International Winner, 2018 VCBF Haiku Invitational
blossom by blossom—
the old cherry tree
Congratulations on having your haiku selected as the top winner in the international category in the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival’s 2018 Haiku Invitational contest. How did you first learn about haiku, and how much writing of haiku or other poetry have you done?
I have no special story to tell about my “writing” life. I wrote no poetry at all before the spring of 1990, when I found a journal printed in Romania about Japanese arts. From this journal, I learn some basic rules of haiku. In 1991 I became a member of the Romanian Haiku Society, founded in Bucharest by Florin Vasiliu, the first writer who introduced haiku in Romanian literature after he travelled in Japan. I participated a few years in a row as a member of a little haiku circle in Iaşi, my town. In 1996 I met Şerban Codrin, a master of haiku, tanka, and renku poems in the Romanian language. His book, The Big Silence, is a model for me. Unfortunately, his work was never translated into English, to be known worldwide. After Florin Vasiliu died, I sought haiku on the Internet and I discovered good haiku while reading winning poems in international contests, especially organized in English in Japan. Since 2002, I understood better how haiku works and I won more and more contests. Now I collaborate with haiku poets from the Romanian Kukai Group, founded by Corneliu Traian Atanasiu, who introduced online haiku in the Romanian language.
What was the inspiration for your winning poem?
I like to participate in many haiku contests all over the world, in different languages. Sometimes I use old ideas, sometimes I write my poems in the blink of an eye, without “polishing” them. My “blossom by blossom” haiku is not a worked poem. Rather, it is a poem written from the first attempt, thanks to God. The theme of “cherry blossoms” is so full of many good poems that it is very hard to find something new related to the subject, something original. Because of that, I tried to forget about building a poem about an idea. This way, the words connected naturally in my mind. Perhaps this was the secret of success.
Describe the moment when you first learned you had won.
When I found out that my haiku was selected as the best international poem, I was surprised because I didn’t know if my submitted poems were close or not to the theme of “harmony”. Personally, I hoped to be selected for a commendation with my other poem, but I was wrong. And I am very happy for that because, that way, I discovered for myself what a special poem I wrote about how we must live: gathering light with each little and ephemeral joy we have. This prize is for me such a “blossom” I gathered as light.
Do you have favourite books or websites relating to haiku that others might benefit from in order to learn haiku as a literary art and to share one’s haiku?
Yes, I have some favourite books and websites, but in the Romanian language, so I don’t think they are helpful to poets who write in English. If I should give advice to those who want to write haiku, then I would recommend reading poems awarded in competitions. Sometimes theory does not help you become a better poet, but reviewing models of creativity can help. Obviously, good feedback for a haiku poet is given by any literary competition, especially when the jury does not know the names of the authors. If your poem is selected then you know you’re on the right path.
Please tell us more about yourself.
I have two sisters and my parents still live near my hometown. I have been married since 1995, and I have two children. I have taught mathematics since 1994. I published research papers in scientific mathematical journals introducing the original notion of archetypal strings for coloured permutations. I am the owner of a patent for a permutation logic game. I am a member of the Long Ho Paşcani Qwan Ki Do Club since 2015, national vice-champion in 2017 at qwan ki do traditional wood weapons (thao quyen section) and national vice-champion in 2018 at qwan ki do (thao quyen section). I am a member of the Romanian Haiku Society since 1991, member of the Romanian Kukai Group and secretary of the Sharpening the Green Pencil Haiku Contest since 2012. I am the first haiku poet ever awarded on six continents, in 33 countries: Africa (Senegal), Asia (India, Israel, Japan, Thailand), Australia/Oceania (Australia, France/New Caledonia, New Zealand,), Europe (Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden), North America (Canada, Curaçao, Trinidad and Tobago, United States of America), South America (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia). Since 2002, I have won more than 200 international haiku and tanka prizes, awards, and commendations in contests with poems written or translated myself in 22 languages: Breton, Bulgarian, Castilian, Catalan, Croatian, Dutch, English, French, German, Hungarian, Irish, Japanese, Norwegian, Papiamentu, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovenian, Swedish, and Wolof. My works are published in anthologies and poetry journals all over the world. No book published yet, though.
How does where you live and what you enjoy doing affect the way you write haiku?
As a child born in a communist dictatorship in south-eastern Europe, I was somehow forced to learn to make do with very little, even when I was a student. I was part of an ordinary, poor family. I walked a lot from home to school/university and vice versa as a child and young adult. As an adult, I teach mathematics to children in a school where cars never reached the village. So, I walked daily around three hours on dusty paths, by the trees, between hills, in the middle of nature. It was the perfect atmosphere to forget about myself, to observe little things, to compose haiku. It was my pilgrimage to poetry, to discover more about this life, to find more about me. And, of course, being an introvert who likes silence and contemplation, this helped me better understand that haiku is not written at a table surrounded by my friends, but in loneliness with my thoughts.