Mini-interview: Bill Cooper

Bill Cooper is an academic with a Ph.D. in cognitive science from MIT, currently president emeritus at the University of Richmond.  He began writing haiku in 2009 and publishes in leading haiku journals.  He has published nine haiku collections and served for five years as one of the founding editors of Juxtapositions:  A Journal of Research and Scholarship in Haiku.  Two of his books were shortlisted for the Touchstone Distinguished Book Awards and one received an Honorable Mention in the Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards.  His latest book, rounded by the sea, is published by Red Moon Press.   

What draws me to the writer: A review of his book at Haiku Canada Review put him on my radar. I know only that until I finish reading his book, apart from this interview. Like Michael Dennis’ Today’s Book of Poetry, this interview has widened my appreciation for how many amazing writers there are.

Book: rounded by the sea: Haiku of Bill Cooper (Red Moon Press, 2022)

Samples:

tai chi
the stiffness of an onion
near its core

tea time
a doll with no mask
sent home

preschool
each superhero
masked

About the book: rounded by the sea invites the reader to vicariously travel through his evocative observations of nature by water, land, and air. Peppered with musical interludes and a dose of baseball, this book delivers emotional impact taking the reader from a smile of amusement to a sigh of poignancy from poem to poem. These meticulously written haiku ring with clarity. Throughout this collection the poet takes notice of what is almost missed as he observes the sea, land, and air. These haiku will both surprise and encourage.

Questions:

PP: Forgive my ignorance, but how and how long ago did you find haiku? 

BC: I began writing haiku in 2009, stimulated by the writings of Stephen Addiss.  As editor of the journal South by Southeast, Steve regularly sent me copies of the latest issue, which I enjoyed.    Haj Ross, a mentor at MIT, introduced me to the form in 1975, but I could scarcely imagine writing haiku back then.  Some years later, Haj gave me the haiku book Markings by Dag Hammarskjold, another early influence.  After spending so many years writing research articles and books, by 2009 I was primed to try my hand at brevity.  

PP: What have been a highlight moment or two from the journey?

BC: Highlights for me include meeting fellow haiku poets at Haiku North America conferences. 

On rare occasions, I also manage to write a haiku I like:  
sax riff
blackening redfish
with the spices at hand    

PP: Do you do dailies or write as the mood strikes?

BC: I read and take notes on haiku almost daily.  

PP: How did you proceed towards a book? Did you seek to publish as many of the 120 in advance as practical first, or look for themes to guide the selection?

BC: I do not set out to write a haiku book.  I love haiku journals first and foremost, submitting and getting feedback from editors.  I compile a running list of published haiku, then begin the process of looking for groupings that might work thematically in a book.  Some of my books follow the seasons.  With rounded by the sea, the themes of child, water, land, and air (including music) emerged.  I enjoy reading and writing haiku because, at their best, haiku convey the freshness of life.