One of the poems that opened me up to the possibilities of haiku in English was this piece by Gary Hotham:
on the end of a rusty
beer can . . .
Hotham isn’t pretending to live in the time of Basho or ascribing a purity to the environment that all too frequently isn’t there. Any contemporary wanderer knows the delight and detritus one can find in contemporary America, and I believe Hotham captures all of that and the essence of great haiku in only thirteen syllables.
In the spirit of Hotham’s poem, I wanted the title of this project (haiku are rarely titled) to include something ubiquitous in our contemporary life that cuts against the grain of traditional haiku. Since these poems will also serve as markers and reminders of my day-to-day life, the “billboard” idea made sense. Anyone who has embarked on a daily writing project knows how eerily dreams and small details come back to the conscious mind even years after jotting a short sentence or two down.
After winning a haiku contest, I reinvested myself in the form and will attempt to continue the project here while using a variety of forms: haiku, senryu, American sentences, etc. Some will not even pretend to be haiku.
If you are interested in the form and its history, I highly recommend The Haiku Handbook. The Haiku Anthology is also a great collection of modern and contemporary haiku and senryu written in English. Paul E. Nelson has also written an American sentence every day since 2001.
After working with haiku for several years and a devotee of the cut-up (which I discovered through Gysin and Burroughs), a friend suggested Tom Phillips’s Humument, a found novel told through incredible art.
#1 (For Maurice Sendak)