Following Basho down so many different roads, so many worlds, countries, waysides (groups, societies, books, publications, etc.), it’s a wonder as well to find him trekking the 21st Century through cyberspace. To pursue, alone, the word ‘haiku’ will you lead you to places you would never imagine.
One evening, headed East in my own head, following the Master’s footsteps, I happened upon Tobacco Road. What a beautiful discovery, how good to linger here awhile with Basho at your side.
Curtis Dunlap is the poet of note and presence on Tobacco Road.
First, I took in some of his poems. Then talked to him awhile. Enjoy. Return often.–Norbert Blei
church picnic –
a couple slips
into the cornfield
Frogpond Volume XXIX:3 Fall 2006
a lovers’ moon –
she tosses her bra
out of the hayloft
The Heron’s Nest IX:1 – 3, 2007
country store –
two old-timers whittle
over world affairs
The Heron’s Nest VI:8, 20
My early life was spent on a tobacco farm in rural North Carolina. In fact, a stretch of the middle section of the state is known as ‘Tobacco Road’. Many years ago, tobacco was the chief money making crop in NC hence the name. Though it’s been decades since I lived on that tobacco farm, there’s a part of that will remain connected to those tough, yet simpler times. Reflecting on those days and that life has produced a few poems.
I happened upon haiku in 2001 after reading Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, a novel containing a character who dabbled in the 5-7-5 variety of haiku. I soon discovered that haiku could be written in a freer style with less emphasis on syllable count and began to submit haiku to journals, publishing my first haiku in the June 2002 issue of The Heron’s Nest. I also writes free verse, haibun, senryu, and tanka.
I tend to keep my ‘haiku eye’ open 24/7. I dreamed in haiku once. It was cool, sort of like a musical but without the music. Sadly, I did not record the dream. I keep a pen and pad by the bed now. Haiku happen all the time and everywhere. Occasionally, I’ll see something that will inspire a poem and I’ll jot it down rather quickly. However, the majority of my haiku usually begin as a sketch of something that I’ve witnessed. Taking the sketch and turning it into a poem can take a few moments, a day, or a few weeks. I’ve even revisited poems after months. I never throw away my poems. I keep everything.
Perhaps haiku can save your life. I know that practicing haikai no michi (The Way of Haiku) has helped me find an occasional moment of peace, usually when I’m writing haiku or experiencing a haiku moment. Anything that can reduce stress is certainly a life saver.