Millikin University Haiku Writer Profile

Cor Van den Heuval

  through the small holes
in the mailbox
sunlight on the blue stamp
 
by Cor Van den Heuval
Haiku Anthology, 2nd p. 257

Biographical Background

Cor Van Den Heuvel was born in Biddeford, Maine on March 6, 1931. He grew up in Maine and New Hampshire. Cor Van Den Heuvel currently resides in New York City with his wife Leonia Leigh Larrecq and is an extremely able practitioner of haiku that is very involved in the haiku community.

The Alsop Review described Van Den Heuvel as "an intelligent and unflagging spokesperson for haiku".

Van Den Heuvel has served as past president of the Haiku Society of America and honorary curator of the American Haiku Archives at the California State Library at Sacramento for the 1999-2000 season. He also served as Newsweek’s poetry editor until 1988 when he retired.

This profile of haiku writer, Cor Van den Heuval, was researched, written and created by Amy Twardowski and Maggie Hart.

Maggie Hart's
reader response essay

Amy Twardowski's
reader response essay

Scroll through the entire profile, or jump to any section:

Van Den Heuvel has served as:

  • Past president of the Haiku Society of America

  • Honorary curator of the American Haiku Archives at the California State Library at Sacramento (1999-2000)

  • Newsweek poetry editor (retired in 1988)

Author's Books

The Haiku Anthology – 1974 – Doubleday

2nd edition of The Haiku Anthology – 1986 – Simon & Schuster

3rd edition of The Haiku Anthology – 1999 – Norton

-chapbooks-

Play Ball : Baseball Haiku 1999

Curbstones 1998

In the Waterfall 1997

A Small Umbrella 1995

Geese Have Gone 1992

Puddles 1990

Dark 1982

Bang! You're Dead 1966

EO7: or (Christ Should Have Carried A Pearl-Handled Revolver) 1964

The Window-Washer’s Pail 1963

A Bag of Marbles: 3 Jazz Chants 1962

Sun in Skull 1961


 



 

Reader Response Essay by Amy Twardowski

What first attracted me to Cor Van Den Heuvel’s haiku were the several selections I read about baseball. From this point forward, I have picked up on liveliness in Cor’s haiku that I have not felt as strongly with other authors. His haiku bring simple things - baseball games, summer afternoons, newspapers, and nights out with friends, to life and provide a significance to such objects and instances that one may not have otherwise recognized. Van Den Heuvel’s haiku discuss the simplicities of life; such is why his haiku are so great. He, like Amann detailed in "The Wordless Poem" essay, finds success in writing about "nothing special". Cor’s haiku do not discuss death, God or similarly profound subjects; he instead focuses upon events or subjects that pertain to everyday life which all readers can relate to in one way or another. Cor’s unique contribution to the haiku community is this focus upon simplicity, but also his ability to bring such simplicity to life. His haiku create vivid images and spark emotions in a way that not all authors are able to accomplish.

My first attraction to Cor Van Den Heuvel, as I detailed earlier, were his haiku on baseball. While reading The Haiku Anthology, I was instantly drawn to his baseball haiku because the sport was such an important part of my life for so long. I love the sport and had played for many, many years. These haiku bring the game of baseball to life whether it is through the shoes of a player or a spectator. Liveliness emerges from these haiku sparking fond memories and good feelings.

the batter checks
the placement of his feet
"Strike One!"

This particular haiku provides an excellent commentary on being up to bat in a baseball game. Going up to bat can be very nerve-wracking and getting set in the batter’s box is important to being successful. Nervousness sometimes causes that getting set to take priority over the more important task of hitting the ball. This haiku provided a very vivid image of a batter staring at his feet; the reader could clearly envision the ball bypassing the batter. I almost groaned with disappointment by the last line of the haiku; the moment came to life for me. This haiku brings the reader in and forces them to feel exactly what it would be like to be in such a situation. Another favorite baseball haiku of mine by Cor Van Den Heuvel is:

summer afternoon
the long fly ball to center field
takes its time

This haiku provides a different perspective on a baseball game. The one previously discussed painted a picture from a player’s point of view, while I interpreted this one as being from a spectator’s point of view. Baseball games are generally very long and drawn out, but that is exactly what makes attending games so fun in the summer. The great joy lies in relaxing in the sun and enjoying an afternoon at the ballpark. This haiku brought me to the bleachers with my friends watching a game enjoying the time spent together; good feelings were stirred up by this haiku. Cor Van Den Heuvel brought the joy of watching baseball to life in this haiku.

Great haiku authors often discuss the simple things in life, and Cor Van Den Heuvel does just that with great success. The incorporation of everyday life into haikus provides for an excellent read. One such simple haiku is:

reading a mystery
a cool breeze comes through
the beach roses

From this haiku, I envisioned a woman sitting on her back porch, facing the ocean, spending her free-time reading. She is simply enjoying her time alone with the stress of life pushed to the side for a few hours. This haiku does not discuss any profound event or occasion, just a breezy day and the activities partaken in on that day. Life can be simple like this though; deep meaningful events do not occur very often. Readers like poetry that they can relate to and feel some sort of emotional connection to. This particular haiku provides for that opportunity by focusing on a simple, "nothing special", event. Another Van Den Heuvel haiku detailing such simplicity is:

dark road
sparks from a cigarette
bounce behind the car

This haiku details a simple drive on a country road. The image resulting from a reading of this haiku is very vivid; the reader can clearly envision a car moving along a dirt road, completely alone, with no color any where except for the sparks from the cigarette that was just thrown out of the car. A night out with friends is brought to life by Cor Van Den Heuvel in this haiku. I imagine tremendous liveliness inside the car with a great time being had by all. This haiku is also great because it leaves a lot to the reader’s imagination. Where is the car going? Who is in it? Why are they driving on dark roads? These are questions that can be answered differently by each individual reader thus providing an opportunity for the reader to extract whatever he/she chooses from the haiku. Haiku that allow readers to do this are some of the most amazing ones.

Cor Van Den Heuvel has written several haiku referring to newspapers and letters. Though seemingly meaningless subjects, Van Den Heuvel incorporates these basic objects into his haiku which helps to make it that much simpler and even easier for his readers to relate to. Newspapers and letters are items that are a part of everyone’s life at one point or another. Van Den Heuvel very smoothly slides newspapers and letters into his haiku; the newspaper or letter is generally not intended to be the primary focus of the haiku, but these objects add a special touch of simplicity. One such haiku is:

the evening paper
on the darkening lawn
first star

I envisioned dusk with this haiku, most specifically in a residential neighborhood. The evening paper is delivered to this area just in time for the stars to come out. I felt very serene and at peace at the end of this haiku; a simple evening lies ahead for the folks in this particular lawn’s home. Though calm and serene, this haiku brought to life a neighborhood at dusk. Though the evening paper is referred to, I interpreted the primary focus of the haiku to be the appearance of the first star and the beginning of a clear, beautiful night. The paper simply adds that needed touch which connects the haiku to people’s everyday lives. This haiku provides an opportunity for the reader to imagine on his/her own what exactly the neighborhood is like, what is in the paper for that evening, and who’s home is it which this paper will soon be in. Great haiku are sure not to give too much information away and instead allow the reader to answer those questions on their own. Many of Cor Van Den Heuvel’s haiku do just this.

Another haiku with reference to correspondence is:

through the small holes
in the mailbox
sunlight on a blue stamp

This haiku created an image of a country home for me, where the mailbox is most
likely far away from the actual house. It is early morning and the mailman has yet to arrive, but the inhabitants of the house are anxiously awaiting his/her arrival so that their letter will finally be mailed off. This haiku brings to life a simple letter with a bright, blue stamp. This letter is preparing to take a journey to a specified destination; the sunlight is providing a sort of encouragement and "good luck" wish to the letter. Though only a piece of paper in an envelope, this letter is alive in the mind of the author. It has tremendous meaning to the writer; it is more than just a simple sheet of paper. Van Den Heuvel’s haiku are so great at providing a touch of life to literally lifeless objects. This is yet another haiku that provides the opportunity for the reader to use his/her own imagination in determining who wrote the letter, to whom, and where it is going. More meaning is drawn from the haiku when the reader is allowed to derive their own interpretations.

Cor Van Den Heuvel manages to clearly detail the lives of those whom most people are generally unaware of or cannot easily relate to. He brings the reader into the haiku and attempts to place the reader in the shoes of the individual of whom he is writing. Many people do not know the life of a stripper or of a doctor, but Van Den Heuvel makes these occupation’s moments real for the reader of his haiku. Cor’s haiku tell only a piece of a story, and the reader is responsible for filling in the rest of the details. His haiku are open-ended and require imagination and insight from the reader.

One such haiku is:

in her dressing room
the stripper powders her breasts
and whispers something to them

This haiku details the importance of a stripper’s body to her career, which is obvious to people, but Van Den Heuvel subtly refers to this belief. Alone in her room and in her thoughts, the stripper is preparing for her time on stage. She is kind to her body and must take care of it because it is what provides for her. Whispering to her breasts is a sign of her having to encourage and push herself to do what she must do to survive. She may not thoroughly enjoy her employment, but she knows that she has to do it no matter what internal objections she may have if she hopes to pay the bills and feed herself. Van Den Heuvel brings the reader into the mind of the stripper in this haiku and gives insight to the life of a foreign occupation.

Several other noteworthy Van Den Heuvel haiku are:

November evening
the wind from a passing truck
ripples a roadside puddle

going through the tunnel
the girl looks at her reflection
so do I

Cor Van Den Heuvel has made an unforgettable contribution to the haiku community. His haiku bring places and objects to life in a way that not many authors have been able to accomplish. Though often regarding simple, "nothing special", subjects, Van Den Heuvel brings to life the seemingly meaningless things in the world. He grants significance to what many would bypass as insignificant – baseball games, newspapers, seasonal afternoons. This simplicity is what makes Cor Van Den Heuvel’s haiku superior to others; he provides an opportunity for the reader to connect to the haiku, as well as to draw their own interpretations from it. His haiku are magnets for imagination thus attracting so many readers to them.

—Amy Twardowski

 

 

Additional Web Links and Resources

(still seeking links)

 

haiku conferences haiku courses at Millikin Modern Haiku magazine
speakers & readings haiku competitions at MU student renga
student haiku projects published haiku by students links to haiku web sites
student research on haiku haiku by Millikin students directory of haiku magazines

 

2001, Dr. Randy Brooks• Millikin University
last updated 8/16/01 • about this web site