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31 days. 27 poets. 48 poems.
The first International Women’s Haiku Festival on Inner Voices was a big success. You sent me an overwhelming number of submissions from every corner of the English-speaking world. With deep sensitivity, humor, and skill, your poems covered a broad swathe of women’s experience – the horrors of breast cancer, the nuanced relationships of mothers and daughters, marriage, divorce, domestic violence, singlehood and solitude, the glass ceiling, children, childbirth and motherhood, dementia, body image, age discrimination, cougars, and even the politics of lingerie.
Some of your poems tugged at the proverbial heart strings. Some of them made me giggle. All of them made me think and, I hope, will continue to make others think about the richness that women bring to the world, and about the ways in which the world does – and, in many instances, still does not – appreciate it.
In addition to your submissions, your support for the festival also came in the form of the comments you wrote on the festival’s featured posts, and in the many lovely comments you sent me privately. I appreciate them all.
Thank you for entrusting me to curate your work in this festival. I was an honor.
The poets of the 2017 International Women’s Haiku Festival:
Agnes Eva Savich (USA)
Anna Cates (USA)
Roberta Beary (USA/Ireland)
John Hawkhead (UK)
Terri L. French (USA)
Willie R. Bongcaron (Philippines)
Shloka Shankar (India)
Michael Dylan Welch (USA)
Martha Magenta (UK)
Stella Pierides (Germany/UK)
Lee Nash (France)
Eufemia Griffo (Italy)
Marietta McGregor (Australia)
Joshua Gage (USA)
Christina Sng (Singapore)
Julie Thorndyke (Australia)
Mary Stevens (USA)
Debbie Strange (Canada)
Amy Losak (USA)
Debbi Antebi (UK)
Michelle Schaefer (USA)
David Oates (USA)
Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)
Louise Hopewell (Australia)
Tim Gardiner (UK)
Angela Leuck (Canada)
Valorie Broadhurst Woerdehoff (USA)
Photo: Christopher Crouzet/Creative Commons/Flickr
Valorie Broadhurst Woerdehoff explores the wonder of childbirth and the unique dynamic between mothers and daughters in today’s feature of the International Women’s Haiku Festival.
around my neck
of Mother’s scarf
What woman doesn’t know this “tightness of Mother’s scarf”? The tightness of the scarf around the “neck,” specifically, suggests the restriction of the poetic speaker’s voice by way of the mother’s enduring influence. Woerdehoff’s metaphor is a powerful one for that extraordinary dynamic, somewhere between too close and not close enough, that so often exists between mothers and daughters.
birthing at dawn
light on the lake
Here, the image of “light on the lake / bending” suggests that the physical world shifts to accommodate the arrival of a new human being by way of refracting or diffracting light, just as the world awakens with the arrival of the sun at dawn. In Woerdehoff’s haiku, all of nature, including the mystery of childbirth, is gathered in a profound expression of wonder and awe.
Valorie Broadhurst Woerdehoff (USA) holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Loras College in English: Writing and Theology, respectively. She is originally from Northern California, but has spent the last 30+ years in Dubuque, Iowa. She has served over 30 years as a higher education professional, and has written poetry since childhood. Over 250 of her poems, including numerous haiku, senryu, and rengay, along with articles have been published in magazines, journals, and anthologies. She has taught courses on publishing and has judged writing contests at the local and national level. Her writing garnered a grant from the Iowa Arts Council and awards in local and national competitions, including earning her River Arts Association Writer of the Year honors.
Photo: Salvadonica Borgo del Chianti/Creative Commons/Flickr
Middle-aged women and younger men meet up in a haiku by Angela Leuck in today’s feature of the International Women’s Haiku Festival.
eyeing younger men
Here, cougars lick their chops on the veldt of sexual politics. That Leuck’s “middle-aged women” only “eye” the “younger men” seems to toy with the transgressive notion of a woman of mothering age indulging her sexual appetite with someone possibly young enough to be her child. But when you consider that the “antipasto” is the appetizer one indulges in before the main course, this senryu suggests that the women might do more than “eye” the men as the “meal” progresses.
Angela Leuck’s work has been published in journals and anthologies around the world. An award-winning poet, she is the author of More Grows in a Crooked Row (inkling, 2016), Garden Meditations and A Cicada in the Cosmos (inkling, 2009), and Flower Heart (Blue Ginkgo, 2006). She has also edited numerous anthologies, including Rose Haiku for Flower Lovers and Gardeners (Price-Patterson, 2005), Tulip Haiku (Shoreline, 2004), and, with Maxianne Berger, Sun Through the Blinds: Montreal Haiku Today (Shoreline, 2003). She lives in Hatley, Quebec.
Photo: Judy Dean/Creative Commons/Flickr
Louise Hopewell writes of rotting lettuce and the glass ceiling in today’s feature of the International Women’s Haiku Festival.
rotting on the compost heap
Words do not suffice to describe the injustice of the so-called glass ceiling. A woman’s talents and abilities are stopped in their tracks for no reason other than her sex, which is to say for no reason whatsoever, while the talents of her male counterparts are given opportunity to flourish. Unless she can create her own opportunities, all that ability lies fallow or, worse, is completely wasted, like the “crisp lettuce / rotting on the compost heap” in Hopewell’s poem. While the juxtaposition of images in this haiku is quite overt, there sometimes comes a time and a place for directness. Now is the time, and this festival is the place.
Louise Hopewell is an Australian poet, writer and songwriter whose haiku and senryu have been published in Failed Haiku, Hedgerow, and Creatrix.
Photo: Randi Hausken/Creative Commons/Flickr
Enjoy Nicholas Klacsanzky’s heartwarming haiku about his younger sister in today’s feature of the International Women’s Haiku Festival.
winter wind . . .
singing my little sister
Klacsanzky captures a special sibling moment in all its beautiful simplicity. The juxtaposition of the cold “winter wind” with the emotional warmth of the voice singing the lullaby is beyond delightful. One can imagine this sweet moment to have been comforting for the little sister and life-changing for the older brother. And the music of Klacsanzky’s words – the alliteration of “winter wind” and “singing my little sister to sleep” – turns the poem into a lullaby in its own right.
Nicholas Klacsanzky is a widely-published haiku, senryu, and tanka poet, and a technical editor by profession. The editor of Haiku Commentary, he wants to promote haiku as an educational study. He was conferred with a certificate for being one of the top 100 haiku poets in Europe in 2015 and 2016. In addition, he is a mentor for haiku, senryu, and tanka on the online group Poets on Google Plus. He lives in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Photo: Dave Bleasdale/Creative Commons.Flickr
David Oates explores the happy chaos of family life in today’s feature of the International Women’s Haiku Festival.
two young women
with three young children
try to visit
The scenario Oates describes in this delightful poem plays out (literally) in parks, on play dates, and at extended family gatherings everywhere: Two worlds – that of children and that of the adults charged with keeping them safe and teaching them how to behave – collide. With the operative word “try,” Oates hints at the children’s mischief and the women’s frustration – in short, at the pandemonium of family life.
David Oates is the host of “Wordland,” a radio show of spoken word on wuga.org. He is the author of three haiku collections: Shifting with My Sandwich Hand, Drunken Robins and, forthcoming, The Deer’s Bandanna.
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Michelle Schaefer writes of lace and sea glass in today’s feature of the International Women’s Haiku Festival.
I find myself
piece by piece
With its sharp edges worn smooth by the tumult of the ocean, “sea glass” is a beautiful metaphor for what, ideally, happens to us over the course of our lives. The self-possessed older woman who embodies that special kind of ease in her own skin didn’t necessarily get there easily or overnight. She likely had to comb a lot of beaches and pick up loads of flotsam and jetsam before finding the lovely sea-gems that sit well in her soul. Schaefer’s poem gives us a road map – let the ocean of life smooth out our rough edges – and reveals the wabi-sabi kind of beauty of the works-in-progress that we are.
the edge of lace
still means no
The classic decoration for women’s undergarments, lace is a vivid signifier of feminine sexual intimacy. Intriguingly, “the edge of lace” is serrated like a knife blade and, in Schaefer’s poem, suggests a protective boundary or even a weapon against sexual violence. The lace metaphor here is an extraordinary symbol of a woman’s right to autonomy and a reminder of boundaries that are not to be transgressed.
Michelle Schaefer is a poet-in-progress. She has spent many years learning and writing the art form of haiku. She has been published in various haiku journals and anthologies. Her poetry can be found in Acorn, Frogpond, Modern Haiku, Mariposa and Heron’s Nest. She is also featured in NY Seitkatsu’s online publication as a regular semifinalist in the Ito En Haiku Grand Prix. She has recently won Frogpond‘s Museum of Haiku Literature Award in its most recent volume. She hopes that poetry touches people in extraordinary ways. She lives in Bothell, WA with her husband.
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Debbi Antebi writes about moonflowers and our mothers’ dreams in today’s feature of the International Women’s Haiku Festival.
mother opens up
about her dreams
Because it happens so often, a woman’s setting her dreams aside to nurture other people has become almost a cliché. The ethereal image of the night-blooming moonflower imbues the mother’s inner awakening – under cover of darkness – with hope. Maybe it’s not too late for her to rekindle those old passions, to tap into her unique potential, and to nurture the pars of herself that have for so long been eclipsed.
Debbi Antebi (@debbisland) lives in London, UK, with her beloved husband and books. Her work has been featured in magazines and journals around the world. An award winning poet and a member of the British Haiku Society, she exhales oxygen while writing poems.
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Amy Losak explores the plight of the older woman in the workplace in today’s feature of the International Women’s Haiku Festival.
the boomer colors her gray
Western culture’s obsession with youth is in part responsible for making aging more spiritually difficult than it needs to be. And even though millennials have a bit of a PR problem when it comes to common (mis?)perceptions of their work ethic, younger workers still seem more highly valued than older ones. Raise all of this to the third or fourth power when it comes to women, in particular. Losak’s “boomer” – who can hope only to erase with the dye bottle the effects of the years because the years themselves won’t come off – is a sympathetic character who speaks for many.
peeling tree bark
she hides her spotted hands
in the interview
Losak’s haiku paints a picture of an aging woman’s subtle act of desperation. Surely the spots on the hands are not the only clues about the woman’s age, but they might be the only clues the woman thinks she can hide from those who hold in their hands the fate of her livelihood.
Amy Losak, of Teaneck, NJ, is a public relations professional. She recently started writing haiku and senryu in honor of her late mother, Sydell Rosenberg, a charter member of the Haiku Society of America in 1968 who published her work in journals and anthologies.
Photo: Patrick Lentz/Creative Commons/Flickr
Canadian poet Debbie Strange sees strength in a cancer diagnosis and humor in a pair of skinny jeans in today’s feature in the International Women’s Haiku Festival.
cirrus clouds . . .
she donates hair
Debbie Strange turns those wispy clouds that look like pony tails into locks of hair on the stylist’s floor. The woman in this haiku is a picture of proactivity, strength, and generosity in the face of possible death, embracing her diagnosis with eyes and heart wide open.
laundry day . . .
my skinny jeans
fat with wind
It’s not enough that the thought of wearing skinny jeans strikes fear and dread in the hearts of some; the wind has to rub it in. The image of the puffed-up skinny jeans pokes fun at our warped obsession with weight and body image, leaving us to laugh at how quickly we abandon more noble constructs of authentic beauty, and thus the paths to true contentment, in the pursuit of pretty packaging.
Debbie Strange‘s creative pursuits bring her closer to understanding the world and herself. She is an award-winning Canadian short form poet, haiga artist, and photographer. Debbie is the author of Warp and Weft, Tanka Threads (Keibooks 2015) and A Year Unfolding (Folded Word 2017). You are invited to visit her @Debbie_Strange.