Global haiku Tradition
Millikin University, Summer 2004

Ciara Buzan
John Stevenson's haiku

Ciara Buzan

Ciara's haiku



John Stevenson was born in 1948. He moved to the Albany, NY area in 1980. He now lives there with his son, and is a single parent. Stevenson says that their family situation is different. Stevenson was married on December 5, 1981 to a Miss Patricia Kennedy, who directed a play that he was an actor in. He did not know anyone when he first moved to the Albany area, and was in need of a job. With his theatre background, he was able to land a job in the local community theatre immediately. This was John’s way of meeting people.

Stevenson and his wife had many discussions on the topic of children. John says that he had always enjoyed children, but thought that the world was overpopulated and did not want to help the problem along. After these talks with his wife, they decided to have one child. Their son, James (Jamey), was born on February 23, 1983. Stevenson was at home with his son for most of the first five years of his life. Pat continued her theatre work and began the education that eventually led her to work as an addictions counselor. Stevenson says he has no regrets for leaving the theatre even though it was a big part of his life, except that he thought his wife thought he was boring. Stevenson goes on to state that “I was boring”.

At this time of staying at home with his toddler son, Stevenson became depressed by seeing college friends win Emmy Awards on hid television. John was fed up, and took the first part in a play that he could find, (Inherit the Wind at RPI) but it did not feel the same. John was in a period of looking for something new, and wanted to do something major with his life. After John’s wife told him about her affair, she left him in April of 1991. Even though the passion of their marriage had faded, the love for their son was strong as ever. They both agreed that their son needed a mother and a father, and settled on an agreement of childcare. They have been cooperative co-parents of their son ever since.

John Stevenson began writing haiku and senryu in 1992 after an experience at a Playback Theatre when he was forty-three. John was first published in January of 1993. He was placed with a Japanese actress for an exercise, and was introduced to the art of haiku. After discussing with the actor and enduring a conversation full of laughter, they began to talk about language, which would then lead to the mutual appreciation for poetry. She told him her favorite haiku, and he was very interested. A few months later, he was writing his own haiku.

John Stevenson is a very well known writer in the haiku community. I picked John Stevenson because I love what he writes about, real life. He uses very familiar events in life to pulls us back in time, where we can actually see ourselves there and see, smell, and taste everything in the area. When I read one of his haiku aloud, I fin myself thinking I defiantly know what he is talking about, and where he is taking me. I love his expressions of certain moments and feelings that present a powerful force upon the memory of the reader. I find myself immersed into his haiku, as he is writing about my life. He is different from George Swede who writes about his patients and very somber memories. Stevenson is also different from Peggy Lyles, who writes about her own memories, especially the happy ones. It seems that one is on one side of the fence and the other on the other side. John Stevenson is right on the fence he talks about real life. Sometimes we are happy and things are good, and let us face it sometimes things are just really bad and life stinks. That is what I like about Stevenson so much—his haiku changes just like his emotions do. We all have different emotions, so why not express them all in haiku.

Christmas Day
the exchange
of custody

(some of the silence pg 56)

This haiku takes me to my first Christmas after my parents had divorced and my sister and I did not want to go with my dad on Christmas day. We were at my grandmas, my mom’s mom and having tons of fun with our new toys and cousins. Why should we be punished and have to leave something we are having so much fun at because my parents do not get along anymore. Instead of exchanging gifts like normal people, my parents were exchanging children. This made me angry, I wanted to have a happy Christmas just like anyone else. Instead, I am tossed around like some type of pet that my parents are willing to share. I am seven years old again and wanting to tell my parents that they are the ones that are acting like the children. This is a very good example of where John is writing about real life, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

alone again
making an event
of a sandwich

(some of the silence pg 55)

My mom has worked thirds for a long time and I have stayed by myself while I was a teenager. This haiku explains my nightly ritual while I was in high school. I could come home do my homework and then make myself supper, usually some type of sandwich. I would make a big deal about making this sandwich because I was home alone and nothing else to do. No one likes to eat alone so it would take me forever to make this sandwich. I would have to use different knives for each condiment and then a clean one to cut the sandwich with. I think I dirtied so many dishes so that I would have something to do after I was done eating. This haiku makes me very happy and grateful. I am glad that even though I came from a single parent home, I had good food on the table. Even though it is just a sandwich and I am, alone I am much more fortunate than many more in this world.

not dead roses
she corrects me
. . . dried

(some of the silence 32)

I really like this haiku because it shows us how we always look at everything in such a negative way, and just by a change of a word something useless can become a treasure. Dead flowers are something that most of us would through away, but dried flowers are something that has been keep for a reason. A first date, a wedding, a graduation or any special event can make someone keep flowers and dry them. So why do we always look at everything in such a bad light? If it is not young and beautiful, we as a society toss it to the side. Instead of old or elderly why not experienced, educated. This poem makes me feel like there is hope for the future generations and that maybe they will not be as shortsighted as we are.

all those haiku
about the moon in the trees,
the moon in the trees

(some of the silence pg 7)

This is a fantastic haiku; I have to say I think it is my favorite. Many haiku talk about the moon and the trees. These haiku do not take me anywhere; they are just down right boring to me. I understand that they are very meaningful to some, but I feel that they have no connection with the reader. I want something that is going to take me back to a memory, good or bad. Talking about the moon and the trees does absolutely nothing for me. The fact that Stevenson wrote a haiku about everyone writing haiku with trees and moons in it seems very humors to me. We do not all have to be the same, just because the moon and the trees were in all of the beginning haiku writing does not mean we must use it now. We have come a long way so why not bring the haiku into the twenty-first century.

frosty morning
the campers hatch
from their sleeping bags

(some of the silence pg 16)

I can feel my teeth shiver as I try to unzip my sleeping bag. Being in the military, I have sleep outside in the middle of winter many times. The sleeping bags are so cold that the zippers are actually half-frozen and very hard to unzip. Reading this haiku, I am actually cold and can barely get out of my sleeping bag and stand up. I can see my breath as I try to brush my teeth with half-frozen water. The only thing that can make this seem any better is that we are alive to welcome a new day. If we were not alive then we could not feel the cold, so even though the cold sucks, it is great to be alive a new day. This poem makes me think of all of my military friends, and how great it was to wake up at 4:30 in the morning with them in zero degree temperatures. Without such great friends, it would have been hard to be in a good mood and push on to a new day.

“Just married”
the attendant
pumping too much gas

(some of the silence pg 27)

I like this haiku, I see an old car back in the fifty’s and a couple are in the car driving to there honeymoon and have not cleaned the Just married off their window. As the gas station attendant pumps there gas he is taken by the way the look and smile at each other. He sees something that he has never had with a woman and wants to know how he can be that happy in love. As he pumps the gas, he gets to much and it spills on the ground. The new husband just smiles and even gives the attendant a tip. He is smitten an in love. He will soon come to his seines is what the people looking on think. Moreover, the attendant longs to be that newlywed.

John Stevenson is an amazing writer of haiku. He brings real life with a side of laughter and sadness. He writes about his life, which is similar to many others. He makes a simple memory last forever in a way that other poets cannot capture. He is one of my favorites and I have enjoyed learning more about him and his life.

Works Cited

Heuvel, Cor Van Den. The Haiku Anthology. 3rd ED. 1999

Stevenson, John. Some of the Silence. 1999

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