hosts: Firdaus Parvez & Kala Ramesh
A Thursday Feature.
poet of the month: Peter Newton
21st September 2023
Since 2012, Peter Newton has co-edited the online journal tinywords and has
recently served as Guest Editor for Contemporary Haibun Online. Currently, he
serves on the panel to select The Touchstone Book Awards and is part of a small
group of editors working on the follow-up anthology to Haiku in English; The First
Hundred Years, in which his poems appeared, published by W. W. Norton in 2013.
Newton has been awarded several Museum of Haiku Literature Awards from The
Haiku Society of America’s journal, Frogpond, multiple Editors’ Choice Awards
from The Heron’s Nest, as well as Touchstone Awards from The Haiku Foundation
and Merit Book Awards from The Haiku Society of America.
He is a graduate of the University of Michigan (B.A. English, 1987) and
Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English (M.A. English, 1992). He has
worked at The Bred Loaf School of English and The Bread Loaf Writers’
Conference for more than thirty summers.
Newton has published seven books in the Japanese short-form tradition. He lives
We asked Peter some questions and he has been kind in answering them. THG:
5. How do you create diversity in your writing?
When I hear the word “diversity” I think of creating equal opportunities for all types of people. Well, I’m a middle-aged white guy so . . . I try to be aware of how I can be most inclusive. Haiku and the haikai arts in general are, above all, inclusive. Everyone knows haiku and maybe even fancies themselves as a haiku writer. And that’s a good thing. But like any form of poetry there are rules of the road one must learn before the joyride can begin. I try to put myself in other people’s shoes, so to speak. e.e.cummings wrote: “I am and you are and we are above and under all possible worlds in love” he may have written this as a love poem to the world and by that I think he means we’re all in this together. So, pay attention. Mind your manners. Love each other. Compassion is a key ingredient in the composition of any writer.
6. Many writers bank on experience to write, but eventually, a writer has to create something outside of it too... Any thoughts or advice?
I think it was Denis Garrison who came up with the phrase “dreaming room.” I always liked that way of looking at the world. Leave yourself plenty of time and space to dream. The poem or the story or whatever it is you want to write has got to live and breathe on its own. We, as writers, are nothing if not sieves. Life experiences go through us and the good stuff, or not so good stuff, collects inside us. Writers are catch basins. It’s up to each of us to give that “stuff” a voice and then figure a way to get it outside of us. It’s not always easy but if it becomes a habit – a writing habit – your voice grows stronger. Write and write and eventually word by word . . . we begin to say something. Don’t judge—jot! Scribble and scrawl and talk to the dragon app inside your phone. Speak. Let your voice be heard.
Love your answers, Peter. Thank you. <> <>
As we unfold the art of Peter Newton's haibun, there are some surprises coming to the front. Let's enjoy each moment as we learn new nuances that will help our writing.
I just have one haibun for you this week:
Walking to the car, I spot the first daffodils in the yard. Forgot I planted those things. Last fall I had hoped one day. And as I had hoped here they are -- this little cavalry of yellow to the rescue.
the silent scream
of a dead possum
MacQueen’s Quinterly, June 2022
Now for some haiku and the story it unfolds!
For what is a haibun without a strong haiku?
I build the snowman
—The Heron’s Nest 23.2
falling asleep to the wallpaper repeating itself
Mann Daily Haiku - August 2010
a room inside
The Heron's Nest 24.2, June 2022
an old key
no one knows anymore
what it can open
Mann Daily Haiku - August 2010
Let's hear what Peter has to say about haiku.
Like others before me, I would add that the haiku has to advance the meaning of the prose in a new way, offering a new perspective. The white space between prose and poem is the x-factor. It is the portal through which the reader enters the piece. Think movie. Do you want a jump cut or a slow dissolve where one image morphs into another. However you decide to get there, the haiku must stand on its own just like the prose.
Pay extra attention to the haiku in your haibun. See if you get comments about how good your haiku is in the haibun you post ... it matters and make it matter.
Important: Since we're swamped with submissions, and our editors are only human, mistakes can happen. Please, please, remember to put your name, followed by your country, below each poem, even after revisions. It really helps our editors; they won't have to type it in, saving them from potential typos. Thanks a ton!
1. Only two haibun per poet per prompt. Please put your name and country of residence under your poem, it makes the editors' work easier. Thanks.
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.