In my April 12th post, I talked about how I came to saijiki study, and how I incorporate both the Gregorian seasons and the lunar seasons into my haiku practice. Through my decision to work with a saijiki for a year, I got inspired to think about how we approach food in haiku. Like many of my ideas, it had probably been building for a while, but it seemed to come in a flash. I to create a large-scale project related to haiku, but didn’t feel I had anything specific to talk about over the long haul.
I decide my saijiki topic or word for the day first thing in the morning. After I brush my teeth, I sit down at my kitchen table with Haiku World and my notebook, skim through the list, and settle on a focal point. Exploring the saijiki right when I get up primes me to pay attention to the world around me as I walk Astrid every morning. Our first stroll of the day lasts around 30 minutes, and usually, I’m able to get at least one haiku related to the theme of the day by the time we come home. I don’t carry a notebook and pen when I write; I have to hold the haiku in my head as we walk, and take care not to let it slip away. Not only does this allow for a fair amount of mental revision before I even sit down at the notebook, but it serves as a sort of meditation. Since I started my saijiki practice over a month ago, I’ve discovered that the amount of time I spend ruminating on the walk has gone down dramatically. My mind is too occupied with haiku to be able to focus on my worries about the day ahead!
I started my saki study on March 20th, 2022. The idea for the Culinary Saijiki project came to me 24 hours later, as I was taking my dog, Astrid, for her morning walk. The topic I’d chosen for March 21st was the word “March,” and the Haiku World example was a poem from Allan Curry:
middle of MarchAlan Curry, Haiku World (ed. Higginson), p. 45
the first lemonade stand
has a slow day
In the “March” entry, Higginson notes that the topic of “lemonade stand” is really a summer kigo in the northern hemisphere (p. 45). Allan Curry creates juxtaposition by contrasting the defined spring season with a summer image. (Even in Austin, March is often not ideal lemonade stand weather!)
Astrid and I had just stepped off the apartment grounds and into Houston Street. I was pondering the concept of “March,” as well as Allen Curry’s poem. Suddenly, I was reminded of the fact that food is seasonal. Yes, in the United States, we are able to get produce year-round, regardless of whether or not it’s actually in season. But fundamentally, food is connected to the changes of spring (planting), summer (growing), autumn (harvesting), and winter (resting). The agricultural year has a rhythm, and food follows it. I wondered what it would be like to create a saijiki entirely around the concept of food.
My mind was so captivated by the idea that I barely managed to find a haiku on that dog walk. By the end of the day, I decided to structure the project as a blog, in hopes of fostering discussion and collaboration with other haiku poets. I had also decided a podcast would be a fun complement. I wanted to be able to not just write about my own perceptions of food and haiku, but have direct discussions with others as well. Before I went to bed, I’d bought the website URL and made a to-do list.
I’ve been slowly building this project for about 5 weeks now. As of this writing, I’ve collected and tagged 65 food-related haiku, just from the print journals I have on-hand, as well as PDF publications in my hard drive. After just one day of struggling to find an organizational system in Microsoft Word that I liked, I jumped ship and bought a copy of Scrivener. I’d attempted to use Scrivener as a budding fiction writer about 12 years ago, but it didn’t resonate with my process. However, I plan to work on the Culinary Saijiki for a while, and the thought of a folder filled with hundreds of Word documents, or one giant Word file of doom, made me feel overwhelmed. I realized that Scrivener’s binder approach would make it easy for me to organize and tag the haiku I collected.
My current Culinary Saijiki project has a folder for each season, plus an All-Year category. I have a template for typing out the entries, and I tag each one with relevant keywords. I can sort by season, by type of food, or some other aspect. Being able to do so will help me structure future commentary on food-related haiku, and eventually compile a print book (though I don’t plan on that happening for at least two years). At the moment, I’m only adding haiku that I find myself, but stay tuned on the blog. Every now and then, I’ll post calls for themed submissions for special bonus posts, and those will end up in my database as well. (Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to get permission if I want to include them in the book, but that’s still far in the future.)
As for the podcast, I’m launching that in June. I’ve had several blogs over the years, so I was able to get started on that right away. Plus, I consider the blog the foundation of the project, so it made sense to start that first. Finally, since I’ve never produced a podcast before, I needed to give myself time to set up an infrastructure and learn the basics.
While I’ll be soliciting a few podcast guests, especially as I try to get things up and running, all haiku poets who want to talk about food are welcome to join in. Please fill out the form at the “Join the Conversation” page so I can get to know you and your work a little more.
In my May 10th post, I’ll be talking about the preliminary ideas I’ve developed in my study of food and haiku so far. If there are other topics you’d like me to cover in the future, please leave a comment!