This is the cover of a chapbook I recently made for my friend Julie Haught. I have been feeling a great need, lately, to gather some of the haiku and haibun I’ve been writing into one place. The task was made much more pleasant by the thought of sending the collection along to someone who has taken care of me for many years and in so many ways. The letter I sent along with the chapbook is below.
I call her “My Dear Jewel” because her friendship is precious to me. In the letter I explain a little about how the writings and the project came about. –Theresa Williams
My dear Jewel,
I am typing this while listening to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” I have iTunes on my computer and often listen to music while I write.
I am sending you something I’ve wanted to make for you for a long time. I could send you links to where you could find the works in this chapbook online, but that just seemed like an imposition.
I call this chapbook Little Works. This title has a double meaning that I think you can appreciate. I don’t wish to explain any of the pieces, only a little bit about how I came to write them.
I’m listening now to “Heart of Gold” by Neil Young, which seems appropriate to this conversation.
As you know, I started a haiku project a while back. To date, I’ve written a little over 330. Most of them, I now realize, aren’t really haiku, and some of the ones that are haiku aren’t very good ones. In fact, out of all the ones I had written, I could only a find a few that I thought good enough to put into the chapbook: 66, 204, 234, 239, 262, 275, 276, 281, 278, 310, 311, and 313. I’m not discouraged. After finishing your chapbook, I wrote several more haiku, and I think they are getting better. I plan to continue the haiku project and, hopefully, make more of these little chapbooks for my own entertainment and to give to friends.
I’ve also included some of the haibun that have recently been published online. You were asking about haibun in one of your letters to me, and I thought the best way to answer you was to show you some of mine. I think you must have run across Basho’s Narrow Road to the Interior at some point. It’s Basho who perfected haibun and continues to serve as an early model for everyone attempting haibun.
Playing in iTunes now is Man on the Moon by REM. Do you know REM?
You will remember that Basho wrote of how the sun and the moon are eternal travelers: “Even the years wander on. A lifetime adrift in a boat, or in old age leading a tired horse into the years.” Writing those lines, I can remember standing in Thackeray’s Bookstore many years ago and reading them. It was my introduction to Basho. I put him away for a long time while I struggled with writing the novel. I picked him up again in 2002 or 2003. Subsequently, I began reading more and more about the Chinese and Japanese poets, and pretty soon I understood that I needed to integrate my life and writing in a similar way that they had. I was deeply moved by the works of Ryokan whom I’ve quoted in Little Works. I’ve written several pieces based on my readings of his work.
I felt a great need to bring some of these things I’ve been writing lately into one place. Julie, you were the only one I thought of to be the recipient.
The following fact is one you will enjoy. The paper on which I typed the chapbook pieces are [sic] more than twenty years old! It is 100% Cotton Resume paper that I bought for printing my Master’s thesis at East Carolina. I also used to use this fine paper on which to type story submissions, in the old days. And I even did final copies of essays, which I typed on my Smith Carona [sic] Electric, on this paper. (Your chapbook is typed with an Olympia manual typewriter.)
The chapbook cover is from a haibun journal of mine. My first haibun were written last January after going for a walk in our field with the dogs. I did the artwork the same day. I scanned the artwork and printed it on a notecard.
Thanks for your friendship. Hope to see you often during the school year coming up. I close this while listening to Tears for Fears: “Mad World.”