the shape of your words

Unaccustomed to public speaking as I am  😉 …. I would just like to say a few words in response to a recent honour bestowed on me, for which I am, of course, extremely grateful. It is always a great delight to me when any reader finds inspiration, pleasure, a point of connection in my work.  Naturally, our appreciation of poetry is very subjective. I can easily think of at least five other names to sit beside each of those rankings –I’m sure you can too! –poets who have the ability to take my breath away with their words. This is not to detract from the other names on the list, all of whom I admire as poets.

I’m not one to opine about what is the “right” or “wrong” way to write haiku — or tanka. As many of you know, I believe nature is the true poet and some of us are called to listen. However we choose to interpret her is our personal choice. We need only to pay heed. The way I see it, the blackbird doesn’t lecture the song thrush on the right way to sing the dawn, or vice versa. Also, I believe that once my words have found wings they are ‘out there’, fending for themselves, will be whatever they can be to whoever chooses to read them and make of them what they will. As Denis. M. Garrison so eloquently put it:

I conceive of my poems as angels (sometimes, maniacal, other times, ethereal) who want out of my mind and will not stop calling for release until I cooperate. While this is of course mere metaphor, I deal with it as if it were objective reality and that has served me well.

Reader feedback does not materially change anything for me. Nevertheless, I am frequently moved by readers’ letting me know how they have been affected by reading my work–no less so than anyone else, I think. Inasmuch as a finished poem, once published, is a free thing in my view, I stop relating to it as creator. From that point forward, I am just another reader myself.” *

There is not a day goes by that I don’t feel grateful to be a small part of the haiku, tanka and short form poetry community. Reading the words of others is a gift, sharing a haiku moment with a fellow poet from New Zealand, Denmark, the US, India… is a gift. I have made true friends on this journey. We have laughed and cried together, we have found healing in each other’s words. The world is a less lonely place.  There’s invariably another poet somewhere on a particular day who has just the right words for the way I’m feeling.

In memory of some of the wonderful haijin who have passed in the last year or two, Peggy Willis Lyles, Janice M. Bostok, Svetlana Marisova, to name but three, I would ask that we concentrate our efforts in coming together as a community — one of the many reasons I love NaHaiWriMo .

We all hear the music; we each choose the dance.

the song of the tree

is written in its grain…

I have come to know you

by the shape

of your words






 *An interview with Denis M. Garrison


14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Paul Smith
    Jan 18, 2012 @ 20:45:38



  2. Andrea Grillo
    Jan 18, 2012 @ 21:19:51

    Very eloquent and true. Thanks for speaking up.


  3. Kay
    Jan 18, 2012 @ 22:41:03


    You are a beautiful soul and gracious poet, one I enjoy reading!



  4. Margaret Dornaus
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 00:30:37

    Yes, thank you, Claire, for addressing this here. You know how much I appreciate your voice and your work, which is, indeed, quite beautiful; however, I was taken aback when I read the “Top Ten List” of living poets you refer to not because of any of the names that appeared (or did not appear) there, but because it seems to me that the very creation of such a list is counterproductive to the spirit of haiku and poetic diversity . . . To put such judgments on the poetic processes and voices of others is, in my opinion, both dangerous and ludicrous. I applaud you for commenting on the situation with your usual grace and charm.


    • Claire
      Jan 19, 2012 @ 09:25:55

      Hear, hear, Margaret!

      It is a fine line I’ve tried to walk here. I am deeply humbled and appreciate the ‘honour’, but also shy away from the competitive aspect and most importantly from the ‘haiku wars’. Life is too short and there is room for all of us to sing our songs as we choose best.

      In friendship,



    • Paul Smith
      Jan 19, 2012 @ 16:03:17

      I fully support every word of this Margaret. Heart, mind and soul…

      Five words from me on the ‘best’ in relation to poetry.


      Paul Smith


      • Claire
        Jan 19, 2012 @ 16:08:17

        Absolutely…I published your comment, Margaret, because I agree with every word. Thanks, Paul.

  5. Margaret Dornaus
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 06:13:34

    Claire, please feel free to delete my previous comments. I think, perhaps, I should not have made them in such a public way . . . All best, Margaret


  6. Margaret Dornaus
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 16:35:50

    Thank you, Claire, . . . and Paul. I value both of your voices for their sensitivity and beauty and understanding. And, Claire, I echo Kay’s sentiments as well!


  7. Kris
    Jan 22, 2012 @ 01:07:46

    Dear Claire,
    Yes, an honor deserved, and yet, I agree, the number is . . .arbitrary.

    It was an indescribable pleasure watching you hone your craft on Twitter, and though you don’t spend as much time there, I’m grateful I can keep up with you here.

    Among the poets I read regularly, because they are on the Web, you and Denis, in your utterly individual ways, exemplify the poignant spirit of tanka with a viewpoint completely free from sentimentalilty.

    Thank you.


    • Kris
      Jan 22, 2012 @ 01:20:57

      I just re-read this and realized how arrogantly authorized to evaluate I could be taken as sounding Forgive me in a field in which I am at best an amateur. Let me just say your poetry gives me great happiness, and so does Denis’s.


    • Claire
      Jan 22, 2012 @ 11:37:03

      I’m so glad you felt and heard where I was coming from with this ‘speech’! I have to say what a pleasure it was to discover Twitter — and that haiku and tanka were the poetic forms most suited to me after all these years of writing! I feel blessed to have been welcomed into the Twitter haiku community with open arms, to have been nurtured, mentored, inspired and cheered on, by such wonderful poets — Denis Garrison, Paul Smith, Brian Zimmer, M. Kei, Christina Nguyen, Polona Oblak, Liam Wilkinson, Alexis Rotella, Mark Holloway, Kathabela Wilson, Johannes S. Bjerg and yourself to name but a few…indeed, this list has grown as I’ve written it! To find myself, as I have this past year, part of the editorial team for Take Five Best Contemporary Tanka 4 and now tanka prose editor for Haibun Today, is beyond wonderful! This has, and continues to be, such a journey. It has opened me up poetically and spiritually and there is not one day that I don’t give thanks for that.

      I have somewhat neglected Twitter in recent months — mine and Amy’s “Skimming the Water” website was a casualty too. I don’t forget my beginnings though, or my friends, so I’m hoping as my Take Five editorial duties come to an end, I will find more time to network.

      Thank you, dear Kris, for your companionship on this journey. You are one of the most generous in the Twitter micropoetry community, nurturing, befriending and inspiring poets new and experienced.

      In friendship,


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