POET PROFILE OF THE MONTH
by Ty Hadman
My first several poet profiles have thus far featured either haiku
poets of the past or ones that have been writing haiku for a very long time. This month is different. I have decided to feature an'ya, a poet who has become well-known for her haiku relatively recently, but whose work I think deserves additional praise and attention. An'ya has been writing poetry since her childhood, encouraged first by her mother at an early age, then when she was 13, her step-uncle gave her an antique leather bound book of poems as a gift. This book made a strong impression on her when she was young. Later, the Serbian poet and translator of Japanese haiku, Milos Crnjanski, became an influence when she began writing Serbian poetry. An'ya started out by writing sonnets, Serbian epic poems, and other types of poetry, but in more recent years has turned more towards haiku, tanka, cinquain, sijo, and other related genres of short poetry. Her haiku has now sprung to the forefront as one of today's major voices in English language haiku.
Her poetry, but especially haiku, have won some very impressive awards. Some of the readers of Lynx may remember her tanka that won the Tanka Splendor 2000 Awards Contest sponsored by AHA Books, she recently won the coveted Hackett Award with no runner-ups announced this year, won the first place award in one of the monthly issues of The Heron's Nest, won the Valentine's award on The Heron's Nest for the best haiku voted on by the readers, and has quite impressively won or placed in several other haiku contests.
Most of her haiku have been published on her own home page and in haiku publications on the Internet and in various haiku periodicals and poetry journals that accept haiku for publication. Haiku would be furthered in many ways and accepted in a lot more literary circles if a lot more haiku poets, like an'ya, submitted some of their finest pieces, especially sequences, haibun, and very specially selected haiku to literary publications other than the ones that publish only or mostly haiku and other related genres. A few haiku poets submit to poetry magazines, but not nearly enough do and those that do, do not do so very often. Many poets often do not send out their very best work to these publications, saving the best for the more well-known haiku contests and most prestigious haiku publications. Poetry and literary publications that do not normally accept haiku for publication might be receptive to a well written haibun or a very strong haiku sequence with a title or other creative and unusual presentations, including the addition of haiga.
The unusual penname that the poet uses is a derivation of her real name, Andja, a very old Serbian name. When she was teaching school her students called her an'ya, because it was easier for them to pronounce. She decided to retain this name given to her during those years and has adopted it for her haiku publishing. Her haiku penname, when very loosely translated from the Japanese and with the help of a calligrapher friend that included light in the interpretation, roughly means: a light that arrives by surprise under cover of a peaceful moonless night or something similar to that effect. An-ya Koro (Journey Through the Dark Night), an allusion to the common expression: "there's light at the end of the tunnel", is the title of a Japanese novel written by Shinga in the early part of the 20th century.
An'ya was born and raised in southern California and is now living on a mountaintop in Central Oregon. She is a naturalist which helps to explain why most of her haiku are written in a more or less traditionalist fashion. She spends a lot of time alone. Most of her life revolves around haiku and contact with her natural surroundings. Haiku has helped her to discover during the many hours that she sometimes spends alone that we are never really alone for a moment. She has observed that there are always comings and goings in nature, such as the return of the first red-wing blackbird, the first blossom to appear on a jewelweed, or the migrating of geese. It should be no surprise to those familiar with some of the best of an'ya's haiku that her favorite bird is the falcon, the Serbian symbol for bravery and freedom. And keeping with her penname alluding to the contrasting yet complimentary light/dark principle that often appears in nature, she is fond of most any black-colored bird: raptors, ravens, crows, buzzards, and vultures. Her upcoming first collection of haiku to be published (more about that later) begins and ends so beautifully with a falcon haiku. The
one limb at a time
the falcon calls her fledglings
nearer to flight
An'ya commented that she wrote the haiku while she and her family were living at a campground in Ohio. The mother falcon chose to build her nest directly over their campsite. The mother continued coaxing her fledgling, actually one branch at a time, until the young bird finally left the nest and tree and flew away. Witnessing that was a spiritual experience for an'ya, observing the fledgling as it gradually built up courage in becoming free and independent.
Here's one on vultures. This haiku alludes to the meaning of an'ya's penname in reverse, with the surprise appearance of the black buzzard gliding along the horizon in the bright light of summer.
the blackness of a buzzard
defines the horizon
An'ya sees beauty more in the wide variety of wildflowers and various weeds than she does in the more generally popular commercial, domestic, and garden varieties of flowers and plants. One of her favorites is the brightly colored and abundant wild poppy, another is the wild iris.
the hiss of an iron
on wax paper
The surroundings where she currently lives have yielded many fine haiku, but she and her husband like to travel, so many of her haiku are encountered in experiencing places and events during their trips and as a consequence of their moving from place to place with the spirit of gipsies in their blood.
An'ya was raised as a city girl, but since her marriage, she has lived with her husband Petar on a farm in Ohio, ran a fishing resort and also lived in a tent in Minnesota, lived in a fully equipped and furnished spic-and-span bus in Oregon and Ohio for five fun-filled years, and due to Petar's work (as a port engineer), they lived on the island of Curacao in the Netherland Antilles; San Pedro and Palos Verdes, California, and on a 310 foot luxury cruise ship in the Fort Meyers harbor.
Petar's own observations and deep knowledge and appreciation of nature have been a major contribution in the development of an'ya's fondness for haiku, pointing out things to her in nature almost daily during their 33 years of marriage. Petar and J.W. Hackett have been the greatest inspiration and guiding lights contributing to her understanding and development as a haiku poet. She states that some of the Japanese traditions are very similar to some Serbian ones such as the importance of family and the role of nature in one's daily life and activities, so her attraction to haiku seemed quite natural, appealing to her ethnic roots and upbringing. The rise in the popularity of haiku in Jugoslavia also helped spark an additional interest and curiosity.
Very briefly stated, an'ya says that to her, haiku is a frame of mind, a lifestyle, and a gift in the celebration of life on a daily basis. She also mentions that haiku appeals to her Eastern Orthodox religious beliefs. Haiku suits her ancient pagan (in the rural sense of the word) roots as well as her Christian gipsie heritage.
Haiku poets can remain true to their deep religious convictions and upbringing without needing to know a whole lot about Buddhism or studying Zen to write good haiku.
Haiku takes an'ya away from the horrors we read on the front pages and TV screen news reports. She prefers the type of haiku that do not directly involve the human element:
the contour of doe with fawn
beyond steeping tea
* * * *
a hole through the cloud
to its other side
Haiku has come into conflict with the other kinds of poetry she writes in proportion to the commitment she has made. "Living haiku has become all consuming and thus it has become increasingly difficult to go back to other unrelated genres at all," she says.
The following is a selection of some of her lesser known but very nicely crafted haiku:
scented breeze . . .
what did you caress
before cooling me
This is a question that is to be answered, if at all, by the reader,
not the poet. There are nearly an infinite number of possible responses including none, just a mysterious pure fragrance to delight in. It is not necessary for us to know the names of every flowering plant. To be cooled by a breeze with the added benefit of a mysterious fragrance; what more is needed?
view from the bus
women balance fruit baskets
on top of their heads
Have we arrived in Paradise? I think so.
by late evening
the points on a picket fence
lost to snowfall
Many of an'ya's haiku, like the one above and as mentioned previously, indirectly allude to the dark/light or black/white theme associated with the meaning of her penname.
a juniper berry parts
the jay's beak
An'ya is working in collaboration with a woman named Connie Johnson who owns a company in Arizona called Zephyrsymphony that makes and sells the most beautiful glass spiral wind chimes. She is painting one of An'ya's haiku on a new design of wind chime. Her haiku will soon be dancing
in the wind:
the chiming of glass
. . . against glass
An'ya's haiku often contain sound elements that enhance them by adding a musical effect to the haiku such as the use of repeated words as in the haiku above and sound repetition in the use of assonance, alliteration, etc. as in the two haiku below for example:
a tangerine sunset
where hill meets dale
in the summertime
* * *
the harvest moon rises
over a ferris wheel
I love this last haiku. I'm on that Ferris wheel, riding to the top
where it suddenly stops. Hey, I've got the best view of all!
the sagebrush snags
whatever blows by
A very nice haiku. Nothing special, but a very true moment and
realization If only we could be like the sagebrush, sometimes.
even though a dirty sky
It may be dismal above, but down there where an'ya is now, it's nice. Not everything is polluted; certainly not her mind and senses. Even in the most dismal and horrible situations, there is still natural beauty that can be found. The non-judgmental acceptance of things as they are, even the acceptance of pollution, makes this a very strong haiku. Protesting pollution on the other hand is also valid in haiku and some haiku poets have written equally effective haiku as either direct or indirect condemnation, but this is not an'ya's way. Again, there is a subtle allusion to the meaning of her penname, the dark sky and the surprise appearance of the white wildflowers.
stack the last bales of hay
The "h" sounds add a lot to this haiku. Collectively they resemble the sound of heavy breathing from the hard work and near exhaustion of the hired hands as they finally finish bringing in the last of the hay harvest. The creative use of the word high in the last line has a lot of merit, even though some critics may object.
the sound of crows' feet
cracking thin ice
Once again, the subtle allusion to the meaning of an'ya's penname, the black crows and the surprising cracking sound of the thin white ice.
inch by inch shorter
The natural way to measure the depth of water there.
distinctly the drone
of a dragonfly
* * *
row after row
two draft horses plow
the odor of potatoes
* * *
through each flamingo's stance
I enjoy this haiku for very personal reasons. I have been fond of
flamingoes ever since I was a little boy when our family lived in several cities and towns in Florida. They're usually very silent birds, but I can remember when one shrieked and scared the hell out of my mother as the flamingoes ran by quickly, flapping their wings, one behind the other through the shallow water. I got a good laugh at my mother's reaction. I've only been able to write a few haiku on flamingoes, but none this good.
six baby quail scurry
* * *
watching the angelfish
swim back and forth
I'd like to see humor more often in an'ya's haiku, but it's certainly here in these last two. Those of you that have enjoyed reading an'ya's haiku here in this profile can send her an email at to inquire about the details in purchasing her first collection of haiku, moonless night Volume 1, which is due out shortly.
Column Copyright © Ty Hadman 2001.
Read past Poet Profiles:
Beatrice Brissman Jane Andrew Evelyn Tooley Hunt Ana Takseena Roberta Stewart Magnus Mack Homestead Steve Thompson Viola Provenzano, Mentor Addicks, Harvey Hess, Mary Truth Fowler. Alan Pizzarelli, Ana Barton, Margaret G. Robinson, Mary Dragonetti:
John J. Polozzolo ZOLO
José Juan Tablada