Sydell Gasnick-Rosenberg


Sydell Gasnick-Rosenberg (1929-1996) of Queens, NY was a charter member of the Haiku Society of America, attending the founding meeting in 1968. She had previously published in American Haiku—the first North American haiku magazine—as well as in Haiku West and Canada's Haiku. Syd served on Merit Book Award committees and was Secretary of HSA in 1975. She also was anthologized in Frogpond, Wind Chimes, Modern Haiku, Haiku West and numerous other publications. Her senryu were featured in several important haiku texts, including: The Haiku Anthology, by Cor van den Heuvel; and The Haiku Handbook, by William J. Higginson and Penny Harter. In addition, her senryu, “In the Laundermat,” was highlighted in the public art project, “Haiku On 42nd Street” in 1994, in which the marquees of dilapidated, shuttered movie theaters were transformed into showcases for short poems. Much of her work reflected an urban sensibility; in Mr. van den Heuvel’s anthology, first published in 1974, she had referred to her short poems as “city haiku.” Her work was mostly traditional in style, although she also experimented with the form over the years.

Syd attended Brooklyn College and received her Master’s Degree in English as a Second Language from Hunter College in the early 1970s. She became a teacher in NY. In addition to her approximately 30 year career as a haijin, she also published other poetry, as well as inventive literary puzzles and prose - especially short stories – and translated literature from and into Spanish. Syd also published a pulp novel, Strange Circle - on a dare from her publisher boss -- as a young woman in the 1950s, under the male pseudonym, Gale Sydney.

Syd died suddenly on October 11, 1996 of an aortic aneurysm. This unexpected loss was a shock to her loved ones. In recent years, her daughter, Amy Losak, has made it her mission to revive some of Syd’s best work and bring it to today’s audiences -- especially children – via a variety of educationally enriching initiatives.

For example, in 2013 and 2014, Amy sponsored teaching artists from the NY non-profit arts education organization, Arts for All. They used Syd’s haiku as teaching tools in their programs at a Bronx elementary school. In three series of workshops for second-graders, her animal haiku were used to teach the fundamentals of drawing and painting; two workshop series turned her haiku into lyrics in the composition of a song. This rewarding partnership is continuing in 2015 with a haiku-art program for fifth grade students.

Also in 2013, the Children’s Museum of the Arts in NY built and displayed a PoeTree as a framework for kids to suspend paper “leaves” that they decorated with their own haiku. In the same year, Amy also conducted a free reading at the Poets House in NY for kids who then wrote haiku and pasted them onto keepsake stones. And in 2014, Amy also collaborated on a haiku-science program presented at the Teaneck Creek Conservancy in NJ, a reclaimed dump site turned into a lush community eco-park.

For National Poetry Month and National Garden Month this past April 2015, the Queens Botanical Garden in NY featured a number of Syd’s haiku in a public writing event designed to nurture, in a natural setting, the appreciation of haiku.

In an interview for The Haiku Society of America, Amy described Sydell’s style very well: “Her haiku and senryu are compact and concise—and yet highly evocative—visual ‘snapshots’ of moments in time in nature, urban life and relationships; many of these short pictorial poems are perfect for children who are learning to engage with and interpret the world around them in creative ways".

Sydell was married to Sam Rosenberg (d. 2003) for approximately 41 years. Amy is a senior public relations executive at a large agency in NY; their son, Nathan Rosenberg, is an insurance agent and financial advisor in Florida. They also have two adult grandchildren, Zachary and Julia. Amy soon hopes to publish both a children’s book – a project Syd began decades ago but never got to finish – and a general audience book or chapbook, in her honor and loving memory.


Selected haiku and senryu:

Like a giant cat
  rain licked away the  hopscotch
     chalked in the bright sun.

(Haiku West, 1967)


Adventures over
    the cat sits in the fur ring
       of his tail, and dreams.

(SCTH, 1967)


Holding umbrellas
   children, like rows of mushrooms
      glisten in the rain.

(American Haiku, 1967)


So pale -– it hardly sat
   on the outstretched branch
      of the winter night.

(Haiku West, ”best original, previously unpublished subscriber-haiku,” 1968; HW 1975; “In Memory of Sydell Rosenberg,” Frogpond, 1996)  


In a quiet cove
  ducks abandon their formation
      swimming after bread.

(American Haiku, 1968)


Boy on a mailbox
   perched like a solitary bird
      watching the sunset.

(Haiku Anthology, 1968)


Declaring a truce
    he slurps from his water gun
        to cool himself.

(Modern Haiku - 1.3, 1969)


A wrapping of snow –
here and there in the ivy
a dark leaf showing.

(American Haiku, 1967; Haiku West, 1970)


At the ballet
        pushed into a corner
a wheelchair

(Modern Haiku, 1973)


Hazy summer day
   only yellow school buses
      and white butterflies          

(Wind Chimes, 1982)


Autumn rain
    fragrant in the brown paper
         of my groceries

(Wind Chimes, 1982)


Opening one eye
   the bag lady sneers into
      the tourist’s camera.



breaking the fast
with pizza and soda
on Yom Kippur

(Haiku World, 1996)


Chartreuse Mood


Still there
  chartreuse tennis ball
      on the fire escape


Soaking up moonlight
   on the fire escape
      chartreuse tennis ball


On the fire escape
   chartreuse tennis ball
       not there


(Poetry Society Of Virginia, “J. Franklin Dew Award” Second Prize Winner for a “Series of three or four haiku on a single theme,” 1990)


Boy Montage


Picking up a stick
  the little boy is master
     of the country road.


Declaring a truce
   he slurps from his water gun
       to cool himself.


Running to the bus
   bathing soup wrapped in a towel
      jelly-roll style.


Speeding past his friends
   dry leaves clinging to sweater --
      boy on bicycle.


Intrigued too long  
  little boy staring at shell
    of capsized turtle.

(Modern Haiku, 1970)


This profile was created in collaboration with Sydell’s daughter, Amy Losak. We are very grateful for her help and support! 


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