This is one of my favorite Q&As, because Peterson’s answers are clear and concise, in the spirit of haiku.
1. Please share a haiku you have written.
she picks through dead lice
organizes them with care
in her tackle box
2. Why did you pick this one?
Because it’s representative of the black humor that can be found in much of my work.
3. How many have you written? How often do you write? What inspires you?
I’ve written between 1500 and 2000 of these little poems that I generally refer to as haiku (because few people know what I’m talking about when I say senryu). I try to write at least one a day, but that doesn’t always happen. I’ll use anything as a subject for a poem. I use a lot of science fiction, fantasy, and horror tropes. I like hard-boiled detectives and noir themes, and you’ll find a fair amount of that stuff represented, as well. But I really like the poems that are drawn directly from life. If I can get a good poem about the sidewalk or eating a sandwich, then I’m quite pleased with myself.
4. Why do you write haiku? How did you get started?
Raymond Chandler’s haiku got me hooked. Or, at least I thought so for quite some time. It turns out that what I remembered as haiku written by Raymond Chandler were really just snippets of his writings that had been re-purposed and crammed into a haiku-like format by Robert Anton Wilson.
Why do I continue to write haiku? A long while back, I started a project, kind of an Oulipo challenge, where the idea was to write a collection of 575 poems in 5-7-5 format. Working on that got me into the habit of writing them. I like playing with words, and it’s good mental exercise.
5. Do you work with other forms related to haiku, like renga, senryu, haiga, tanka, etc.?
Recently, the haibun has become very interesting to me. I’ve written a few, but I’m still trying to figure out what I can do with them. What are the storytelling possibilities? That’s the question I’m currently trying to answer.
6. What advice would you give to aspiring haiku writers?
Avoid abstractions. Try to focus on an image, a short scene, something concrete the reader will be forced to render in his or her imagination. Also, titling a haiku is generally frowned upon. I continue to do it out of pure stubbornness, because I simply like making up titles for things. But I do think the title shouldn’t be used as a fourth line, and that the haiku needs to be able to live out on its own. I always write the title last.
7. Where can people read your haiku?