My Haiku: From Making to Being

by Terry Ann Carter

I realize now that when I first began exploring haiku almost twenty years ago, I was “making” poems. My senses informed and shaped the moment I was in. Some of the poems recorded moments in the natural world:

end of summer
the Great Blue Heron stretches
into its shadow

some from the human world:

of the kite master

and some from a hybrid of both:

underground parking
no space
for the moon

When I retired from a thirty-five year career in teaching (kindergarten to college) I began to travel. Because of my husband’s kidney transplant, most of the journeying was solo, which resulted in poems such as this:

alone in Tokyo
even the chopsticks
in pairs

By the autumn of 2015, my husband was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. Our lives changed. Irrevocably. So did my haiku. The intensity of this knowledge has cracked me open to a heart-knowledge of the haiku moment.

For example, when I came home from the doctor’s visit that revealed the cancer news, I saw our Christmas cactus on the window sill, blooming. It had been dormant for months, and now the tiny tips of the green cactus were flowering like small pink parachutes. I remember taking the plant from the sill and sitting with it in my lap. I remember weeping.

the Christmas cactus
begins to bloom

Here’s the thing. A reader who doesn’t know the situation would read this poem and (correctly) assume that the diagnosis was not a good one, that some illness or disease was beginning to grow. And this would be true,

But for me, the writer of the haiku, the blossoming of the Christmas cactus was part of my experience of understanding death in a whole new way. I would say that I was part of the bloom. That the bloom was part of me. I was the poem.

Terry Ann Carter
Victoria, British Columbia