It’s been a rough year. Couldn’t we all use a joyride?
I am delighted to announce the arrival of my most recent book, Joyride, from Red Moon Press.
Hailed as “a triumph” and “a beautifully written book, fizzing with marvelous imagery, energy, joie de vivre,” Joyride: A Haibun Road Trip is a lively mashup of flash fiction, memoir, free verse poetry, and haiku – an expansive take on the Japanese hybrid genre of haibun – that unfolds in offbeat episodes from the road of life.
You’ll meet a colorful cast of characters, and motoring through the collection are the automobiles – food trucks, used cars, moving vans, and others – that take us where we want to go and bring us home again.
Read advance praise for Joyride and purchase your very own copy here.
Two laser-sharp senryu by poet Stella Pierides explore women’s age dynamics and the eternal question of women’s dress and sexuality.
dressed to kill
if I’m retired
Well. Why not just ask about her final wishes? The picture is this senryu is crystal clear: a younger woman, in full heat of professional and/or personal ambition and wearing the clothes to prove it, asks the poetic speaker, whom I read to be an older woman, if she’s retired – read: no longer competition, no longer someone to be concerned with. To be charitable, maybe it’s just an observation: the older woman looks older, looks perhaps comfortable in her own skin, and the younger woman just doesn’t get a) that retired doesn’t equal out to pasture, and b) that remarking, even obliquely, on someone’s age is at best insensitive. And what if the poetic speaker actually is retired? Picasso said it best: “It takes a very long time to become young.”
of her rebellion
This little senryu is situated perfectly between the rock and the hard place that, eventually, every woman encounters. Look sexy, be sexy, the world instructs. But not too sexy. In this poem, rebellion against the social expectations that a girl or woman be prim and proper results in a shorter skirt. But rebellion against social expectations doesn’t necessarily eliminate the expectations. There is potentially a price to pay – the demise of one’s reputation – for breaking the rules, hence the “extent of her rebellion” is defined by the knees. It could be fear from social pressure that keeps everything north of the knees covered, or it could just be the poem subject’s authentic assessment of her own comfort.
Stella Pierides was born in Athens, Greece, and now divides her time between Neusäss, Germany, and London, England. She is the author of Of This World (Red Moon Press, 2017); In the Garden of Absence (Fruit Dove Press, 2012), for which she received a Haiku Society of America Merit Book Award; and Feeding the Doves (Fruit Dove Press, 2013), among others. Stella serves on The Haiku Foundation board of directors and project manages the Per Diem: Daily Haiku feature for the Foundation. She enjoys reading, gardening, film, music, food, and working long hours.
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.
A couple of weeks ago, I created my very first haiga – haiku plus visual art in symbiotic relationship. Today, it became a media celebrity.
This morning, I was named Haiku Master of the Week on the NHK WORLD TV (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) series Haiku Masters for my haiga “alone,” shown above. You can watch the mini-episode of Haiku Masters which aired on NHK TV this morning at this link.
Two of the hosts and judges of Haiku Masters wrote some thoughtful comments about my haiga, which was selected in a process of blind judging.
“One of the most important points of this piece is how although the narrator may be looking outside, he or see seems to be more focused on an inner dialogue. […] Furthermore, the word placement on the photo is wonderful, as isolating the word ‘alone’ increases the sentiment of loneliness,” wrote Japanese haiku poet Kazuko Nishimura.
“What exactly is the space between raindrops, we wonder, and imagine what thoughts slip in between,” wrote the American-born poet and photographer Kit Pancoast Nagamura. Read the judges’ full comments here.
I wish to congratulate this week’s runners-up – Joelle Ginoux-Duvivier (France) and Kanchan Chatterjee (India) and to thank Ms. Nishimura and Ms. Pancoast Nagamura for seeing something meaningful in my work amidst a pool of thousands of submissions worldwide. I am delighted and humbled by this honor.
The son of the pioneering American haikuist George Klacsanzky, Nicholas Klacsanzky follows in his father’s footsteps with his own esteemed poetry in the Japanese short forms and through Haiku Commentary, where he uncovers the inner workings of present-day examples of what he calls “perhaps the smallest style of poetry.”
Of my ‘deployment’ haiku Klacsansky writes, “This haiku has a lot of energy to it. It has an immediacy and freshness that most haiku do not have.” His insights into the “energy” of the em dash, the “immediacy” of not naming the type of tree that so quickly drops its leaves in the poem, and the “melancholy” and “stark” effects of the vowels are fascinating to me as the poet.
But I am most struck by what Klacsanzky has to say about the last line of the poem: “The pacing of the haiku is powerful, especially with how the last line comes. Not only is the punctuation used for a significant emotional end, but also the last line (without tricks) is palpable and alarming.”
Of course, I planned none of these effects, per se. But I’m glad the poem has them, and that Klacsanzky’s extremely thoughtful commentary has laid them bare. And I’m glad the poem is, in its own way, “alarming.” The finality of the end of a single human life, much less of the legions who perish at war, should stop us cold. The tree in my poem will likely grow new leaves come spring. The souls lost in battle are gone forever.
If a poet writes a poem and no one reads it, does the poem have meaning? This question is one for the philosophers. As a poet, though, I find I reassuring that a reader with Nicholas Klacsanzky’s deep insights into poetry is so committed to sharing them respectfully and unpretentiously for everyone to experience. Klacsanzky’s Haiku Commentary helps make the world of English-language haiku one of wonder and discovery for all.