Saturday, May 21, 2011

Five Questions for a Photographer: Ann Wright

If you've been reading High Coup Journal for any length of time, you may have noticed that little photo credit to Ann Wright.  Hopefully you've taken a little time to browse her extensive gallery of photography.  What you may not know is that she has also been featured in CNN's iReport and  Oh, and we have her here today.  Let's see what she has to say...

1. What's your favorite subject for photography?

It may sound a bit cliche, but I love doing nature photos.  Nature cooperates a lot nicer than human elements for one, but there's so much that we pass by day to day, that we don't notice.  I try to bring that to the forefront.  You may not notice that tiny purple flower growing out of the crack in the sidewalk, but I do.  More recently, snow is playing a huge part in my creativity.  Capturing individual snowflakes, a dusting of snow on a branch, it's really the little things in life that matter the most.

2. Haiku in a way is like a snapshot composed in words.  How do you compare photography to poetry?

Photography and poetry are so similar!  Each tell a story from the point of view from the artist.

With poetry or 
haiku, we are free to be

No matter what form of writing you prefer (haiku, iambic pentameter, freestyle, etc), you get to see the world from someone else's point of view.  You feel what they feel.  Photography is no different.  I focus on things that not everyone can really "see" day to day, I want people to see what I see, to feel what I feel.

3. You've been published on CNN's iReport and have a gallery on deviantArt.  What's the difference between exhibition and publication?

For me, exhibition is almost a first step.  You put yourself out there, get feedback, the world is your critic.  With publication, you've been chosen.  Someone, somewhere appreciates what you've done and has decided to help show the world what you see.  Either one is very flattering, but being published is so much more fun!

4. How do you differentiate between "artful" photography and the kind of stuff that just ends up in the family photo album?

Family Photo Albums... For people who scrapbook or do the family album thing, those photos are there to capture a moment, a memory in an instant and bring you back to that place.  They're kind of like an external filing system for your brain.  Take a picture really quick so you can remember what happened.  "Art" photography can be similar-- to capture a moment or a memory, but art photography captures the emotion that was attached to the event.  Take for instance the famous V-J Day photo taken in Times Square of the sailor kissing a nurse.  My father was 4 years old when that photo was taken, my mother not even born yet.  Those people are of no relation to me, yet I can feel the sense of elation, joy, of utter celebration in the photo.  Compared to that of a simple family album photo, they both may still be meaningful, but have very different empathetic emotions attached to them.

5. How do you decide on the exact moment to snap the shutter?

Timing is everything!  You have to know the machine you're working with-- how fast the shutter clicks in every kind of light and the estimated speed of the subject your photographing.  I recently attended a scrimmage of the South Bend Roller Girls, South Bend, Indiana's local roller derby team, where my timing was truly tested.  Some are hits, some are misses, and sometimes you're just plain lucky!

ANN WRIGHT, formerly of Whitehall, Ohio, currently resides in Plymouth, Indiana uses a Nikon P90 Digital Camera.  Featured on CNN iReport,, and published in the 2010 and 2011 Cute Overload Calendars along with High Coup Magazine.  Online galleries can be found on Deviant Art and on Facebook.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Editorial: Why Do We -Ku?

You might assume that as the editor of a journal devoted to haiku—exclusively to rigidly formalist haiku with a snarky bent, at that—that I am primarily a writer of haiku.  A haikuist.  A haikuer.  A haikunik.  Pick a suffix as you will—I don’t think it’ll fit very well. 

My favorite poems are actually the exact opposite of haiku: epics.  BeowulfDon JuanThe Canterbury Tales.  Vikram Seth’s novel-in-verse, The Golden Gate.  Perhaps a bit weird, eh?  Perhaps a bit weird to devote a journal to poems three lines long with seventeen syllables each when the poems you love the best are three books long with seventeen cantos each?

Agreed.  So why do I -ku?

I started to ask myself that question this past winter.  In February, I sent out an e-mail to some past High Coup Journal authors in search of insight, asking them to reflect on the problem for me.  Because if there’s anything I’ve learned in my short career in the literary universe, having other people do your work for you is the key to success.  Admittedly, some responses were more helpful than others:

I haiku because
spiders ingested my parents
this is how I cope.

--Jacob Glenn

(Let it be known that I in no way want to belittle Jacob’s suffering.  Descended from the brood of Shelob, last fell child of Ungoliant, giant spider attacks have been reported as recently as the 2941th year of the Third Age [or the 1341st in Shire Reckoning].  Do not think that the destruction of the One Ring and the fall of Barad-dûr will stop them: Shelob dwells in Torech Ungol still.)

More on topic, one author’s response was short, direct, and to the point:

I read and write haiku because I have a short attention span. I also like Japanese culture.

--A. Jarrell Hayes

Another author sent me a 2,038-word response to my question.  That’s 2,038 words written about a form containing 17 syllables.  This level of ludicrous awesomeness has officially earned Richard Stevenson of Alberta, Canada, his very own bottle of AWESOME SAUCE:

Richard Stevenson 

I liked Richard’s response because he also managed to extend my question from “Why do you –ku?” to “Why would you –ku?”, as seen below:

…here's my question: How can this little art form be so popular -- indeed, I believe it's the most popular form of poetry on the planet, isn't it? -- and yet make no inroads into leading literary journals except those devoted exclusively to haikai poetry?  Maybe I'm overstating the case, but certainly most litmags in Canada won't touch haiku with a ten-foot pole. They tend to regard it as a five-finger exercise in syllable counting and straightforward pretty description for elementary school kids… 

--Richard Stevenson

I’d expected the other responses to trickle in slowly, but within a week I had nearly a dozen, and they kept coming for a month afterwards.  Since High Coup Journal is an e-journal, I wasn’t surprised that a few authors made the logical connections to Twitter and technology:

To protect against
Twitter-based mass marketing
Write obscure haiku

--Cal Clugston

…it's the perfect type of poem for the iPad age. (As a marketing guy, I cannot ignore this fact even though I myself can sit through a three hour movie and not get bored.)

--Henry Visotski

Some centered purely on the fun of hammering out a short poem:

Mainly I -ku because it's fun.  It's five-seven-five syllables of a smart aleck.  Who wouldn't want to -ku?

--Mitzi Sicking

Much as it might damage my art-snob credentials, I have to agree with Mitzi.  Part of the allure of haiku (to be specific, bad haiku—and to be even more specific, zappai) is that they’re so fun.  High Coup Journal originated as a little game at the Indiana State University Writing Center, where my fellow tutors and I passed around a few sheets of paper, collecting haiku as we waded through an endless sea of Nursing 104 papers.  (I promise you this: if I read another paper about why someone wants to be a nurse, I may put that someone in a hospital.)

Kaylin, Elise, Kaiulani, Caitlin Martin (who is currently my associate editor): why did we -ku?  Partially because we needed a silent way to poke fun at Pearcy.*  Partially because—to be honest—we were bored as hell and it was a witty little word-game to play.  And indeed, some of the other contributors to High Coup Journal zeroed in on the “exercise” aspect of the haiku:

I think I enjoy the symmetry of haiku. It requires an agile mind to create the wording and still conform to the pattern. It builds the ability to say a lot with few words.

--Mike Lushbaugh

One way the form builds this ability is through repetition, repetition, repetition:

Of course, as anyone who has fallen in love with the history of the North American English language haiku tradition will tell you, writing haiku is a lot like panning for gold: you write a helluva lot of these little suckers before you get any good, and the ratio of ore to gravel is about 1 to 100, if not 1 to 1,000! 

--Richard Stevenson (again)

I call this the “Russian Machine-Gun Effect”: accurate or not, if you shoot often enough, you’re bound to hit something.  Whereas bullets cost money, though, haiku don’t cost a thing.

For others contributors, the compression of the idea becomes the goal:

While there are many poetic forms I enjoy writing in, the haiku remains my all-time favorite.  I call the haiku, "a galaxy compressed in limited space."  It's wonderful training for writers who abhor revising their work!  Sometimes I will write a poem of, let's say, 30 lines, and then transform it to one of about 15 to 17 syllables. 
--Salvatore Buttaci

I’ve always phrased this aspect of form as “The Jell-O Mold Effect”: the ideas are molten and unstable before they are poured, but once you take the raw materials and give them formal support, they congeal into a more enjoyable end-product.  As any five-star chef or free-verse poet could tell you, the raw materials have to be good for the end product to be good.  But the form is the recipe. 

If you can't say it 
in seventeen syllables 
it ain't worth sayin'. 

--Darcy McMurtery

The raw materials need to be high quality, but they don’t need to be complex.  Haiku, like a recipe for coq au vin, can take simple ingredients and make something delicious:

I have a very concrete answer to that question. About nine months ago, Short, Fast, and Deadly did an all-Haiku issue ("for the love of God, no Haiku" is in their general submission guidelines) and, for some reason, it struck me to attempt it. I wrote two Haiku that day, one was accepted, and at that point it was one of my first acceptances. I very rarely sit down and attempt to write something specific, but that day I did.

A few months later I had some serious trouble writing anything, but I had fragments of things in my head I thought interesting. I decided if i gave them a rigid structure (like 5-7-5) and kept them short I could make somthing fully realized out of these fragments. I then wrote about a dozen Haiku in a few days. I found the necessity of structure stimulated my creativity. Four of those Haiku appear in High Coup Journal.

Then I stopped writing them. Occasionally I will have a shred of an idea, just something small and clever, and not have a bigger idea to write around it. Some die, some become Haiku.
I believe, at least for me, that Haiku is a small idea fully realized.

--John Tustin

So haiku can be a tool for capturing a fragment of an idea.  But some people find the restraints to be of a more pleasurable sort (if you’re kinky like that):

I "-Ku" because this particular form of poetry, at least in its classic incarnation, provides an interesting limitation. And as we've seen with music (The White Stripes) and film (any Hitchcock production), limitations can inspire intriguing results. Plus, the haiku is something you can take as seriously as you want. A silly one can be just as good - and fun - and a genuinely pretty one.

--Henry Visotski (again)

Perhaps the point of the haiku—especially the formal haiku—is the inspiring struggle against the restraint.  The restraint of form does not hold back emotion but rather creates it in the mind of the author, creating a level creative climax not possible in total freedom.  The oppression of the body of writing…

…mmmwait a minute.  I should probably stop writing too much more on this thought.  Whilst “sizzlin’ hot word-bondage” might be fun amongst consenting adults, even High Coup Journal has some dignity.

(But seriously, if you want me to write more on this thought, I can give you my private phone number.)


I got a lot of good responses to my question, and I want to thank everyone who contributed.  So why do I –ku?  Reading the responses and taking the time to reflect on it, I think maybe it’s because I love the epic.  The epic is the movie.  The movie is a series of still images sped up to create the illusion of motion.  Slow the movie down and the illusion fades into the still images truly at work.  Haiku is a single frame in the epic of life, a single snapshot pulled a hectic world, and regardless of whether it involves jumping frogs or cherry blossoms, the haiku is our world in atomic form.  As it was perhaps said best,

A bad haiku is
a poetic primal scream
uttered in three lines.

--Amy Harris

* Pearcy, you're a good man.  I wish you bolf a happy tomorrow and a happy lifetime. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

High Coup Journal - May 2011 Issue

(Photo by Ann Wright, Plymouth, IN)



Sara Bickley (West Carrollton, OH)

Salvatore Buttaci (Princeton, WV)

Samuel Franklin (Terre Haute, IN)

Rick Hartwell (Moreno Valley, CA)

Danielle Johnson (Clemente, CA)

Lex Joy (Durham, NH)

Taylor Lampton (New Brunswick, NJ)

Lauren McBride (Houston, TX)

Stephen Miller (Stockbridge, MA)  

Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory (Jersey City, NJ)

Robert Petras (Toronto, OH)

John Tustin (Flushing, NY)

Annie Welch (Louisville, KY)


Editor's Note:

May, I ask you this:
where do you store all the joy
winter hid away?


Sara Bickley

Standing humming hymns
outside the confessional
with the leaky door.

Dropped my cigarette.
Is it clean enough to smoke,
or does it matter?


John Tustin

You still live with him
And I still sleep next to her
Good thing I’m patient


Lex Joy

Thesis proposal.
 Which work of literature
 will I learn to hate?


Taylor Lampton

The Undergrad Thesis Shuffle 

Reading. Reading. Notes.
Hypothesis? Nope! Again!
Reading. Reading. Notes.


Stephen Miller

You have enemies?
We can address that problem...
Nukes cure lots of things!


Salvatore Buttaci

in this tight economy
can be stifling

old man knitting brows,
lean on your question-mark cane.
Life’s a mystery.


Danielle Johnson

Stuffed Toy Cemetery

Seams busted open
Gloomy pile of marred plush toys
Tobin chews and chews


Robert E. Petras

from "Redneck Haiku"

Second amendment
Tree-hugging sums-a-bitches
Mullet with crosshairs.


Annie Welch

Bourbon Haiku

The coming of fall
whispered in mid August as
corn turns to liquor

When I feel too seen
I can write in third person
as she finds shelter


Lauren McBride

homo sapiens
are LGBT labels
so damned important?


Samuel Franklin

3:30 a.m.

Early morning Haute 
with sleepless, stupid deskjob--
you may kiss my ass.  

This is important

My fecal matter 
matters a lot--but the smell
kills my gray matter.


Rick Hartwell

good haiku is like
tasty tidbits offered up
inviting your dreams


May 2011 AWESOME SAUCE: Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory 

Judy Blume

Are you there, God? It's
me, Adam-- Margaret got
knocked up.  What's cracking?


Now that spring has sprung,
those haiku that spring to mind
should be sprung to us!

highcoupjournal {at}