Hello, Sherry. Thank you for agreeing to this interview.
How long have you been writing poetry? Do you write every day? Do
you have rituals around your writing?
Sherry Weaver Smith: I have been writing poetry for seven
years, and I became inspired to start writing when I became a mother. I
like to take haiku field trips to find images, sounds, or moments to
write about. My favorite destinations are marshes, snowy forests, art
museums, the desert, and churches.
Why haiku? How were you introduced to it? What attracted you?
What inspires you?
Sherry Weaver Smith: I like that haiku is just a sketch of
a moment, and readers get to imagine their own details. Marjorie
Buettner has characterized haiku as a pilgrimage; she quotes the
Japanese poet Bashō, who searched for a "glimpse of the underglimmer."
For me, haiku is trying to express the mysterious essence of things.
The other reason that haiku is a natural challenge for me is that I
lived in Japan, where the form originated. Japan is a country of
beautiful landscapes, geometric gardens, and traditions of hospitality,
and these qualities still inspire me in my haiku.
Someone once pointed out that haiku is the smallest form of
poetry but has the most rules. Is this a conundrum in writing? Or does
it actually make it easier?
Sherry Weaver Smith: What a great question! For me,
sometimes what I want to express flows into the form of haiku naturally.
At other times, what I want to say requires a longer poem. I think I
would feel too rule-bound if I only wrote haiku or only wrote free
How does the traditional haiku form work for English? What do you
think about the modifications to form that some American haiku writers
Sherry Weaver Smith: Many writers in English have not been
using the traditional 5-7-5 syllable pattern of haiku. Instead, they
write "modern" haiku, which is also what I typically do. Japanese words
tend to have more syllables than their translations in English.
Therefore, many poets have felt that haiku in English should have fewer
syllables than haiku in Japanese. I tend to let the poem fall where it
wants, but I usually make sure to have two images juxtaposed in each
poem, which is a traditional element of haiku. I would recommend to
anyone who would like to try writing haiku to start out with the 5-7-5
pattern until that becomes comfortable. Then, begin exploring with other
Do you write other forms of poetry? If so what?
Sherry Weaver Smith: Yes, I write many types of poetry,
from haiku to tanka (a slightly longer-form poem also originating in
Japan) to free verse.
Who are some of the contemporary poets you enjoy?
Sherry Weaver Smith: I like to read haiku poetry by
Christopher Herold and free verse by Mary Oliver. While not
contemporary, I love the poetry of Russian novelist Boris Pasternak, T.S.
Eliot, and Li Po. Pasternak's poetry inspires me to write about snow,
but I can never match the beauty of his images!
Your collaboration with the artist, Sylvia Van Strijthem, seems
like a perfect, natural match. Can you tell me a little about how this
Sherry Weaver Smith: Sylvia and I have been friends for
more than a quarter of a century. We met at the School of Oriental and
African Studies, which is part of the University of London. I was
studying abroad as part of my undergraduate education at Duke
University, and Sylvia was starting a Master's course. We continued our
friendship even as we each moved to various places, such as Hong Kong,
the Philippines, Japan, and back to our home countries of the United
States and Belgium.
While living in Hong Kong, Sylvia furthered her study of Chinese brush
painting. When I traveled to meet her adorable newborn daughter, I was
touched by Sylvia's lovely paintings. So when there was a chance for
illustration of my poems, I contacted Sylvia right away. Sylvia quickly
understood the way that I wanted to write poems inspired by natural
shapes, and she had wonderful ideas that expressed this same idea in
visual art, such as the spiraling of a wisteria branch.
Your poetry was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2008. That must
have been a pretty exciting time for you.
Sherry Weaver Smith: Yes, it was. I couldn't believe it. I
won First Prize in the Arizona Authors Association yearly contest for my
free-verse poem, "Daily Breath," about a sick child in a hospital in
Manila, the Philippines. As part of the award, the Arizona Literary
Magazine graciously nominated my poem.
What are your hopes and dreams for this collection?
Sherry Weaver Smith: I am so grateful to Richer Resources
Publications for publishing this collection and to Sylvia for her
thoughtful and evocative paintings. I hope that readers will enjoy
contemplating the poems, which are remembrances of my own pilgrimage to
beautiful places and through motherhood and faith. Most of all, I hope
some readers will be inspired to write their own poems, since I believe
that everyone has a unique way of perceiving the world.