Posted in Haiku

Ed Baker’s Surprise

Biographical Sketch

American haiku poet and artist Ed Baker was born in Washington, D.C. on 19 April, 1941. He received his BA in English/History from the University of Maryland in 1967 and his MA from Johns Hopkins University in 1971. Ed described himself as being happily divorced, the father of two adult children, and as an “everyday writer,” “everyday artist,” and “everyword reader,” having to his credit over 2500 watercolors, 75,000 poems, and 500 3-d pieces.

Ed lived in Takoma Park, Maryland, and his poetry and artwork, including haibun and haiga, appeared in many journals: Athanor, Frogpond, Odysseus, Hummingbird, South by Southeast, Modern Haiku, Lilliput, Bongos of the Lord, mojo risin, Iconoclast, Calvert Review, RawNervz, Liquid Ohio, Moonset Journal, Haigaonline, World Haiku Review, Origin, Longhouse, Simply Haiku, and Moonset. He also wrote 19 books. His list of books is at the bottom of this post.

Ed Baker’s style of writing and painting is probably best described in a review to Ed’s book Stone Girl E-Pic, where John Mingay writes that the author maintained “an artistic integrity that’s pure and traditional… an admirable integrity that’s attributable directly to calligraphy, collage and minimalist writing. Though, how could it be otherwise? The electro-mechanical drone of a computer would be hard to reconcile with an artist for whom, ‘Everything comes out of silence and goes back into silence.’”

Ed Baker died after surgery on 28 March 2016.
[adapted from The Living Haiku Anthology]

Haiku Commentary

tulip
surprising
snow

(South by Southeast 10:2 (2003)

© Ed Baker (USA)

Only three words, but sometimes that’s all you need. Despite there being so few words, there are two parts: “tulip/surprising snow,” or “tulip surprising/snow,” or even a one-part poem as “tulip surprising snow,” indicating that the tulip is surprising the snow or the snow is surprising to the tulip, i.e “tulip-surprising snow.”

Depending on which way you read this haiku, you get different interpretations and feelings. In “tulip/surprising snow,” we have a contrast or comparison of a tulip and unexpected snow, it could be a tulip in late spring or early autumn, and suddenly it snows. The tulip, bright and garnering awe, compares strongly to sudden snow.

In “tulip surprising/snow,” the poet may have seen a tulip amidst snow, and that sure would have been surprising to see. It brings the reader into the moment. Sometimes the moment is all a haiku needs.

With “tulip surprising snow” and “tulip-surprising snow” we have personification, which is allowed in haiku if done tastefully.

In regard to sound, the letter “i” and “s” show the strongest presence. To me, the “i” sound brings more sharpness to the imagery, and the “s” sound creates the effect of someone stepping on the snow.

But with all these ways of reading, I primarily see it as “tulip/surprising snow.” In a sense, it is a blend of seasons (though two seasonal references should not be made in haiku, this haiku instead shows a particular season and its relation to another). What Baker has done is realize how seasons are not so different from each other, and show how winter can be expressed in spring, and vice versa. It brings a sense of oneness, and also a sense of exceptions. Definitions usually fall apart when you look at something close enough.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

A list of books written by Ed Baker:

  • Butcher of Oxen (Doxie Press, 1972)
  • The City (Red Ochre Press, 1972)
  • This Wood (Red Ochre Press, 1982)
  • Hexapoem I, II, & III (Red Ochre Press, 1994)
  • Nine Perfect Ensos (Red Ochre Press, 2000)
  • Shrike (Tel-Let, 2000)
  • Song of Chin (draft #12) (tel let, 2005)
  • Wild Orchid [w/sumi-e by Fay Chin] (tel let, 2002)
  • Things Just Come Through (Red Ochre Press, 2005)
  • Twenty-Four Ways of Seeing [w/sumi-e by Fay Chin] (tel let, 2002)
  • Okeanos Rhoos (Johns Hopkins, 1972)
  • RESTORATION LETTERS: correspondence 1972-1978 (Cid Corman-Ed Baker)
  • RESTORATION POEMS: 1972-2007 (Country Valley Press, 2008)
  • Stone Girl E-pic (Leafe Press [paper], 2011)
  • G OO DNIGHT (Moria Press [paper], 2009)
  • Points/Counterpoints (Fact-Simile Press [paper], 2010)
  • DE:SIRE IS [book 1 of trilogy] (The Knives Forks and Spoons Press [paper], 2010)
  • She Intrudes [book 2 of trilogy] (Modest Proposal Chapbook Series [paper], 2011)
  • ARS POETC HER [book 3 of trilogy] [forthcoming from The Knives Forks and Spoons Press [paper], 2013)
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Meditator, writer, editor, musician.

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