Hosts: Reid Hepworth and Shalini Pattabiraman
1st December 2022
The Haibun Gallery is pleased to feature the lovely and talented Terri L. French for the month of December.
Terri is an accomplished poet, writer, editor, former Licensed Massage Therapist and RV traveller. She has held numerous editorial positions: currently part of the editorial team at Contemporary Haibun Online and is the former editor of Prune Juice, the past Southwest Regional Director of the Haiku Society of America and the former Secretary of the Haiku Foundation.
Terri’s work has been published internationally. She has won numerous awards: most recently she was the recipient of the HSA Garry Gay Rengay Award (2022), Plum’s Annual Haiku Contest (2022), Best of Issue Frogpond (2022) and many others. She also won the Touchstone Award for Individual Poem (2011).
When she isn’t RVing with her husband and dog, Terri has also managed to write the following collections of poetry:
Pulling Sunset (2022), Fully Human (2020), The Color of Bruises, Keepers - a book of haibun (2018), A Ladybug on My Words and one book of nonfiction: Huntsville Textile Mills & Villages: Linthead Legacy. All of her books are available on Amazon, with the exception of The Color of Bruises, published by Stanford Forrester’s Baby Buddha Press and is available through Terri. You can contact Terri at: https://www.terrilfrenchhaiku.com/terris-books/
Terri was kind enough to answer some of my burning questions:
R: Terri, can you tell us how you got into writing haibun? What drew you to the form?
T: I love the succinctness of haiku and, yet, I am a storyteller at heart. Haibun lets me combine storytelling with my love of nature and my proclivity toward brevity.
R: Did you/do you have a mentor or is there someone whose work has influenced your writing?
T: Oh gosh, I hate naming names, because I’m bound to leave someone out! I wouldn’t say I have a mentor because I pull from so many without even realizing it! Lew Watts is a favourite—he is a storyteller bar none! I love the honesty and humility of Andrew Riutta. I am drawn to the heart and soul of Penny Harter’s writing. Bryan Rickert and I often bounce our ideas off of each other and he has a great editing eye. There are so many excellent writers/editors out there!
R: Can you outline your writing process for us? For example, do you start with the ku or with the prose?
T: I almost always start with the prose. Something pops into my head—could be a memory or something that occurred during the day. I’m pretty busy so I don’t always find the time to write when I want to, but I will jot the idea down in a note on my phone and come back to it as soon as I can, when the idea is still fresh. I like to write in the morning, before my husband and dog get up, while drinking my coffee, bundled up in a corner of the sofa in my RV. After I write the prose I work on the haiku, sometimes that takes a while—the link and shift to and away from the prose can be tricky.
R: What inspires you?
T: Oh gosh—life!! Nature. People. I like to eavesdrop on other people’s stories. I like to know what makes other people tick, how they got to where they are in life. Everyone has a story. It’s too easy to judge people by surface appearance. That is why I wrote my books, The Color of Bruises and Fully Human.
R: What advice would you give to new poets starting out?
T: Read, of course. Read for enjoyment first and foremost, then reread critically. Ask yourself “what makes this piece work?” “What am I drawn to?” Mimic styles and I think you will find your writing starts to morph, to grow, as you find your own voice. I am still finding mine!
R: Do you have a favourite haibun of your own?
T: No, not really. Right now I am close to the ones I’ve written while we’ve been travelling—Rebirth, Mantra—the ones in my latest book Pulling Sunset. But, I also like ones I’ve written about my children—Symbiosis, Bittersweet. And ones I’ve written about my dad—Commencement, Dragons Live Forever. My favourite changes.
Terri L. French
Mother dips the cotton ball into a bowl of diluted apple cider vinegar and begins dabbing my red and blistered shoulders. “Ouch,” I yell, “that hurts!”
“It’ll take out the sting,” she says matter-of-factly.
“Sometimes a hurt’s gotta hurt worse, honey, before it gets better.”
a scotch on the rocks
melting in the sun
Frogpond, 39:3, 2016
R: In Scorched, Terri has managed to say a lot without giving it all away. She leads the reader down a path and opens the door, letting the reader come to their own conclusions. She laces tenderness with life lessons.The interaction between parent and child paints a seemingly comfortable relationship, one in which truth is expressed without fear or self-consciousness.
The ku shifts trajectory, exposing the sometimes harsh realities of life, the inner workings of married life and the pain and disappointment that sometimes follows. For me, the ku felt like a sucker punch. I didn’t expect it, which makes it even more impactful. The deeper message, from my perspective, one can get burned in a multitude of ways.
Terri’s thoughts about Scorched:
I am curious as to why you chose this one. Did your mother also use this treatment for your sunburn!? Did you know, unless it is diluted, it can make the inflammation worse? Not to mention it hurts like he#@ (but I guess I did say that). But the sunshine felt so good. I didn’t think about the damage it was doing at the time. I suppose much like drinking alcohol — that buzz feels good and maybe, temporarily, makes you forget your troubles, but the repercussions of drinking too much can cause pain. My dad was a good man, but he drank a lot, as did his dad before him. He was a young husband and father and I think had a lot of bottled-up (no pun intended) worries. Actually, his drink of choice was cheap beer not scotch, but who puts ice in their beer? I liked the image of the ice melting in the glass, diluting the alcohol and the sunshine mirroring back to the sunburn. Mom, of course, tried to make things better, to take away the pain, and sometimes she did for a while. . .
For this prompt, we would like you to flex your writing wings, create a scene that opens the door, invites us in and makes us want to stay for a while. Focus on character and dialogue and most importantly, have fun!!
1. Only two haibun per poet per prompt.
2. Share your best-polished pieces.
3. Please do not post something in a hurry or something you have just written. Let it simmer for a while.
4. When poets give suggestions and if you agree to them - post your final edited version on top of your original version.
5. Don't forget to give feedback on others' poems.
We are delighted to open the comment thread for you to share your unpublished haibun (within 300 words) to be considered for inclusion in the haikuKATHA monthly journal.