William Hart: Haiku Writer
William Hart was not my first choice for my author essay. There was not a lot of information on the person that I wanted to write about, so I choose Hart. His books were rather short and I thought that it would be a simple, fun read. However, as I read about this man, his poetry spoke volumes to me. The reading was fun, but there was a lot of feeling and depth.
I once heard that most great things cannot be seen or touched, but they must be felt with the heart--this is what William Hart has done for me. I found the nature and romantic aspects to be very calm and comforting. He did have some haiku that came from different perspectives, but these are not the ones that really jumped out at me. It was so easy for most of his haiku to draw me back to previous experiences. This made me want to know more about the man who wrote these haiku.
William Hart is a story writer who originally hails from Kansas, but he now resides in Los Angeles. During and after college, he worked many labor jobs around the country: ditch digger, house painter, ranch handyman, aircraft burner, welder, sheet medal worker, metal shop supervisor, and tree planter. Hart then earned a doctorate in English from the University of Southern California and has taught college writing since then. Hart not only writes haiku, but novels and stories as well. Additionally, Hart has done scripts for features films for his wife, Jayasri Majumdar. His wife is a PBS documentary producer who hails from KolKata, India. His wife is not only a producer, but an illustrator; as I flipped through his books, I noticed that his wife is the illustrator in all three of the works that I researched.
Hart's stories and poems have appeared in hundreds of literary journals, magazines, anthologies, and newspapers. Hart's most recent documentary that he did with his wife, Roots in the Sand , won major awards worldwide. It has also played nationally on PBS.
The first haiku that I looked at from Hart really touched me. I enjoyed all of them, but I believe that this is one of my favorites.
coitus in blue jeans
Hart, Paris , 18
The word that popped out when I read this haiku was the word coitus. Many people may not know this, but from years of working as a Peer Educator, I know that this is a fancy term for sexual intercourse. Needless to say, this is why this haiku literally jumped out at me when I read it.
This haiku is exactly what I imagine when I think of Paris. I imagine Paris to be a very romantic city; a city of love. Just to hear people speak in French makes me feel romantic and warm on the inside.
I imagine a young couple on an old, rustic park bench. The two lovers are so into each other that they are completely oblivious to the world around them. I imagine the woman having long flowing hair that the young man runs his fingers through. This scene is not shocking to any who pass by; after all, this is Paris. Although no seasonal element is included, I imagine a fall afternoon.
riffles on the Seine
my map of the city
wraps my arm
Hart, Paris , 3
I love this haiku. I believe that this is from a woman's perspective because of the use of the word wraps. Although a man may use this, wraps seems like such a romantic term; the typical man may just say grabs.
I believe that this is her first time in Paris, but it may not be his first time there. The inference to the word map makes me think that this person knows what they are doing. I can see the gentleman being an experienced guide; a world traveler. On the other hand, he could be a man who spent a summer in Europe and became very familiar with the city of Paris.
The word riffles leads me to believe that it may be a cool summer or fall evening. The waves are crashing, but there is a soft breeze on the Seine.
a patriarch of the streets
recounts his coins
Hart, Paris , 27
Hart really got to me on this one. The scene that is used here is not only common in Paris, but cities across the globe.
Referring to the man as a patriarch of the streets is very bold, but I can feel it. Here is a man who is seasoned; not a son to the homeless life, but a father. This is a road that has been traveled for quite some time by this gentleman. Patriarch also makes me think of my own father. This man does not have gruff, rough features, but soft loving features and kind eyes. Although he is homeless, he is a protector of his territory; this is a dominant man, not a pushover.
Recounting the coins also strikes a nerve. The man has this money and no matter how much he counts it, the amount does not change. He may have been hoping for a hot meal, but only has enough for a cup of coffee and a roll.
in an endless fleet
Hart, wildcat road , 4
In this haiku, I am reminded of a few things. The first thing that I think of is a warm sunny day. You look up and see all of the beautiful puffy clouds in the sky - they almost look like cotton candy moving across the sky. Some days, the clouds just seem to be floating about the heavens.
When Hart talks about an endless fleet, it brings to mind an airport. When I look out the window of an airport, I can see the airplanes lined up for miles and miles; they are the only thing that you see. When Hart says sail away, you know that they are not rolling like storm clouds, but gliding.
On the contrary, you could look at this as storm clouds that are coming to a close. The storm has come through and been an inconvenience. The storm has wreaked havoc and now the clouds are floating away as if nothing ever happened.
windows open wide
we let the crickets
sing us to sleep
Hart, wildcat road , 17
This haiku like all of the others is very visual to me. I picture a summer night that is not real hot due to the fact that the windows are open. If it were too hot, perhaps the air would be on. It is a beautiful night and all is quiet with the exception of the crickets.
In my opinion, crickets are like meditation/rest and relaxation tapes. At first, the sounds are so annoying - I focus on every sound and I am overcritical. However after a few minutes, I begin to relax. The noise is no longer annoying, but soothing. It is very comforting and I find myself becoming one with the sound. Many times, I wake up the next morning feeling totally refreshed and well-rested.
I believe that this is an example of oneness. In this haiku, it is easy to become one with the thing (crickets) and its life to understand it. In this haiku, everything is connected.
gone the summer dream
erased by rain
through the window screen
Hart, wildcat road , 25
This hit really close to home. This reminds me of so many of my childhood weekends. It is not the ordinary, but the extra-ordinary weekends that stick out in my mind. I (like any other child) looked forward to special weekends for weeks on end.
I think of the weekends where my mother was going to take my siblings and I to an amusement park or something of that nature. My dreams were invaded for weeks thinking about what an amazing day we would have together.
I would wake up excited, only to have my dreams shattered by the view outside the window. Still undeterred, I would get dressed and wait for the rain to end. Finally my mom would come and say that the trip was off due to the weather. My dreams fade fast; I am instantly crushed.
I remember looking out the door for hours waiting for the rain to end, but unfortunately it does not happen. I continue to look out the rain sporadically throughout the day until dusk.
When I read this next haiku by Hart, I was reminded of a Bashô haiku.
snail the White Mountains
Hart, wildcat road , 26
in the scent of the plum blossoms
suddenly, the sun comes up -
a mountain path
Bashô, Traces of Dreams , 89
I wanted to compare the two haiku because in a way they are almost complete opposites. Hart talks about dark (shadows), while Bashô talks about light (sun). The sunlight in Bashô's haiku reveals mountain path, while the shadow is Hart is masking the mountains.
In Bashô's poem, it is a very beautiful spring morning. I can imagine one looking out and the path suddenly comes into view. In Hart's haiku, I get the feeling that it is a fall evening. I picture a stormy day where the clouds have rolled in and snailed around the mountains, making it very dark and dismal. I like both equally and do not have a favorite among the two. I believe that these are both haiku that are nothing special; rare and precious moments of life are not sought here.
lovers on the seawall
in the rain
Hart, Monsoon , 31
Although Monsoon was the last book that I looked at by Hart, I enjoyed it just as much as the other two, if not more. After reading this, I envisioned a couple who have just found love. Although it could be a couple who have been together awhile, I see this being something new and exciting.
The lovers have been strolling around town hand-in-hand for hours. It is now dusk, so they decide to rest on the seawall. It rains, but they do not care; for the pair is enjoying life and all that it has to bring.
Hart, Monsoon , 27
This haiku reminded me of two very different places that I have been. The first is my trip to Japan. I was an exchange student to Decatur's sister city, Tokorozawa. My host family took me to a festival one Saturday night. There were colorful paper lanterns everywhere. There were dragons dancing about and people dressed in Kimonos...it was really amazing.
I am also reminded of the Decatur Celebration. It always seems to rain on Friday nights! One year, my church had a booth and I volunteered to work on Saturday morning. When I got there, all of the decorations were down on the ground; some had blown away.
the pearl dealer's
Hart, Monsoon , 22
I like this haiku because it is such a contradiction. A pearl dealer with stained teeth is like a new car salesman in an old, used suit - it creates a bad image.
Pearls are flawless, endless, beauties that stand the test of time. When I think of teeth, I like to think of the same way, but this is not the case in this haiku. If I went to see this dealer, I would have been deterred by the mere sight of his teeth. The word perfect only adds to the irony.
After researching William Hart, I realized that I discovered an amazing talent. He has a unique writing style and he makes it easy for the reader to pictures his images. I found his haiku to be quite intriguing. Hart's writing helped me to embrace the romantic in me.
The three books that I researched of Hart's were from totally different aspects and places and times, but he still captured the same feel. Hart was bold and daring on some of his haiku, but he never lost his audience.
I love the way that he used nature in his haiku. He helped to create a scene in my mind without overdoing it. Many times in Hart's writing, I could think of specific childhood memories in my mind.
Hart reminded me of George Swede and Peggy Lyles in some ways. Hart reminded me of Lyles because he has the ability to put you right there in many of haiku; it is as if they jumped off of the page at you. Many of his haiku made me feel as if they were written specifically for me. Hart also reminded me of Swede because I believe that his diverse scenes are the result of various life experiences. The two men drew their experiences from their various lines of work.
I am glad that I stumbled upon William Hart for my author study because I learned a great deal about him. He has an amazing talent and his work is astounding.
Hart, W. (1991). Monsoon . Fulton, MO: Timberline Press.
Hart, W. (1996). Paris. Fulton, MO: Timberline Press.
Hart, W. (2000). wildcat road . Fulton, MO: Timberline Press.
Shirane, H. (1998). Traces of dreams . Stanford: Stanford Printing Press.