Debbie Strange

Interview With Debbie Strange

When I first began reading haiku, there were some that seemed to speak to my heart, and when I looked, often your name was there. I began to wonder who you were and decided I would like to meet you, one way or another. Tell me a little about yourself.

Thanks kindly for the invitation to participate, and for your generous comments!

What first led you to haiku?

Though I had dabbled in writing formulaic haiku off and on for years, it was not until joining social media that I discovered the depth and complexity of this form. These online connections with experienced poets opened my eyes to haiku’s endless possibilities, changing the course of my life.

Does chronic illness inform your work?

I doubt I would have dedicated myself to walking the haiku path, were it not for chronic illness. When my mobility and vision began to deteriorate, I was forced to take early retirement, and I needed a creative outlet for all the time I suddenly had on my hands. Chronic illness can be quite isolating if you are unable to attend in-person or zoom events, but I know I will always have a place in the global haiku community. I never imagined that this passion would engulf, enrich, and expand my world beyond measure.

Fata Morgana the (in)visibility of my (dis)ability

2nd Place, 2021 Marlene Mountain Memorial Haiku Contest

Do you have a daily writing practice, or do you wait for inspiration?

I have been writing haiku/tanka and making haiga for about five hours a day since 2013, even if I do not feel particularly inspired. This daily habit is a form of meditation and healing for me, helping to mitigate the effects of chronic illness, and enabling me to reduce pain medication. I consider this practice to be my true calling in life, and it is a “job” I love.

Congratulations on 10 years of being published! Do you have any advice for people just starting their haiku journey?

Thank you so much. I have been making poems and composing songs since girlhood, but it took decades for me to screw up enough courage to submit my work. My advice for new poets would be not only to read classical and contemporary haiku daily, but to write something, even a fragment, every day. Regularly submitting work to quality journals and entering contests can help us find our voice and hone our technique, as judges and editors often offer insights as to why poems were selected or rejected. Both outcomes are integral to one’s growth as a poet. Whenever I enter a contest, I do not feel that I am competing against other poets, but rather, that I am competing with myself.

Do you have a favorite place to write?

If I had to pick one specific place to write, it would be somewhere near the sea. We resided in Vancouver for ten years in the 1980s, and I miss the ocean to this day. Though we have also lived on the prairies and in the mountains, there is something about being near the water that nourishes and inspires me.

drifting sands

sometimes the poem

writes itself

Winner, 2023 Drifting Sands Wearable Art and Haiku Contest

What do you consider your greatest haiku-related achievement?

I dreamt about having a book published by the esteemed Snapshot Press in the U.K., and I am delighted to say that this dream has come true! Random Blue Sparks, winner of the 2020 Snapshot Press Book Award, is a full-length collection of haiku, forthcoming in early 2024.

dead orchard

the random blue sparks

of woolly aphids

3rd Place, 2018 Irish Haiku Society International Haiku Competition

Who is your biggest inspiration?

My late sister was my musical mentor. She gave me my first guitar at age 12, and she always encouraged my songwriting efforts. My father instilled a love of poetry in me, often reciting classical poetry by heart, long into the evening in our little Saskatchewan farmhouse.

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What do you consider to be the most essential element for a good haiku?

I am most likely to be drawn to haiku that transport me out of myself, and into someone else’s world of experience and emotion. I enjoy traditional, contemporary, and experimental work that rings with a poet’s truth.  

And I must ask, because it is on my own bucket list – have you ever seen a polar bear?

I have! Winnipeg has a conservancy for orphaned polar bears called “The Journey to Churchill.” It currently houses seven polar bears, with two others on loan to the Calgary Zoo. The enclosure has ten acres of tundra-like roaming space and there is a glass tunnel beneath the bears’ swimming area. It is truly magical to see them playing together underwater. I have taken countless photos of these amazing and engaging creatures!

(note: this haiga appeared in Hedgerow Poems, Number 113, May 2017)

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