DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"> Simply Haiku: An E-Journal - Interview with Anita Virgil

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Spring 2005, vol 3 no 1

Interview ~ Anita Virgil by Robert D. Wilson, continued ~ part 3

RW: You know and have worked alongside some so-called important people. How did this happen?

AV: I think it appropriate after all the hard parts have been covered to take one more compass reading as this old battle wagon sails off under the stars.

The autumn sky over Virginia last night was utterly ablaze with them after months of summer thunder and low-hanging cloud-cover. My red door closed out the chill air, the scent of damp fallen leaves. And with the kettle put on to boil, my thoughts at ease, my gaze fell upon the old kitchen table as I waited to make my tea.

It is a very old dark walnut drop-leaf table that existed in Lincoln’s day. I have owned it since before I ever wrote a haiku. And on it my first poems were typed–and my new poems are still jotted down on paper scraps there. Thousands of meals were shared at it. My mushroom paintings were done upon it. And the people who have sat at it over the years of my involvement in haiku reappear–many of them characters in the saga I have just related.

When this American Empire table stood in my dining room in Kinnelon, New Jersey, first there was Bill Higginson and then Eric Amann and Virginia Brady Young. And when it stood in my dining room in Montclair, New Jersey soon afterwards, the guest added was Cor whom I still see sitting there re-typing his Introduction to the first edition of The Haiku Anthology.

For three days! And around the table at other times sat John Wills, Cor, Mike McClintock, and Bill Higginson, Marlene Wills [Mountain later], Elizabeth and Bruce Lamb, Virginia Young, Al Pizzarelli. Even Rod Willmot and O. Southard’s wife, Mali. And Tadashi Kondo.

Sixteen years later, the table ended up here in my Forest, Virginia kitchen and to it again came Cor and Al, then Dee Evetts. By 1990, John Wills returned–and stayed for weeks. Then there came Jim Kacian accompanied by the Towpath group: Roberta Beary, Ellen Compton, Jeff Witkin and Lee Giesecke. And soon, you.

Table ghosts. All talking, eating my array of fixings (I’ve been cooking since childhood), discussing poetry. I still remember Cor there trying when I lived in Montclair, New Jersey to help me re-write my swan poem which he’d just salvaged from my kitchen trash basket and me saying, “No! That’s not it at all . . .” [my article “awareness . . . of what?” was about this very poem’s creation].

The tea steeps. I light the candles, pour a steaming cup, and in the silent house, I sip, knowing some truly good things ultimately have risen from these old boards of walnut.

Anita Virgil lives in Forest, Virginia. She is a past president of the Haiku Society of America. She was a member of the three-person HSA Committee on Definitions which included Harold G. Henderson and William J. Higginson. As a member of the Book Committee for A Haiku Path (HSA, Inc. 1994), she edited the two chapters on Definitions.

Books: A 2nd Flake (1974), one potato two potato, etc. (1991, Peaks Press), on my mind, an Interview of Anita Virgil by Vincent Tripi (3rd edition, Press Here, 1993), PILOT (1996, Peaks Press), A Long Year (2002, Peaks Press), and summer thunder (2004, Peaks Press).
Her poetry and essays and book reviews have appeared in all major haiku magazines and anthologies for 35 years. Most recently, she appears in the anthologies Where Dogs Dream (2003, MQP London), Haiku for Lovers (2003, MQP London), Haiku (2003, Alfred A. Knopf Everyman's Library edition). Poems and essays have also appeared on the Internet and in magazines in Yugoslavia, Croatia, Slovenia, Russia and Serbia/Montenegro.

Of her work, Anita writes: I always had and still have a single goal for haiku: that it be poetry, that it sit comfortably in its uniqueness amid the literature of the world. There is no reason for it not to "since the best artists speak to our capacity for delight and wonder, to the sense of mystery surrounding our lives: to our sense of pity, and beauty, and pain."*

photograph credit: Jennifer V. Gurchinoff

* from Nigger of the Narcissus by Joseph Conrad.

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