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Cor van den Heuvel's Haiku


Cor van den Heuvel, born and brought up in New England, has been writing haiku since he first discovered the genre in 1958 in San Francisco, where he heard Gary Snyder mention it at a poetry reading in North Beach. Though he is considered one of America's leading haiku poets, van den Heuvel is best known as the editor of The Haiku Anthology, generally considered the definitive collection of American and Canadian haiku. First published in 1974 by Doubleday, the third edition of the book, revised and expanded, came out in hardback in 1999 from W. W. Norton and is now in paperback.

After learning about haiku, van den Heuvel soon returned to the east coast and by early 1959 was writing his own haiku in a small cottage in Wells Beach, Maine. That summer he got a job reading them, along with translations of Japanese haiku, at the Cafe Zen in nearby Ogunquit. In the fall he moved to Boston where he gave readings of haiku and other poetry in Beat coffee houses.

By the winter of 1960-61 he was part of the poetry-reading scene—along with such poets as Robert Kelly, Jackson Mac Low, and Diane Wakoski—at the Tenth Street Coffee House in New York City, a precursor of the now well-known Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church. He began printing his haiku on a small handpress and carried copies of his first chapbook, Sun in Skull, on a cross-country hitching and hiking trip from Maine to Seattle in the summer of 1961.

At the beginning of the 1970s, van den Heuvel, now back in New York, joined the Haiku Society of America and became friends with William J. Higginson, Anita Virgil, and Alan Pizzarelli. The poet's association with the society was close for many years. While he was its president in 1978, the society's magazine, Frogpond, began publication and haiku poet Sumio Mori and haiku scholar and critic Kenkichi Yamamoto were invited from Japan to speak on haiku in New York City.

The Haiku Society of America, besides commending van den Heuvel for editing The Haiku Anthology, has given him three Merit Book Awards for his own books of haiku. His haiku and related works have appeared in books and magazines in North and South America, Europe, Japan, and Australia. He has talked about haiku on American and Japanese television and has written about haiku for The New York Times Book Review, Mainichi Shimbun, and Newsweek.

Van den Heuvel headed the panel of judges for the 1987-88 Japan Air Lines English Haiku Contest—which attracted more than 40,000 participants-and was invited to Tokyo in 1988 for a press conference to announce the winners. In 1990 he was the United State's representative to the International Haiku Symposium in Matsuyama ("The Haiku Capital of the World"). In 2000 he was named Honorary Curator of the American Haiku Archives at the State Library in Sacramento, California, and at the World Haiku Festival held in London and Oxford, he received a World Haiku Achievement Award.

On December 1, 2002, he was awarded The Masaoka Shiki International Haiku Prize in Matsuyama. The prize, for outstanding contributions to haiku as poet and editor, included a cash award of 500,000 yen (about $4,000) and an all-expenses-paid week in Japan. Van den Heuvel is presently in the process of putting together a volume of his collected haiku, The Ticket-Taker's Shadow. A book of his haibun, A Boy's Seasons, which was serialized in Modern Haiku, is to be published by Press Here.

List of Publications:

sun in skull [Haiku], Chant Press, New York City, 1961.
a bag of marbles (3 jazz chants), Chant Press, 1962.
the window-washer's pail [Haiku], Chant Press, 1963.
EO7 [Haiku Sequence], Chant Press, 1964.
BANG! you're dead. [Poetry], Chant Press, 1966.
water in a stone depression [Haiku], Chant Press, 1969.
dark [Haiku], Chant Press, 1982. PUDDLES [Haibun], Chant Press, 1990.
The Geese Have Gone [Haiku], King's Road Press, Pointe Claire, Quebec, 1992.
Play Ball [Baseball Haiku], Red Moon Press, Winchester, Virginia, 1999.

As Editor:
The Haiku Anthology, Doubleday Anchor, New York City, 1974; Simon & Schuster, New York City, 1986; W. W. Norton, New York City, 1999.
The Haiku Path, (Co-Editor with various others), The Haiku Society of America, 1994.
Wedge of Light [Haibun], (Co-Editor with Tom Lynch and Michael Dylan Welch), Press Here, Foster City, California, 1999.
Past Time [Baseball Haiku], (Co-Editor with Jim Kacian), Red Moon Press, Winchester, Virginia, 1999.


from behind me
the shadow of the ticket-taker
comes down the aisle

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

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

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

reading a mystery
a cool breeze comes through
the beach roses

dark road
sparks from a cigarette
bounce behind the car

the evening paper
on the darkening lawn
first star

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

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

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

sailing the Maine coast
from a lawn among the pines
a flag snaps in the wind

summer breeze
a ladder leans against
the half-painted house

hazy heat-
at the small airfield
the windsock hangs limp

the sound of hoofbeats
fades a butterfly crosses
the bridle path

a last bit of pink
on the watermelon rind

Indian summer
the wet sidewalk in front
of the open firehouse

behind the curtain
the opera star carries her roses
through a dark forest

all my reflections
leaving the rest room
the face to face mirrors

the carp in the tank
swim slowly back and forth
an empty fortune-cookie

rainy day a closed gas station

a drop of water
floats by the canoe
on a curled leaf

in the pick-up
under the pines
pine needles

fallen leaves
the Irish setter points to
a stand of staghorn sumac

fallen leaves
the Irish setter points to
a stand of staghorn sumac

the rusted paperclip
has stained my old poem
wind in the eaves

my own pillow
autumn rain

neon puddles
in front of the waterfront bar
sound of a blues piano

watching the snowfall
from the bathroom window
the warm towels

deep snow
one light
in the amusement park

on the bathroom hamper
morning sunlight fills the sails
of a toy boat

in a wet board
under the cemetery faucet
the blossoming cherry tree

spring breeze
a cakebox sails across
the parking-lot puddle

far off
a few gulls land in the marsh
summer afternoon

the toy boat sets out
a light breeze flutters
the slack sails

evening chill-
from a tidepool, water winds
to the sea

small town morning
the cool shadows along
a back street

the toy boat sails
slowly into a sunlit cove
tiny fish pass below

summer night
the old gambler fondles
his cards

a hallway
in the small resort hotel
the morning sea

after the shower
the cool wood of the table
under the pines

at the trail's end
i thank my hiking stick and
leave it against a tree

the toy sailboat sails
along a far shore

lingering snow
the game of catch continues
into evening

after the game
a full moon rises
over the left field fence

the sun goes down
my shovel strikes a spark
from the dark earth

the little girl
hangs all the ornaments
on the nearest branch

autumn twilight—
in the closed barbershop
the mirrors darken

a branch
waves in the window
and is gone

an empty wheelchair
in from the waves


changing pitchers
the runner on first looks up
at a passing cloud

slow inning
the right fielder is playing
with a dog

lonely night
the faces painted on the windows
of a toy bus

the blues singer
tells how bad it is
then the sax tells you too

in the mirrors on her dress
little pieces of my

a letter stuck
in the 11th floor mail chute
summer night

end of the line
the conductor starts turning
the seats around

the shadow in the folded napkin

raining at every window

snow drifts
above the bear's den
starry night

hot day
a rock caught on a ledge
in the waterfall

sand sifts through the roots
of a fallen tree

late autumn
the great rock reappears
in the woods

a stick goes over the falls at sunset

as the sun comes out
a sail appears from behind
the island

starting to rise
to the top of the wave
the duck dives into it

summer afternoon
the coolness of the newspaper
from the grocery bag

a tidepool
in a clam shell
the evening sunlight

shading his eyes
the wooden Indian looks out
at the spring rain

the geese have gone—
in the chilly twilight
empty milkweed pods

late autumn—
sunlight fades from a sandbank
deep in the woods

a baseball glove
under the Christmas tree