Published haiku poet

I don’t really think of myself as a poet—the menu on my site, which includes categories for my fiction and my nonfiction, doesn’t even have a category for poetry. However, for many years now, I’ve been writing haiku in Esperanto.

It started specifically because of Esperanto. As a beginner with the language, I wanted something tractable. A haiku was small enough that, even if I had to look up every other word, I could put it together and keep it in my head long enough to compose and finish something.

It was also a shared activity with my brother, who was learning Esperanto as well, and similarly found haiku to be appropriately sized. Our haiku were often rather silly observations on the quotidian details of workaday life, and even more often shared jokes—puns based on elaborated misunderstandings of one another’s haiku, and the like.

A few years ago, Steve started taking his haiku more seriously. He read about the Japanese tradition of haiku. He started focusing on writing better haiku. He wrote a lot, and he shared them with other people who cared about haiku. He didn’t quit writing funny, trivial haiku, but he wrote more serious haiku. Haiku that tried to capture something universal through a keenly observed moment. Haiku that used the tools of the Japanese tradition to express something.

I found myself rather left behind. He encouraged me to make a similar study—he even lent me some books—but I didn’t find myself moved to deepen my understanding of haiku.

A few things happened since then. One was simply being more and more impressed with Steve’s haiku—feeling ever more keenly how left behind I was. Another was the publication, by a Japanese Esperantist we met on-line, of a book Kiel verki hajkojn en Esperanto (How to write haiku in Esperanto), which condensed a lot of the stuff Steve had been talking about and applied it specifically to Esperanto. Most recently, a local haiku poet (who also happens to be past president of the Haiku Society of America, former editor of Modern Haiku magazine, and current editor of the Modern Haiku Press) started a haiku study group that meets at the Champaign Public Library.

Participating in the study group, I took one of those little leaps that anyone who works in a creative endeavor takes from time to time. My haiku are perceptibly better.

And so I now have a published haiku. The same Lee Gurga who leads the study group also edits a weekly haiku feature in the News-Gazette, the local paper. He selected one of my haiku for today’s column. He elided the Esperanto original, so I thought I’d share that here:

Glataj folioj.
Senresta en mallumo…
kota genuo

Oh, and I should mention, this isn’t my first ever published haiku. One of my haiku was used as an example in Kiel verki hajkojn en Esperanto. Oh, and I’ve three times traded my haiku for earrings at the Haiku Earring Parties at WisCon.

Volcanoes on Vacation

Jackie modeling Volcanoes on Vacation

Somebody came to my site after searching for information about the haiku earring parties at WisCon. That reminded me that I’d never gotten around to putting up a picture of Volcanoes on Vacation, the earrings I exchanged a haiku for at WisCon some years back.

So, here’s the picture.

I’ve lost my notes from that haiku earring party, so I don’t have the exact text of the haiku. I could probably recreate it, but the gist of it was one volcano lamenting the fact that they always vacation somewhere on the Pacific rim. I remember that the last line was, “Next year, Michigan!”

Jackie’s other earrings from haiku earring parties were documented here:

Elisem‘s haiku earring parties are always a highlight of WisCon for me. They’re a big part of the reason that I’m always sad when I have to miss a year.

Haiku, earrings, strokes

Jackie wearing the Elisem earrings "Honor is not Always Loud"
Jackie modeling the Elisem earrings Honor is Not Always Loud

I think I’ve mentioned it somewhere each time I’ve gotten Jackie a pair of earrings at one of Elisem‘s haiku earring parties, but The Sinister Leprechaun seems to be the only pair I’ve gotten since starting this particular iteration of my blog.

(Ah, it turns out that I wrote about Honor is Not Always Loud on my old LiveJournal, but don’t seem to have posted a picture until now. I don’t seem to find any mention of Volcanoes on Vacation. I should get a picture of them up as well.)

The haiku earring party is always one of the highlights of WisCon for me, which is only the smallest reason why this is wonderful news: On the Rewards of CALLING 911 RIGHT AWAY.

Learn the signs of a stroke. If anyone shows those signs—you or someone you’re with—call 911.

The Sinister Leprechaun

The Sinister Leprechaun, originally uploaded by bradipo.

Jackie and I attended the Haiku Earring Party at WisCon this evening.

In case you’re not familiar with it, here’s how it works: Elisem creates pairs of earrings. You pick out a pair you like and bring it to her. She gives the pair a title. You then write a haiku or senryu inspired by the title and the earrings, which you trade for the earrings.

At least, I tended to think of it as a swap—haiku for earrings. Jackie, it turns out, had a slightly different take on it. In her mind I was winning the earrings for her via a display of skill, like winning a stuffed animal by tossing rings at the county fair.

“The Sinister Leprechaun”

Find at rainbow’s end
Not expected pot of gold.
Green stones turning black.

Or, in Esperanto:

“La Minaca Irlanda Koboldo”

Ĉielarka fin’
Ne atendita oruj’
Verdŝton’ negirĝas