Centuries ago, some Japanese poets would scribble their haiku, then amplify them with traditional brush paintings. A new genre was born.
As visual arts mediums changed through time and new technologies have allowed for the creation of new mediums, like photography, the visual mediums that can accompany haiku have likewise expanded.
Good haiga show a dynamic balance between haiku and visual image. The visual image should do more than merely illustrate the details in the poem. The poem should do more than simply explain the photo. Some of the most effective haiga, the poem and the visual image keep the reader/viewer moving back and forth between them.
My street baptism haiga, above, was inspired by a weed that I pass every day on my commute to work. There was something outrageous and brassy about a two-foot-tall weed popping out of a concrete road and standing defiantly next to a sewer drain. The quirky urban scene inspired a quirky urban poem full of ideas that don’t usually go together and that, thus, keep bouncing off of each other in a playful way.
Many thanks to editor Linda Pilarski for publishing my work in DailyHaiga.
My haiku was one of 15 by U.S. authors recognized with Sakura Awards in this year’s competition. In addition, a single poem was named Top Winner in the U.S. category, and another 25 U.S. poems were given Honourable Mentions.
Of the 41 U.S. poems granted awards, fully six – close to 15 percent – are by poets living and working in my home state of Ohio.
The theme of this year’s Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Invitational was “freedom.” My poem speaks to the world of possibilities that await people of all ages and from all corners of the globe who seek to build their lives in freedom and peace:
an old man
learns two new words
My heartfelt congratulations to the winning poets in all divisions of this year’s competition, and my sincere gratitude to the competition judges, Angelee Deodhar, Billie Wilson, and DeVar Dahl.