Haiku Andy

Andy Dugas

Andy told me that my twitter haikus inspired him to start writing his own. Now he writes a haiku everyday. Thus,
I picked him to kick-off the writers interview at this site.

1. Please share a haiku you have written.

waitress leans over
to refill our coffee —
blue vein on white breast

2. Why did you pick this one?

This haiku was the first where I felt I might have come close to an actual haiku, and it was entirely by accident. I got a sense of the form that had eluded me until then, a glimmer of its potential for me as a poet. Sadly, those moments are rare.

3. How many have you written? How often do you write? What inspires you?

Based on when I started, I’d guess I’ve written about 900-plus haiku. My goal is to write at least 10,000 before I die, one a day, just the way I’ve been going. I turned fifty in April and feel pretty healthy, so I think this is doable.

What inspires me most are the mundane yet poignant moments that happen in the course of a day. Every day offers thousands of opportunities, but I am blind to most of them. When one hits, I have to grab it fast and write it down.

black trees in the fog —
a bird I can’t see
warns of my approach

I’m also sparked by the random urban observation:

mission beer garden —
ancient tamale lady
among the hipsters

4. Why do you write haiku? How did you get started?

My practice began as a personal challenge. In fact, you, Ms. Leena Prasad, inspired me to start back in 2009 when I found out you were doing a haiku a day for National Poetry Month. I’d written a haiku or three in my time and figured why not? Also, I had just finished a major revision on a novel and was ready for something different.

The daily haiku has become something I do, a part of me. This practice has changed my relationship with time. I am much more centered, much more present, at least in terms of how I observe the world around. I pay more attention to everything.

5. Do you work with other forms related to haiku, like renga or senryu or

No renga, but for me the line between strict haiku (nature) and senryu (human affairs) is blurred. This is a subject of much debate, of course, and I’d rather write than debate. I will say, though, that when I read the classic poets like Issa and Basho, I see little distinction (at least in translation). At best nature and humanity are integrated, and this feels right to me.

Consider this haiku by Issa, a personal favorite:

My grumbling wife –
if only she were here!
This moon tonight…

I dabble a little in haiga (in which a haiku is paired with an image). The Turkish poet Umit Battal posts photos on his Facebook haiku page and encourages poets to write haiku for them. It’s enjoyable, but for some reason I don’t hold onto these haiku or count them against my long term goal. I might if I had painted the image, but I don’t paint!

I have a side project for my daily haiku that is haiga-ish, however. I write each daily haiku on a single postcard and mail it randomly to someone in the world. Sometimes someone I know, sometimes a stranger. This practice, which I started last March, has reinvigorated my haiku and given me a chance to reach out to the larger world in a very real way. Who doesn’t want to find a haiku in their mail?

I also photograph the postcard and post that with the haiku. It’s a lot of fun trying to find interesting settings!

6. What advice would you give to aspiring haiku writers?

* Stop aspiring, get writing. We’re talking seventeen syllables here, so what’s the big delay? It’s okay to suck.

* I recommend sticking with 5-7-5 for as long as possible, because when starting any new practice, structure helps. (As you will experience, haiku structure is less about 5-7-5 and more about two beats with a turn.)

* Keep it simple and straightforward. Avoid flowery language and bold statements that go beyond plain fact. Think immediate and concise.

* It’s all about the turn. No turn, no haiku.

* Read Jane Reichhold’s “Writing and Enjoying Haiku: A Hands-on Guide.”

* Read a lot of haiku, both classics and English language originals. There are countless anthologies out there so you have no real excuse not to.

* Join the community. The internet is bursting with haiku enthusiasts.

7. Where can people read your haikus?

Where can they NOT?



  • haikuandy  On July 2, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    Just a quick followup… one of the haiku cited in this interview has been accepted for publication in a prestigious print journal.

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