Deborah P Kolodji (dkolodji) wrote,
Deborah P Kolodji

Reading Haiku at Poetry Readings

Tonight, I attended a fantastic poetry reading at Village Books in Pacific Palisades. It was Alice Pero’s monthly Moonday Reading and the featured readers were all members of the Wild Poetry Forum, where I sometimes hang out online. Many of them had come from a fair distance to read so I thought it was worth braving the traffic to make this impossibly timed 7:30 reading on the other side of the Los Angeles basin. Gary Blankenship came down from Bremerton, Washington, “M” and Steve Williams were down from Portland, Oregon. D.J. Clowes drove down from Bakersfield, and Lois P Jones, the only local featured reader, hails from Glendale. Another Wild Poetry Forum member, Carol Sanger, flew in from Arizona to attend the reading.

This was a reading full of imagistic poetry. There was few spoken word rants. As an open mic reader, I was allowed three poems. Originally, I planned to read a cinquain, “Infidelity,” my poem from unfinished book, which two reviewers have now specifically mentioned, and a sequence of haiku grouped together under a title so that I could get away with reading 5 of them as “one poem.”

However, after D.J. Clowes read a series of fantasy and horror poems, I decided to ditch “Infidelity” in favor of “The Last of the Lost,” a science fiction sonnet which was originally published in Rogue Worlds # 4 in January 2002 and is included in Symphony of the Universe. I dedicated the cinquain I read (“Mood Swings”) to featured readers Gary, “M”, and Steve Williams, all of whom I’ve published in Amaze, the sf poem to D.J Clowes, and the haiku sequence to Lois P Jones.

It was the haiku that really seemed to have the best response in this particular crowd, something that I found interesting because haiku is difficult to read to a non-haiku writing poetry audience at a poetry reading. I called the sequence of haiku I read that evening, “Life Blooms” and I read three of the rose haiku from unfinished book (“he picks a rose”, “stray rosebud”, “dozen red roses”), followed by my broken rosebud/miscarriage haiku from World Haiku Review, and ending with my premature baby/blooms haiku from Canadian Zen Haiku.

When I read

dozen red roses
she examines the bruise
in the mirror

there were audible gasps in the audience, which was followed by more gasps from

unopened rosebud
on a broken stem

Afterwards, several people told me that they’d never heard haiku read at a poetry reading before and that they were very moved by it. This experience gives me hope about reading haiku at mainstream poetry readings. I believe that the key is to (1) mix things up a bit – throw in some longer poems between groupings of haiku, (2) group haiku together loosely, perhaps titling such groupings for reading purposes, and (3) read each haiku slowly & look around at the audience when delivering, for a lack of a better term, “the aha moment.”
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