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