Friday, August 30, 2013

Try to be Anything Else

First, try to be something, anything, else. A movie star/astronaut. A movie star/missionary. A movie star/kindergarten teacher. President of the World. Fail miserably. It is best if you fail at an early age--say, fourteen. Early, critical disillusionment is necessary so that at so that at fifteen you can write long haiku sequences about thwarted desire..
  -- How to Become a Writer -- Lorrie Moore

Holden’s History of the United States
R.I.P.  J. D. Salinger (1919–2010) & Howard Zinn (1922–2010)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Nine Things Writers Can Learn from (ahem) Science

At Ploughshares, Tasha Golden tells us Nine Things Writers Can Learn from (ahem) Science.

Now, if I were picking one thing that writers (and everybody) could learn from science, I'd say it is that
It's a big world out there-- a big universe-- but there is simplicity hidden inside apparent complexity, and complexity evolving out from apparent simplicity.

And, maybe after that,
And no matter how much you learn, there's always more.

But Tasha has some other advice. Check it out!


Friday, August 16, 2013

Haiku North America, 8/16 continued

Senryu: Refreshing the Human Spirit  by Sunny Seki & Judy Seki

While Judy was indeed present at this panel, she seemed to serve more as introducer for Sunny than co-presenter. Sunny was the main speaker on the topic of senryu this afternoon.

Sunny Seki began by comparing Basho to Senryu, making the following points

Matsuo Basho

  • ·       High class (Former Samurai, Zen Buddhist)
  • ·       Focused poems on Nature
  • ·       Literary Style
  • ·       Emphasized the Four Seasons
  • ·       Philosophical, Admiration, eternal, etc.

Karai Senryu

  • ·       City manager, Literary Promoter – never wrote poems
  • ·       Focused on poems about Human Nature
  • ·       Conversational Style
  • ·       Emphasized the Human Predicament
  • ·       Humor, Cynicism, Parody, Satire, Irony, Politics, Society

Senryu didn’t travel like Basho, but stayed in the city. He was the city manager. Published senryu anthologies that were read by the common people. as opposed to Basho, who was part of an upper class literati.

Modern senryu is often based on contests, much like those Senryu himself ran. The editor or editors come up with a theme or topic, and people submit their poems. There is a long tradition of this, starting with Japanese immigrants in the 20th century, and Sunny Seki presented this history with many examples.

He explained that Japanese immigrants started to come to Seattle in the 20th century, and travelled South to LA.

As the ship rocks hard
I notice my neighbor saying
the same prayer

Seki explained that even during hardship, when they’re miserable, Japanese poets used senryu to look at the brighter side of life.

Japanese were not allowed to buy property until 1952, and so senryu like the following were written to capture life and explore human relationships with humor and irony.

I learned basic English
from my child
and then went out to find work

From the 1940s:

I am forced to polish apples
even though I have
a college diploma

From the Japanese internment camps during WWII:

lucky sage brush
outside the fence

1950s, many Japanese in California became gardeners. The bulk of Seki’s talk focused on these senryu, which he translated from archives of gardener newspapers and publications:

The smell of fertilizer
no longer strange
to my wife

my husband’s sweaty laundry
tells me how hot
the day was

I expected a new job
but all he wanted
was directions

my wife waited for me
in front of the liquor store
because it was payday

One more payment to go...
my lawn mower
was stolen

my lawn mower and I
built my sweet home

With my lawnmower
I made my offspring
grow into doctors

Seki ended his talk by advocating that writers explore and experiment with senryu. So, your assignment after you read this--write a senryu! ;)

Haiku North America, 8/16

Haiku and Healing

The Haiku and Healing Panel this morning featured Don Eulert, Angela Deodhar and Daniel Spurgeon.

Spurgeon began his comments by focusing on “being present.” As a Hospice worker, he discussed working with people who are dying, grieving, shifting to end of life care. As a practitioner of haiku, he argued that sensory connection is a way to become present. Connecting to his body and himself is a way to connect to this person or family.

Deodhar handed out a pamphlet of haibun, many of which dealt with using writing as a way to heal or served as her personal evidence of the power of writing to heal.

Eulert began with a  personal definition of haiku: “the way things come together in nature to give a momentary glimpse into the oneness of things, and the offness of things.” He argued for keeping the ego and personal out of haiku. As a teacher of therapists and psychologists, he said that he tried to urge them to “take the subjective out of the objective. If they can’t take their subjectivity out of the objective moment, they won’t be good healers.” He also urged us to remember that we were not talking about curing, but healing, which he defined as a restoration of harmony, balance and relationship.
When asked by Spurgeon, “How did being ill relate to your connection to your own body, and how did haiku help your awareness of that connection?” Deodhar responded “Just the act of putting it down was healing. In the ICU, see monitors, etc.—you’re very aware of your own body.”

When asked about his use of haiku and writing in therapy, Spurgeon responded “It’s very rare that I’ll ask a patient or family to write, rare that I’ll use haiku as intervention. My practice of haiku affects me, affects my way of being, and I bring that into the room—it affects the energy. When someone gets witnessed without agenda, but a clear slate of knowledge, it can be so connecting and healing.”

After Deodhar read her haibun, ““A Year Later,” Spurgeon brought up Issa’s haibun about his dead children. He discussed Joan Halifax, who wrote Being With Dying and presented the Dhrama Podcast “On Grief and Buddhism,” in which she argues that Issa is “opening the hand of grief.

Later, Spurgeon argued that haibun is particularly powerful for grief because “the prose allows you to go where ever you want. That part of us that wants to tell our story, over and over again, the prose offers a place for our voice to do whatever we need to do. Haiku asks for structure, for pointed observation. Haiku offers an opportunity to get present to this world. “

This was a very moving panel, and profound and energetic enough to go overtime. What I really enjoyed was how all the panelists connected haiku to the body, contemplatively as well as physically. It was a beautiful and engaging reminder of the power of writing.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Haiku North America, 8/15

Were I any sort of poet, my experiences at Haiku North America (HNA) would be written in glorious haibun, and each and every reader would achieve enlightenment. I am a beginner, at best, and so you’ll have to read Basho’s Oku no Hosomichi. That being said, my thoughts of HNA, Thurdsay, August 15.

How Long Is a Moment by Michael Dylan Welch:
Welch’s presentation was based upon the idea that haiku should “capture a moment,” according to some scholars, editors and/or writers. He challenged this idea by presenting haiku with short time spans (possibly moments), long time spans, and no time span at all. All were published haiku, though, many by famous authors within the haiku world. Welch further challenged the idea of a “haiku moment,” by differentiating between a static moment and a dynamic moment. A static moment is one in which nothing externally happens, but the viewer, and in turn the reader, become aware of something. A dynamic moment is one in which there is a clear beginning and end, and is often based upon the use of a verb. There are haiku which are dynamic moments, haiku which are static moments, and haiku which are neither. Unfortunately, Welch’s discussion was cut short due to time constraints, and so further investigation wasn’t possible. I’ll try to hit up Michael sometime in the conference and ask him other questions that I have.

Kigo: The Scent of Haiku by Patricia Machmiller:
Machmiller’s paper was one long haibun which demonstrated, quite successfully, the various types of kigo available to English speakers. While I wish she would have explored various types of kigo, and possibly the difficulties with kigo in English, particularly those concerning regionality, her paper did, nonetheless, raise particular questions. How, in a globalized society, can kigo work? Consider, for example, various types of produce which once were relegated to a specific season, and are now available year round. Another question raised by an audience member concerned the change in season for a modern kigo. Certain kigo are associated with one specific season in Japan, and yet in modern times, with the adoption of a non-lunar calendar, occur in another season. For example, the Tanabata festival is a fall kigo, occurring on the seventh day of the seventh month. However, it now occurs on July 7th, which is clearly a summer kigo. Machmiller discussed the balance required, and the possibility of losing a section of one’s audience, when using one or other interpretations of the kigo “Tanabata”.  Machmiller recommended some excellent resources, among them Gabi Greve’s kigo database, and William J. Higginson’s “The Haiku Seasons.” As an advocate of chiboo kigo, I also recommend (and Greve touches upon this within the database) regionalized kigo. For example, “lake effect” or “lake effect snow” only occurs in a specific region within the United States, and thus serves as a Chiboo Kigo for the Great Lakes Region, and areas along Lake Erie in particular. More haiku with this kigo will add depth and resonance as they play off each other.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Welcome New Bloggers!

We have not one, but two new volunteers to join the clevelandpoetics blogging team!  In response to the "Help Wanted!  You wanna be a blogger?" post, two new people stepped up.

First, we'd like to welcome Lori Ann Kusterbeck to the team.

Lori is a native Clevelander, born, raised and educated in the Cleveland area (4th generation in fact!). She is also an adjunct faculty member who in her spare time teaches Philosophy, Humanities, and Bioethics. By day she juggles a full-time web content job for a large NE Ohio non-profit. With any remaining time, she's writing and submitting poetry and also maintaining her poetry website You can also find her swing dancing, star gazing, spending time with her family and cheering for her son at soccer matches.
She writes -
Poetry is not a door. It is not a solid thing that closes the soul off to one side or the other. Rather, poetry is a door frame. It can give structure. It can be seen as an opportunity. It can be both the beginning (the first time you step through) or it can be the end (the last time you write about a loved one, the last time you write about a specific topic or write in a specific style). A door frame can come in any size, any material, or be painted any color. Ultimately, it represents an opening into somewhere else. I believe a great poem can transport you to a time or place, to relive an emotion or an experience. That's why I believe that poetry is a door frame, not just a door. A great poem can take you there and back again, walking back and forth underneath the "frame" of poetry. Really good poets will lead you through many different door frames. This is what I aspire to with my writing: that it will be said of my collection of work that I led my readers through many different frames, many journeys, and that they emerged richer in the end. 
 And, not to be outdone, we also welcome Catherine Criswell to the team. Catherine is a resident of Shaker Heights, and the mother of two daughters. She is a civil-rights attorney who enjoys writing poetry. She can be found performing her poetry at venues in and around the Cleveland area, such as Mac's Backs and The Barking Spider. For the past year, she has been the host of a new poetry & prose series titled "Mondays at Mahall's" at Mahall's 20 Lanes in Lakewood, Ohio (which still operates its vintage bowling lanes!). Her hobbies include running, hiking, cooking, reading, and travel.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Call for Poetry Manuscriptz

Green Panda Press is currently reading works submitted to the Kulchur Edition Poetry Book Series. Books must be between 36-66 pages in length. Two winners will be selected based on how true and clear is their particular and unique voice. Each of the two selected authors will receive 10 copies of their perfect bound book designed by Bree of GPP and R.A. Washington of Guide to Kulchur: Text, Art, News. There is a $15 dollar reading fee (which may be submitted via cash/check made out to Green Panda Press enclosed with your submission, or via paypal to However, you may also spend $15 at the Guide to Kulchur Store located at 1386 W. 65th, Cleveland, OH 44102 to receive a 'reading fee voucher.' Simply include the voucher with your book submish.

Deadline is October 29th (d.a. levy's birthday) 2013
Hard Copies Only
Name, Mailing Address and Email, plus book title on cover letter
Include Separate page with Title Only, along with manuscript, plus submission fee or voucher
If submitting fee via paypal ( you will receive a confirmation email--simply print the email and enclose with submish
Mail all entries to
Green Panda Press
3174 Berkshire Road
Cleve. Hts., OH 44118           thankxxx --Bree & R.A.


The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau