Mainstreaming Haiku–A Question About How To Arrange A Book of Poetry

I’m working on a book that of necessity combines micro-poetry and work of a more conventional length. I say necessity because the collection is based on a theme–astronomy and the sky–and because it needs to be 120 pages at the editor’s suggestion. So, here is the question. How do you fit haiku into a mixed genre collection?
In my book “Rag Trade (La Alameda) I had a sequence of 40 haiku about counting the omer, a Jewish spiritual practice. But that was obviously its own thing. Same with “Ikisan Station,” a chapbook about Japan from Flutter Press. This is going to be different. Haiku alone per page, functioning as visual and poetic breaks? Sequences with titles? Little groupings? Does it matter?
Thinking about this, I’m struck again about how haiku still remains alienated from the mainstream of contemporary poetry. I don’t approve of the split, but am sometimes unsure how to bridge it.

Housekeeping, Haiku, and a New Year

Sometimes I don’t feel meditative, contemplative, or even grounded. I like the phrase “settle the self on the self” but I can’t always do it. It’s like sweeping the floor. I’m fond of the activity, but sometimes I’d rather just lie around.
“I did it once,” said my darling friend poet Elizabeth Lamb about dusting the top of her refrigerator. She preferred writing haiku to housework.
I decided to calculate how often I’ve dusted the top of the hot water heater. Twice a month. 33 years. It comes out to approximately 792 times. Frankly, it feels like more.
I don’t have much relationship to the secular new year, but Elizabeth was very fond of it–in actually and as a haiku topic. She wrote:

Orion ablaze
above the old adobe
New Year’s Eve

After her death, I wrote one of my own:

your moonstones
wrapped away
like a forgotten dream

I really enjoyed new year when I was I was in Japan. All the shrines were decorated and tidied up, even the slightly scary shadowed one around the corner from House 3, Kura Studio.

I sit writing
by the shrine—perplex
the neighbors

I traveled
my whole life, just to enjoy

Happy New Year!

Renga: Time and Shadow by Else-Maria Tennessen and Douglass Rankin

Time and Shadow

The green-tailed towhee
comes to feed on garden seed
he won’t stay long. DR

Bloom and grass fade
Hunter’s moon. ET

The departure
of one
is the departure of many. DR

Your skull with gray hair
startles my younger heart. ET

A to-do list
falls from the book
twenty years old. MS

Buy black beans, soap, and bread,
that’s the year I fell in love. DR

Warm candle light
French onion soup—
Dakota blizzard. ET

Snow-muffled silence…so deep
Stoke the fire, move close. DR

On the wintry bank
A white hare
I only see his shadow. ET

Snowy owl—wing beat, heart beat
Night falls, leaving no trace. DR

Pages turn
The clock ticks
A story unfolds. ET

Dark falling on the city
Two silhouettes on the shade. DR

A pink sunrise
over the Christos mountains
steaming hot coffee ET

Quiet start of a new day
Only “now” is guaranteed. DR

As the moon rises
Jack rabbits take flight
Over the dusky road. ET

Anything is possible
floating in the land of dreams. DR

Dawn on snow
An early spring breeze
Snowdrops in bloom. ET

Honey bee legs—full of pollen
return to the hive…again… DR

Half Kasen Renku
Else-Maria Tennessen and Douglass Rankin, with Miriam Sagan

More on Iconic Haiku–Miriam Sagan & Bill Waters

I recently got asked to pick a haiku that somehow is representative of my work. I was struggling with that.

Fellow writer Bill Waters said: This reminds me of the anecdote, Miriam, where a smart aleck comes to Rabbi Hillel and says something like “Teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.” In response, Hillel says “That which is despicable to you do not do to your fellow. This is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary.”

So when someone says, essentially, that you should sum up all your haiku into one “best” or “most memorable” one, I’d ask you: Do you have a favorite? One that sticks in your memory? Maybe that would be the one you should go with.”

So, here is what I sent the editor:

footprints in snow
crescent moon, all my
beautiful failures

This haiku was written for the Snow Poems Project, curated by Edie Tsong in Santa Fe. It featured poems written on local windows. Mine adorned the Convention Center–
I wrote this haiku one cold evening. I went out to get the mail. I saw both
my footprints behind me and the moon above. Approaching 60 at that time, I
was flooded with a sense of the ephemeral nature of my endeavors. But it
wasn’t a sad or hopeless feeling. In fact, I felt happy for my effort while
realizing human striving doesn’t really get anything. People don’t like the
word “failure” and I emphasized it on purpose, maybe to shake the reader.
For my 60th birthday I collected my haiku into a chapbook, titled from this
poem–“All My Beautiful Failures” from Miriam’s Well–and gave away a
hundred copies.

Bill continues musing: Personally, I’m not big on memorizing my own poetry and can seldom call more than a few to mind. The one I remember most often, though, is this one:

birds on a phone line
some this way
some that way

It’s never been accepted for publication, and it may be that no one likes it but me — in fact, it may not even be a “good” haiku by certain standards; I don’t know — but if I had to pick one haiku to represent me, it might just be that one because it’s the one I that’s never far from my heart. ;- )

Editor’s note: I love Bill’s “iconic” haiku. It works for me on at least two levels. First, it’s visual charming, a realistic but pleasing moment of something ordinary rendered like a tiny sketch. Secondly, it has a deeper resonance about the changeability and fluidity of both life and perception. That “phone” line gains in meaning as it is potentially about a conversation. But the haiku is all light touch–as a haiku should be.