February, 2009

A Journal for Linking Poets  

Kate Marianchild

Once upon a time there was a lovely little town known as Ukiah. The town’s name came from the Pomo word “Yokayo,” meaning “Deep Valley.” The small town dozed and twitched for one hundred years beside the Russian River, sprouting pears and walnuts, grapes and babies. Artists and poets trickled into the community, attracted by the green-gold hills, the big sky, and the friendly people. 
In due time a town government came into being, complete with city council. The good officers of the council sponsored community fairs, fireworks, and concerts. The citizens were mostly happy and didn’t expect much more of their elected officials.
Then one day a new idea popped up – an idea that had never before been proposed to any town government anywhere in North America…or even the western hemisphere. The city mothers and fathers murmured among themselves, scratched their collective head, and finally, being a daring bunch, agreed to the idea. They decided to sponsor a…guess what? Astrology Fair? (Nope)... UFO Expo? (Noooo)... Give up?...A Haiku Festival! Why? Because “Ukiah” backward spells “Haiku,” silly!

“Haiku?” you might ask. “What’s that?” 

Ahhh, haiku…I’m glad you asked. Haiku is a wondrous creation of the Japanese – a form of poetry that, when you try to write it, infuses everything in your life, including you, with an inner glow. Dew will glisten more brilliantly, bees will hum more meaningfully, and routine chores will be more fun. Sound like new love? Well, it is, kind of. When you look at the world with “haiku eyes” you fall in love with it all over again, just like when you were a child. It doesn’t matter how your poems turn out – the magic is in the way you see things.

So, again, what is, or are, haiku? (The word can be singular or plural). Haiku are simple, 3-line poems. They don’t use rhyme, alliteration, or punctuation, and they don’t philosophize or “psychologize.” They offer a poetic glimpse of a scene or a situation – a snapshot created with words. 

hovering above
silver but always changing
snow piles in the sky
                Vincent K. Brock of Ukiah

sitting all alone
on a sidewalk full of sun
a small gray pebble
                Brianna Mack of Ukiah

Haiku can use a “traditional” 5-7-5 pattern of syllables, such as the ones above, in which the first line has 5 syllables, the second 7, and the third 5; or they can be written in the “contemporary” form, with fewer syllables. Here are some contemporary haiku:

late fall fig tree
naked except for
one big leaf
                Kayla Wildman of Potter Valley

just past mauve –
paddling hard
for a dark shore
                Jim Kacian of Virginia

The ukiaHaiku festival was born in the year 2003, and like all infants, it has grown. Now in its seventh year, the festival is thriving. Local poets go to classrooms and instruct students in writing haiku. More than one thousand poems pour in each year from children and adults living in Ukiah and distant places like South Dakota, Romania, and New Zealand. Poetry submissions are judged by the Ukiah Poet Laureate Committee and well-known haiku poet Jane Reichhold, who judges the Adult Contemporary Haiku category. An awards ceremony is held at which the winning poets read their poems, and a book of the winning poems is published. Best of all? People who never wrote poems before are turning their observations of the world into poetry. 

You are invited, encouraged, and cajoled to submit entries to the ukiaHaiku festival. All categories are free of charge except “Adult Contemporary Haiku,” which costs $5 for up to three poems. Modest prizes are offered, along with publication in the book and the opportunity to read your winning haiku at the festival. The submission deadline for the 2009 ukiaHaiku festival contest is March 13, 2009. 

Submission forms can be downloaded from or picked up at libraries around the county, as well as the Mendocino County Bookmobile and Grace Hudson Museum. Submissions can also be emailed to

(For the Adult Contemporary category a check for $5 will have to be mailed – see website). This year’s awards ceremony, complete with music and award-winning poetry, will be held on Sunday, April 26 from 2-4 p.m. at the Ukiah Conference Center.



Jane Reichhold
Margot Bollock

Borrowed Water, the first published anthology of haiku written in America was the cooperative effort of a group of thirteen women writers in Los Altos California in 1966. Helen Stiles Chenoweth had organized the Los Altos Writers’ Rountable in 1956 for adults interested in publishing their writings. As Chenoweth wrote in the introduction: “The poets used the Japanese tone poem haiku to appreciate the syllabic content of words. Use of the haiku taught the prose writers brevity and simplicity improved their style.”
On their own initiative the group sought out the translations of the works by Basho, Buson, Issa and Shiki and decided to devote all their class time to composing American haiku.
Seven years later, in 1963, the group became aware of the efforts of James Bull and Donald Eulert in Plattville, Wisconsin to publish the semi-annual publication American Haiku – the first magazine solely for haiku. A change in editorship moved the magazine to Clement Hoyt’s home in Houston, Texas.
Again quoting from Helen Chenoweth’s introduction: “During this year the haiku group in Writers Roundtable produced many publishable haiku and became regular contributors to the magazine. Mr. Hoyt sent appreciative letters full of counsel and suggestions which were carefully studied by the Group.”
Clement Hoyt was a student of the well-known poet Nyogen Senzaki who was a perfectionist. It was reported that he had made Hoyt write and rewrite his haiku for three years before one was published. In addition to the instructions on the form’s size and shape, he added these ambiguous impressions as lessons on what a haiku should be:
1. The beauty and delicacy of Basho’s “let your haiku resemble a willow branch struck by a little shower and trembling a little in the wind.”
2. The Japanese masters of haiku produced their best work trough observation and meditation.
3. The corollary or contrast, often “far out,” which flows from the major thought.
[I include these to show how fragmentary and ambiguous early haiku instruction was at this time.]
According to Chenoweth’s introduction, it was James Bull who wrote: “. . . the Group has possibilities which no one else has thought of in this country. You simply must bring out your book. It will be a valuable historical record, a beacon guide to others, as well as a work of art. . .it is essential to the development of the form (haiku) that it be published.”
And thus it was that thirteen women selected over 300 haiku out of their more than 700 poems that had passed their rigid scrutiny to be in this first anthology of English-language haiku.

Jane Reichhold: What drew you to the Los Altos Writers’ Roundtable?
Margot Bollack: Someone in her group invited me to Helen Chenoweth’s home.  I had finally found a group of women who wrote, read, and critiqued each other’s poetry.  

JR: How did the interest in haiku begin?
MB: Helen at one point challenged us to write some haiku. It seems we found it fun and we produced more and more of it. Finally someone came up with the idea to write classically, but American haiku.

JR: Can you describe Helen Stiles Chenoweth?
MB: Helen was a large presence; a big woman with a big heart and a passion for all poetry. Widowed, she lived alone and shared her house and enthusiasm with about thirteen regulars who came to her living room once a week.

JR: How long did the group work on the book Borrowed Water?
MB: We worked on Borrowed Water for about one year. Each of us submitted a number of haiku, divided the book into seasonal sections and Helen submitted the finished product to Tuttle Publishing in Tokyo.

JR:  How did you find the title?
MB: We called it Borrowed Water because of the adaptation from the Japanese.

JR:  How were decisions made about what was accepted for the book?
MB: We read our own efforts to each other, anonymously, critiqued the work and accepted a limited number of haiku.

MB: Two of us drew the illustrations. Mine are on pages 69 & 89.
JR: I didn’t catch that! Yes, there are your initials! How good that Tuttle gave you white pages for the color illustrations.

JR:  I love your haiku:
I had forgotten
    how the fireworks light up
            the idle flowers.

This is so perfect because of the association of flowers /fireworks and the contrast of works/idle. There is also a faint, but important connection between forgotten / idle –as if you were too lazy to remember fireworks. A very new idea then in 1966 and it still is today. Do you remember how you came to write this one?
MB: My favorite is:  Pg. 63 – Pssst . . . psst . . . grasshopper – invisible on the reed.   Yes!  I don’t see you.

JR:  Do you recall the reactions of others to the book?
MB: I knew that there were several reprints so it must have been appreciated in Japan.

JR:  Were you very aware of the fact that, led by a woman, a group of women, thirteen in fact! compiled the first anthology of haiku in English? And what this meant to a male-dominated haiku scene?
MB: [Unanswered]

JR:  Do you still write haiku? Or how do you view haiku today?
MB: [Unanswered]

JR:  What other works have you published?
MB: I have also had published a book of free-verse poetry by Thorpe Springs Press – called, The Calibrated Woman.

How this interview came to be. Among the facts I learned at the Gualala Arts Haiku Group (1982 – 2005) was that living on the out-skirts of town, as part-time resident, was Margot Bollock, one of the authors of the haiku in Borrowed Water. At the time she did not attend our meetings and wanted nothing to do with haiku. I had tried to get an interview with her in the late 1980s for our magazine Mirrors, but when I called her she said she did not want to talk about haiku. When we moved from the ridge down to our house on Iversen Road, it was her son, Mark, who provided the transport and heavy lifting and I hoped this would permit an opening to talk to her. It didn’t. Later I met Margot and her husband Max at the opening of an art exhibit at CityArts in Point Arena. I wanted to ask her about Borrowed Water, but ended up being too shy to mention it amid the flurry. I would occasionally meet Mark’s wife, Renee at work at the dentist’s office and would always ask about Margot but only this summer, while helping someone trace down another author, did I need to contact Margot by phone. Suddenly, while chatting together in the friendliest way, did it seem a good time to ask again for the interview. This time, because we had the ease of sending questions by e-mail, she agreed. As far as Margot knows, she is now the only surviving member of the group who produced Borrowed Water.



Werner Reichhold

      Does it surprise anybody that by now most of the American tanka magazines are preparing their readers for a change in attitude, asking them to wake up and rebel against thirty years of advice by people who didn’t understand the basics of modern poetry?
      How about re-reading “The New Lyric Poetry,” the article by Dennis M. Garrison? There one finds statements about how to handle an English language 5-liner so it doesn’t look like plagiarism, imitation or like an amateurish attempt. Congratulations to him by discovering this. The article also mentions some ideas combining at least two genres, prose, and verse.
     But why do the editors of American magazines think they can ignore Jane Reichhold’s Geography Lens, published 1999, W. and J. Reichhold’s In The Presence, published 1998 (a gift to the Imperial Majesties of Japan for inviting us to New  Years Poetry Party at the Palace)? A Film Of Words, published 2008, is one more example how we see the development of poly-genre symbiotic poetry. Since ten years W. Reichhold’s Cybertree is on the net. More than  a year ago Cyberpoetry, plus an introduction by Jeffrey Woodward,  includes compositions with ghazal, free verse, prose and verses, 1, 2,  3 and 5-liners plus sequences and symbiotic work, dialogue and  sketches that had been published on the website of Not a single member of the haiku scene ever tried to write a comment, a critique on the works that since early on set the parameters of how to integrate Japanese genres into bigger western concepts.

     So what’s new about those above mentioned article, what is it that wasn’t said and published ten and more years ago? Well, it’s fun, no, it’s more than fun – it’s a kind of growing satisfaction inside the haiku scene that some editors of magazines now finally are showing a willingness to wake up. They do confess how much irritating, let’s say misguiding things have been said, how little understanding for the integration of foreign forms into bigger English poetry concepts had been exercised.

      Some of those who feel they can guide a group still don’t get to the point to comprehend fully that only by challenging and modifying the rules of an old form there is a right to call the product English language poetry. In other words, if one gives up most of the dominions  of a given form – and sure, why can’t one do that - there is no more  reason left to call the product by a Japanese term. Many western writers are still misusing a kind of a ‘Japanese umbrella’ by covering up that the true contemporary poet is – and always was – terribly left alone creating the true poetry of her or his time.



Kate Marianchild


Jane Reichhold
Margot Bollock

Werner Reichhold


Back issues of Lynx:

XV:2 June, 2000
XV:3 October, 2000
XVI:1 Feb. 2001
XVI:2 June, 2001
XVI:3 October, 2001  
XVII:1 February, 2002
XVII:2 June, 2002
XVII:3 October, 2002
XVIII:1 February, 2003
XVIII:2 June, 2003
XVIII:3, October, 2003
XIX:1 February, 2004
XIX:2 June, 2004

XIX:3 October, 2004

XX:1,February, 2005

XX:2 June, 2005
XX:3 October, 2005
XXI:1February, 2006 
XXI:2, June, 2006

XXI:3,October, 2006

XXII:1 January, 2007
XXII:2 June, 2007
XXII:3 October, 2007

XXIII:1 January, 2008
XXIII:2 June, 2008
XXIII:3, October, 2008


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