I am extremely honored and humbled to have won First Place in the Haiku Society of America’s 2018 Haibun Awards Competition with my haibun “That Summer.”
The genre of haibun consists of the juxtaposition of prose and haiku in ways that allow the two genres to resonate uniquely with each other, creating multiple layers of meaning. Here is “A Brief History of English-Language Haibun” by Jim Kacian, founder and board chairperson of The Haiku Foundation and one of the leading exponents of English-language haiku and related genres. This essay was compiled from Kacian’s introductions, and with Kacian’s permission, by Ray Rasmussen, the present editor of the major haibun journal Haibun Today.
After months and months of preparation, dozens of conversations, a bevy of emails, and a whirlwind of ideas catalyzed by an inspiring and fruitful creative collaboration, the orchestral song setting of my poem “Thorn Tree” was given its world premiere along with those of two other new orchestral songs yesterday afternoon at the McConnell Arts Center in Worthington.
The song settings were composed by Columbus composer Jacob Reed as part of “The Poet’s Song,” a project Reed created to unite poems and music in new art songs.
On a concert program entitled “The Words Beneath the Sound,” featuring musical works with sung or spoken texts, McConnell Arts Center Chamber Orchestra artistic and music director Antoine Clark conducted the world premieres of Reed’s songs, the world premiere of Christopher Weait’s orchestral song settings of Emily Dickinson poems Emily’s Bees and Bells, Walton’s Façade Suite No. 2 – with poetry by Edith Sitwell, and, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of its world premiere, Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du soldat, with a text adaptation I wrote specially for this performance. Soprano Chelsea Hart Melcher was featured as soloist in the Reed and Weait songs, and, in my role as midday host of WOSU Public Media’s Classical 101, I narrated the Walton and the Stravinsky.
As a guest artist, I worked with Thomas Worthington High School students on reading and writing poetry in two class visits. Students were also encouraged to participate in a poetry contest, which was judged by other members of the Worthington community, and the winner of which had his poem set to music by Reed and performed in yesterday’s concert. Poems by all of the entrants in the school poetry contest were displayed along with musical sketches by Reed and Weait, on a “Wall for Sharing” in the lobby at the MAC. The project’s culminating performance, “The Words Beneath the Sound,” yesterday at the McConnell Arts Center brought a rich program of poetry and music before the Worthington community.
This project hit home deeply with me. I grew up in Worthington and attended the Worthington Schools, and I know how committed this community is to quality in education and cultural enrichment. Yesterday’s concert brought a rich offering of poetry and music before the Worthington community in combinations that had never before been experienced in that way. I left the performance with the feeling that we all had experienced something unique and exciting.
From its dissonant opening “thorn” chord to its intentionally unsettled conclusion, Reed’s setting of my poem “Thorn Tree,” like his settings of the poems by the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi and Worthington student poet Nat Hickman he selected for “The Poet’s Song,” explores the text’s emotional depth in rich, dramatic harmonies and sparkling orchestral color.
My deep gratitude to composer Jacob Reed for believing in my poem “Thorn Tree” enough to give it this sumptuous orchestral setting, to Antoine Clark for bringing me into “The Poet’s Song” project, and to the staff of the McConnell Arts Center for making the center an inspiring locus of creativity.
Concluding the 2018 international Women’s Haiku Festival is a haiku by Northern Irish poet Marion Clarke.
ticking clock . . .
so many things to tell
There is the ticking biological clock that, along with other factors, dictates the reproductive fate of every woman. But there is also the ceaseless march of time more generally, the grandfather clock that ticks in tandem with the heartbeat of all humankind. Both clocks are ticking away in this haiku, which points to the special kind of relationship many mothers and daughters share, while reminding us how little time we all have. So many things to tell, more than a lifetime, more than two lifetimes, can hold.
Marion Clarke is from the east coast of Northern Ireland, about which she writes,“The scenery where I live is amazing as the sea, mountains and forest are all within walking distance, so I feel I was destined to become a haiku poet! My poems are inspired by those I’ve loved and lost.”
Demons inner and outer haunt a haiku by Canadian poet Michelle Hyatt.
so much makeup
hiding her face
dark side of the moon
Is this a poem about a woman so desperate for beauty that she goes overboard trying to paint it on, or about a woman who is hiding evidence of physical violence beneath mounds of cream and powder? Each interpretation speaks to a different type of darkness – the inner darkness that cannot let her see and accept her own beauty, or the darkness of abuse. And all of these layers of darkness are set in contrast to the chalky white light of that serene goddess, the ever-watching moon.
Michelle Hyatt enjoys wandering anywhere that takes her to trees, mountains, water, and moonlit forests. It is in these places where her heart feels most at home and finds creative inspiration, which sometimes develops into tiny poems. Some of her other work can be found in Yanty’s Butterfly – Haiku Nook: An Anthology. Michelle lives in Canada.
Polish poet Marta Chociłowska paints a picture of the happy hustle and bustle of a market flower stand in a delightful haiku.
a woman at the market
Imagine a bustling market with a stall where a woman, Eliza Doolittle-like, sells fresh-cut flowers and bundles of long, beautiful willow branches dotted up and down with soft, fuzzy catkins. Isn’t that just like your shopping list? Long and bulleted with comfort-food coziness? This clever haiku is bursting at the seams with the kind of upbeat hustle and bustle that makes you feel fully alive.
Marta Chocilowska, of Warsaw, Poland, is a fan of cats and poetry, co-author of Polish and foreign haiku anthologies, winner of Polish and international haiku contests, and a juror in Polish and foreign haiku contests. She has publications in many international haiku and haiga magazines. She is a founding Member of the Polish Haiku Association.
Poet David He gives voice to a young girl’s sweet song and an older woman’s early dusk in two beautiful haiku.
a green leaf
between the girl’s lips
her sweet song
I envision a little girl holding a green leaf between her lips and humming a happy tune – maybe that of a nursery song, or maybe a tune she’s making up on the spot. This poem a tight shot on a moment of complete innocence. Maybe the girl doesn’t know anyone sees her with the leaf between her lips or hears her “sweet song.” Or maybe she does know and doesn’t even think to care. The poet’s language is as simple and unburdened as the haiku moment it captures.
in her grey hair…
The vivid image of a woman’s grey hair tells only part of the woman’s story. But the “early dusk” in the poem’s third line says it all. This grey-haired woman isn’t exactly old; her hair makes her look older than she is, and – doubly tragic – this in the face of an “early dusk.” David He has been working as an advanced English teacher for 35 years in a high school. He has had twenty English-language short stories published in anthologies. His haiku have been published in Acorn, The Heron’s Nest, Presence, Rocket bottles, Frogpond, One Hundred Gourds, Shamrock, First Literary Review-East, Modern Haiku, Frozen Butterfly, and elsewhere. He has also had tanka published in Skylark, Ribbons, and Cattails.
Mama’s new pair of shoes and Daddy’s obituary star in two poems by U.S. poet Valorie Broadhurst Woerdehoff.
And there she is with her new stilettos, with her new-found independence, with all the concomitant fears and regrets and scars and, unless she’s some kind of stiletto-wearing saint, resentments. The stiletto as the ultimate symbol of female autonomy, of female no-one-owns-me-ness. She’ll wear those shoes like badges of honor. She’s going to need them. I hope they’re flaming red.
a skipped stone sinks
All that life and liveliness that once glanced off the surface of the river of life – now all boiled down to the verbal arroyo of a death notice. Just the facts, just the skeleton of who he was and what he did, all rendered on such a tight deadline. And with his death, the death of a marriage, a siblinghood, a parent-child relationship. All gone in the time it takes not to breathe.
Valorie Broadhurst Woerdehoff 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, USA. 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, juried journals, and anthologies. She studied haiku with Bill Pauly, and has taught courses on publishing and 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 competition, including earning her River Arts Association Writer of the Year honors.
British poet Martha Magenta gives voice to the reprehensibility of sexual harassment, the after-effects of a mastectomy, and fleeting fertility in three beautiful haiku.
What prompts one to think it acceptable to make implicit or explicit sexual demands of someone else? The impulse may or may not be akin to the one that prompts the polluting of a beautiful landscape with an empty potato chip bag, but the results are similar: both victims are left to drown in the filthy residue left behind by those who violate them.
last rose of summer –
of a single breast
In the normal course of things, we shed cells throughout our entire lives, such that every several years we effectively have entirely new bodies. So why should it surprise us when a part of our bodies must be removed all at once? It surprises us, of course, because we are gifted with the propensity to envision only our springtime and summers, not our autumns and (heaven forbid) our winters. A lone breast shares this lovely haiku with a late-blooming rose, offering the gentlest possible reminder both of our mortality and of its place, and its special kind of beauty, in the natural order.
falling sakura . . .
What image better conveys the yearning for new life than the sakura – the cherry blossom – that timeless Japanese symbol of the fragility of life? In this poem, the biological clock measures time in cherry petals let loose from the tree, even as the poem’s subject likely marks time in monthly cycles, in squares on the calendar, and in temperature readings. This, too, is life.
Martha Magenta lives in Bristol, England, UK. Her haiku, haibun, senryu, and tanka have appeared in a number of journals, magazines, and anthologies. She was awarded Honourable Mentions for her haiku in The Fifth Annual Peggy Willis Lyles Haiku Awards, 2017, and the 71st Basho Memorial English Haiku Contest, 2017, and for her tanka in UHTS “Fleeting Words” Tanka Contest 2017. She is listed on The European Top 100 haiku authors, 2017.
A kept woman and a white wedding dress find their way into two insightful haiku by Lee Nash.
the acrid sting
of his tobacco
The kept woman. Wouldn’t it be nice, the idea goes, if a man could provide a woman everything she needs, or – better yet – could spoil her outright, just like her father did when she was a little girl, only with bigger, blingier, costlier gifts? Of course, whatever sum the sugar daddy spends, the woman’s emotional price – her sense of her own inner strength and resourcefulness, her self-respect – is far costlier. The “acrid sting” lands in her soul, while material stuff builds up around her like prison walls.
white wedding dress
of a sugar rose
Are many weddings these days, euphemistically speaking, white? Sure, the bride’s dress may gleam like the cliffs of Albion, but does the dress still convey virginity, as it did in past eras? One can still “read” a white wedding dress that way, though I suspect most would also consider doing so to be old-fashioned and, frankly, none of their business. Yet, the white dress persists as a bride’s default wedding attire, maybe because of or despite the symbol it once clearly was, or maybe – dare I say it? – just for show. So now compare, as Nash does in her poem, the white wedding dress with not a real rose, but a sickly sweet one made of sugar. And it’s only fair to ask: Which article of the groom’s attire still, even if only in the margins, satisfies social expectations of his sexual status at the altar?
Lee Nash lives in France and works as an editor and proofreader. Her poems have appeared in print and online journals, including Acorn, Ambit, Angle, Magma, Mezzo Cammin, Orbis, Poetry Salzburg Review, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, The Heron’s Nest, and The Lake. Her first poetry chapbook, Ash Keys, is available from Flutter Press. You can find a selection of Lee’s poems on her website: leenashpoetry.com.
The poignant joy of a girl growing up, the wonder of a child in the womb, and the sorrow lingering long after the death of a special friend all find voice in three wistful haiku by Australian poet Marietta McGregor.
tall pink hollyhocks
daughter swings faster
on the garden gate
As the saying goes, they grow up so quickly. This delightful yet poignant poem conjures the image of a girl who still likes to turn everyday objects – even the garden gate – into playthings. But, as a different saying goes, my, she’s growing like a weed. Or like a hollyhock, which can grow to be quite tall – and quite beautiful.
faint new moon
framed in leaves
This tender poem likens the silvery ultrasound image of a child growing in the womb to the hazy glow of the moon. The imagery of darkness and light cloaks the poem in a chiaroscuro fittingly wondrous for the awesome mystery of new life.
the years since we shared
This beautiful poem gives voice to the sorrow of losing a loved-one – in this case, one with the special connection of having been born the same day the poetic speaker was – to the final separation caused by death. The poetic speaker and the other person represented by “we” might literally have been twins, or might have been simply “birthmates” unrelated by blood, but they are now separated by death. Even after “the years” since they shared a birthday, the pain of this separation is still fresh, and it is conveyed beautifully in the doubly umbrous image of “autumn dusk.”
Marietta McGregor is a retired botanist and journalist from Canberra, Australia, and a Pushcart-nominated poet. Her award-winning haiku, haibun and haiga appear in international journals and anthologies and have featured on Japanese television. She belongs to the Australian and British Haiku Societies, and the Haiku Society of America.