EN340 / IN350 Global Haiku Tradition
Dr. Randy Brooks
Spring 2004
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Travis Meisenheimer

Essay on Gary Steinberg

The Long Road

Travis Meisenheimer

This collection of haiku was written during the spring semester of my fifth year of university studies. In some ways it reflects this time in my life. The title "The Long Road" is a metaphor I've chosen to represent this gathering of haiku.  

I chose this title because as of now, I am winding down the long road that was college and am heading off onto another journey.   The title comes from a song where the author sings about longing for something that happened in the past but at the same time knowing that the something is in the past and won't ever be in the future.

These selected haiku reflect in someway represent the past two years of my life and how the past two years have been an especially different journey for me. I particularly like how this gathering also shows how introspective I have been as the year has progressed. As the semester progressed my inspiration changed, this is shown in the last haiku I wrote for this semester, "nodding off in class." This isn't something I would have written last year, last semester, or even a few months ago.

My inspiration for writing is life as I see it. I write about the things I see and often times the things I see and don't quite understand. My approach for writing haiku is to take the moment and to find out what images strike me as important. Then I figure out why these images are important and in under ten words explain these images and the feelings behind them.

I don't even think I quite understand how I write haiku so instead of trying to explain more I would rather refer you to my haiku.   They are a much better read than my introduction anyway.

Take these haiku however you can.  


Reader introduction to Travis's chapbook:

At first glance, a reader might think that many of Travis's haiku deal solely with beer or his bitterness toward women.   And, on a superficial level, they do.   But just as with the author himself, a closer look at Travis's haiku reveals several layers of observation and emotion, a deeper level of understanding of human nature and the irony of life.

In other words, it's not just beer and bitterness that Travis writes about.   Take, for instance, his one-line haiku "summer heat even the beer sweats."   On a first reading of this gem, the reader might give a bit of a chuckle out loud--after all, sweating beer is a pretty humorous image.   But upon further introspection, we begin to see all the other things that are tied in to this haiku.   The heat of a humid summer evening, the laughter of nearby friends, and the beer cans that are so cold and refreshing that perhaps the speaker simply wants to let the coolness rest on the back of his neck for a moment rather than immediately guzzling the beer down his throat --all of these are the unspoken elements in this haiku that make it work so beautifully with just six words.

My personal favorite haiku by Travis, however, is this:

ing              my life
for you
Winter's indifference

Travis often claims that he is "creatively challenged," but in many ways I feel that this haiku proves otherwise.   His artful arrangement of the word "rearranging" is not only wordplay but visual play; it is not enough to just say that the speaker is rearranging his life for this person, but he must also show the reader just how much rearranging has been done. Each syllable of the word has been moved around and placed out of order, just as we might imagine the speaker's life to be. The last line then brings the haiku to an entirely different place.   "Winter's indifference"—the irony! The speaker of this poem has clearly gone through much trouble to please the object of his affections, and yet she refuses to return (or perhaps refuses to acknowledge or even notice) the favor. Instead, she gives him the cold shoulder or an icy reception of his efforts. But instead of phrasing this line as a more personal "her indifference," Travis has chosen to use the season to illustrate the tension between these two images and these two people.  

For the past year, I have had the privilege of being not only Travis's "haiku buddy" but his buddy in other aspects of life as well. As a result, I have been able to catch a rare glimpse of his unique view of the world and how it influences his haiku. I have also been privileged to see just how this distinct perspective provides the basis for these two haiku and allows them - and all of Travis's work—to truly sparkle.

—Jenny Schultz

summer heat even the beer sweats

fresh shaved face
by the cold air

Rotten Apple

My project is a collection of haiku that deal with relationships, specifically when they begin and go bad.

reaching out to her
she refuses
falling further

alone by the fire
she shivers
fading as the day

her cold hands
become warm
in his

freezing rain
we warm each other

ing               my life
for you
Winter's indifference

long road back
counting miles
by thinking of you

never stopping
she waves to me
in the rearviewmirror

the apple in my eye
falls to the ground

red flickering light
one last time
to hear your voice

your last words
your first words
all lies

crumpled hearts
i grind your name
though my teeth

framed picture of us
shards of glass
in my fist

at the crosswalk
I wait
heated cars pass

shoveling the driveway
I pause
more snow falls

alone at the bar
Valentine's day
with Jimmy Beam

old hangout
nothing there
but memories and trash

nodding off in class
a cherry blossom
brushes the window

©2004 Randy Brooks, Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois || all rights reserved for original authors