Monday, December 31, 2012

Reflection, Reflection

How was your 2012? Mine was quite good for me as a writer. My Japanese short poetry was doing much better than I had expected. I even had enough published poems--haiku, haibun, tanka--altogether seventy-seven of them (dated from June, 2011 to October, 2012)--to be compiled into a Christmas gift book for friends. Something that I had never thought about at the beginning of this year.

As I am feeling stronger, in spite of the fact that I still don't feel one hundred percent back, I can plan ahead as I normally did in the past before my hospitalization. For two years, 2010-2012, I simply did whatever I felt up to doing when it came to writing. Now I can at least have a vision for my writing career.

Looking back, I am grateful that some editors are willing to work with me on my work to make my poems better; meanwhile, I have learned some things to improve my own writing. Help from editors is as important as the support from people who like my writing. When I come across such editors, I count my blessings.

Interestingly, my first published haibun Gifts in A Hundred Gourds (December, 2011) was about my mother to whom I am tremendously indebted. And my first published tanka also in A Hundred Gourds (December, 2011) was about my first day in America. It is as follows:

the first day
in my sponsor's backyard
I sought a four-leaf clover
but instead
I picked the dandlelion

It's been over two decades, I still remember that morning!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Stagnant Dialogue

Why do I use "stagnant" for dialogue, but not "dull," or "inactive," or "liveless"?  Because as you can imagine what happens to a pool of stagnant water--it does not flow, and worse, it stinks. As you can see, stagnant dialogue is dull, inactive, and liveless, and worse, it stifles the scene, not to mention moving the whole story forward.

Dialogue frustrated me the most when I was at graduate school learning how to write plays. as you know, dialogue is the essence, the most important building block, of a play. It took me lots of time and energy to read well-established playwrights' work, especially those who were praised for their snappy dialogue. At the time I didn't quite get what it meant. Now I fully understand what it is.

In novels, dialogue plays an important part, too. If the dialogue is stagnant, the scene will become dull and eventually will drag the story down; and you know what the reader will do when this happens--she will close the book and never return to it. Well, you will probably say, wait a minute, there are various factors that make the reader stop reading the book. True. Here is my point: every element in a novel has to be heeded. If you read a page full of talking heads whose speeches do not go anywhere, will you continue to read the novel? I won't.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My New Kind of Haibun

We writers always look for new ways to express ourselves. Words like experimental, innovative, avant-garde, you name it, are embraced by us writers, be it poetry, theatre, fiction, nonfiction. Recently, I have written two haibun which I believe can be called urban-fantasy haibun. Urban-fantasy haibun?  Yes, they are about real people who are dead and interact with each other or interact with the living. Don't they sound interesting? I think so. Because one piece has been accepted for publication by a journal in its next issue. I am very grateful to the team of editors, And I am very excited about the acceptance, not only because of the publication but because of a new way having opened up to me for writing haibun. I got the idea for these two haibun quite unexpectedly: one morning I woke up and an idea hit me like an attack; quickly I scribbled it down in a notebook before I forgot. For me, my poetry is the best when the muse comes to visit me out of the blue. Many of my published haiku, tanka, and haibun seem to point in that direction.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Slice of My Life

Since I started writing Japanese short form poetry: haiku, tanka, haibun, I have been writing from my experience. My poetry therefore gives the reader a glimpse into my life; that is, my long journey from continent to continent, from country to country, from city to city.

I remember when I first came to America, an American said to me, "You are rich in experience." She seemed to have known me for years by simply listening to my story that I had gone through the Vietnam War and its aftermath, that I was starting a new life in America. I would like to showcase some of my published tanka and haibun here to share with you, the ones who are interested in knowing more about me--a refugee playwright turned poet.

The following journal Haiku News is where I express my social-political view.

Friday, August 31, 2012

A Haiku Poet's Eyes

Since I received my MFA in writing, I have been more observant than I was. Since I took haiku seriously and started writing them with an intention of being a published poet, I have been even more aware of the physical environment. Last week Wes and I made our first trip to Victoria and Vancouver B.C.; I said "our first trip" because we hadn't traveled outside America since my hospitalization two years ago. Once we got to the Butchart Gardens last Thursday, my eyes were like a camera, snapping shots of the place in addition to shooting pictures with my iphone. Immediately, a few haiku and tanka were churning in my mind. When the poems took shape, I jotted them down in my small notebook that I always carry in my purse. I had been to the gardens twice before; however, without a haiku poet's eyes at those two times, I simply enjoyed the sights and had a good time as I wasn't writing any poetry but working on my other projects. Now, my haiku poet's eyes not only allow me to relish the flowers, the plants, the trees, the ponds, but also let me take home a well of ideas and images excellent for haiku and tanka. This trip was enjoyable as well as inspirational.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


I am not writing about writing contest but about we writers competing with the other media when it comes to writing. As the pace of life is getting faster and faster, we have hectic schedules and our attention span for reading also goes in step with life's rhythm--fast--meaning short. And, with TV, Netflix, video games, iPad, you name it, competing with our writing, be it poetry, fiction, and plays, we have to be competitive. Look at the trendy word in the writing world--flash--such as flash fiction, flash non-fiction, flash memoir. What does this fad tell us? Everything we write has to go fast. Writing Japanese short-form poetry, I have made a good move when it comes to finding a medium to express myself, and I have been doing pretty well in publication. Haiku has only three lines, tanka five, and haibun a combination of prose and poetry, but it, too, has to be short. Well, I ran into some long haibun. For me, I will keep it short. And for me, it is similar to writing flash fiction. What I need is to get all the elements--who, what, when, where, how, and sometimes why--into the prose attached with one or two haiku or tanka, and bingo, I have a haibun. The move, though, was not made by planning, nor was it because I saw the writing trend but because, as I said in my earlier posts, I was recovering from my near-fatal illness and was eager to get back on my writing but was too weak to work on big projects, such as a play or a novel. Probably I am destined to be a poet in addition to being a playwright. My ambition to be a novelist is now on the back burner. It will return to the front. For now, I just focus on the short form poetry.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Power of Revision

Rewrite is a writer's weapon. I have seen the power of revision since I wrote haiku, haibun, and tanka. Recently I had rejection of my tanka which I thought were good. Not giving up, I looked at those tanka again closely with a critic's eyes to detect the mistakes hidden in the poems. Sure enough, I found the "flaws." Immediately, I fixed them; let them cool down for a while and resubmitted them. They got selected. The power of revision! I received a copy of Moonbathing in which I had a tanka included, and a copy of Red Lights in which I had two tanka published. Here is the link to my tanka in A Hundred Gourds: Another link to my tanka in Multiverses Journal

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tanka Diary

Keeping a tanka diary is fun. So far I enter one tanka into my diary every day. It's become a superb practice for me.  Imagine doing the same thing every day, we'll get better and better. And I already see the pleasure of reading the diary a year from now.

Here are my three tanka published on an online journal Lynx:

Monday, April 30, 2012

A Tanka Diary

I can't believe it. I am keeping a tanka diary!  In my wildest dream, I never dreamed that I would write tanka, not to mention keeping a tanka diary. When I was working on my MFA, I had one thing in mind--writing plays. I did consider myself successful in playwriting--having some stage-readings inside and outside Seattle, productions in small local theatres and finalists in nationwide competitions, plus three grants, one from the Dramatists' Guild for my loss of income due to a severe knee injury. (Without a good resume, I probably wouldn't have received the Guild's monetary assistance.) I wasn't doing too bad writing for American theatre. Then, I shifted to memoir writing and then, to fiction writing. 

In August 2010, I was admitted to ICU for pneumonia and congestive heart failure that almost killed me and was hospitalized for a week. Eager to get back to writing but too weak to work on my novel, I wrote haiku that I started in 2007 but wasn't serious about. Encouraged by the publication of my haiku, I tried my hand at tanka last October and had my first tanka published in the March issue of A Hundred Gourds.  Ever since, more of my tanka have been accepted for publication, I decide to keep a tanka diary.

What a twist and turn! Such is my life! Things happen when I least expected them. Like my resettling in America, with neither gold for the boat trip, nor relative in the New World, how could I come? Here I am, chasing a writer's dream in my adopted country!

More of my published haiku:

Haiku News

Saturday, March 31, 2012

What Can I Say?

Life is full of unexpectedness. Writing haiku and the related forms is one of the unexpected things that has happened in my life. My 2010's hospitalization for pneumonia and congestive heart failure that almost killed me weakened me and left me little energy to write. To ease myself back into writing, I chose haiku writing which I had been doing but did not take it seriously, by that I mean I didn't think that I would spend my time and energy on this kind of poetry and had my poems published. I made that choice because haiku requires only three lines, although it is not easy to write them well, I could handle it as I could write for only ten/fifteen minutes months after I returned home.

After I got my first haiku published in an online journal, I was immensely encouraged and decided to become a haiku writer. Later, I explored the other related forms of haiku--haibun and tanka--and had them published. Now I am a published Japanese short poetry writer, something that I have never thought of being when I received my MFA.

A Hundred Gourds

A Hundred Gourds

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Two Leap Years in the Same Year

The year 2012 is a leap year. The Year of the Dragon is also a leap year. For the solar calendar, there is one extra day in February in the leap year. For the lunar calendar, a leap year means an extra month. With an extra day and an extra month, what do you do with the time? For me, I am glad to have an extra day, so that I can give my blog its monthly update, one thing I didn't get to do yesterday. I am also glad to have more time to work on my writing projects.

One friend of mine has brought up a question on Facebook: How people who were born on a leap day celebrate their birthday? Well, what about those who observe the lunar calendar for their birthdays? Would they celebrate two birthdays when the day falls on a leap month? I can't remember if I ever celebrate two birthdays since I observe the lunar calendar for my birthday.

To celebrate a leap year, some friends have written haiku about today. Here is mine:

leap year
one more day to hope for . . .
sunshine after rain

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hello, the Year of the Dragon

With the arrival of 2012, my Japanese short form poetry writing is getting a good start. And, to my further excitement and encouragement, I received news on the second day of the Lunar New Year that two of my tanka have been accepted for publication in the spring edition, the inaugural issue of Multiverses Journal. This is even more encouraging news because I started exploring the art form last October, and one of my accepted tanka was written on my own; in other words, it had not been workshopped at a public forum. The acceptance pumps into me more confidence--I can write tanka.

Since trying my hand at it, I've fallen in love with this form. It has two more lines than haiku and thus offers the writer more room for expression. I love the Japanese style short poetry because I can express myself quickly; that doesn't mean it's easier to write than free verse.

Like 2012, good news also kicked off my Year of the Dragon. With eleven months ahead of me, if I continue to put into this writing project the same amount of time and efforts as I did in last year, (meanwhile, I haven't lost sight of my other project--my novel) I can expect more good news down the road.