The Making of a Haiku Collection

deskwithhaikumanuscript-resized-edited
My desk, with haiku book manuscript in the center  (Photo: Jennifer Hambrick)

Some of you have asked when I will be compiling a full-length collection of haiku for publication. I have decided that the time is now. Imagine: a big book of little poems.

I pulled together into a Word document all of my haiku, published and otherwise, that are strong contenders for membership in a full-length collection.  That’s the stack of papers in the center of the ginormous desk – which I inherited from a dear friend when she downsized her dwelling a few years ago – in my poetry studio, shown in the photo above.

I then cut the document so that each poem would occupy its own little piece of paper.  Here is the resulting heap o’ ku:

pileofku-edited
My haiku book manuscript in bits and pieces. (Photo: Jennifer Hambrick)

Then I laid each of the poem “pieces” on my desk and moved them around, noting the themes that emerged.  I gave each theme a “name,” which will become the headings for each section of the book.  Here is the “draft” of my entire haiku collection, all laid out poem by poem, and with section headings written on yellow Post-It Notes:

haikumanuscriptdraft-edited
A ‘draft’ of my haiku collection. (Photo: Jennifer Hambrick)

Once I’ve slid and scooted the poems into a satisfying order, the fun and games will end.  On the rest of the book publication journey, I will submit the manuscript, wait for acceptance, and eventually, at the advice of the formidable editor I am asking the Universe to send to curate my poems, likely murder at least some of my proverbial darlings.

Ah, the romance of poetry.

But in the end, there will be a book of poems that, I hope, will bring some reader somewhere feelings of wonder, joy, connection, and hope.

Celebrating ‘The Cherita’ with a New Poetry Journal

The Cherita inaugural issue cover
Cover of the inaugural issue of The Cherita (June 2017)

It’s always exciting to get in on the ground of floor of a new enterprise.  Today, one of my poems did just that.

I am thrilled and humbled that one of my poems was published today in the inaugural issue of the international poetry journal The Cherita.

The Malayan poet ai li created the poetic form of the cherita in 1997.  The word “cherita” means “story” in Malay.  ai li’s three-line cherita form encourages the telling of tales in deft, imagistic language that guides the reader through narratives that gain momentum with each stanza.

This month, the cherita form turns 20, and to celebrate, it gets its own journal, co-edited by ai li and American poet Larry Kimmel.  The inaugural issue showcases each cherita on its own page, and illustrates each poem with a vivid photograph related to the poem’s story.  The final product is a feast of written and visual images.

View here the beautiful flipbook of the inaugural issue of The Cherita.

ai li and Larry Kimmel have selected a number of my cheritas for publication in the next several issues of their journal.  I am honored, and I’m eager to read more moving and inspiring stories in the issues to come.

My “Paper Roses” Haiku and the Story of the Very Special Artwork That Inspired It

I love it when a project of unassuming origins takes on a life of its own.

My “paper roses” haiku, which the Italian haiku poet Elisa Allo recently featured and translated into Italian on her blog, Ama no gawa, recently found itself in the middle of such a project.  Little did I know that my haiku contains a pun that is impossible to translate into Italian.  Elisa presented the haiku with a beautiful graphic and an explanatory note about the translation:

Hambrick Paper roses haiku - 1

 

Hambrick Paper roses haiku - 2

My “paper roses” haiku might not have come about in the first place had it not been for the phenomenal artwork a group of Columbus-area elementary school students and a recent event of the Ohio Poetry Association.

In April, the Ohio Poetry Association published a statewide anthology of ekphrastic poems (poems inspired by other works of art), A Rustling and Waking Within.  The anthology was a project many years in the making and was guided into the world with selfless love and generosity by editor Sharon Fish Mooney.

A Rustling and Waking Within cover

The anthology launch party last month at Columbus’ Wexner Center for the Arts (“the Wex”) featured poets, including myself, from all around Ohio reading aloud poems in the anthology.

In the run-up to the event, I volunteered to acquire flowers to adorn the small reception tables where poets would gather to nosh and sip before and after the readings.  Unable to secure a donation of real flowers, I turned to Plan B: paper flowers.

I asked one of my co-workers if her husband, an elementary school art teacher, might think it a good project for some of his art students to make a few dozen paper flowers for the anthology launch party.  It just so happened that one of his classes of third graders loves to do origami – so much so that their teacher often has to collect any artwork they create on paper right after they finish it, lest they fold it into something else!

Moreover, my colleague’s husband knew just the right pattern for paper flowers, one which he himself made many times and sold at modest cost.  Over the next few weeks, Jon Juravich, the art teacher at Liberty Tree Elementary School in Powell, Ohio, led his students in making three dozen paper flowers, which they then donated to the Ohio Poetry Association for use at the anthology launch party.  As you can see from the photo Jon took, the students’ work is simply gorgeous.

Jon Juravich student paper flowers
Paper flowers made by the third grade art students of Jon Juravich at Liberty Tree Elementary School, Powell, Ohio.  Photo by Jon Juravich

But the final presentation was stunning.  Jon hot glued the paper “blooms” onto tree twigs he had painted black.  I placed one  or two stems into each of several tall bud vases and placed a vase on each of the small tables at the Wex.  Quite simply, the students’ flowers were a hit.

At the anthology launch, I asked OPA president Chuck Salmons and other organizers of the event to sign a thank-you card for Jon and his students.  For my part, I wrote an original haiku – my “paper roses” haiku, which Elisa Allo later featured and translated into Italian – inspired by the students’ phenomenal paper flowers.  Jon shared the thank-yous, kudos, and haiku to his students.

Fast-forward to April 30, when the Ohio poet Beverly Zeimer’s chapbook the Wildness of Flowers was published by the Cleveland-area publisher NightBallet Press.

Beverly Ziemer chapbook cover
Photo by Dianne Borsenik, with Photo Lab PRO

On the cover of Beverly’s chapbook, in the center of a swirl of gardenia blossoms, is a picture of one of the vases of the Powell students’ paper roses sitting on one of the tables at the OPA anthology launch party.

So, finding flowers (or rather failing to find flowers) for a major poetry event inspired a creative project for some talented third-graders, which both turned into a haiku inspired by the paper flowers they made and which is now translated into a foreign language on a blog an ocean away, and became cover art for a poet’s chapbook published right here in Ohio.

Somewhere in this story is a lesson about synchronicity.  But here’s the most powerful lesson: positive energy begets positive energy, and the creative spirit, when embraced, nurtured, and loved, cannot be stopped.

I thank Elisa Allo for welcoming my “paper roses” so beautifully into the world, and I thank Jon Juravich and the third grade art students at Liberty Tree Elementary School for their talent, generosity, and inspiration.

“Stiletto heel” Haiku Published in The Mainichi (The Daily News – Japan)

The Mainichi imageWhat a pleasant surprise!

I  just discovered quite at random that one of my haiku was published recently in the major Japanese newspaper The Mainichi (The Daily News).

Here is my poem:

Hambrick stiletto heel haiku The Mainichi 18 April 2017

My thanks to editor Isamu Hashimoto for selecting my work. I am greatly honored.

 

My Poetry Guardian Angel

El Ángel Exterminador / The Exterminating Angel

Photo: Andrés Suárez García (Creative Commons/Flickr)

I’d like to share with you the story about the very first time I read one of my poems in public. It’s a story that in ways big and small changed my life, and I think it has the power to change other lives, too – maybe even yours.

The Notebook

I started writing poetry in early 2011, not really by choice, but out of necessity.  At that time, I had been doing a lot of professional media writing and had been thinking about an idea for a novel I had come up with, and which I still hope someday to write. But when I write longer-form fiction, I like to have a stretch of two or three hours available to devote to it, a luxury that my full-time job and my rich and varied personal life did not and still does not allow.

So I did the next best thing. I started carrying around a little pocket-sized notebook, and whenever I had an idea for a plot twist or character trait or a scene in the novel-to-be, I jotted it down in the notebook.

In early 2011, I went through a bout of insomnia, in which I would wake up in the wee hours of the morning with, of all things, lines of text running through my mind – colorful turns of phrase, not necessarily complete sentences. But I remember thinking that these orphan lines, if you will, were actually fairly intriguing. Each time I awoke with one in my mind, I willed myself not to forget it by the time I actually got out of bed to start the day. But that effort only kept me from going to sleep. And inevitably I would still forget the line of text that had come to me out of nowhere.

Novel Ideas

I assumed that the lines of text that were finding their ways into my brain were somehow related to the novel I was then trying to conceive. So after a few of these insomnia incidents, I decided to put my little notebook on my bedside table. If more of these overnight insights woke me up, I could grab the notebook and jot them down, thereby getting them out of my mind so I could get back to sleep without fear of losing the ideas entirely.

That same night, I had a chance to put the procedure in action. The text-spirits woke me around 2 a.m., and I grabbed my notebook and started writing down what my intuition had coughed up. But instead of coming out in lines across the full width of the page, as in prose, the words came out in a long and skinny strip of short lines vertically down the page. When I stopped writing, I held the notebook arm’s length away. Hmm. Looks like a poem, I thought. Then I read what I had written, and I remember thinking, I don’t know if it’s a good poem, but, from a writer’s perspective, broadly construed, I don’t think it’s a bad piece of writing.

For the next few weeks I kept writing long, skinny things in my notebook. Then I owned up to myself that I was trying to write poems. Then I checked out a couple of good books on writing poetry and tried my hand at the writing exercises in them. After about a moth, I had a dozen or so long, skinny things – uh, poems – in my notebook.

“Don’t Compare Yourself”

In hindsight, what I did next was foolhardy or brave or both, which might be why my poetry guardian chose to enter at this particular moment. On a whim, I decided to read one of the new poems in my little notebook in the open mic at the The Poetry Forum, a long-standing and highly respected poetry reading series in Columbus that, at the time, met every Monday evening at a bar near the Ohio State University campus.

I showed up for the Monday-evening gathering. All the seats at tables were taken, and there was only one seat left seat at the bar, so I took it. The gentleman seated on my left was wearing a red satin baseball jacket and a dark blue baseball cap. He said hello.

“Are you a poet?” he asked.

“No, not really, but I brought a poem that I might read at the open mic, just to see what happens,” I said.

“Oh, you’d better sign up. The open mic fills up fast.” He gestured across the room. “There’s a sign-up sheet over there.”

I thanked him, crossed the room, signed up, and returned to my seat at the bar.

With each of the featured reader’s fantabulous poems, I felt more and more like throwing up or running away.

“Pretty good, huh?” my bar friend said to me during the intermission between the featured poet’s sets.

“Yes,” I said. “Absolutely. You know, um, maybe I’ll save that open mic thing for another time.”

What my new friend said next changed my life completely.

“Don’t judge. Don’t compare yourself with anyone. Just read what you have to read.”

How could I argue? “Um, okay,” I said.

“Write more poems like that”

The featured poet read his second set, then the first few poets on the open mic list read their poems, then the MC called my name. I walked onto the stage. Stage lights blackened out everyone in the audience, including the featured poet, who was sitting at the first table away from the stage. I spoke into the void.

“This is my first time reading at the Poetry Forum, and the poem I’m going to read is the first poem I’ve ever written. It’s called ‘Sacrifice.’”

I read the poem. “Jeez,” I heard the featured poet say. People clapped. Through my nerves, I managed to find enough strength and stability in my legs to step down from the stage and return to my place at the bar. “Nice job,” my bar friend said.

After the open mic ended, I thanked the MC, a long-time college English professor. “Write more poems like that,” he told me.

So I did. And I still do, except that the poems I’m writing now are better than that first poem, because I’ve been writing poems longer now than I had been when I first started, which I realize is a goofy thing to write, but I needed to write it in order to make a point:

What if my poetry guardian angel had not been at The Poetry Forum that night and sitting next to the only seat available for me to sit in? What if the person on my left at the bar had been someone who didn’t know to tell me to sign up early for the open mic? And here’s the biggie: What if that person had not told me to stop comparing myself negatively with other people, had not told me just to share what I have to offer, had not encouraged me to make my voice heard?

Would I still be writing poetry today, if my poetry guardian angel had not been with me when I needed him most? Maybe, maybe not. But that he did appear when I needed him, and that he did encourage me when I wanted to run away, definitely did give me the intestinal fortitude to step outside my comfort zone and into the realm of possibility.

After thanking the MC, I went back to my seat at the bar to put on my coat to leave. My poetry guardian angel had already left. And even though I have returned to readings at The Poetry Forum and was actually invited to give a featured reading there a few years ago, I’ve never seen my guardian angel again. But when I’m feeling deflated about my writing, or anything else for that matter, I remember what this wise stranger in the red baseball jacket told me: Don’t judge. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.

Just be you. And write.

International Women’s Haiku Festival: It’s a Wrap

Thank You

Photo: Free for Commercial Use/www.gratisography.com/Creative Commons/Flickr

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)

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Poems by Valorie Broadhurst Woerdehoff

Before Sunrise

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
the tightness
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
bending

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.

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Haiku by Angela Leuck

Antipasto Salvadonica

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.

antipasto –
middle-aged women
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.

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Poems by Tim Gardiner

Joshua Tree National Park

Photo: Esther Lee/Creative Commons/Flickr

Tim Gardiner celebrates two noted American women environmental activists in today’s feature of the International Women’s Haiku Festival.

Gardiner writes this introduction to the two haiku featured today:

“These haiku are in celebration of noted environmental activists and their major achievements: banning the use of egret plumes on hats and the campaign for the protection of (California’s) Joshua Tree National Park.”

tea party…
an egret feather
on the carpet

For Harriet Hemenway, Boston activist

***

Joshua tree…
the succulent set on fire
to guide their way

For Minerva Hamilton Hoyt, conservationist of desert plants in California

Dr. Tim Gardiner is an ecologist, poet and children’s author from the UK.  His first collection of poetry,
Wilderness, was published by Brambleby Books in 2015, and his debut children’s book, The Voyage of the Queen Bee, was published by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust in 2016.  Tim’s haiku have appeared in literary magazines such as Frogpond, Modern Haiku, and The Heron’s Nest.

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Haiku by Louise Hopewell

The Glass Ceiling!

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.

crisp lettuce
rotting on the compost heap
glass ceiling

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.