Introducing Flip Flop: Haiku Collaboration with Miriam Sagan and Michael G. Smith

Available for $10 with shipping or $5 in person–write msagan1035@aol.com for details.

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Flip Flop Interview

1. Why did you decide to not attribute each haiku to an individual author? What is it like to see that in the finished book?

Miriam – It’s rather magical to see it in the finished book. The process was one of deep collaboration, where the individual voices can merge as well as being distinct. It takes away some of the egocentric energy of writing to have the haiku unattributed. When I was a kid, I thought “anon” was the name of an actual writer—I didn’t realize it meant “anonymous” unit my mom explained that! Anon might be the greatest writer of all! Our work isn’t anonymous, but it doesn’t have a fixed author—which ask draws the reader in.

Michael – We wanted readers to focus on the haiku and their connectivity. Of course, our individual prefaces provide signposts pointing to who might have written a certain haiku. Further, readers might discern flavors and patterns among the haiku and have an inkling from whose pencil it flew from. Finally, having only haiku on the page reinforces Flip Flop is book of haiku that hopefully speaks to some of the commonalities of human experience. Attributions would be a distraction. I’m quite pleased with the result.

2. Did the process of collaboration change how you view and/or write haiku? In what ways?

Miriam – The process of collaborative haiku sequences is a bit like renga, or linked verse. One thing leads to—inspires—another. Michael and I actually wrote a renga, but it ended up being more of a part of our working together than something that stood on its own. I’ve always seen haiku as an offshoot of renga, so this continued that feeling.

Michael – Most definitely. I found it enlightening to see how my haiku elicited unexpected and fresh responses from Miriam, and how they changed the direction of subsequent haiku. Thus the creating and writing process was more akin to the randomness of life, one whose every erratic moments are still linked to an infinite number of things. I am now more attuned to the creative tension and triangle linking subject, writer and reader of haiku. The result is that I aspire to make my haiku ones that a reader can use as a launch pad for a haiku of theirs.

3. Did the collaborative process feel any different when you were on opposite sides of the Earth versus being “co-located” in Santa Fe? If so, how and what effects did this have on your haiku?

Miriam – I think it was actually more intense. The desire to communicate by “letter” (in this case email) was stronger and so the haiku have a kind of epistlatory feeling. Also, what Michael was seeing was unfamiliar, foreign, far-away…his imagery made me see more familiar surroundings freshly.

Michael – I was quite comfortable with our correspondence and the haiku we were writing. It was fun imagining the scenes and images Miriam conjured and how they related to the new, interesting and very different (relative to my western experiences) things I was seeing in Nepal and India. Conversely, there was a tremendous amount of overlap between cultures. Hence, I had a plethora of material to work from.

4. The best haiku generally is the result of a spontaneous event. Your book being composed of several themed sections, how did it feel to write haiku framed by a theme? Did this help or hinder spontaneity?

Miriam – Pascal said—inspiration favors the trained mind. I’ve followed that much of my writing life. I like a theme, a project, a prompt. It seems to help insertion, and in a way it creates MORE spontaneous event, just because I’m looking.

Michael – Being a scientist and a Zen Buddhist I take little as fixed in time and space. The themes supplied a focus to examine the freshness that spontaneity provides. For example, how did swimming look through the lenses of my physical disabilities, or if I wrote the Beatles “A Day In the Life” what might I have included? I’ll note that the latter theme helped me examine my daily routines a little closer, and that continues as a fun and rewarding experiment.

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