Global Haiku Tradition
Millikin University, Spring 2005

Cory Hodges

Lenard D. Moore's Haiku

Cory Hodges

Cory's Haiku



Contemporary Haiku Author Lenard D. Moore

After reading the works of Lenard D. Moore, I began to realize that his well written, haiku make the reader feel more and think much more than the words. Lenard D. Moore has a unique hold on the audience. He keeps the senses sharp, and every haiku I read touched on a different sense. Each haiku by Moore demands that the reader keep an open mind, heart and soul, because he offers an array styles, colors, carefully selected words that may sweep you off your feet and take you where ever it is you want to go at anytime, even after just two to three lines. Lenard does not just tell you about life experiences and how the world is, he delivers that truth and beauty of everything even if it is bad.

I think Lenard D. Moore has quite the advantage in writing these small but powerful works of art. He is an African-American. Some of the perspective he brings on how to look at and read haiku are ones we may have never seen before from that point of view. I don't think there are a large number of haiku authors that are of his minority group.  

Lenard D. Moore was born on February 13, 1958, in Jacksonville, North Carolina. He earned his M.A. degree in English/African American Literature from North Carolina A&T State University, and his B.A. degree with honors (Magna Cum Laude) from Shaw University. He is the author of The Open Eye (North Carolina Haiku Society Press, 1985), Forever Home (St. Andrews College Press, 1992), and Desert Storm: A Brief History (Los Hombres Press, 1993). His poetry has appeared in over thirty anthologies. Poet Gwendolyn Brooks has said of Moore: "Lenard Moore's work is direct and strong--but the strength does not exclude exciting and provocative nuances. He is a satisfying portraitist. I feel sure that it's 'just a matter of time' before his validity is recognized as it should be recognized."

Lenard D. Moore is Founder and Executive Director of the Carolina African American Writers Collective and Co-founder of the Washington Street Writers Group. His poems essays and reviews have appeared in over 350 publications, and in over forty anthologies. He is recipient of the Haiku Museum of Tokyo Award (2003, 1994 and 1983), and has won various prizes in contests sponsored by The Mainichi Daily News , The Haiku Society of America, the Indies Arts Award, and the Margaret Walker Creative Writing Award. He has taught at North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T State University and Enloe High School. He currently lives in Raleigh where he teaches English and world literature at Shaw University. He is also Writer-in-Residence for the United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County. (Ore Magazine 2004).

Lenard Moore has an extremely powerful collection of haiku in the book entitled Gathering at the Crossroads . I found this book to be so influential and it really showed the true beauty of his culture, and the beauty of brotherhood. He was at the million-man march and had the chance to let his mind go free. I can see now that this experience was loaded with amazing haiku just waiting to be born. Such as:

on the stage
a line of brothers lock arms
autumn sunshine

(G at C pg. 8)

He takes us through the whole march in this book from beginning to end in a profound way. Here he describes the central reason they were there together in brotherhood. Locking arms in a line is such a strong image for the reader; you can just imagine what a line of people dedicated to the same cause looks like and how tight the arms must be clinched. To me this represents a bond that cannot and will not be broken. One million men standing strong gives real life to this haiku, and then to bring it all together he throws in the seasonal element with "autumn sunshine." We see autumn colors dim, dull colors that give you a sense of the temperature and mood. He continues in this book with:

the cadenced footsteps
of one million black men
a warm fall day

(G at C pg. 3)

the speaker's hand
bends the microphone down
deepening autumn  

(G at C pg. 5)  

What a great atmosphere to write haiku in; that is why these haiku jump off the page at you with a deepening learning of how it must feel to believe in yourself, your culture, and you pride. I think the fact that this happened in the autumn really helps because that kind of weather isn't too bright and vibrant just as the million-man march was not vibrant and cheery. Autumn is the dull light that hopes to get brighter and more appealing, the leaves fall and awaiting a new beginning, as did these men. I can't leave out my personal favorite from this book:

sun plaza;
one million shadows darken
foot by foot

(G at C pg. 4)

Lenard also finds some amazing inspiration in the nature of the seasons. In his book The Open Eye , he expresses these beauties to us season by season touching all the senses that go along with that season. He makes the haiku more imaginative when he begins to use animals in them. Moore's use of animal tells us something about himself and even more so about the way animals behave in nature and the beauty of each helps one another be the amazing creations that they are. For instance a perfect haiku would be:

silent deer     the sound of waterfalls

(OE pg. 45)

The deer in this haiku is hearing something, so naturally he has to stop and listen for the protection of him/her and him/her's family. The deer also can recognize the lack of danger in the sound and remember that is the way to the waterfall. Animals and nature trust each other, I think Moore is trying to get us to see that. Beauty in the sound of nature and in the wind chimes that you may have outside of your house in this haiku:

wind chimes:
a robin stops
to listen
(OE pg. 16)

The robin in this haiku immediately tells the reader that it is springtime. You hear always the wind chimes in spring; the wind just seems to blow a nicer tune in the spring than any other season. The sound of the chimes is such a nice sound, it was obviously a great sound if the robin had to stop and listen. Moore has planned out what our response would be when he writes. All of his haiku are well organized and each word in it is carefully selected to ensure the desired results. My favorite thing about Lenard D. Moore's haiku is the unique perspective he writes them from. He at times tries to give the reader a new way of thinking or at least different approach to looking at haiku, he uses metaphors and comparison descriptions that no one else can think of. It almost seems as though he writes these haiku from the standpoint of what is in the haiku. It is difficult to explain but I'm sure these haiku will provide a perfect example of what he does in such a unique way:

sipping the new tea
his wrinkled face absorbs the steam...
the smell of roses
(OE pg. 16)
moon dusk: another grasshopper hops on the wind
(OE pg. 33)
These are so unique to me. The grasshopper hops on the wind is such a clever way of describing the way grasshoppers get around. They really don't fly very long, their wings are there to give them the extra boost in the jump, and Moore illustrates it so well by saying that it hopped on the wind. As if it were just casually catching a bus. I also love the way he described the older man's face absorbing the steam from the NEW tea, new beginnings, new day. The man is lost in the tea, and his senses wonder as the smell of roses arises. The roses could be outside the open window or next to him as he sits outside, or he could smell them in his imagination. This haiku is wide open for interpretation.

Moore shares a lot in his haiku, but I find it odd that doesn't write about his time in the U.S. Army. That experience can make a man stronger or weaker and I think Lenard Moore was made stronger. His strength is shown in his million-man march haiku. That includes him in the strength and beauty of brotherhood. The million-man march shows the struggles of oppression and Moore in able to bring forth the positives of these types of things. African-Americans display grace and strong will when in the face of adversity, and for some time these attributes have been over looked and Lenard D. Moore as done a small part in bringing their race alive with hope. He has demonstrated that anyone can succeed, and all African-Americans do not have to settle for the short end of the stick, that we can earn what we want, if we want it badly enough. For these reasons I think more people should read a learn more about this author. It will be easy to see the leadership and the blatant pride displayed by this man through the magnificent art of haiku.    

©2005 Randy Brooks, Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois || all rights reserved for original authors
last updated: May 12, 2005