Saturday, June 25, 2011

Looking Forward, Looking Inward: Volume 2

As we prepare to begin our second year of publication, High Coup Journal would like to take a new direction with its "Five Questions" interviews.  For a year we have brought you interviews with haiku-friendly editors and members of a slew of other professions outside our own community, trying to forge connections between this journal and the community at large.

This year, we'd like to try something different: while we'll still be featuring editor interviews from time to time, we're going to make our main focus catching back up with some of our previous authors and seeing what they're doing these days.  We are a community, and we want our community's own voices to be highlighted now.

So be checking your e-mails shortly!  We're going to start assembling a list of people who might like to be interviewed very soon.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Five Questions for a Poet Laureate: Joan Logghe

As part of our continuing coverage of Axle Contemporary's "Haiku Roadsign" display in Santa Fe, New Mexico, we've managed to snag a great interview with the judge of the haiku contest that generated all the poems now found in and around the town.  She's Joan Logghe, and in addition to being the judge of this contest, she's also the Poet Laureate of Santa Fe!  Let's see what she has to say...

1. The city of Santa Fe was founded back in 1610, making it the oldest state capitol in America.  How far back does the post of Poet Laureate go?  Do you still get the traditional "butt of sack" awarded to you?

We just had our big  Santa Fe 400 celebration and I was a poetry judge for the student poets who wrote about Santa Fe.  Their poems were placed in a time capsule.   I am the third Poet Laureate or as I call it PL so it began in 2006.  The term is two years and I was preceded by the amazing Arthur Sze and the fabulous Valerie Martinez.  No "butt of sack" for me, but ample opportunity for drink, a small stipend, and a full dance card.  I have attended more galas and awards dinners than ever in my life.  I think a nice case of wine or at least free parking downtown would be a wonderful addition to the PL life.

2. What sorts of educational activities are you involved in as Poet Laureate?

The educational aspect is one of the considerations in choosing the PL.  I have been in the schools for over 30 years, first as volunteer and then it evolved into various Poet-in-the Schools gigs and in one case, Santa Fe Girls' School, eleven years as a poet-in-residence teaching once a week over three years.  I am dedicated to enriching a culture of poetry in our community.

For this PL term I wanted to show young children how I fell in love with poetry and how much fun it is.  I selected poems from my youth and beyond and with composer and musician, Jeremy Bleich, made a performance piece called "Joan and the Giant Pencil" after James and the Giant Peach.  I used this name because I have been able to borrow a wonderful four foot yellow pencil called "Future" from Kathleen McCloud, a former writing student and awesome artist. The pencil comes to every school or museum or library with us, and I have two great poems about pencils that I found, one by US PL W.S. Merwin (enough initials for you?) and one by a Spanish language poet, Jesus Carlos Soto Morfin.

I move from poems I loved as a child to Frost and Dickinson and Carl Sandberg and my own poems. There are several bilingual poems as often our audiences have native Spanish speakers.  The program is about 50 minutes long and it keeps attention even of very small children.  They love Jeremy and the music, and it is interactive so they get to clap out gallops, or echo words as I read the poems.  Some of the teachers then write with the students, though they are mostly very busy.  We'll be at Santa Fe Children's Museum this July 14th and they are making a poetry festival there.

I have also done things as diverse as teaching poetry in the Community Gallery f the Santa Fe Arts Commission, at a show called "Mining the Unconscious" this past Saturday to speaking and reading at a variety of poetry or community events. Even if it is my upcoming Fourth of July appearance at the Pancake Breakfast on the plaza, I try and lure folks into loving poetry, or remembering they did as a child.

3. How did you get involved with the Axle Contemporary group?

I think I sat down in the Gallery/Van early on beside the Farmer's Market site.  I knew Jerry Welman vaguely, and then it progressed to casually, and finally it is dearly. Matthew I just met on the van.  Both of these men are so visionary and fun to hang out with.  Then they asked me to judge the contest, lured only by my new Poet Laureate outfit.  I had an insane schedule of things I had said "yes" to. I was feeling a slight 'No" welling up in me.

Once we met and talked, I knew it would be fun to work together and I could practice playing well with others (I tend to like being my own boss and co-conspirator). I have been to several of the Axle Contemporary openings, not as many as I would like as I live 25 miles north of town and value down time and taking a no-drive day every week.   But I was bragging about them to everyone in town, even before I got to know them.  i just think the step-van is the coolest idea and fits my art-for-the-people aesthetic, art in daily life ideal.  I am a devotee and a van fan.

4. What challenges do you face when judging a contest?

One reason is I don't like to judge art, though I can be judgmental.  I also have taught so many people and have many beloved students.  I didn't want to have to choose  and make people sad. I have been rejected as much as accepted in poetry. But the judging was anonymous, so that felt right.  And haiku is brief, so that helped.  The guys also did a preliminary read and sorted into two piles, but truthfully, there were ones in the pile they deemed not as strong that I loved, and so they are going to be on the sign.  I am also aware of the total subjectivity of our personal taste.

We have all the schools of poetry in Santa Fe. It is a thriving poetry scene, so we have  a wide range from the abstract language influenced schools to Slam and everything in between.  I can think of other haiku poets in town who deserve the job more than I do... Miriam Sagan, a stunning haiku poet for decades, and Charles Trumbull who edits Modern Haiku and is past president of the Haiku Society of America... plus John Brandi, who is another favorite of mine and has made a lifelong relationship with haiku.  Yet, I am glad I got the job, and we get to publish all of them which makes it a strong and varied group, from beginners to these seasoned haiku poets.

Once I got the poems, my husband and I went out to dinner in an Asian fusion restaurant and I ordered a margarita.  I read quickly through the entire pile and he reviewed them as well. They were on little strips of paper, some almost like large fortunes, and it was as memorable and pleasant a judging experience as I have ever had.   It felt good to do a drive-by reading, and then settle in at home and read carefully the next morning with a sobering cup of black tea.  I had them selected within 24 hours.

5. What are your personal feelings regarding the haiku?  

Do you mean "The haiku" as in all haiku, or the haiku submitted for Haiku Roadsign?  I think we got excellent work and I tried to choose poems that were crisp, imaged,  and respected at least one element of "the Haiku."

I have a large section of haiku books on my shelves and I am an aficionado, but in no ways an expert.  I once gave a friend pages and pages of my haiku and he said I had three true ones.  I have been reading these poets in translation and appreciation since the 60s and so that gives me an ear and a sensibility.  The thing that surprised me when I read the work submitted was how many poets ignored imagery and the natural world.  I felt as if senryu gave too much permission to just talk in abstraction, and missed out on the delicate feeling of a haiku.  I think of haiku is as much about heightening awareness, and hearing the reverberation as about what's on the page.  I think image is the way in, and the difficult turn, twist, or surprise element was rare in our submissions, but I love when it happens.  I also love what my friend Judyth Hill says in a great pantoum from her book Black Hollyhock, First Light:   "There's a secret in haiku, I'll tell you / the fourth line is silent."

Haiku is the form most often taught in schools because teachers see the formula 5/7/5 and mistakenly think it is easy to teach.  It is both subtle and sophisticated, and I was surprised that some of my friends whose poetry I love and adore, didn't have the sensibility of spare attention packed language.

We didn't count syllables, though I love Clark Strand's description of a dying haiku master, on his death bed, counting on his fingers.  I also taught a  ten year old friend who insisted on counting because it was more challenging.  I think selecting the poems we got, choosing 32 of them, was a blast and so much easier that I expected.

JOAN LOGGHE (Santa Fe, NM) is Santa Fe's third poet Laureate, serving from 2010-2012. She began teaching poetry as a volunteer in her childrens' school thirty years ago. She continues to bring poetry into the schools, serving our young people, and has taught everywhere and to all ages, from Santa Fe Community College to Zagreb, Croatia. This year she was the keynote speaker at Santa Fe High graduation. Her most recent books are The Singing Bowl from University of New Mexico Press and Love & Death: Greatest Hits, from Tres Chicas Books with Miriam Sagan and Renée Gregorio.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

New Word Order Reminder

Hey everyone!  Just a brief reminder that you have about two weeks to submit to the New Word Order contest.  So far we've gotten 16 submissions and are looking to get several more before we're done.  Your submissions don't have to be haiku-- our expert judge will show no prejudice but that of blind justice!

Check out the submission guidelines at the bottom of the page here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Five Questions for Two Twitterers: Alison Kehler and Kelly Westhoff of Haiku by Two

Let's get ready for Volume 2 of High Coup Journal!  As you might have guessed from the June cover art, literary coupling will be something of a theme for this issue: many haiku coupled together into a series, such as in Henry Visotski's "The Death of the (Other) American Dream"; a book composed by two individual authors in distinct but unlabeled collaboration, such as in our upcoming book review; or a daily haiku Twitter feed by two friends, Alison Kehler and Kelly Westhoff.  Let's see what the authors of Haiku by Two have to say...

1. So you’re about to hit 900 haiku... that’s like 9 complete hyakuin renga.  Seriously, how do you keep it going?

Working with Kelly is the key. I know that I could not do this by myself. And I feel a sense of ongoing conversation doing this with Kelly, which is very motivating. My mother recently asked me, “How long are you going to continue your haiku project?” And I was all like, “What do you mean? We’re going to do this forever!”

It helps me to have a partner. This way, I’m accountable to someone else. Like a lot of writers, I get my best work done under deadline. For me, Alison is sort of like a deadline. Even if I don’t feel like writing, I know that I have to because I don’t want to let her down.

However, I think the real key for us is that we didn’t take on this project because we wanted to write haiku. We took on this project because we wanted to keep in touch with each other. Even though haiku is our medium, the whole purpose of Haiku By Two is that the poems are an ongoing conversation between two friends. Many of our haiku are deeply personal, and I think the fact that we’re sharing these touching details of our lives with each other is what keeps us going.

2. How do you tend to split up the workload?

When I said I could not do this without Kelly, I meant it. She drives the ship and I do my best to keep up with the division of labor. Sometimes I am behind and she sends me a nice email, like, oh…are you still going to review that book? For me, it works. I like piping in with my own artistic insights, but I’m the sort of creative person who needs another person to keep me focused.

Well, the truth of the matter is that the site is my main mode of procrastination. When I don’t feel like focusing on the other work that I’m supposed to be doing (which happens a lot), I wander over to Haiku By Two and start thinking about ways to update it. Yet I also derive a lot of pleasure from the site, which is probably how it has ended up as my preferred mode of procrastination.

3. So... sometimes the brain just goes blank.  How do you get something to paper (or perhaps to keyboard) in those moments?

We have written many haiku about not knowing what to write about! I think that’s a part of the creative process. There are days in any medium where you feel uninspired and feel you have nothing to add. But I think continuity is the key to any art. So we keep going, we write about “nothing.” Or we suddenly find something when least expected. Or sometimes a haiku is just mediocre. That’s okay, too. It’s part of the process.

Here’s a haiku I posted on the site back in April 2010:

haiku-less, that’s me
I’m all out of fresh ideas
haiku-less, that’s me

I have gone through several dry spells where I feel like all the haiku I post are insipid or trivial or just plain bad. For me, that’s when I really fall back on that standard 5-7-5 syllable count. All I have to do, I tell myself, is come up with the count and then I can be done. And honestly, sometimes that’s the only way to make it through.

4. What effect has your poetic relationship had on your writing, and on your lives? Does it extend beyond the blog?

As the mother of a busy toddler, I rarely talk on the phone. Not even with my mom! I feel like I just don’t have the time or the space to have an extended phone conversation with anyone. So for me, Haiku By Two helps me feel like I have an ongoing conversation with a friend. I keep up with Kelly through the poetry and comments on the blog. I definitely feel close to Kelly because of this project. It has me thinking about her every day. I’ll be driving along and I’ll think “Oh, that reminds me of what Kelly wrote,” or I’ll just be sending her good vibes.

Well...first of all, haiku totally affected my reading choices. We didn’t decide to write haiku because we loved the format. We chose to write haiku because we were drawn to its brevity and straight-forward counting rules. It didn’t take long, though, for haiku to spark my curiosity. Soon after we started Haiku By Two, I was scouring the library for books that would explain the form.

Those reading choices then affected my writing as I started to look for ways to build in a break or reference a season in a less obvious way than saying “winter.”

Now, haiku has become a mode of thinking that I often fall into. For example, as I walk my dogs, I’m always on the lookout for some shift in nature that I can incorporate into haiku.

5. If our readers wanted to start a writing relationship like this, what would be some good pick-up lines?

Well, Alison and I knew each other long before Haiku By Two came about, so neither one of us had to go out and “pick up” a willing blogging partner.

But, if I were to try to set up something like this again, my advice would be that you really need to figure out what your goal is. If your goal is to share information, then you’ll be looking for a blogging partner with a different set of skills than if your goal is to have an ongoing conversation with a friend.

I would also recommend that you have clear posting guidelines. For us, it’s really helpful to know that each one of us has to post one haiku every other day. Having a very clear schedule makes it easy to plan ahead.

ALISON KEHLER writes haiku. She also makes soap. And she paints. And she teaches English to adult students. Plus, she is a mom to a busy toddler and a rambunctious puppy. She gathers ideas from each of her roles in life and incorporates them into her tiny poems.

KELLY WESTHOFF writes haiku when she should be doing something else. Like writing an article for her freelance career or grading papers for the college English classes she teaches. She finds inspiration for her haiku every time she takes her dogs for a walk.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

High Coup Journal - June 2011 Issue

(Photo by Ann Wright, Plymouth, IN)



Ian Chung (Leamington Spa, England)

Temple Cone (Annapolis, MD)

Sam Franklin (Terre Haute, IN)

Michael Morris (Royse City, Texas)

Mark Skrzypczak (Jersey City, NJ)

John Tustin (Flushing, NY)

Henry Visotski (Brooklyn, NY)


Editor’s Note:

Missing the wedding,
we blasted the car speakers:
“No Woman, No Cry.”


Mark Skrzypczak

Your entire life
Is the creative process
Open your damn eyes


John Tustin 

Cooking up something
To fill and satisfy me
The recipe – you
Waiting for the words
My ideas like carrion
The buzzards circle dolefully


Ian Chung

his belly flattens
ridges carved out for someone
other than yourself

napkin in his car
sticky with her red lipstick
and his betrayal


Sam Franklin


Iscariot kissed 
a man for money--he was 
a prostitute, yeah?  


Temple Cone 
Dualist, monist,
we’re all alike under these clothes--
lean, tired, scared shitless.
You mastered walking
as an infant and forgot
each step thereafter.


Henry Visotski 

The Death of the (Other) American Dream

Faded cowboy boots
ancient Chevy, never used
covered, rusty gray

want to trust the myth
old weird America is
a gas tank away

road trip in the sun
will the waitress call me “hon”
out where cowboys ride?

so far all I see
is Starbucks and Applebee's
flanking either side

no Nelson or Cash
radio plays same old trash
Gaga, Nickelback

someone swiped away
the myth, the sweet old cliché
somewhere we lost track

inner city bound
nothing gained, we turned around
home with empty hands

mission was a bust
ancient Chevy gathers dust
think I’ll let it stand.


June 2011 AWESOME SAUCE: Michael Morris

A white seagull floats
above the turbulent waves
of the parking lot.


School's out for summer;
haiku school has just begun
in each sprig of grass!

highcoupjournal {at}