Penny Harter is co-author, of The Haiku Handbook---published in a 25th anniversary edition in 2010. She is also a past-president of the HSA (1986). Her free-verse poems, haiku, tanka, and haibun appear in numerous journals and anthologies, both in print and on-line, and among her twenty-one books and chapbooks of poems, six feature haiku. Her most recent chapbook is Recycling Starlight (2010), a cycle of free-verse and formal poems, haiku, haibun, and tanka, charting her passage through grief after the death of her husband, Bill Higginson.
Some of journals and anthologies featuring her work include Haiku Moment (1993); Journey to the Interior: American Versions of Haibun (1998); Global Haiku (2000); The Unswept Path (2005); Modern Haibun and Tanka Prose (2009); and Contemporary Haibun: Volume 12 (2011). Her exercise for poets, "Circling the Pine: Haibun and the Spiral Web" appears in Wingbeats: Exercises & Practice in Poetry (2011).
Other recent books include The Night Marsh (2008), Along River Road (2005), and Buried in the Sky (2002), and her children’s alphabestiary, The Beastie Book , (2009). A Dodge Foundation poet, Harter read at the 2010 Dodge Poetry Festival. She has received three poetry fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the Mary Carolyn Davies Award from the Poetry Society of America, the William O. Douglas Nature Writing Award, and a fellowship from Virginia Center for the Creative Arts for a residency during January, 2011. She lives in the southern New Jersey shore area and works as a poet in the schools.
How long have you been involved in haiku poetry (or your special focus of haiku) and what got you started?
Well, I thought I really wasn't that aware of haiku until I met Bill in 1974 and began attending meetings of the Haiku Society of America in NYC. But in preparing for the panel I'll be on: "Who Wrote That? How My Haiku Has Changed Over Three Decades," with Jerry Ball, Garry Gay, and chaired by Margaret Chula, I went back to old notebooks and found I'd written a haiku---counting 5-7-5 of course---in 1971. I had been writing free-verse poetry since the mid-1960s, but only began to write more haiku from about 1975 on. For me, writing poetry is one continuum---all related. I do know that fairly early on, writing haiku, especially becoming more and more aware of juxtaposition---the delight of that "leap" or turn---somewhat influenced the economy of language and occasional turns or leaps at the ends of my free verse poems. Then, with Bill, I became fascinated with the renku process and participated in, as well as helped lead renku sessions. And recently I've been writing quite a few more haibun---loving the genre and enjoying the interplay between poetic prose and verse--- and again, delighting in that renku-like haiku leap when one varies the texture by adding the haiku.
Have you ever been to HNA before?
I have been to every HNA except the very first. That first one was the year Bill and I moved to Santa Fe (1991) and I had to attend orientation for my then new teaching job at Santa Fe Preparatory School. We lived in Santa Fe between 1991 and 2002. The last HNA Bill and I attended together was in 2007 in Winston-Salem. HNA in Ottawa in 2009 was the first conference I went to by myself, and a real turning point for me---finding closure with so many in the community who loved and respected Bill, and finding myself---dancing and laughing on the riverboat tour on the Ottawa River.
Have you ever been to Seattle?
Only briefly. I flew into SeaTac in 2009 when I attended the Seabeck Haiku Getaway, and stayed overnight in Seattle with Tanya McDonald. And thanks to Michael Dylan Welch, I saw some great bookstores and read at SoulFood books in Redmond that night. Early the next morning we went on up to Seabeck.
Seabeck is so fun, I went for the first time last year. What are you most looking
forward to at this year's HNA?
Many things. Most of all, reconnecting with so many dear haiku friends that I've met over the years. And, of course, being on Maggie's panel, leading a haibun workshop, and participating in the Conference Anthology, Haibun and "The Poetry Continuum: Anything but Haiku" readings. There are also a number of exciting presentations I'm already planning to attend. I always come away from HNA having had a wonderful time and inspired to do new writing. Can't wait to see everyone!
It is going to be great meeting you! Thank you so much, I feel like I know you so well, I can't wait to meet you.