Roberta Beary‘s Deflection (Accents Publishing) recently won an honorable mention by the Haiku Foundation for their Touchstone Award, and Beary also won the distinction of being the only woman among the winners and runners up.
Of Deflection, the panelists said:
“Roberta Beary has guts. Within the first few pages of Deflection, the reader is presented with haibun and haiku sequences about loss of attraction, adultery, the deterioration of the author’s mother, and the author’s son coming out as gay. That’s a lot to take in, but Roberta Beary is a skilled poet, and she pulls it off.”
Roberta Beary also recently read at AWP for Rattle along with Troy Jollimore, Joan Murray, and Chris Anderson. She also read from Deflection at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland with Ann Bracken.
Beary will be at the North Carolina Haiku Society’s Haiku Holiday Conference this Satuday, April 30 at Bolin Brook Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The Charlotte Observer recently ran a piece on the event, featuring Beary and mentioning her haiku studies in Japan. If you’re in the area, be sure to check her out, along with Robert Moyer and Lenard D. Moore.
For more information about Roberta Beary, check out her website.
cattails Book Reviewer Barbara Snow recently reviewed Deflection (Accents Publishing 2015), saying that “This sliver of a volume packs a walloping punch beyond just the poetry shelves; I would also bring it to the attention of grief counselors.” You can read the review in full by clicking here.
“to be the most substantial, and best national and internationally compatible haiku, tanka, and related forms society to-date. Our mission is to cultivate insight, and comprehension through the reading and writing of these genre in both English, and global native languages for the true purpose of unifying a world-wide network of like-minded peoples as an “alternative” to any other US society.”
Accents Publishing released ten books in 2015.
jasmine scent of the other woman is me
of original sin
broken vow the gin bottle's vacant blue
the way he says
Roberta Beary is the haibun editor of she tweets her photoku @shortpoemz. Her book was named a William Carlos Williams finalist by the Poetry Society of Americain 2008, the first such honor for a book of haiku. A frequent judge of haiku and haibun contests, she travels worldwide to give workshops on the art of the short poem. Her poetry is featured in the reference work (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011) and in the anthology (Norton, 2013). .
Tell us a bit about yourself and your chapbook Deflection (Accents Publishing 2015).
I created Deflection in the wake of my mother’s death in 2013 after caring for her for five years. Shortly after my mother died, my nephew died. It was a hard year. Working on Deflection was a way of dealing with my grief. I also hoped the collection would resonate with readers, especially those who find it hard to voice their own sense of loss. I believe in the power of haiku and enjoy doing haiku and haibun workshops and readings both in the States and abroad. My haiku collection, The Unworn Necklace, has just gone into its 4th printing and was a finalist for the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams’ award. I’ve also edited several haiku anthologies.
Deflection relies heavily on the Japanese forms haiku, senryu, and haibun. How did you come to writing in these forms?
Haibun is the form that speaks to me. I love the way it combines the freedom of flash fiction with the discipline of haiku. Some poets distinguish between haiku (poems with a season word) and senryu (poems about human nature). I like both forms and combine them whenever possible. I think of myself as a hybrid poet. In the 1990s I lived in Tokyo for five years and discovered the beauty of small things, including haiku. When I returned to the States, I joined Towpath, haiku poets of the Chesapeake Bay. We’ve been meeting for 20 years.
In the title poem the speaker discusses the death of her mother. The opening lines
my urgent need
for a new coat
use senryu to capture the way we avoid thinking about the loss of a parent. What did this form offer that other forms and styles did not or could not?
Senryu are not easy to write well. The form’s discipline forces me to be very careful in choosing both words and images. This was certainly true when I was writing the title poem, which is a haiku sequence. I wanted to convey the feeling of loss in a way that expresses deep sentiment not shallow sentimentality. In the title poem, grieving takes on different guises, all of which show that it is a natural process.
Do you feel any anxiety to look for fresh interpretations of such venerated forms, and if so, do you ever feel as if you would/should jeopardize the form for the content, or vice versa?
I would describe myself as a haibun rebel. Traditional haibun don’t interest me very much─I see a lot of them as haibun editor for Modern Haiku. Haibun are much more than prose poems with a haiku tacked on at the end. I don’t feel any anxiety about looking for fresh interpretations. They come naturally to me. I’m a risk-taker in my writing.
Do you have any advice for those seeking to write in these forms?
Reading the print journal Modern Haiku is a good way to see the best of today’s writing. The Norton Anthology, Haiku in English, is a good guide for those who want to jump into the haiku world or just get their feet wet. I also want to give a tip of the hat to Rattle, Issue #47, which features Japanese forms.
What inspires you to write?
In large part, I want to connect with others, particularly the disenfranchised, to let them know they are not alone.
Are you currently working on any new projects we can look forward to reading?
As a self-described hybrid poet, I do like to mix things up. I am working on a collection of my photo-ku, short poems with photographic images. You can see examples of my photo-ku on twitter @shortpoemz. I’m also working on a chapbook which pairs my haiku and haibun with my brother Kevin Beary’s artwork. He’s an amazing artist as you can see by the cover of Deflection!
Grace Cavalieri (who also wrote a blurb for the book) calls Roberta “the mistress of the short form poem”. “In Deflection she extends her reach with some of the most searingly truthful work I’ve seen this year.”
Among the other picks for the best of April are Jane Hirschfield’s The Beauty, Parneshia Jones’s Vessel, and John M. Fitzgerald’s Favorite Bedtime Stories.
You can see the list in its entirety by clicking here.
my son’s boyfriend
three words i practice saying
alone in my room
not to see
still you step back
from my son
and his boyfriend
mother tiptoes around
with knife in hand
my son’s lover dissects
the last white peach
“I feel astonished, happy, and lucky to have discovered Deflection.Roberta Beary’s poetry is animated with principles of Haiku, illustrative of the form but reliant on other traditions. Her work shows that a gifted poet can assert all manner of styles within a poem, sharing interests of each to give us a new breed. It’s a bright sunshiny day when we get surprising, evocative, powerful poetry coined from the gold standard of ancients. These poems are vibrant with lived experience and shockingly beautiful with new expression. The lines and poetic forms are prisms from the classical, and lyrical, to distilled Asian thought. This book is essential in furthering the art of poetry.”