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

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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.

A wonderful new issue of Zee Zahava’s brass bell

Welcome to the summer 2017 issue of brass bell: a haiku journal.

The theme is a single date . . .   all the poems were written on/about May 23, 2017.

tight on money
the fridge’s
funny sounds
    – Adrian Bouter

having its moment
the orb
of an onion flower
    – Hannah Mahoney

black morel . . .
how complicated it is
to survive
    – Hifsa Ashraf

all day I tell
everyone to admire
these roses
    – Miriam Sagan

midday heat the stiffness of a cotton saree
    – Shloka Shankar

News From Brass Bell


This is an invitation to submit haiku for the June issue of brass bell: an online haiku journal. The theme is a single date: Tuesday, May 23, 2017.

You can write about ANYTHING that you experience, observe, think about, etc. during this one day.

I will consider one-line and 3-line poems.

I’ll be reading work on Tuesday, May 23 and Wednesday, May 24 (up until 5 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time).

Yes, the submission “window” is very tiny!!!

Publication: June 1.

If possible, please send more than one haiku; the more choices I have, the better.

DO NOT send me anything before May 23. Whatever you write, it should be ABOUT YOUR LIFE, as you experience it, on that particular date. DO NOT include the date in the haiku! Naturally, your poems will not have been previously published because they will be brand new!

NOTE: I will send an e-mail to let you know that your work has been received. If I have questions or suggestions, or if I don’t feel I can use the haiku you send, I will let you know. Otherwise, I hope you will be pleasantly surprised when you see what I’ve chosen, when the issue goes online. I will send the link to you via email at that time.

Please follow the GUIDELINES carefully and REMEMBER: I am looking for NEW HAIKU that you write on Tuesday, May 23. That’s all.

Paste your haiku in the body of an email — no attachments — and send to:

Be sure to include your name exactly as you wish it to appear. INCLUDE YOUR COUNTRY, even if you think I already know! The list of countries will be noted at the top, not with each poem.

If you are new to brass bell and haven’t read any previous issues please look at the current issue as well as the archives before you send me work. This will give you an idea of what the journal is like.

IMPORTANT: it is very likely that brass bell will go on a summer holiday. After the June issue you may not receive another notice until late August, with guidelines for the September issue.


Poetry Month #18: In Season

Always enjoy a trip to Silver City and a stroll and a bit of shopping in its funky downtown. In the used bookstore I immediately came upon a copy of HAIKU WORLD: An International Poetry Almanac by William J.Higginson. I’m in it, but had never seen a copy! It collects a thousand contemporary haiku that use season words (saijiki) –a concept that has had to expand as haiku has become an international form. Of course I purchased the volume!

One of my haiku:
Evening calm…
I echo the train whistle
For the baby’s smile

Bill Higginson identifies it as yunagi–evening calm. It’s summer, and suggests the sea.

I can remember exactly how I wrote it in my house on Kathryn Street. You could always hear the train whistle from there, even before the Rail Runner. For me, that evening calm obviously refers to the baby–and the relief that this is not a fussy colicky end of the day. We’re inland, but the desert also stills after late afternoon.

Well, that baby is grown woman and we’re going to Japan next year for an artists’ residency. She is practicing her Japanese. I’m practicing admitting the passage of time.

Haiku North America Conference!

March 30, 2017

Greetings for spring 2017!

With the coming of spring, if you’re like me, you’re starting to dream about which haiku or poetry meetings in 2017 you will take in.

May I humbly suggest that Haiku North America 2017 in Santa Fe, September 13–17, 2017, should be the top of your list?! HNA is an international gathering of poets and specialists. It has been taking place every other year since 1991, but his is the first time HNA has come to the Southwest. We’re are keen to make this the biggest and best conference yet and want to make sure poets from New Mexico and neighboring states show up in force.

HNA planning proceeds apace. For our gathering we have booked a whole venue, the Santa Fe Hotel, Hacienda & Spa, in downtown Santa Fe, just a few blocks from the historic Plaza, galleries, museums, and world-class shopping. This is a first-rate hotel featuring Southwest architecture and décor and is owned by Picurís Pueblo. You can take a virtual tour online by clicking here and find out details of the hotel’s amenities, special conference rates, etc., at the link on the HNA 2017 website here.

A full four-day program of formal presentations, panel discussions, workshops, demonstrations, readings, and performances is being assembled. There will be plenty of activities targeted for beginners and much to engage seasoned haijin. Themes for HNA 2017 have a New Mexican tilt: “earthtones,” intended to reflect the sounds and colors of the great Southwest; and the haiku traditions of diverse North American cultures: Native American, Mexican, French Canadian, and African American. The program is filling up fast (see the presentations lined up so far on the HNA website here), but there’s still a few open slots, so let us know if you have a presentation idea for us to consider.

Lots more information about other conference activities, post-conference tours, and Tanka Sunday, as well as conference and hotel registration forms, is accessible on the HNA 2017 website.

So, isn’t it time to engage in some winter dreaming and start making your plans to join us in Santa Fe in September! Let us know if you have any questions. And spread the word!

Sondra J. Byrnes, Cynthia Henderson, Miriam Sagan,
Charles Trumbull, & Scott Wiggerman —
the HNA 2017 Organizing Committee