Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Five Questions for an Editor: George Swede

As an early Christmas (or fairly late Hanukkah) (or reeeally early Purim) present, we've got a great interview for you: George Swede, editor of the Haiku Society of America's flagship journal, Frogpond.  Let's see what he has to say....

1. What's your favorite translation of Matsuo Basho's famous "frog haiku"?

It's by Makoto Ueda in his book Bashō And His Interpreters, Stanford University Press, 1992, p. 140:

                      the old pond--
                      a frog jumps in,
                      water's sound

Professor Emeritus Ueda is fully bilingual and only such a translator could detect all the nuances in the original Japanese and put them into English.

2. What relationship do modern American haiku writers (haikuists? haikuers?) have to the old Japanese poets?  Are there ways we can learn from/expand on what they have done?  Do American writers move in new directions?

Most serious haiku poets do at some time study the classical Japanese masters. The work the old masters have produced is archetypal and is thus one reliable measure against which American poets can judge what they have written.

We certainly can learn from them the discipline needed to create lasting images.

As for moving in new directions, this is inevitable if a poetic form is to survive. Evolution is vital or extinction results. The modern Japanese haiku poets have evolved in various directions since the late 1800s and so have English-language haiku poets, starting in the late 1960s or early 1970s.

3. What role does the Haiku Society of America have in creating and/or fostering community in the United States?

Under the current President, Ce Rosenow, the HSA has become energized and created all kinds of outreach programs. Visit the HSA site and you'll see the wide range of its activities.

4. In the 2004 HSA definition of the haiku, a type of poetry called "zappai" ("miscellaneous amusements in doggerel verse (usually written in 5-7-5) with little or no literary value") is separated from senryu and haiku.  Do zappai have their place as well?

All poetic forms and sub-forms have their place in the constant evolution of poetry. Zappai are no exception.  High Coup Journal publishes a lot of zappai and thus ensures this form's survival. We have to protect all forms of poetic expression. The more there are, the better the chances for poetry to survive in its constant struggle against all the other art forms.

5. How can our readers get more involved, both with the HSA and Frogpond?

Readers can get more involved with HSA simply by joining. Members get the yearly three issues of Frogpond: Journal of the Haiku Society of America, as well as Ripples, the HSA Newsletter. Ripples informs members about all the haiku news in North America--regional meetings, workshops, special events, recently published collections, etc. As a member of HSA, one also gets the right to vote each year for who sits on the Executive Council, which includes the Frogpond editor.

Frogpond has an open submission policy, that is, someone does not have to be a member of HSA to get work published.  Usually, 40% to 45% of poems, reviews and articles come from non-members who then purchase the individual copy in which their work appears. For the full submission policy, go to the sample issue of Frogpond online.

GEORGE SWEDE has published 35 collections of poetry, 17 of them only haiku or tanka. He has been the editor of Frogpond since January 2008. His two latest collections were both published by Inkling Press in May 2010: Joy In Me Still (haiku) and White Thoughts, Blue Mind (tanka). For more information about these books go to George Swede.com. If you want to know more about Swede's life and work, go to Wikipedia and/or to his extensive George Swede web site.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Very Special Half-Birthday

Six months ago today, High Coup Journal was born!  And we'd like to delineate something here:

High Coup Journal = HCJ, which rearranged is JHC.  Not to say that has any connection to a certain special day coming up in about twelve days, but...

...wait, no.  It has literally nothing to do with that.  Hmm.

Our first command in our first post was SUBMIT, though... so perhaps we're leaning a different direction.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Basho Meets Banksy: Christine Forster

Okay, so here's a bonus interview for you all, because Ms. Forster's Kickstarter project to write 1000 haiku for 1000 strangers is still running.  Donate if you can; read no matter what!  Let's see what she has to say...

1. Short answer prompt: Compare and contrast Kickstarter and the aristocratic artistic patrons of old.

I think Kickstarter has truly given artistic agency to the people and allowed them to choose they believe is worth funding. It's about experiencing and affirming art as a community now, versus a few select uber-weathly art sugar daddies determining tastes. People want to do something good, and feel like they're part of something new and different. That's why Kickstarter works so well. The old form of patronage may have been the best system for past eras, but now I think the model is shifting to fit the present.

2. 1000 haiku... that's going to take a while.  I mean, perhaps not as long as 1000 sestinas, but still... what inspired you to take on this project?

After a friend told me about Kickstarter, I knew I had to create a project around haiku. I started writing them in grad school, and they kept the creative part of my brain lit up while I was in a spirit-crushing grad school program. After I graduated, I felt burned out on academic and professional aspirations.  I realized that I needed to create an artistic project to focus on instead. The specifics of the project came to me in the middle of sleeping one night--I had a dream about 1000 Haiku.  Honestly, I think I was too mesmerized by the sight of those three zeros in "1000" to question it. It's a very ambitious but not impossible number.

3. Skirting the edges of legality?  You realize that would effectively make you the Banksy of haiku, no? 

I can only hope to be that a fraction that incredible. I love Banksy. In fact, in my project launch email to friends and family, I described 1000H1000S as a "Basho meets Banksy" moment. Even though I love the privacy of a small art form like haiku, I'm intrigued by public spaces and who gets to use them for what means. Why should business and corporations get to print ads on every blank space in the world? I think it's time that we get to see more beautiful, non commercial words and images in public spaces, and if that means taking a risk and putting some haiku out there, then so be it.

4. For a $1000 donation to the project you would seriously tattoo a haiku on yourself?

Why not? I can think of many worse tattoos I've seen. I was really curious to see if anyone would sponsor me at that level, but so far no one. It was more of a joke than anything, but I'd follow through with it.

5. Why do so many artists get so squeamish when money starts to become involved?

Oh, boy. I think people in general get squeamish about money. In a culture that promotes greed, you're hesitant to get too involved with the stuff, lest you lose all your priorities and start fantasizing about swimming pools filled with cash, gilded toilets, etc. On the flip side, there's this perpetuated glamorization of the starving, suffering artist and the idea that if you're not suffering horribly, then you can't make art.

Also, we live in a ridiculously demanding consumer culture where we've been taught to think that "the customer is always right". Once money enters the equation, it feels like a business deal where you have to negotiate and compromise, and that can be a vulnerable position to be in. I think artists should be conscientious and mindful about their funding sources, but being a martyr doesn't make for a good artist.

CHRISTINE FORSTER is working up a bio for us.  But here's her blog: http://landofteeny.blogspot.com/ .

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Five Questions for a Techie: Chris Kish

This interview is with editor Chris Kish of 1st World View, a social technology website/blog.  He has recently started a Twitter feature known as the "Electronic Haiku," which shares tech news highlights in 17-syllable bites (or should that be "bytes"?).  Let's see what he has to say...

1. Okay, what happens when you mix the traditional nature-based Japanese art form of haiku with up-to-date news on technology?  No, this isn't a joke, this is what you're doing.  Explain.  Please.  You have piqued our interest.

It actually comes together really well, and for a few different reasons. Haiku are designed in a way that allows you to create a poem completely from a single thought, if you want to do that. Whether you see something interesting while taking a walk, or you think of some crazy observation on human behavior while you’re waiting to be seated at a restaurant, it doesn’t take long to write something about it in Haiku format. Even if it’s not perfect, or not complete, you can create the poem immediately after the idea hits you. You can write a Haiku in your head while you’re driving. Because the Haiku is such a fun and practical way to express ideas, I thought it would also be a fantastic way to express single opinions on technology and technology news.

Twitter was the inspiration for Electronic Haiku, along with the fact that I’ve been working on a more straight-forward technology website/blog (www.1stworldview.com) for about a year now and have enjoyed using Twitter to expand its audience. I noticed I was often just posting links and small comments, just another series of tweets that blend into the rest of people’s timelines. I was lacking a sense of energy and style, I guess. I wanted to come up with a way to give people more than just a relay of the technology news they could find at Engadget or TechCrunch, and more than just opinions that people could also find at those major tech sites. The whole point of 1st World View is to give people technology news and opinion in an easy-to-read, entertaining style, so "Electronic Haiku" fit right in.

With Haiku poetry on Twitter, we can relay not only technology news of the day, but include our thoughts and opinions as well. This way people can learn about new stories in technology, read an opinion or two on the matter, and enjoy poetry, all at the same time. A lot of technology news we read tends to take on a dry tone and becomes too technical, so "Electronic Haiku" will hopefully add some calming flavor into the mix.

I think using Haiku to discuss technology news pushes me to reconsider these stories from different perspectives and helps me to more thoroughly develop opinions on these topics. You might think you know how you feel about something, but write a Haiku about it and see how much more specific your opinions on the matter become. Because you have to consider your word choices so carefully, the format naturally pushes me to consider different angles. We only just started "Electronic Haiku," but what we’ve created so far seems pretty cool.

2. We always hear about the "must-have" electronic gift of the season. Anything you would warn us off of this time around?

Wait to buy your tablets, and your 3D televisions. Out of any gadgets that will be popular this season, I would avoid picking those up just yet. If that’s the thing your son or sister wants more than anything, of course, give them what they want. But those newest forms of technology are going to be changing, improving, and lowering in cost very rapidly in the near future.

This applies to most technology, except video games which come in obvious generations of systems. I think this concept currently applies to tablets more than anything, simply because they’ve been around the least amount of time. 3D Televisions also fall into that category; I mean, think back to the release of flat screen plasma televisions. I remember a family friend purchased one, about 32 inches, for over $2,000. Within a couple years he was looking at the new TV prices and kicking himself.

I’ll take this quick opportunity to suggest the best gift of the season - Xbox Kinect. At this point in time, people seem to be down on it, but that is only due to the lackluster wave of games released with it. Once some mature, adult-oriented games are released, things will change. If you are a fan of video games, just imagine what these game developers will come up with when you control the games with your body.

3. What effect do you think social networking (or other communications technologies) have on individuals' opinions and tastes?  Is this connectedness an overall good or bad thing?

It connects and disconnects us at the same time, an idea that was captured so well in the new Windows Phone commercials. People walking around on the street, but just staring down into a 4-inch abyss of information. Social networking does connect us, but it tends to take the opposite effect in other ways. I love David Fincher’s The Social Network because it showed Zuckerberg as a symbol for Facebook itself: have a ton of friends without actually having any friends.

People are spending more time communicating with close friends, but they also spend a lot time communicating with “friends” they have never met in person, and will never meet, and that isn’t a great thing. I feel like younger people are developing online friendships and taking them a little too far, and I bet a lot of kids would prefer an online friendship to one in person. Social networking helps to keep people in touch, but it makes friends spend less time together in person.

For me, social networks like Facebook and Twitter are tools to help stay in touch with friends who have moved. I am 25, so many of my friends have recently spread across the country, and Facebook helps me find out what’s going on with them. On the other hand, I never communicate with in-town friends on Facebook, or Twitter. I chat with them on Gmail, but only because it’s so easy on my phone and helps me save on text messaging costs.

As far as affecting opinions and taste, I think social networking is amazing. As people constantly submit quick ratings and opinions on products, we will slowly grow a better understanding of all the products out there. The main problem was that people only went online and gave reviews of a product when they had something to complain about. Now, since it’s so quick and easy to submit good or bad reviews, we can get a more accurate user rating for products. Time will constantly improve this system of user reviews.

4. The Internet has been great for all of us to get our thoughts out there immediately; unlike the letter-writers of old, however, our communications are increasingly ephemeral.  How do you think society will handle this loss of permanent records of communication?

Although I don’t always reach my goal of posting once every day on 1stworldview.com, I do multiple posts every week. Over the last year or so, I have amassed a nice collection of writing. Even though I save all of the articles onto my computer, I still worry every time I open up the website that everything will be gone. That just happened to my sister’s website and she does not think she will ever get it back.

In the end, though, I can just save it in Word,  save it to my back up hard drive, save it to a flash drive, print it, and I’m set. When it comes down to it, the things that matter will be saved. They will be saved multiple times in multiple places.

In a way, the increasingly ephemeral online world serves as a kind of filter, weeding out the best of the best. If someone sends out a Tweet that is just one of the most ingenious, insightful sentences of all time, you can bet money that people will find it. It will spread, and suddenly it will be on websites, blogs, Facebook, and of course, splattered all over Twitter.

Even if you haven’t written the next society-altering Tweet, you can save it in many different ways and in many different places. You can even print it! So, I actually don’t think society will have to deal with a loss of permanent records.

5. How can the worlds of technology and poetry benefit from cross-pollinating?

They will both benefit from one-another in different ways. While poetry has been dissected and twisted around to fit any subject matter and style possible, I think technology will add a sense of intelligence and respectability. A lot of poetry is just psuedo-symbolic gibberish, overly layered in emotions and twisted around to be complicated for the sake of being falsely complex. Instead, let’s make poetry about facts and figures. Instead of writing poetry just to create poetry, let’s write poetry that has a more concrete purpose. I think crossing technology news into Haiku poetry will not only add to the fun, playful nature of the poems, but will force us to come up with wordplay and opinions we otherwise would never have thought of.

Poetry, on the other hand, can also benefit from technology news. I created 1stWorldView, then "Electronic Haiku," for people like me. I love technology, but I don’t have degree in CSS and JavaScript. I love using Twitter, but I have no idea how it works. I am a writer, but I love technology and wish I could enjoy reading more about it (or at least understand more of what I’m reading). I often read tech articles and find myself mentally drifting to something completely unrelated. By providing technology news and opinions from a very basic perspective, we hope to simplify technology news so its entertaining and interesting to people who aren’t necessarily in the technology industry, but still use smartphones, tablets, laptops, Facebook, and Google.

Branching off from this idea came "Electronic Haiku." By integrating Haiku poetry into the world of technology news, people will be exercising their brains in multiple ways. Not only will they be enjoying technology news and opinions, but they will  be enjoying art as well. Art is basically just a representation of life through one medium or another, so it makes sense that we would explore technology through an artform like this. If anything, "Electronic Haiku" will add some moisture to currently dry tech news. The fact that Twitter is such a perfect tool for posting "Electronic Haiku" seems fitting. Crossing technology news into Haiku poetry should symbolize how technology has become such a natural part of life.

CHRIS KISH is a writer living in Phoenix. An Arizona native, he graduated from the University of Arizona and currently works as lead writer and editor of the social technology blog 1st World View as well as the in-house writer for a local marketing company. Chris is interested in creative writing for film, television, and video games. He enjoys blogging about social technology, watching the English Premier League, cycling, and playing Halo.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

High Coup Journal - December 2010 Issue

(Photo by Ann Wright, Plymouth, IN)



Al Fogel (Miami Beach, FL)

Edward Jones (Stevens Point, WI)

Maggie Lawson (Christchurch, NZ)

Ray Scanlon (Rehoboth, MA)

Mitzi Sicking (Midland, TX)

Annie Welch (Louisville, KY)

Henry Visotski (Brooklyn, NY)


Editor's Note:

Candles of romance
stuck in a hanukkiyah:
eight days long and hot.


Henry Visotski

In school I majored
In Liberal Arts. Dear Sir,
Can you spare a dime?


Maggie Lawson

cherry cheeks and prayers
painful hindsight swells beneath
in haemorrhoid hues


Al Fogel

doubting dyslexic
wondering whether or not
there might be a dog

host of fireflies
greeting guests at motel six:
"we'll leave the light on"

hanging upside down
girl in sexy shoes walks by
fall head over heels

practicing Yoga
for years standing on my head
now have shoe fetish
newlyweds board ship   
suckerfish attach to shark
whose the real sucker?


Mitzi Sicking
Achoo! Common colds
Settle into lungs, making
Killer pneumonia.


Edward Jones

looking to the sun
i bow, saying: here, look at
my balding head, please

there, in a back room
i find, among other things,
many, many things

in the silence, a sneeze--
startled looks, sneering faces
feelings of hate, anger

a box of kittens
thrown hard from a New York bridge--
single wasted box


Ray Scanlon

In the three decker,
rude neighbor may burn in hell:
he practices drums.


Annie Welch

I write to impress 
I am doing it right now 
do you feel special? 

she wears cracked earrings 
made of mirrors that hang low 
with no reflection 

You must be the one 
to change swords back to words. Start 
Erasing your lips. 


December 2010 AWESOME SAUCE: Annie Welch

She just found out that 
lies make her angry. Rotting 
words glazed with cherries


So the year's over,
but we are not (as of yet):
submit your haiku!

highcoupjournal {at} gmail.com

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

2010 Pushcart Prize Nominees

We are pleased to present our 2010 Pushcart Prize nominees:

Cal Clugston
Rosemary Foster
Amy Harris
Kim Keith
Vinnie Kinsella
Richard Stevenson

Congratulations to you all, and we're rooting for you!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Five Questions for an Editor: Jeffrey Woodward

Our Five Questions interview this month is with Jeffrey Woodward of Haibun Today.  (For those who haven't heard of the haibun before, it is a writing form that incorporates prose writing with haiku-- sometimes one of each, sometimes more than one of each.)

Let's see what he has to say...

1. There are obviously formal/technical differences between the haiku and the haibun. What would you say are some of the "spiritual" differences, or the differences of effect?

Haiku is remarkably democratic. The literate person who learns its basic principles and techniques has a fair chance of composing passable examples and, in “seventeen syllables or less,” of convincing his contemporaries, occasionally, that he has said more than he, in fact, has. Roland Barthes, in Empire of Signs, offered a lucid explanation for why this is so when he wrote, “While being quite intelligible, the haiku means nothing, and it is by this double condition that it seems open to meaning in a particularly available, serviceable way...”

Haibun cannot mean everything by meaning nothing, as Barthes implied haiku might, and it cannot do so precisely because it invites the many complications that haiku, by its brevity, forbids. The margin for ambiguity shrinks with each added syllable, sentence or paragraph and with each narrative or expository turn that haibun admits. Writers
of even a modest haibun of one or two hundred words are unlikely to convince an intelligent reader of their profundity, therefore, unless what they have written, in fact, is profound. One distinction between haiku and haibun is the degree of difficulty. Haibun must accept and compound risk even as haiku seeks to avoid or minimize the same. Consider haibun as a journey over unexplored terrain, the destination undetermined or unknown.

2. In your 2009 interview with Contemporary Haibun Online, you discuss haiku's "escape" from the orthodox English 5-7-5 structure. How has this benefited haiku and haibun?

This communal shift, if you will, from observation of a syllabic rule to today’s free treatment is a matter for the literary historian of haiku. The characterization of this change as an escape from orthodoxy, on the other hand, belongs to my interviewer and not to me. What the majority of practitioners did yesterday or does today can be only of relative interest from the point-of-view of haiku as literary art. Significant poets have always been in the minority and what they write, whether it accomodates or violates a syllabic norm, inevitably commands the serious reader’s attention.

3. Earlier in the same interview, you joke about your initial experiences with haiku and how you came to know the form as having "consisted of 17 syllables—neither one more nor one less." After the breaking of the orthodox mold, is there a place for counting syllables or morae/on to fit a fixed form?

A strong poet will adopt the form that is most suitable for his current purpose, whether that form is free or fixed. The existence of any form is an invitation to the poet to attempt to master and exploit it. A haiku will be judged strong or weak, in my opinion, not according to whether it has or does not have x-number of syllables but according to the genius of its composer. Counting syllables will continue to have a place in haiku as long as one poet can demonstrate its place by his good practice.

4. Building on the previous question, what is your take on New Formalism?

New Formalism is a convenient handle for literary critics and publicists. One need only remember that Imagism, to cite a well-known example, was broad enough to contain Ezra Pound and Amy Lowell, H.D. and Richard Aldington, in order to remind oneself that little of substance can be learned from the simplifications that are employed in naming and marketing a literary school. New Formalism reinvigorated the flagging debate about poetic form and its place in modern or post-modern poetry that the New Criticism had initiated in the 30s and 40s. Important formalist poets, however, were publishing long before the advent of New Formalism; Stanley Kunitz, Yvor Winters and Howard Nemerov might be cited nor should we forget the examples of Robert Frost or Edwin Arlington Robinson, of Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore or Hart Crane. No art is without form. It should not be considered a provocation, therefore, to observe that there is little that is new in New Formalism’s advocacy of form.

5. What advice would you have for burgeoning poets who have written some haiku but have yet to try the haibun form? What might motivate them to try it?

Study the best haibun available in print and online. Try, when you happen upon an appropriate and powerful model, to learn the author’s techniques by imitation. When you have learned all that you can through imitation, do otherwise. And what might motivate the burgeoning poet to try haibun? An opportunity to discover the New World-- by traversing the globe itself or by looking closely around his own room.

JEFFREY WOODWARD resides in Detroit, MI. His poems and articles are published in periodicals throughout North America, Europe and Asia. He currently edits Haibun Today and formerly edited Modern Haibun & Tanka Prose. A collection of his poems, In Passing, was published in 2007 and he edited The Tanka Prose Anthology in 2008.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Review: Peace and War

Black, Rick. Peace and War: A Collection of Haiku from Israel. Highland Park, NJ: Turtle Light, 2007. 54pp.

Let's start off by discussing what this book isn't: it isn't a polemic from either a pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian perspective.  (The very idea that there's only one Israeli or Palestinian perspective itself is a gross simplification.  But this book doesn't fall into either general camp.)  This book was not written with an axe to grind.

And not grinding an axe was one of the struggles Black went through in writing this book.  As he explains in his forward, "I have always struggled to reconcile haiku's non-judgmental, Zen-like approach to life with my own deep-seated need to protest against life's injustices.  I have an ongoing argument with God about the world's imperfections.  Simply to accept the world as it is, as Zen philosophy requires, does not come naturally to me, especially when I am in a country at war."  That Zen requirement brings to mind for me the image of a placid Abraham simply documenting the aroma of brimstone as it falls on Lot's head.

So as much as this book examines conflict within peoples and the land, it reveals conflict within the author's own perceptions.  These contradictions and paradoxes give us meaningful snapshots, such as in the following pair of poems from the "peace" section of the book (more on that in a minute):

army bulldozer
smashes an olive tree--
still in bloom

highway's edge
old armored vehicles rust
beneath cypress trees

In the first we have the force of military action overcoming nature.  In the second (and in my opinion, more provocative), we have a seemingly placid image.  Despite this feeling of peace, though, natural action is overcoming the military equipment.  A different kind of struggle manifests itself in the "War" section of the book:

empty sandbox
a mortar shell explodes
nearby harmlessly

a sonic boom
sets off the car's alarm:
false prophesy

The struggle here is not the fight between metal and wood but the fight between moment and memory.  Especially in the second poem, the memory of war comes into the moment for just an instant, but an instant can be all it takes to trigger a flashback.  (Along those lines, if you haven't seen Waltz with Bashir, do so.)

So which of these themes-- war or peace-- takes primacy in this book?  Well, that's just it: the binding doesn't really let you decide.  The work is bound dos-à-dos, so neither theme is "first" or "last."  Normally I wouldn't call the binding of a book out as such, but I think this method of presentation helps reveal the deconstruction of such stark terms.  Saying a book has "ended" is a lot easier than saying a war has "ended."

Unfortunately, in this format I can't just place these poems back-to-back to let you pick one to read first.  They are each the last poem to a side.  So I inserted a little of my own bias in ordering the two to leave you with.

last clouds-- 
if only the violence would
drift away, too

rainbow's arc
the old city's domed rooftops
still glistening



Sunday, November 7, 2010

Review: Guyku

Raczka, Bob. Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys. Illus. Peter H. Reynolds. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2010. 48pp.

We've already reviewed a Young Adult book in haiku here at the journal, but Raczka and Reynolds's Guyku is our first children's book.  And that brings up some questions: do you use the same sorts of standards in reviewing a children's book that you do in a book for adults?  Let's take a look at the authorial intent (dangerous, right?), or, um, in this case the illustratorial intent.  As illustrator Reynolds explains, "My mission is also to help people defy stereotypes-- to think creatively and bravely.  The invitation for boys to swim in the 'poem pond' needs to be issued more often, and more loudly.  I want to shout, 'Come on in!  The water's fine!'"

And at that goal, this book hits spot-on.  Several quintessential experiences from boyhood are succinctly called back to mind in its pages:

In a rushing stream,
we turn rocks into a dam.
Hours flow by us.


Pounding fat cattails
on a park bench near the pond,
we make a snowstorm.

Does Raczka occasionally cheat?  Sure.  Filling in syllables is an easy way to make a haiku work, as in this example:

Skip, skip, skip, skip, plunk!
Five ripple rings in a row--
my best throw ever!

That one comes off as a little cheesy, but I'm willing to give him a pass because of the bucktoothed grin borne by the rock-skipper.  These would be nice haiku in general, but the illustrations just make them.  I'm a sucker for spot color anyway, and Reynolds picks a separate one for each of the seasons: green for spring, yellow for summer, sepia for fall, and cyan for winter.  The result is a classic children's-book look.

So yeah, it absolutely succeeds as a children's book.  But I also want to examine the real poetic value of some of these haiku.  Take for example these two:

Lying on the lawn
we study the blackboard sky
connecting the dots.


With the ember end
of my long marshmallow stick
I draw on the dark

Along with creating a book for children, Raczka and Reynolds have created a vehicle for adults to relive some of those precious moments of boyhood, regardless of how long it has been since we spent them by the pond or gazing at the stars.  Call me sentimental, but this book did some good for my heart.  I've read enough haiku about death and suffering... sometimes I just want to look up in the sky and think back to a time when I had fewer worries.

So I'd like to see this book show up in elementary school classrooms from time to time.  Boys need someone cheering them on, and I can think of some younger cousins who I will be re-gifting my review copy to.  But I'd also recommend it to any jaded adult who would do well to take a short vacation to age nine.  Don't worry, death and suffering will still be around after reading the book.

In essence: Guyku rocks!


Monday, November 1, 2010

High Coup Journal - November 2010 Issue

(Photo by Ann Wright, Plymouth, IN)



Cal Clugston (Sydney, Australia)

Neil Ellman (Livingston, NJ)

Amanda Hillenburg (Sherbrooke, QC, Canada)

Dale Holdampf (Ann Arbor, MI)

David Hollander (Bloomington, IN)

Yume Kim (Woodbridge, VA)

Taylor Lampton (New Brunswick, NJ)

Jen Sicking (Terre Haute, IN)

Jacob Thomas (Terre Haute, IN)

David Tomaloff (Racine, WI)


Editor's Note:

November babies:
take your pick of scorpions
or centaurs with bows.


Jen Sicking

Green gecko wind surfs
Joyful lifted head on hood
‘til whoosh, death spirals by.


Neil Ellman

Party Time

A party's on in Hell
Sex and booze and rock'n'roll--
Death knows how to live.

Fried Food

Whichever came first
The chicken or the omelette
It tastes better fried.


David Tomaloff

Frog out in the pond
His boom-box ungodly loud
Really, Frog? Lil' Jon?


Cal Clugston

Indian summer
Retreats up a trail of tears
When the east wind blows


Jacob Thomas

Trundle-beds are strange
They nestle like Russian dolls
Sleeps like a coffin

Red and Stalwart Foe
I see thee taunting my bread
Toaster, be my bitch

Violets are not blue
They are purple you dumbass
Go learn your colors


Yume Kim

Ezra Pound really
liked Asian culture. Figures.
That guy is an ass.


Taylor Lampton

Dude, you have a cold.
Don't come to class. Sniffling
and snorting is gross.


Amanda Hillenburg

Serve up some crackers
With a side of grey matter
Zombies love snack time

Don't hog the mayo
The obese won't eat veggies
Without extra fat

Necktie or a noose?
Same thing but softer fabric
Just add a black hood


Dale Holdampf

Towel-toting man
Hitchhikes across the planets.
Oh, that Zarking Frood!

Excited dolphin
Flipping the fuck out of waves
Totally bitchin'


David Hollander

trying to study
but asphyxiating gas
pours from my rectum


November 2010 AWESOME SAUCE: Cal Clugston

Eat her like lettuce
Peeling away each layer
Of her sweet wetness


One more month this year--
why not send one more haiku
to High Coup Journal?

highcoupjournal {at} gmail.com

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Five Questions for an Editor: Vinnie Kinsella

Vinnie Kinsella, editor of Four and Twenty, publishes short poems like we do.  But we're going to publish a rather lengthy interview with him.  Let's see what he has to say...

1. Okay, we've gotta know: any herbal connection between Four and Twenty and everybody's favorite seven-leaf clover?  Cheech was asking.

I’m sorry to disappoint Cheech, but no. When I settled on the parameters of four lines and twenty words for the poems featured in the journal, I was thinking of those famous blackbirds baked in a pie. I’m a big fan of allusion, so I ran with it. I was aware that some readers would make an herbal connection, but I was just fine with that. Misinterpretation gives us greater exposure. Our hit count goes way up in April, and I know it’s not just because of National Poetry Month.

2. That's some seriously short poetry... just a hair's breadth above haiku.  What is it about the short poems that you like?

As a reader, my favorite poems are ones that capture a moment in time and invite me to linger in that moment. Short form poetry does this well. The minimal space forces writers to make each word count, which can result in some potent poems. I also like how short form poems function like a box of assorted truffles when gathered together. Within the pages (or web pages) of a short form poetry journal, readers can taste both the deep, dark flavors of a poem packed with dense meaning and the strawberry cream goodness of a witty poem glazed with wordplay.

As a writer, I enjoy the challenge of saying something with as little filler as possible. A restricted word or syllable count prevents me from rambling. I’m an editor, so my favorite part of the writing process comes during the revision stage. Writing longer poetry delays my gratification. Short form poetry allows me to start slashing away at words much sooner.

As a poetry enthusiast, I like how the short form serves as ambassador to those who don’t like poetry. I’ve had several readers of Four and Twenty tell me that exposure to the journal has piqued their interest in poetry. Because readers don’t have to invest a lot of time into reading a short poem, they’re willing to give it a try. Quite often, they get hooked. Whenever I’m told that my journal has won over a previous poetry hater, I get all tingly and happy inside.

3. How often do you get submissions where the poet obviously didn't read the directions?  Any particular methods of torture you want to put these people through?

I get multiple submissions in every monthly batch that far exceed our parameters. I’m always baffled by this. After all, the name of the journal is a clue to the length of the poems we publish. What gets me most is when authors use our online submission form to transgress the guidelines. I buried the link in the middle of the submissions page. To get to it without reading the directions, authors have to work really hard.

I sometimes think authors violate the guidelines on purpose, just so they can whine about being rejected and gain sympathy from their friends. When an author starts complaining to me about how no one understands their genius, I immediately ask if they’re following the submission guidelines when they send out their work. If the answer is no, they get “The Lecture.”

I have many ideas for ways to torture submission guideline offenders, many involving a locked room, Rick Astley, and a unitard.  What I end up doing, though, is sending a rejection letter and then mocking the offender (anonymously) on my Facebook page. This usually involves a status update to the effect of “Vinnie Kinsella thanks you for the lovely sonnet you wrote for him, Unnamed Poet. It was obviously your intention to share it exclusively with him. Otherwise, you would have submitted it to someone who could have published it.”

4. Though authors are not limited to formal poetry, you mention in the submission guidelines a few forms other than haiku (senryu, sapphic, and tanaga) that will fit under the limit. Senryu are probably a better name for what we have going on at High Coup Journal; could you explain the other two briefly?

Tanaga, like haiku and senryu, is based on syllable count, but adds rhyme scheme into the mix. Tanaga contains four, seven-syllable lines. The end of each line follows a set rhyme scheme, such as AAAA or ABAB. Tanaga provides an added challenge for writers who prefer writing fixed form poetry.

Sapphic poems, named after the Greek poet Sappho, are based on meter. They are made up of four-line stanzas and follow a strict pattern of meter made up of trochees and dactyls. There is no limit to the number of stanzas a sapphic can contain, so a one-stanza sapphic could work as a Four and Twenty. However, it would be difficult to pull off in twenty words or fewer. A sapphic-based Four and Twenty would have to have a lot of polysyllabic words in it.

Since we’re on the topic of form, I would like to make a request. I’m always on the lookout for a Four and Twenty palindrome to leap out of the submission pool and scream, “Publish me!” Nobody sends me palindromes, and I like them. Please, send me a palindrome. Or at very least, send me a poem with a palindromic line or two in it.

5. Both your submissions page and your FAQ reflect an interest in the needs of younger readers (and their parents).  How can we get young people interested in poetry?

To start, poetry needs to be taught in its proper context. There is this pervasive notion that all poems are stuffed with hidden meanings just waiting to be discovered. Teachers forget (or perhaps don’t even realize) that poetry is best introduced in musical terms, not literary terms. It’s perfectly acceptable for someone to like a song with nonsensical lyrics if the tune itself is compelling. Children aren’t asked by teachers to explain what is meant by the phrase “EE-I-EE-I-O” when they sing about Old McDonald. It’s understood that the phrase has musical meaning, but not any literary meaning. Poems, especially those following set patterns of meter and rhyme, have lots of phrases that make sense only in the context of music. If we allow children to first appreciate the feel of a poem without insisting they “get” the poem, we allow them to immerse themselves in poetry. After the immersion, they will naturally find meaning in what they read. If we push them to search for meaning in poetry, they will inevitably come up short and declare, “I don’t get poetry,” writing it off forever.

I also think it’s important for young readers to be exposed to poetry off the page. Poetry comes alive when we hear someone read it aloud. My freshman year of college, I had an English professor who was also a Shakespearean actor. He had memorized just about every poem in our poetry textbook. He would recite a poem for us at the top of each class. His performances compelled me to read poetry in ways none of my elementary, junior high, or high school teachers ever did. He made me fall in love with poems I previously hated reading when I was in high school. Children would benefit from such exposure to poetic passion. Whatever we can do to show young readers that poetry can be lively and engaging, I’m all for it. At very least, parents should be reading Shell Silverstein to their kids. I mean, come on, his poem about the sharp-tooth snail that will bite of your finger if you pick your nose is straight-up poetic genius! Inside everybody’s nose / There lives a sharp-tooth snail…

VINNIE KINSELLA's life revolves around words. In addition to being the publisher of Four and Twenty, he is a freelance book editor and an instructor in the Master’s in Writing program at Portland State University. He is also an avid Facebook status updater. His poetry can be found at vinniekinsella.com

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Five Questions for a Renegade Haikuist: Gregory Frock

On October 15, a marvelous thing happened.  Facebook statuses lit up with haiku, commemorating Haiku Status Day.  The father of this movement?  One Greg Frock.  We've interviewed him here... let's see what he has to say...

1. October 15, 2010. A day that will live in infamy. Why did you choose that day for Haiku Status Day?

Random Selection
However, 10-15 did
fill a poem line.

2. When did you first come across the haiku poetic form?

In California,
while attending undergrad
at U C Berkeley

3. Why is it that the haiku serves as such a nice status update on Facebook?

Sound bytes are in vogue.
And haikus will not bump the
character limit.

4. Do you see any possibilities for a longer-term Facebook haiku community?

I certainly do.
Although speaking for myself,
it may be too much

5. In everyday discourse, poetry seems to be sort of on the outside of the game. How does the haiku status update change this?

I like poetry.
To help it flourish, haiku
is accessible.

GREG FROCK is a professional writer of more prosaic work such as government bids. However, he tries to create beauty in the world in his own small way. Haiku Status Day is an effort to show people that anyone can make poetry, and the choice of the haiku form is due to its accessibility and simplicity.

Greg lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife, three sons, and a badly-behaved cat. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, reading and dance. He is an accomplished contra and square dance caller.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Five Questions for a Computer Programmer: Chris Cornell

If you've been paying attention on our Facebook group, there's been some buzz about the game Haiku Hero.  (If you haven't tried it out yet, do!  The interview will make a lot more sense if you know what we're talking about.)

Well, we had some questions for the programmer, Chris Cornell, and he was kind enough to answer them.  Let's see what he has to say...

1. You're a programmer who has an interest in poetry?  How'd that happen?

Well, in my case, it's Neil Stephenson's fault.  If you aren't familiar with him, he writes nerdy but generally good science fiction novels.  He had an entertaining book, Cryptonomicon, which featured one character who would mentally compose little on-the-spot haikus as a way of passing the time.

After reading that book, I thought "hey, that sounds like a fun idea" and started doing it myself:  making up haikus when I was waiting for buses, stuck in traffic, or in boring meetings.  They didn't have to be good, (and frequently weren't) but they were fun.

From there it was a fairly straight jump to "this is fun.  More people should do this."  And then "it might be fun to encourage people to do so by making a game about it..."

2. We've seen countless 2D-scrollers, shooters, and games where you shoot a turtle out of a cannon... but a haiku-based game is something new.  What inspired you to create it?

Well, if you want the full sordid details behind my thought process, I wrote a lot of the motivation down in my dev journal, here.

If you want the short version though, it is basically...  Rockband is a neat game because if you are playing the drums or singing, you are actually practicing a real life skill.  You are getting better at something just by playing the game, and when you stop playing, you are still good at it.  I wanted to see if I could make a game that would also make you better at something in real life.  Even if it was something trivial like "making haikus on the spot about arbitrary topics."

And really, I figure if I do something that makes there be more poetry in the world in general, then I'm probably doing something right.

3. How does the game judge how "good" your haiku is?

Heh.  I get asked this a lot, really.  Which is funny, since the game doesn't actually do much judging.  The rule is just that it says "That was a good haiku" any time you have the correct number of syllables.  As long as you can make three lines of 5-7-5, you get a "good" haiku.

This actually brings up an interesting point about how the game is written, and some of the choices I made when writing it.  I spent a while thinking of ways I could objectively "rate" a haiku with a computer program.  Or heck, even without one.  What metric do you use?  Number of long, polysyllabic words?  Fewest grammar errors?  Best seasonal references?

In the end, I decided that any rating system I used would basically be me saying "here is the best kind of haiku - you should write these!"  Since people tend to want to optimize their scores in games, I was worried that this would artificially force people to write particular types of haikus, or feel annoyed when their haikus didn't earn as many points as they felt it should.

For this reason, I decided that the only thing I'd reward was quantity.  Number of haikus written in a time limit, etc.  (And even there you can see I waffled a bit, since I allow a mode with no time limit.)  I don't want to be in the business of trying to judge something as subjective as a poem.  No matter how much time I spend in it, some day, it will give a low score to a good poem, and encourage the author to do things differently.  I don't want that!  So nuts to trying to score them, I say.

Somehow though, people took my generic message "It was a good haiku" to mean that there was a hidden rating system in place, and I keep getting asked how it works.  I take this as at least some confirmation that people care about their score, and continue to be glad that I don't give them one. :)

4. One of the features of the game increases difficulty by adding restrictions to your poem.  A few of our readers have commented that this opened up unexpected avenues for their art as well as making the game tougher.  How do you think rules like this can lead to better poetry?

I definitely think it leads to interesting poetry.  This isn't unique to haikus though.  Many artists have said things along the same lines:  Adding restrictions forces you to be creative, and tends to lead you in interesting directions.  I've seen this first hand, when watching people play the game (myself included!) and come up with haikus completely unlike things they normally come up with, just because they had to fit in the word "eggplant" in there somewhere.

The thing though is that restrictions make for interesting results.  If you ask someone to compose a haiku on the spot on a subject of their choice, they will usually either dither about what subject to use, or pick one about something that they already have some ideas about.  If you ask them to make one about some random topic though, you immediately cut out the dithering, and weed out most of the pre-thought-out ideas they have.  They basically have no choice but to do something creative, and you tend to get results that reflect that.

So yeah.  Readers, I agree with you!  It does make it more challenging, (which is why I let you select how many rules you want, if you want something easier) but you tend to get interesting things out of it.  They're not always GOOD things, but I think they have a higher percentage of good things than just thinking up haikus about topics of your own choosing.  Really, in a lot of ways, Haiku Hero isn't even so much a game, as a creative writing exercise dressed up with a timer and some nice music.

5. A sestina is another rule-based form of poetry, requiring the writer to use the same six end-words in different line patterns in six different stanzas.  Any plans for a Sestina Hero?  Or maybe just a Sonnet Hero?

I've definitely considered some other poetry forms.  Obviously anything short and well-defined is better for quick "pick up and play" gameplay.  But anything that is structured enough that a computer can tell if you are doing it "right" is fair game.  I doubt "Epic Ballad Hero" would do well as a casual game, but some other forms might work.  The ones you list are possible. But the (non-haiku) form I've given the most thought to is actually limericks, since they short, stand alone nicely, and are fast and fun to write.  (In fact, the whole rhyme detection I use was basically put in so I could test out the rhyme detection code, so that everything would be all lined up and ready if I decided to make Limerick Hero....)

So I dunno about Sonnet Hero, but it's not outside the realm of possibility that some other poetic forms might show up sooner or later...

CHRIS CORNELL is the founder and president for life of Paper Dino Software.  Author of games such as Boss Rush and Post Apocalyptic Unicorn Uprising, he hails from a background of flash and console development.  Not to be confused with any other Chris Cornells you may have heard of, who are merely pale imitations.

Friday, October 1, 2010

High Coup Journal - October 2010 Issue

(Photo by Ann Wright, Plymouth, IN)



Rosemary Foster (Bloomington, IN)

Michael Frissore (Oro Valley, AZ)

Amy Harris (West Lafayette, AZ)

Amanda Hillenburg (Sherbrooke, QC, Canada)

Kevin James (Terre Haute, IN)

Ethan Mandelkern (Mt. Shasta, CA)

Darcy McMurtery (Seattle, WA)

Christina Rodriguez (South Ozone Park, Queens, NY)


Editor's Note:

In just a few weeks
these leaves will become more red 
than my poetry.


Christina Rodriguez

puppy love, dear youth
lost in the shuffle of mort-
gages and children.

start off slow, they say.
take your time...time? when did time
give out luxuries?

Daddy, are you too
old for cupcakes and poems?
Too poor for Hallmark.


Ethan Mandelkern

wet peach tastes yummy
succulent soft beautiful
damn juice stained my shirt


Kevin James

words you never want to hear
at a porno set

boxes vibrating
turns out it wasn't sex toys
worst birthday ever


Rosemary Foster

Call him “she” again
And I’ll break your fucking face
Did you get that bitch?


Amanda Hillenburg

Laser gun bullets
Three shots missing the mallard
Want to kill that dog

God! It's full of stars!
My bad, it's just dust buildup.
Play that cartridge flute!


Amy Harris

Sweet Malaria
Fair maiden of the tropics
Once bitten, twice shy


Darcy McMurtery

A guarantee of
long-winded discussion: I’ve
Prepared a few words.

Keep your speeches short
We can still strangle you with
A wireless mic.

Around a board room table
Like oil and water.

A workplace romance
Will poison your well so please
Don’t shit where you eat.

Writer's Block

I can't pass a verb,
completely consonated,
must move a vowel. 


Michael Frissore

Haiku: True Story

This guy was pissed off
by my humorous haikus
Well, fuck you, buddy.


October 2010 AWESOME SAUCE: Christina Rodriguez

Hello denial...
Don't you look pretty today
in your coat of lies!


Tell the bogeyman
that you've sent in some haiku
or he will eat you.

highcoupjournal {at} gmail.com