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Interview with Kathy Lippard-Cobb
by Robert Wilson

Q. You have won numerous awards and have a list of publishing credits a mile long. What is the secret to your success?

A. I wish I could say that I have a clue, but I truly don't. All I know is that I try not to write a haiku that sounds as if it's a report about something. Everything I write has my own personal voice. Some say that haiku is supposed to be without the author inserted. I insert my take on things anyway.

Q. Why do you write haiku?

A. I write haiku because I like taking ordinary moments, and showing how extraordinary they can be. Life is composed of more ordinary moments than anything else. I may as well make these moments memorable. I also like the brevity of the form, and I have learned to say a lot in few words.

Q. What, to you, constitutes a good haiku? And what is a bad haiku?

A. That is hard to say. I have seen excellent haiku that break all the rules. I have seen classic haiku that are not very interesting. I think a good haiku is one that manages to capture the moment in such a way that makes it irresistible.

A bad haiku is easy to define. A bad haiku is one that is composed of three lines of 5/7/5 with fluff words thrown in to make a syllable count. Don't get me wrong, it's highly possible to write good 5/7/5 haiku. However, if the haiku is filled with unnecessary words, the impact is lost, and you have three lines of absolutely nothing.

Q. What do you do to hone your skills, to become a better haiku poet?

A. Well, right now, I am not doing much honing because I am in school. However, I do not sit down and try to write haiku. I used to do that when I first started, but now, I let the haiku find me.

Q. Is there a process you go through when writing a haiku?

A. If I find something that inspires me, I jot down a line or two; I have been known to wake up in the middle of the night and say a phrase into a tape recorder by my bed. When the mood strikes me, I compose draft versions (usually more than one version of the same haiku). This way, I get what I consider, the best possible version.

Q. What haiku poet has exerted the greatest influence on you, and why?

A. You mean other than yourself? an'ya. She helped me a lot when I was learning. I can remember emailing her 5 to ten times a day. She was really patient. Ferris Gilli and Christopher Herold. They were among the first to publish my work. They also were victimized by my constant emailing for information (grinning). Martin Lucas. He gave me some advice in response to my first submission about my writing being too flowery. That one statement, among others, clarified some things for me.

Q. How do you know what haiku to send to a publisher?

A. I don't. I never know what is or is not something that a publisher will like. All I can do is write what I like and submit to the publishers. After that, it is out of my hands. I absolutely refuse to write a haiku with any particular magazine or editor in mind. Most of my haiku find homes, that is, when I have the time to actually submit. I haven't been able to submit as often as I like at the moment.

Q. What are some common mistakes people make when writing haiku?

A. I can't state anything about the veteran poets; many of these poets have been honing their craft before I was born. I find that many new haiku poets use unnecessary words that weaken the haiku.

Q. Which do you prefer--modern haiku or traditional haiku--and why? Or, is there a difference?

A. I like modern haiku. I guess the reason is because that is what I see in most of the haiku journals. I am not sure how to even define traditional haiku. I think all haiku today is considered modern haiku because we are writing in modern times.

I guess I could define traditional haiku as that haiku that is more in classic haiku form. I know there are haiku poets that tailor their work after Basho, Shiki, Issa, or any other poet that inspires them.

To me, it is still modern haiku.

Kathy Lippard Cobb resides in Bradenton, Florida. Kathy is currently enrolled as a student majoring in Computer Programming and Analysis. Kathy's other interests include singing, drawing, and songwriting. Kathy has been widely published in a variety of forms.

Literary publications: Heron's Nest, Frogpond, Modern Haiku, Paper Wasp, Acorn, Snapshots, Raw Nervz, Presence, Midwest Poetry Review, Still, Haiku Headlines, Starfish, Yellow Moon, Shemom, The Florida Villager, The Shadows Ink Poetry Chapbook, and various anthologies.

Awards: Kathy has won the 2001 Harold Henderson Award, the 2001 and 2002 James W. Hackett International Haiku Award, the 2001 Haiku Presence Award, the 2001 Midwest Poetry Review Annual Haiku Contest, the 2002 Yellow Moon Literary Competition for Tanka, the 2002 Yellow Moon Literary Competition for Haiku (second place), the Haiku Presence Award (second place), the 2001 Betty Drevniok Award (second place), 2002 Florida State Poetry Contest, 2002 Shadow Ink Poetry Contest, Haiku Calendar Competition, International Kusamakura, Sol Magazine, AN5 (second place), 2003 Mainichi Haiku (second place), as well as many highly commendeds. 

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