Selected Haiku

John (Jay) Schleppenbach

Global Haiku Tradition
Millikin University, Spring 2000

The work you see collected here represents the bulk of what I feel is my most representative work from my semester in haiku class. I have endeavored in this collection to select not just what I believe to be my best work, but also selections that show the different challenges and changes I have experienced throughout my haiku work. Some of these works are far from perfect, others represent experiments with form or content. All, however, show some aspect of my haiku writing life.

In truth, this semester has been frustrating for me as well as fulfilling. As an accustomed (if not necessarily accomplished) traditional poet, I found it hard to cast off my ideas of poetic language and content to move into this new genre.

Focusing on the simplicity of language and thought, on the choice of the proper "Zen" moment, was very difficult for me. I constructed too much; my poems were made, they did not exist. While my interest in fragmentary style as a poet found fulfillment here, it was a difficult struggle. So, much of what you see here represents a conflict within me.

Of course, I have to admit to the fun I've found in Just having haiku moments More and more, I've found myself just jotting things down as they occur to me in life. This course has changed not just my view of poetry, but my view of the world. So many of the things you see expressed here are from real life. It 's been interesting to make this transfer.

So in short, I'm a developing haiku poet and I ask your understanding and forgiveness when necessary. Think of this portfolio as only partially all end, and largely a means to an end that may come decades down the road, or even not at all


—Jay Schleppenbach

return home—
   old dog's nose
      pressed against the window

prom night
red high heels
through steamed Buick windows

last night's
all nighter—
newsprint on her nose



Easter mass—
six month strangers
chatting in the back pew

A Haibun

I'm standing on a tiny balcony that nobody seems to know about, perched gently out behind the campus library, overlooking nothing in particular, and roaring with the rush of air from some sort of ventilation shaft behind me. There's no good reason for it, really, but this, to me, is one of the most peaceful spots on Earth. I've been here probably hundreds of times before during my four years at this institution, and it's really grown on me. I've had dates here. I've cried here. And I've just sat up here watching the world that can't see me. Hanging slyly over one of the rear entrances to the library, obscured slightly by a stubbily ridiculous ornamental tree, this balcony is a great place to observe people (or at least the tops of their heads) as they come and go, never thinking for a second that there might be someone above them. It's a great place for fragments, and arguments, and misunderstandings.

And at night there are the stars. I think more than anything, I remember the stars. From here, there's nothing blocking you. No buildings, no trees, just a wide expanse of parking lot with a few untoublesome lights, and the cemetery beyond. In fact, the astronomy class sometimes sets up camp right below for their observations. I know what they're missing. So many times I've looked out on that broad, blue-black expanse, wieghed down with those tiny, numberless pin pricks of light. It beckons with the promise of infinity, eternity. Unlike my tenure here, it never seems to end.

But there will be other balconies, and always the same flawless sky.

lovers' balcony—
beyond the cemetery
infinite stars



Night walk—
beyond the streetlamp



yellowed urinal—
my girlfriend's name
in graffiti

running home from school still not stepping on the                    CRACKS

©2001 Randy Brooks, Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois || all rights reserved for original authors