Tom TicoTom Tico

(15 May 1942 – 4 February 2016)

Thomas Michael Tico was born on 15 May 1942 in San Francisco, California and he lived nearly all his life in the city he loved. Tom Tico’s first haiku appeared in American Haiku in 1966. And since then his poems have been steadily published in various haiku magazines and in a number of anthologies: Cor van den Heuvel’s “The Haiku Anthology”, Bruce Ross’s “Haiku Moment”, and the “San Francisco Haiku Anthology”.  Tom also had numerous essays published, mainly in Frogpond, Modern Haiku and other haiku journals. In 1989 Tom Tico was a co-judge to the “1989 Gerald Brady Senryu Awards”. In 1992, he co-edited The San Francisco Haiku Anthology (Smythe-Waithe Press, 1992).

Committed to living an artistic life, Tom Tico dedicated his life to his passion as a haiku poet. In the early 70's, he determined conventional employment was no longer for him. He resigned from his work with the US Postal Service, and dedicated his time and energy for the remainder of his life to creative and personally satisfying pursuits. While his commitment to this path was not without challenges, Tom never wavered from his absolute certainty that he was living his life the way he needed to in order to be true to himself.

In 1998 Tom self-published a book "Spring Morning Sun". In the ‘Introduction’ to the book he wrote: “From 1985 through 1995 I spent over seven years in a state of homelessness, sleeping in a redwood forest in Golden Gate Park.”  His experience from those years shaped his haiku significantly. Tom’s life just comes through in his haiku:

At the soup kitchen,
   a faded reproduction
      of The Last Supper

In my sleeping bag
   in a fetal position;
      this cold autumn night

Later in his life, Tom developed a passion for photography, and applied the same lens evident in many of his haiku - the beauty of the marriage between the natural and the urban environment.

Tom loved to walk, which gave him the opportunity to find inspiration for his haiku or his photography. Movies and books were two of Tom's other life-long enjoyments. He had an extraordinary knowledge of movies, directors, actors and authors.

Tom Tico passed away peacefully on 4 February 2016 due to a degenerative lung disease. On the last night of his life, he reflected with contentment on his life "as an outsider", the significance of being able to take satisfaction in the character of his children, and his readiness for whatever came next. Tom is survived by his brother, Edward Tico; children: Christopher, Alexander, Minerva and Nathanael Tico; daughters-in-law: Wendy, Kristin and Rebecca; and grandchildren: Jonathan, Alex, Jordan, Morgan, Reeva, Adrian, Gabriella, and Sawyer.

Some publications:

  • Tico, Tom. “Personification” [workshop]. Frogpond 21.1 (1998);
  • Tico, Tom. “The Imaginative Haiku: Readings by Tom Tico” [workshop]. Frogpond 20.1 (1999);
  • Tico, Tom. “Affinities: Thoreau and the Japanese Haiku Poets” [workshop]. Frogpond 22.3 (1999);
  • Tico, Tom. “Like a Fine Wine” [workshop]. Frogpond 22.2 (1999);
  • Tico, Tom. “The Dark Side of Kali” [workshop]. Frogpond 22.1 (1999);
  • Tico, Tom. “The Music of Haiku” [workshop]. Frogpond 24.2 (2001);
  • Tico, Tom. “The Sad, Lonely Poetry of the City” [workshop]. Frogpond 20.3 (12/1/1997);
  • Tico, Tom. “Endlessness in a Small Frame: Readings” [workshop]. Frogpond 18.2 (summer 1995);
  • Tico, Tom. “A Handful of Shadows, Readings” [workshop]. Frogpond 18.4 (winter 1995);
  • Tico, Tom. “Tassajara Zen Center” [sequence [5]]. Modern Haiku 10:1 (Winter–Spring 1979);
  • Tico, Tom. “A Reading of Marjory Bates Pratt” [workshop]. Modern Haiku 13:1 (Winter–Spring 1982);
  • Tico, Tom. “Scarecrow Reading” [workshop]. Modern Haiku 13:2 (Summer 1982);
  • Tico, Tom. “The Sun the Moon and the Stars: A Reading of Foster Jewell” [workshop]. Modern Haiku 14:2 (Summer 1983);
  • Tico, Tom. “The Peach-Blossom Spring [O Southard]” [workshop]. Modern Haiku 14:3 (Fall 1983);
  • Tico, Tom. “River and Mountain: A Reading of Larry Gates” [workshop [10]]. Modern Haiku 15:1 (Winter- Spring 1984);
  • Tom Tico, "The Spice of Life", Frogpond 30:1 (winter 2007).

In anthologies:

  • Cor van den Heuvel, editor. The Haiku Anthology: English Language Haiku by Contemporary American and Canadian Poets (1974).
  • Cor van den Heuvel, editor. The Haiku Anthology: Haiku and Senryu in English (revised [2nd] edition, 1986), and (expanded [3rd] edition, 1999).
  • Bruce Ross, ed., Haiku Moment (1993)

Selected haiku: 

autumn evening . . .
   a page of the old book
      separates from the spine

(Honorable Mention: 1999 Harold G. Henderson Memorial Award)

First days of summer . . .
      already the leaves gather
            beneath the sycamores

(Honorable Mention: 1990 Harold G. Henderson Memorial Award)


A wisp of spring cloud
  drifting apart from the rest. . . .
     slowly evaporates.

(“The Haiku Anthology Revised Edition”, Simon and Schuster, 1986, pg. 242)


old plum trees:
   how quickly the one dies
      after the other

(Modern Haiku 38:3, autumn 2007)


at the burial
one of the black umbrellas
breaks down

(Modern Haiku 41:3, autumn 2010)


in this little part
of the solar system
      dust motes

(Frogpond 37:3, Autumn 2014)


running along the glassy beach
on top of themselves

a windless morning
and still the plum blossoms
flutter to the ground

Dusk …
the whole forest dark
except for the lilies

the purple rhododendrons
shadows of evening

a morning fog:
again and again the caw
of an unseen crow

On every step
of the old stone stairway –
autumn leaves

(Haiku Moment: An Anthology of Contemporary North American Haiku, Tuttle Publishing, 1993) edited by Bruce Ross


As day breaks...
   the lightness of her breath
       on my back

(“The Haiku Anthology”, ed. by Cor van den Heuvel, Norton 1999, pg.222)


Sitting in the sun
    in the middle of the plants
        that I just watered

(Woodnotes 25, 1995)


Beside the tenement
a box of broken glass
filled with autumn sun

Mud-puddle water
going this way and that--
spring wind

After gazing at stars . . .
now, I adjust to the rocks
under my sleeping bag

Nothing to bring her . . .
except flowers from the gardens
all along the way

Shortening the line
at the soup kitchen--
the first fall rain

The old carving tree . . .
a new pair of initials
and the first young leaves

The white butterfly
just the touch of my shadow
and it flies away

("Spring Morning Sun" (1998)


Misting across
the cold bright stars -
my own breath

(Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Feb. 28, 2016)

This profile was created with the kind help of Charles Trumbull, Peggy Mather, John Stevenson and Michael Dylan Welch.

And this is Tom’s tribute written by his children at the San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 28, 2016:



the vague shapes
of familiar trees


beneath purple leaves
the unpicked fruit
stains the sidewalk


after a long stretch of stargazing   first light


around the corner
from the swank nursing home
one for the poor


Valentine’s Day:
my heart favors
the plum blossoms


in this little part
of the solar system
      dust motes


    the hard and fast lines


following the lead my elongated shadow


cold park:
so many trees


emphysema --
it could be the name
of an exotic femme fatale
who ends up leaving you


Easter morning
rising later
than usual


angels’ trumpets
yet here and there
a bit of rust


getting to know
the night


the chiaroscuro of crows and morning mist


intermittent rain the long and the short of it


making the most
of the broken-down fence


in the world
but not of it --
autumn wind


just another
of winter’s losses --
my singing voice


every bit as black
as the plumage of the crows --
their strident cries