without counting on fingers.
Here’s an interview.
Sorry, we had to do that. The guy is David Ash of Mukilteo, WA, and he’s published 12 books in his Haiku for Life® series, with Haiku for Christmas, and for: Catholics, office workers, poker players, sociologists, and lovers of baseball, chocolate, coffee, wine, tea, dogs and cats (all good stocking stuffers!). He’s a true salesman, often wearing a jester’s hat, and drove 35,000 miles last year, promoting his gift books at festivals, conferences and indie stores. We got him to slow down long enough to answer a few questions.
Would you describe yourself as a professional haiku writer? Every chance I get. I’ve sold more than 5,000 of my humorous haiku gift books, so that’s pretty professional. And, on the literary side of things, the journal Modern Haiku just bought two of my poems for $2. Not many haiku journals pay! So the amateur bug no longer appears next to my name. “Professional Haiku Writer” sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s not. “Famous Living Haiku Writer” is still an oxymoron, but I’m working on it.
Do you ever get tired of writing haiku? Of course. I can procrastinate anything. Fortunately, it’s easy to come back to.
Do you go about your days speaking in 17-syllable statements? I’m still married, so obviously not.
Do other people try to impress you by writing you or speaking to you in haiku, like when people learn that you have an interest or a fondness for something and they give you little totems or tchotchkes or sayings about it? Do you get haiku gifts? Andy Rathbun of The Everett Herald wrote a review of my books entirely in three-line, 17 syllable paragraphs. That blew me away. I don’t get many haiku-related gifts. Of course, I make so many of them! I like the Haikubes in the PNBA Holiday Catalog. When I do an author event, I’ll cross-promote whatever I can, so I’ve had them on my table. Wish I’d thought of those!
Is there such a thing as found haiku or accidental haiku, where you find a poem in someone’s old to-do list or on a label at the grocery store? My literary friends encourage seeing the world through haiku eyes. Anything can be inspiration for poetry or fiction. I’ve said that when I publish Haiku for Nosepickers, we’ll know that I’ve exhausted the medium. Then again, everyone picks their nose, so maybe there’s a market there.
You might have something there. Do you sit down to write, or are you scribbling them in a little notebook as you go about your day? Nowadays, it’s mostly on computer. I usually carry a small notebook for moments when inspiration strikes. But I have to be more methodical than that. I usually go to the library and make a list of a couple hundred related “trigger” words or phrases. For Cat Lovers, that might include catnip, declaw, mouse, haughty, and so on. Then I try to write one poem per trigger. I aim for 150-200 haiku. Then I put them in front of a couple dozen friends, family members, and guests editors who have some knowledge or interest in the subject matter, say a vet or a person who owns four cats. They vote on which 100 should get published. So I do some market testing before the book even comes out.
Will you pick a favorite for us? There’s a tradition among the Japanese to write a death poem. If you were going to inscribe one on my urn (I am an Ash, after all), here’s mine:
It’s not particularly funny or literary and probably won’t appear in any of my books. But what do you want. I’m dead!
You just finished NaNoWriMo. What was it like writing long form? And I won! 50,000 words in 30 days. I have such respect for novelists now. This is my third attempt at novel writing and I am highly motivated to finish. My son, who is a freshman violin performance major at NYU, wrote three drafts of a fantasy novel in middle school. He finished a 91,000-word third draft in eighth grade! But he was so sick of the storyline and novel writing that he refused to go further. I got his blessing to write an “envelope” for it. I’m writing a novel about an eighth-grade boy who writes a novel. Ben’s novel is what he writes. So I’m picking excerpts from it and creating a world of the young fictional author around it. My goal is to finish the first draft by the time Ben comes home for Christmas. We’ll decide how and what to co-write from there. It’s a challenge and I’m loving it!