Last week, we kicked off the series with North Carolina poet Curtis Dunlap, who kindly provided some thoughts on haiku and several fine poems. This week, I’m thrilled to introduce Tom Painting. (If you already hang in the haiku world, Tom needs no introduction.)
One of the highlights of our recent weekend was welcoming Tom’s current and former students from The Paideia School in Atlanta, where Tom teaches junior high. (He taught my niece Olivia in fact, and she has penned some award-winning haiku, which I’ve featured here the last two years.)
These eighth and ninth graders each shared a few thoughts on haiku and then some of their own poems. I cannot adequately describe how articulate, thoughtful and talented each student was – or the tangible impact they had on us grown-up listeners! There were many moist eyes in the room during the readings. Beyond impressive.
Since 2000, Tom’s junior high and high school students have had winning haiku in the Nicholas Virgilio Memorial Haiku Contest. His students have also been recognized in the United Nations International School Haiku Competition.Tom is obviously an amazing teacher, and he is eager to share his students’ work.
For today, I convinced him to let us meet him first! This teacher, husband and father is one of our best haiku poets writing today.
In addition to regular inclusion in the top haiku journals,Tom’s haiku have appeared annually since 1998 in The Red Moon Anthology of English Language Haiku, published by Red Moon Press. He was the 2012 winner of the Haiku Society of America haibun contest. One of his poems is included in Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years recently published by W.W. Norton and Company (see last week’s post for my aside raves).
Here are some examples of his work:
the pulse in a hollow
of her neck
Acorn #10, 2004
a flock of blackbirds
turns inside out
she returns my hand
to the wheel
the weight of pennies
in the mason jar
Modern Haiku 39:2
bison graze the shadow
of the Bitterroots
Modern Haiku 43:1
my children ask me
to name a favorite
The Heron’s Nest, June 2011
All poems ©Tom Painting. All rights reserved.
Now, to the question, “Why Haiku?” – Tom’s insightful answers runneth over. In fact, I’ll feature just a few of his helpful thoughts about haiku here today and try to work in more in future posts.
“In haiku circles you’ll often hear reference to the haiku moment,” Tom explains. “In so short a form as haiku the poet must get right to the point and show the particular thing that captures her or his attention- the one among the many, the close-up in the general scene, the last, the first, the opposite.
"Haiku work with the ordinary facts of life. One of the great surprises of this form of poetry is that in the ordinary, the every day, one can find the sublime. Haiku poets write in present tense to help the reader feel as if the haiku moment were happening now. Simple, uncomplicated images, common language, objective presentation and musical sensitivity to language are additional hallmarks of a successful haiku."
Told you he was a teacher. As to why he teaches haiku:
“I teach haiku because I love it. I teach haiku because kids of all ages generally like it and some love it. I teach haiku because I feel it provides a cornerstone to literacy.”
Tom even makes his students a promise: “ If you commit yourself to the practice, you’ll learn more about the world, about writing and especially about yourself.”
If you scan the 7th through 12th grade winning entries in the Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku Contest at the Haiku Society of America website, you’ll see how Tom has inspired many of the winners.
But wait! There’s more! I will be featuring one of Tom’s students each month beginning one month from today! That’s right, a student haiku poet of the month. You will be blown away, I guarantee it.
The accolades of placing in a contest are all well and good, but beyond that - when a young writer is able to engage in the world in an authentic way and express his or her experience in just a few profound words… I told you you’d be blown away, right? So stay tuned in coming weeks for more haiku from our featured speakers, and then keep circling back for our bright and shining student of the month.
As for today’s Round Up, please go see what the ever-surprising and insightful Jama is cooking up over at Alphabet Soup . It’s always Mmm-mmm good.