Love ‘Ku

I like to call these my love ‘ku. Because I stand on the side of love. I wish I would have been able to use one of these at NuKu.

Love’s a Right (11/07/2010)
Love’s a human right.
The right to walk down the street,
Holding hands, kissing.

Boundless Love (11/07/2010)
Woman-man; man-man;
Woman-woman; love’s sacred
In its many forms.

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Haiku Death Match (NuKu) Retrospective

Well, I didn’t even advance past my bracket (best of five poems), but I did manage to hang in there by besting my very skilled competitor twice. But in the end, she beat me soundly. I knew it was going to be a rough road because the poet in question is very good and experienced. To say I wasn’t intimidated would be a lie. I’d seen her work the previous two years and I knew I was in for a tough challenge. But, I admit, it was easier going head-to-head with her than the two kids–yes, literally, kids–who were also in the competition (which made me rethink my sexy poems; however, I slowly realized that children of poets are exposed to far more indecent language and corrupted thoughts than I could expose them to that night).

The kids were “stand-ins” for two poets who didn’t show up. The little girl was so damned cute, like a young Drew Berrymore with her blonde, curly hair, pinched cheeks, and small, giggly voice. When she laid down a ‘ku that was a sales pitch for buying girl scout cookies, I was especially glad she was not my opponent. What judge in their right mind is going to take down a little girl scout? I knew that I would suffer shame and embarrassment if I had to tell people that some little seven or eight year old girl beat me in a poetry contest. Yes, it was much better to have lost against a fully adult poet with mad skill. Ultimately, much less humiliating.

I’m glad I stood up and competed, even though I didn’t get very far. Yeah, it was admittedly disappointing. I had to talk myself through feelings of failure, remind myself that this was not final judgment on my skills as a writer. Poetry is subjective and it really depends on delivery and the mood of the judges. There’s a lot of pressure in the moment to find the right poem to present and I’m sure I had some failing in my strategy on some level. But that really doesn’t matter. The important thing is that I did get up and do it. And, also, the fact that I would definitely do it again. So the experience did not drive me away from public performance or presenting my poetry (or writing). In fact, it invigorated me. It challenged me. It gave me something to strive for next year. Maybe, just maybe, I can get to the second round. If not next year, maybe the year after that? I have some things to think about.

After losing so quickly, and having over 30 poems, I decided to sign up for open mike so that I could present some of the poems that didn’t get heard. I decided to present the five poems I call Requiem Haiku for 9 Years which I wrote in memory of Mike last year on the “anniversary” of his death. That seemed to have been received nicely. My only wish that I had been a little smoother in my delivery; for some odd reason, I got more nervous during the open mike than I felt during the competition itself. I don’t know what happened there. Perhaps I was a little thrown off my game (verklempt?) by Joanna’s highly complimentary introduction to me before I got up. (Not that I didn’t need that pumping up, Joanna; thanks so much for the kind words.)

I ended my open mike set with my favorite poem of the year–the much lighter “Cycling Freak.” That one seemed to go over well, too, and I think I recovered myself enough to at least deliver it with some passion. Every once in awhile, I’m truly inspired without pressure to write a really great poem and I think that is one of them. Which is interesting because I also really like “Leaves” which I performed at open mike last year along with “Black Beauty” (mentioned in the previous blog entry)–both of which were inspired by cycling. I truly do find cycling meditative; quite often my best writing is composed while riding. (Remembering it to write it down is often the hard part.)

So once again begins a year of writing haiku. I don’t just do it to have something at NuKu… I honestly enjoy writing haiku. I think it’s fantastic to have had so many to choose from should I have had the chance to use them in subsequent rounds. I think I could grow to enjoy performing them. It’s just another way to put my writing out there. Despite not getting beyond my bracket, I actually do feel more empowered about my writing. I could see reactions, I got feedback; it was really, really fun. Somehow getting beaten was still enough of an ego boost that I feel inspired to keep trying.

This year, as I listened to the other people perform in their brackets, I actually thought about how people used the 5-7-5 syllable limitation and I started to think of some knew approaches to the way I come up with mine. I can already see how being around other writers can help change aspects of your own writing. Which is why I’m starting to think about joining a writing group or something. I think it would be great to have a goal to work with people and to get feedback on my stuff while giving others feedback on their writing. I remember that my favorite thing about writing when I was a teenager was that I had a good friend, Jennifer, who also wrote. We used to call each other on the phone and read to each other what we’d written that day. It was really fun and exciting because I would want to share what I’d done with the story and hear her reaction right away; likewise, I would listen raptly to her story because I wanted to know what was going to happen next. We would leave each other with cliff-hangers because neither of us had yet written the whole story. We even critiqued each other’s work. It was validation to both of us that we were on the right track with our stories, that they were interesting. It also kept us in the routine of writing because we would remind each other–like work-out buddies–to work on our stories. In fact, we used to write during study hall and classes we found boring, and then pass each other our next sections in the hall between classes. (I once got a section from my “novel” taken away during German class because my teacher thought I was writing notes to friends. Ha! If only I were just a regular teenager like that.)

So I either need to find a friend like that again, or I need to find a group of writers with whom I can share a two-way writing relationship such as this. I am realizing I need little goals to force me to get moving. I think once I get into a routine, this will not be a problem. I also love writing when I get my mind involved in it. Every writer will tell you that it’s still a chore to start and a chore to keep going, even when you love it. But accomplishing writing is about making it routine, doing it even when you don’t want to do it. (This, by the way, was the original mission of my blog, but I’ve fallen short of it recently.)

Anyway, overall, it was really a great time at NuKu. I must mention, also, that Joanna is really a natural MC. She has this amazing ability to entertain and charm (yes, charm) the audience with her sense of humor and her easy laughter. She thinks incredibly fast on her feet and is able to recover quickly from any surprise that occurs without hesitation. I know that public speaking is not a natural talent–that everyone’s scared and nervous at some point–but the real trick is making it look like it’s easy and Joanna definitely does that. I’m impressed and, quite frankly, envious of her skills as a public speaker. I  hope one day I can look as at ease as she does in front of a microphone.

I was also impressed by Diane’s (another college friend) performance during open mike. She presented one haiku and a really great (“regular”) poem about how she and her husband met each other. Even though I had the advantage of knowing the back story of their meeting, the poem really held its own to an audience of strangers and it seemed to be really well received. Part of the reason, I think, is that Diane is also one of those people who can speak in front of an audience with an air of confidence, even though I know that she really is as nervous as I am. But that doesn’t matter–delivery is all that matters. She did an awesome job and it impressed the heck out of me. I wasn’t surprised, granted; I’ve seen her perform her own work before. Still, I find myself re-impressed every time I see her boldly shine in front an audience.

I’ll end this entry with the poems I used during my one and only round during the Haiku Death Match, minus the last one since it was the most derogatory and may offend a few readers of my blog. I really can’t seem to remember which poems won the round, though. My mind went kind of blank as I was focused on the task of deciding which poems to use. I think I’ll have to go to the tape (they video recorded us) to figure out which two won.

Fear (02/18/2010)
My words reek of fear
I struggle to give them birth
Stillborn on my lips.

I think “Fear” did not win, though I was encouraged when I heard several mumbles of “true-ku!” from the audience.

Tenacity (01/19/2011)

I am grit and steel,
Barred teeth, dried tears, smiling pain;
Storm’s fury in drought.

I know “Tenacity” did not win. I think it was a bad choice to throw this one down because I was never completely happy with it and I struggled for three days with the last line. It was everything from the simple “You cannot break me” and “Angry resilience” to the need for a metaphor that was poorly executed: “Thunder crack with snow,” “Thunder in the winter,” “A mad gale in drought,” and “Brute force in fury.” I’m pretty sure it’s an example of over-thinking an idea. I’m still not happy with it.

Former Alaskan Governor (03/02/2010)
I sincerely wish
Sarah Palin would vanish
Poof! Gone forever…

Did “Former Alaskan Governor” win?? I remember the audience groaning or something, which I took as negative feedback and then was afraid to use my “Tea Party” one that I had on the back-burner.

Satisfaction (01/08/2011)
Sometimes all you need
Two fingers, fantasies, and
Two minutes alone.

“Satisfaction” is the only one I remember as having won. Am I right? Okay, not even sure about this one…

The final one was cruder than “Satisfaction.” It didn’t win anyway and it was probably a bad choice because my opponent threw down a really crude one that was similar and she did a better job. I should have went with one of my pretty ones, like “Winter,” (see previous blog entry) or another political one to stand out from hers. (And also used one I would feel comfortable showing online.) Oh well. Such is life.

Haiku Overload

I’m preparing myself to compete in my first ever poetry slam on Friday, the Haiku Death Match, so I’ll be traveling down to Columbus tomorrow. And I get to visit my friend Joanna. Who’s the MC of said Haiku Death Match. I’m very excited and very nervous. I’ve watched this event for the last two years; it’s completely the reason I became obsessed with writing haiku. For a person who’s overly wordy and has trouble avoiding lavish description in her writing, haiku is very confining. But that’s the real challenge of it–finding the words to say something succinctly, yet poetically. I can’t say I always succeed; but in the cases where I have, I think I’ve done so quite beautifully.

Before Joanna asked me if I was serious about competing this year, I had about 25-30 haiku poems that I’d written this year and never performed anywhere. Some of them, though, were really timely and could not be used, such as a slew of St. Patrick’s Day poems from last year and some odes to U2. So once I committed to taking part in the event, I pushed myself to write some more. I needed to have maybe a few funny ones, some political ones, and–I supposed–some sexy ones. Yeah, sex sells after all, right? This crowd, being a bunch of artists like myself, seem to really like political (liberal leaning), funny, or sexy. Most of my poems tend to more on the serious side than funny. It’s hard for me to think of political commentary in poetry, but I did manage to write a few of which I’m proud–two that attack Sarah Palin, one that reflects my sadness over Ted Strickland’s loss of the governor seat in Ohio, and several that support LGBT rights. I’m hoping these go over well.

As for sexy? Well… Let’s just say none of these will be posted to my blog, so if you want to hear them/see them, you’ll just have to attend the slam. They aren’t so much sexy as self-deprecating about my sex life. I think these poems will go over well too because artists love a good pervy joke. And self-deprecation. The poem that went over really well at open mike last year was my innuendo-filled ode to my bike. So I hope I’m on target with the audience’s mindset.

I think I now have more than enough poems, but I’m still worried. If have to go second in a round, I have to have a wide range of poems to select from to try to match the type of poem the first person lays down. Tonight I think I need to pick out the ones that I could lead with if I get to go first. My strength is the serious poems and I want to try to lay those down whenever I can. There’s a certain strategy involved. Or I’m over-thinking it. I just hope I’m not so nervous that I can’t think straight enough to locate the appropriate poem to lay down during the round. I’m not good at thinking on my feet. Another reason I need to be taking part in this event.

I’m not expecting to win. I’m just trying to stand up and deal with an audience while performing my poetry. You know me and standing in front of an audience–it’s definitely a huge step outside of my comfort zone. It’s also going to be interesting to hear/see reactions to my poems. I’m sure some that I think are brilliant will get a lukewarm reception and vise-versa. It will be a very eye-opening experience. But necessary, really, for my own artistic growth, right?

Anyway, I thought I’d give you a little sneak preview… This is one of my favorite poems that I wrote a few weeks ago. It’s colored by my seasonal affective disorder, that’s for sure. Moody. I like moody, though.

Winter: cold as steel
My mind drifts to dark places
Waiting for the sun.

Mt Elbert

I carried you on my back all the way to top
And poured your gray sand upon the rocks
As the last grain tumbled from that unhallowed black box,
Thunder crashed, interrupting your sister’s protest cries.
We hurried from that high place under darkening skies
Pelted by stryofoam balls of rain,
My hiking poles buzzed like angry bees–
Warning, warning, warning!
My heart throbbed in shame, recrimination
It was too late to put it right;
You were already released.
A sacred moment ruined because I was afraid to say no.
You only get one chance to do it right.
And though I’ve been there three times since,
The chance to rightfully honor your memory is gone.
Forever.
Time cannot be rewound.

Potential

Laying awake in bed,
Too feverish with thought to sleep
There’s a tension in the air
You can bite right through it

Time is ticking away…

Tick tick tick tick…

So many hours wasted, doing… what?
Need to move before my clock quits
Don’t know when that will be
But I’m not too sure of my longevity.

Want to write, want to publish
Want my efforts, my love, to be noticed
Want to leave something in the world
Want the words in my head unfurled

Been avoiding my destiny for too long…

Fear fear fear fear

I’ve allowed it to repress me,
Let others’ successes depress me.
I’m inspired by poets of song,
Languishing over their lucky state,
And the time money has bought them to create

Don’t want the fame, would take the fortune
Just want to do what I was born to do,
Correction: What I think I was born to do
(If I was born to do it, wouldn’t I have already done it?)

They say every day dreamers die
Leaving their hopes unfulfilled
Don’t want to be one of those dead dreamers
Who never said ever, watching as others destroyed their will.

42nd

Today you would have been 42.
10 years of life you should have lived
Children we should have had,
Trips we should have taken.
I’m plagued by thoughts of our lost adventures,
Saddened by all that stolen time.
I think of you every day,
I wonder what you would have thought
Of Bush, Palin, Obama;
Of 9/11, Katrina, the Gulf oil spill;
Tea parties, birthers, flat-earthers;
Reality television,
(Remember when Survivor was new?)
Of iPhones and Blackberries
(Which would you have preferred?)
Of Unitarian Universalism–my chosen faith;
Of people I’ve met, the men I’ve dated
(Which among them would have you liked?)
Of the places I’ve seen, miles I’ve cycled, mountains I’ve climbed.
You’re in the blood in my veins;
You’re in my heart, my soul, my every frustrated sigh.
You’re in my eyes through which I hope you can still view
The world you taught me to see.
Like the rings we wore to seal our promises,
Our love has “no clear beginning and definitely no end,”
The infinite loop that binds me to life
And fuels my boundless hope that I will find a love
As epic and meaningful as that  which I shared with you.
Happy Birthday, sweetie.

Words (Alternate Version)

This is the original version of the haiku I wrote yesterday–the one that came to my mind first before I tinkered around with the words (yes, ironically) to try to make it better. Now I’m thinking this one flows better. Oh, well.

Words are pretty things.
I bend them to my will; mold
my thoughts to substance.

Tidal Forces

Waves crash in rhythm,
Ceaseless, steady metronome
Sacred beat of life.

Another Oregon coast inspired haiku that I finally finished this morning during the service at church (believe it or not). The topic was about holy moments and I couldn’t help but recall my holy moment walking the beach on Wednesday morning as I contemplated my husband with whom I’d last visited the Oregon coast. Thoughts of him came up quite a bit while I was there. Nothing tragic; just wistful melancholy. Somehow, while walking the beach, I started to feel some spiritual cleansing. Thus the previous traditionally spiritual haiku. This one is more earthy, and thus probably more me, though you might replace the word “God” in the previous poem with “Mother” if it didn’t have so many syllables. I guess with the wind tussling my hair and brushing my cheeks, I felt embraced by some holy, soothing spirit. Like my Mom when was upset as a child, holding me and telling me everything was going to be okay… even when she couldn’t fix what saddened me…