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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday - H IS FOR HAIKU Visit with Amy Losak

 

Greetings, Poetry Lovers - Happy first Poetry Friday of National Poetry Month!

 

This year is the 50th anniversary of the Haiku Society of America.  I'll be celebrating by teaching an introductory haiku writing class for our local OLLI program (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) in November.  But what better way to share haiku NOW with young readers and writers than with a brand new picture book to be released Tuesday, a week before International Haiku Poetry Day (April 17)?

 

If you visited Sylvia Vardell's Poetry for Children last Friday, you read about H is for Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z, by Sydell Rosenberg,  illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi  and published by Penny Candy Books. This book has come to be because of the dedicated efforts of Amy Losak, daughter of the late author.  

 

I'm delighted that Amy has dropped by for a cup of coffee and to tell us more about the book. Grab your own mug and enjoy!

 

Welcome, Amy!  Your mother, Sydell Rosenberg, was a charter member of the Haiku Society of America in 1968 and served as secretary in 1975.  She had poems published in many anthologies during her life. Tell us a bit about her haiku.

 

Mom's haiku are akin to what I call "word-pictures." I consider them more sketch-like, or little stories. They don't follow the "rules" of haiku today. In the classic 1974 text, The Haiku Anthology, she called her poems "city haiku." Mom was a New York teacher, so I believe she may have written much of her haiku/senryu with kids in mind. Her style changed over time too and some of her later work became more spare. She had a pretty straightforward, conversational "voice," but I think some of her work is gently lyrical, as well. And while her poems reflect her NY surroundings, they are "universal," as well.

 

How did you find a publisher for your mother's work?

 

I am grateful to poet Aubrie Cox, who first told me about Penny Candy Books, started by poets Chad Reynolds and Alexis Orgera. I then researched Penny Candy Books and was delighted with their story and the variety of books they are dedicated to producing.

 

What did you most enjoy about this process, and what was most challenging?

 

Marshalling the commitment to fulfill Syd Rosenberg's decades-old dream of a traditionally published picture book, years after her death in 1996, was a joy. It took years for me to gather the stamina, and when I finally got underway a few years ago, I felt a sense of accomplishment – and relief. The actual process of organizing and reviewing Syd's work (some of it previously published in journals), and retaining her "voice" as I made some edits I felt were necessary specifically for a children's book … this was, of course, difficult, even draining. I've never done anything like this before and I felt a deep sense of responsibility, on several levels. This has been a novel, exciting – and nerve-wracking, even sometimes painful -- process. Overall, I'm overjoyed.

 

How does haiku speak to you, as a reader and as a poet?

 

Years ago, I never imagined that I would be writing my own haiku and senryu. But clearly, Mom had an influence on me, and I hope she knows. Haiku is wondrous. Sometimes, it intimidates me. But it has opened a new world for me – a different way of being, of seeing. I'm a late beginner, and I always will be a beginner. That's OK. I continue to learn from this wonderful community.

 

Amy also adds,

 

I wish I knew more about Syd's process/approach, and her own views about haiku when she was writing and interacting with other haijin via HSA, etc. Alas, I don't. I didn't pay much attention back then. I regret this now, of course (so many questions!). But I know that the haiku community meant the world to her. It had a rich, deep, lasting impact on both her personal and literary life.

 

Thank you again for joining us today, Amy!

 

Students will enjoy the poetic images in H is for Haiku, as well as the bold, inviting art by Sawsan Chalabi.  This image definitely "caught my eye":

 

GLEAMING IN PROFILE

SPOILING ITS OWN CAMOUFLAGE –

THE IGUANA'S EYE

 

My favorite poem (today, anyway!) is this one:

 

UP AND DOWN THE BLOCK

HOMEOWNERS MATE THE COVERS

OF GUSTED TRASH CANS

 

I've enjoyed sharing the book with my third-grade-teacher-daughter Morgan, here for a couple of days on Spring Break.  I'll reluctantly part with my copy so she can share with her students and order a new one for me.

 

I did have to remind myself that these haiku were written decades ago.  You all know I am in the camp of contemporary haiku poets who avoid 5-7-5 construction because it's not an accurate "translation" of Japanese sounds into English syllables and can sometimes make for clunky poems.  I also think of haiku in present tense, and this collection includes poems written in present and in past tense.

 

H is for Haiku includes a lovely introduction and bit of context by Amy, and a beautiful short passage, "What is Haiku?" by the author. This excerpt from the latter is exquisite to me:

 

Haiku is that fledgling moment,

when the wingstrokes become sure – when the

bird has staying power in the air.

 

Book Text ©Amy Losak; Illutrations ©Sawson Chalabi

 

Congratulations to Amy and Sawsan Chalabi and Penny Candy Books. Raising my coffee cup to Sydell Rosenberg, with wishes that this collection has staying power, and also with gratitude for the vision of those who formed The Haiku Society of America those many years ago.

 

Now head on over to see another Amy, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, for today's Poetry Friday Roundup at one of my favorite places in the world, The Poem Farm.  Remember to drop in on the 2018 Kidlit Progressive Poem when you can, and check out all the Kidlit Poetry Month projects and feasts rounded up by Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup.  (& Special thanks to Jama for featuring some artsyletters items on her "nine cool things on a Tuesday" post this week!)

 

Circle back HERE for next week's Poetry Friday Roundup!  (Extra note for today - my studio will be open for our town's Spring ArtWalk this eve., so I'm whirling-dervishing a bit and might not be as timely as I'd like responding to comments.  I'll get back soon and I appreciate your visiting!)

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