Look, Cook, and Eat Kickstarter


Main Dish Media has a wonderful project called Look, Cook and Eat, that offers a digital how-to cooking magazine designed for those with intellectual disabilities to help promote an independent lifestyle.

They are seeking $45,000 through Kickstarter, and are about a third of the way there, with 102 backers (including me) at this writing.

I know the folks involved in this effort–and they are awesome! Not only do they have loads of recipe-development, cooking, and publishing experience, they’ve worked with many remarkable people with intellectual disabilities.

Take a look at the video, make a contribution if you are so inclined, then share the projects with others who might be interested. Thank you!

Looking forward to Wednesday’s poetry reading


I’ve been prepping a bit this afternoon. I find it fun to develop a program with a theme or a flow to it that works for a particular audience–like putting puzzle pieces together.

Tomorrow’s reading has a little bit of Asian feel (ooo–chicken haiku, anyone?) and a little bit of Southern feel. Might share a couple of poems from Raleigh Review as well.

Should be an entertaining evening. Come join us!

Karin reading at Unvined June 2014

Karin reading at Unvined June 2014


To have great poets, there must be great audiences.


Ah, that Walt Whitman, he really knew what he was talking about.

Harry “the Great” Calhoun and I will be reading this Wednesday, July 23, at UnVine’d in Cary. There’s room for open mic readers and, of course, there’s room for a great audience.

Here are the details…

Location: UnVine’d Wine Bar & Tapas, 201 West Chatham St., #103, Olde Cary Commons, Cary, NC (Reminiscent of a 1920s speakeasy, UnVine’d Wine Bar and Tapas is tucked away in the heart of downtown Cary. Fine wines at affordable prices… tapas, paninis and salads prepared by gourmet chefs… and walls adorned with artwork from local artists, courtesy of Manifestationz Art Gallery. It’s the perfect atmosphere for an evening of poetry!)

Time7:30pm to 9:30pm (or thereabouts)

Date: Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Open mic: You’ve got 5 minutes to wow the great audience. Sign up in advance with me (kswiberg at gmail.com) or Harry (HarryC13 at aol.com); or sign up that night.

Harry has had work published in various poetry journals and more than a dozen books, oh let’s risk inflating it, maybe two dozen chapbooks. But he’s old. His most recent collection is Failure is Unimportant. Don’t ask him if that’s true after he’s had a bad day.

You already know lil’ ol’ me.

Empower a writer with Power2Give!


UPDATE: GOAL MET!!! Stayed tuned for chicken haiku in the next few days… :-)


Pop culture stereotypes writers as moody introverts huddled behind the glow of their computer screens. Masterpieces, when they come, fall whole from the sky to their laps. However, for most of us who consider ourselves writers, we know this isn’t true.

Writers need community. Writers need mentors. Writers need friends. Writers need help. Writers need to be empowered.

Today, I’m inviting you to empower a writer.

For the past year, I’ve been volunteering as managing editor at Raleigh Review. In Fall 2014/Spring 2015, we’ll offer our new workshop and reading series, Southern Recitations. Six award-winning writers will teach weekend workshops in poetry, fiction, or nonfiction and will perform readings the corresponding Saturday evening. Each 2-day workshop is limited to 15 participants, allowing students to receive hands-on guidance from the instructor and enjoy camaraderie with peers. Readings are free and open to the public.

To make our workshops accessible for those who might not otherwise be able to attend, we’re using the crowd-funding platform Power2Give. Contributing NOW to our scholarship campaign means that your funds will be generously matched 1:1 by North Carolina Arts Council. For every $10 you donate, NC Arts Council will donate another $10! But the funds only last until they are gone, which we’ve been informed will probably happen within the next week.

It’s free money, people! Help us get it! To read more about the project and to donate $5, $10, or $20 (or as much as your writerly heart desires) and earn matching funds, click here!

And as an EXTRA bonus–just for my blog readers–if you donate now, I will write you a chicken haiku!! :-)

What? Featured reader?? Me?


It’s time for some poetry out loud again!

Harry Calhoun (http://harrycalhoun.net) and I are reading at UnVine’d Wine Bar in Cary, NC. We’ll do 15-20 minutes each, then open up the mic. Are you game??

Here are the details…

Wednesday, June 25, 2014, 7:30pm-9:30pm
UnVine’d Wine Bar & Tapas, 201 W. Chatham St. – #103, Olde Cary Commons, Cary, NC
Relax with a glass of wine and listen to poetry from two talented Raleigh poets: Harry Calhoun and Karin Wiberg. Open mic readers and other entertainers are encouraged and should contact Harry in advance of the reading (HarryC13@aol.com). UnVine’d Wine Bar and Tapas is tucked away in the heart of downtown Cary. Fine wines at affordable prices…tapas, paninis and salads prepared by gourmet chefs…and walls adorned with artwork from local artists. The perfect atmosphere for an evening of poetry!

And, as Harry likes to say, we are both cute as bugs. :-)

Come on in and have a great time!

Come drink some words

Language is wine upon the lips. —Virginia Woolf

If you’re in the Triangle (NC), stop in to Unvine’d for poetry Wednesday night. Yours truly might even read something…

Location: UnVine’d Wine Bar & Tapas, 201 W Chatham St., #103, Olde Cary Commons, Cary, NC 27519

When: Wednesday,  May 21 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Henderson’s Haiku: Beyond 5-7-5


5-7-5. I learned the rule of haiku syllables in elementary school. Five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five again in the third. Likely you learned this lesson, too.

As I’ve been reading and writing haiku in the past few years, I’ve had an aversion to haiku that disobeys the 5-7-5 rule. Isn’t 5-7-5 the most important thing?

Well, I’ve overcome my aversion—with the help of Harold Henderson’s An Introduction to Haiku: An Anthology of Poems and Poets from Basho to Shiki.

I’ve mentioned this book before. When I finished reading it, I immediately began rereading it. It’s a short book, under 200 pages, with lots of white space (haiku don’t take up too much room)—a quick read.


In this book, Henderson describes the characteristics of haiku and offers history and translations from the earliest haiku to Bashō to Buson to Issa and Shiki, along with their contemporaries. Included with his translations are the original Japanese verses with a literal translation to English and any contextual notes needed to understand the poem.

The author is humble in his descriptions and translations. He begins by reminding us of the Italian “traduttore, traditore” and its implication that any translator is probably a traitor. He emphasizes the need to create the effect of the original haiku, but that one can only recreate the effect on oneself, thus there are multiple ways to create an effect (and sometimes it is impossible), so multiple translations may be “correct.”

Henderson chooses to translate haiku from which he feels he can capture the effect of the original without too much explanation. As he says “I have a very strong belief that too much explanation can take the pleasure out of any poetry.” He attempts to be as literal in his translation as possible, while recognizing the necessary adjustments for such dissimilar languages as Japanese and English.

Characteristics of haiku

Henderson describes a haiku as a very short poem, with special characteristics, but primarily meant to evoke emotion. Yes, in Japanese haiku have 17 syllables, but there’s a little more to it than that.

  • High moments – Haiku can be happy, sad, deep, shallow, religious or whatever, but haiku are records of “high moments.” Haiku should capture the peaks that are higher than the surrounding plains of life.
  • Condensed language – Haiku often omit words that are not needed to understand the poem, but that would be used in a grammatically correct sentence. (He cautions care here: condensing to excess can result in an unintelligible puzzle.) Season words and cut words are two conventions used to eliminate unnecessary words.
  • Season wordsKigo, or season words, are used as a common reference. They put the poem in a setting immediately. The reference may be the actual word (spring, fall, etc.) or may be a reference that is attached to a particular season, for example, cherry blossoms, which occur in spring.

Henderson adds, “It may be noted in passing that the use of ki is probably at the base of a charge that has been advanced that haiku are more concerned with nature than with human affairs. Such a statement is ridiculous. Haiku are more concerned with human emotions than human acts, and natural phenomena are used to reflect human emotions, but that is all.”

  • Cut wordsKireji, or “cut words,” are specific Japanese words that divide the poem in two parts that are to be equated or compared. There is no real equivalent in English, so Henderson uses punctuation to indicate kireji in his translations.
  • Power of suggestion – Due to their length, haiku depend on the power of suggestion. They often give a clear picture of something that is the starting place for an emotion or train of thought. The outline is drawn, but the reader fills it in.

Henderson says, “…in order to really understand a good haiku, one has to read it over many times. It is not that the picture is hazy in any way, for if the author has done his work properly, the picture is quite clear. The point is that good haiku are full of overtones.”

In particular, it may be difficult to find the connection from the natural image to the human emotion—thus the need for multiple readings.

A sampling of Henderson’s translations

Henderson takes us on an historical field trip from Bashō to Shiki. I’ve included a few examples here that I either like or that illustrate some of his points.

I should note first that Henderson rhymes many of his translations in the first and third lines. Haiku in Japanese do not typically rhyme, but he justifies this choice as a structural framework and a way to make sure the short lines are not mistaken for prose.

I found the rhyming a bit irritating at first, but then it grew on me, and I’ve been experimenting with similar rhyme in my haiku since I read the book. There is something quaint about it when done well. The more I try rhyming my haiku, the more I admire Henderson’s translations.


Henderson starts with the earliest haiku or precursors to haiku. He makes it very clear that a haiku must evoke human emotion. A 17-syllable poem that is primarily a joke or a trick or is just clever is not of the highest form and may not even be haiku.

This seems to be found early on (15th-16th century) especially. For example, Sōkan’s verse:

If to the moon
one puts a handle—what
a splendid fan!

It may be a clever image, but there is no depth of emotion.

Another example Henderson offers of not-haiku or bad haiku is Teitoku’s verse (which takes place on new year’s day):

This morning, how
icicles drip!—slobbering
year of the cow!

Bashō (one of the greats) referred to this type of verse—clever more than poetic—as “Teitoku’s slobber.”

(Now, at this point in the book I was getting the uncomfortable feeling of having written a lot of not-haiku. Hmmm.)

Things started to improve with Sōin of the Danrin School (17th century). For example:

Dewdrops, limpid, small—
and such a lack of judgment shown
in where they fall!

Still clever and somewhat thin, but moving more towards layered meanings.


Bashō is the most famous poet of the Edo period (1603-1867) and a well known teacher. There is a tale of Bashō and a young student. The student made the following haiku:

Red dragonflies!
Take off their wings,
and they are pepper pods!

Bashō corrected him, saying that was not a haiku, this was a haiku:

Red pepper pods!
Add wings to them,
and they are dragonflies!

His most famous haiku:

Old pond—
and a frog jump-in

A couple more of Bashō’s work.

Spring too, very soon!
They are setting the scene for it—
plum tree and moon.

This road:
with no man traveling on it,
autumn darkness falls.


I appreciated Henderson’s offering of several possible versions of Ransetsu’s famous haiku.

On the plum tree
one blossom, one blossomworth
of warmth.

As on the plums
blossom by blossom, so too
spring warmness comes.

On the plum is glowing
one blossom; now one blossom strong,
warmth too is growing.

On the plum, forlorn,
one blossom; one frail blossomworth
of warmth has just been born.

As Henderson says, all versions are “right,” and all are probably “wrong,” since they give only one point of view.


With Onitsura, Henderson offers a good example of a haiku with many overtones and possible interpretations.

On top of skeletons
they put a gala dress, and then—
the flower viewing!

One could read this as a cynical look at the revelers who put on their best clothes for the cherry-viewing festival. Perhaps Onitsura is suggesting a comparison of the shortness of human life to that of the cherry blossom. Another interpretation is that the naked trees are getting dressed with spring blossoms. (Also, a reinforcement that haiku need to be read multiple times—I did not get both interpretations without explanation.)


Chiyo is one of the best known female haiku writers. Here are two translations of a haiku she wrote after the death of her little son.

Henderson’s translation:

The dragonfly hunter—
today, what place has he
got to, I wonder…

Curtis Hidden Page’s translation:

I wonder in what fields today
He chases dragonflies in play.
My little boy—who ran away.

Interesting to see how both translators chose to rhyme the haiku. I found the Henderson translation more poignant, perhaps partially due to the triple rhyme and more literal feel of Page’s.


Buson is considered the next great haiku writer to come after Bashō.

A mountain pheasant,
treading on its tail, the springtime’s
setting sun.

There apparently is no agreement on the correct reading of this haiku. Who/what is stepping on the tail—the pheasant or the sun? But it does offer a comparison of the colorful tail to the sunset, and Henderson suspects Buson accomplished what he wanted.

The piercing chill I feel:
my dead wife’s comb, in our bedroom,
under my heel…

That one gives me shivers.


Henderson posits Issa as one of the most beloved haiku writers.

What a red moon!
And whose is it,

This simple haiku makes a comparison of the moon to a toy, but also has overtones of economic theory, Henderson points out.

Snow melts,
and the village is overflowing—
with children.

And some of his haiku have little surprises in the last lines. If you read just the first two lines of the haiku above, an image begins to form, but the third line creates an entirely different image. And another in the same vein…

Thanks to cherry bloom,
in its shadow utter strangers—
there are none!


Henderson ends with Shiki (who apparently was a precocious upstart) and his contemporaries.

Evening moon:
plum blossoms start to fall
upon the lute.

In the winter river,
thrown away, a dog’s
dead body.

Quite a range Shiki had.

Recommendation: Read

If you have any interest in haiku, I’d recommend this book. I have not read too many other books that explain and/or translate haiku, but this one seemed to clarify some of the conceptions and misconceptions I had.

In stark contrast to John Gardner (the last review I wrote was of Gardner’s The Art of Fiction), Harold Henderson is a humble writer and translator, offering his own educated opinions and translations, while remaining entirely open to the possibility that there is another and possibly a better way.

Harold Henderson was an encouraging teacher and enhanced my understanding of haiku. By reading his translations, I grew to understand that precise syllable count was perhaps the least important aspect of haiku. I now know haiku goes well beyond 5-7-5. And, strangely, I felt better after reading this book.

Call It a Day (NaPoWriMo Day 30)


Ramp closes,

shuffle in the roost—

moon poses.


How could I not end NaPoWriMo with a chicken haiku?? :-) The final prompt from Poetic Asides was to write a “calling it a day” poem.


It’s been a good month. Busy on a lot of fronts, so it was tough to get in a poem every single day on that specific day, but close enough. I figure out of 30 poems, a handful of good ones will emerge. Here are some of my favorites from the month.

Thematically, these three fit together for me: Some Things That Stay, Survival, The Follow-up.

This one was fun because it was such a different voice for me: New York School.

This was was fun because it was a challenge—and it just seemed so sweet: Junior High Dance.

I think this is my best poem out of the month: The Bus Stop.

I think this is my favorite poem of the month (be sure to see the photo): The Night After the Boat Race.

Thanks for following and commenting—and congrats to everyone who participated. Now, call it a day…