Sunday, February 24, 2008

William J. Higginson - Three Questions

The Haiku Handbook by William J. Higginson with Penny Harter was among the first books I purchased when I began my haiku journey in 2002.

This week, Bill Higginson shares his response to my three questions:

Hi Curtis, here goes . . .

1. Why do you write haiku?

It's just a part of my life, now. I suppose that, 40+ years ago, I was intrigued by these little epiphanies that I discovered first in Japanese haiku, and later in some (very few) of the haiku North Americans were writing.

2. What other poetic forms do you enjoy?

All. From limericks to epics. My favorite writing mode outside of haikai-related poems is somewhere in the range from organic form (Levertov) to projective verse (Olson), though most of my poems, looked at objectively, have also a tendency toward more regularity than either of them. I've also written monosyllabic chants and Ginsbergian very long lines (think paragraph, not verse paragraph), not to mention a number of poems in various received forms. Whatever mode the mind-event seems to go with.

3. Of the many wonderful haiku you've written, what do you consider to be your top three? (Please provide original publication credits.)

I don't do "top three" or "the best". The following are among those with staying power for me.

Holding the water,
    held by it —
        the dark mud.

Haiku West, 3:2, edited by Leroy Kanterman, copyright © 1970.

wet snow —
another color or two
on the sycamore boughs

Modern Haiku, 22:2, edited by Robert Spiess, copyright © 1991.

a gun in the wildflowers
one young man
more or less

The Unswept Path: Contemporary American Haiku, ed. John Brandi and Dennis Maloney, White Pine Press, copyright © 2005.

You've got it!

If you are enjoying this weekly feature, please consider sending your answers to the questions that Mr. Higginson answered. I believe this little exercise is of some haiku historical significance. :-) Responses are posted in the order that they are received. You can submit your answers by clicking on the Contact link on this page.

Next week, Aurora Antonovic.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Raffael de Gruttola - Three Questions

Last week, I posed three questions to my fellow haijin. The response has been wonderful, the answers diverse and interesting. Raffael de Gruttola, the first poet to reply, begins with what I hope will become a weekly feature at Blogging Along Tobacco Road.

For your reading pleasure and because we all enjoy getting to know our fellow haijin better, I've embedded a few relevant hyperlinks within Mr. de Gruttola's text.

1. Why do you write haiku?

I started reading haiku in translation back in the fifties with the Blyth Books. I was writing short free verse at the time and decided to try my hand at writing haiku. The writing of haiku became a way for me to record my inner most thoughts and also the wonderful experiences I had and wanted to share with others. I carried a small notebook everywhere I went and began to understand the technique and began to see the development of a style. In the early sixties, I met a friend who had been in the service in Japan and learned about haiku while stationed there. Together we started a friendship and met a couple of times each month to read and share our haiku. He left the area, but I continued my interest in the short free verse poem and haiku and when my first book of poems was published, I included three pages of haiku. This was in the late sixties. In the late seventies, I published my first book of haiku called Recycle/Reciclo, a bilingual English/Spanish edition of a haiku cycle. It was translated by a painter friend, Wilfredo Chiesa who also provided the design and drawings for the book. In 1987, I was one of the founding members of the Boston Haiku Society which has been meeting on a monthly basis since then at the Kaji Aso Studio in Boston. I'm still learning more about life each day and haiku becomes part of that perennial search.

2. What other poetic forms do you enjoy?

I've been writing free verse for many years and have been published by small magazine presses in the area. I also like to experiment with different forms including renku, tanka, senryu and various free verse open forms. I did my undergraduate studies in English and American Literature so I've been reading all kinds of poetry in English, but also in Italian and French. For example I can read Dante's Commedia in the original Italian. I also enjoy Arthur Rimbaud and other French writers and can read many in the original.

3. Of the many wonderful haiku you've written, what do you consider to be your top three?

Not sure I can answer this question because any new haiku that I have enjoyed writing becomes a new adventure. Anyway, three haiku that people and poets seem to like are:

frozen pond
       an oak leaf
               half in
                    half out

violin player
the shape of the sound
in her arms

paw prints
disappear in the snow
wind under the hemlocks

All three of the above haiku appeared first in the Boston Haiku Society News which I edit on a monthly basis and have been doing since 1987. I think Bruce Ross first published "frozen pond" in his book on haiku, but it has been published in Albatross Magazine in Romania and in some other magazines in Canada and the States.

The second was recently part of Carlos Colón's Electronic Library and I believe it will be included in Jim Kacian's forthcoming book.

The third is part of a haiga portfolio I did about ten years ago called Echoes in Sand with a painter friend, Wilfred Croteau. It can be googled on line and is part of Jeanne Emrich's Reeds Gallery as well.

Raffael de Gruttola

Next week, William J. Higginson shares his response to the same three questions.

Magnapoets Arrives!

I received my contributors copy of the highly anticipated Magnapoets journal in the mail yesterday. I've updated the free verse, haiku, and tanka areas of my website to include the poems that I'm blessed and pleased to have in this premiere issue.

My sincere thanks, congratulations, and praise to Aurora Antonovic and Nick Zegarac who nurtured an idea that has produce an excellent print publication.

Kudos also to the other Magnapoets journal team members, Ursula T. Gibson, Marie Lecrivain, David Herrle, Matt Morden, and for the cover photograph by Milorad Pavic. Seriously folks, I awoke this morning to find my issue still in my hand. :-)

I thoroughly enjoyed the interview with former US Poet Laureate, Robert Pinsky. I will definitely purchase Gulf Music.

Congratulations also to the poets and story-tellers in this issue. I know you share my enthusiasm in being part of this literary event.

Here's a sampling of the many fine poems:

Free Verse:

Heavenly Scars
        by Collin Barber

As a child,
his parents awakened him
by turning on the lights
in his room.

They did not understand
that this terrified him.

Light became the scalpel
that would carve heavenly scars
into his unripe mind.

He cowered in the light
for the rest of his life.
He chewed on darkness,
and his breath became shadow.

When the mornings came
he opened his eyes
only to see if he could slow
the heartbeat of his dying world.

In the darkness of night
he closed his eyes,
because once again, he failed.


snow in the city
nobody home
in the cardboard box

        Bill Kenney


walking on the beach
my granddaughter
picks up a shell
remarks on its intricacy
then tosses it into the sea

        Patricia Prime

Single issues are available for $5.00 in the United States and Canada, and $7.00 per issue for international orders.

Submission guidelines and subscription information are located at

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Premiere Issue of Magnapoets Released

The premiere issue of Magnapoets will be mailed on Monday, February 11th. I'm sure you will recognize many of the poets featured on the cover. Also, please note that this issue contains an interview with former US Poet Laureate, Robert Pinsky.

Editor-in-Chief, Aurora Antonovic, informed me:

"We have subscriptions in India, Israel, the United States, Canada, France, Morroco, Russia, Serbia, Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland, and so many more places I know I'm forgetting, BUT the most exciting part is that lots of schools have picked it up for their campus bookstores or for classroom instruction."

The Editorial Staff includes:

Editor-in-Chief: Aurora Antonovic
Free Verse and Form Poetry Editor: Ursula T. Gibson
Short Stories Editor: Marie Lecrivain
Special Features Editor: David Herrle
Columnist: Nick Zegarac
Haiku and Senryu Editor: Matt Morden
Tanka Editor: Aurora Antonovic

Single issues are available for $5.00 in the United States and Canada, and $7.00 per issue for international orders.

Submission guidelines for the second issue are located here.