Francine Porad: In Her Own Words

In 2004, the Haiku Society of America awarded Francine Porad its highest service honor, the Sora Award, named for Basho’s faithful companion, Sora. Connie Hutchison prepared the following notes about Francine for the award presentation, and the award was given in December of 2004—as a surprise to Francine—at a national meeting of the Haiku Society of America held at the Redmond Regional Library, in Redmond, Washington. Following these notes is a selection of poems by Francine, “in her own words.”

Francine Porad’s artistic career began with painting, and branched out to writing in the 1980s. She found the most success and fastest “turnaround” with haiku editors, which suited her very flexible and prolific tendencies. In the past twenty years, she has continued to paint, exhibit, and win awards while also achieving recognition for haiku, senryu, tanka, and renku. She regularly includes her visual art with each haiku collection. She holds juried membership in the Northwest Watercolor Society, Women Painters of Washington, and National League of American Pen Women (Arts and Letters). She was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Women Painters of Washington in 2004.

Francine’s sketches were part of the Haiku Society of America Northwest regional anthology, To Find the Words, which won the society’s First Place Merit Book Award in 2000. This anthology was dedicated to Francine Porad “whose joy in writing haiku became the magnet for a congenial, supportive writing group and whose leadership, generosity and innovation continue to inspire us.”

The group she organized in September, 1988, called itself Haiku Northwest. The inaugural meeting at the Bellevue Regional Library featured British Columbia guests anne mckay, Beth Jankola, and Anna Vakar. Meetings continued every other month at the library or at Francine’s home on Mercer Island. In the early ’90s, the group became affiliated with HSA. Mary Fran Meer was the first Northwest regional coordinator. The group now meets monthly, has attracted new members, and has published several regional anthologies.

Francine’s early success led her to expand the available markets for haiku by taking over Brussels Sprout from Alexis Rotella in May, 1988. With Connie Hutchison as associate editor, Francine published this international journal of haiku and art until 1995. She influenced numerous writers with her encouragement and supportive criticism, both as editor and friend. Many of them contributed to an online tribute to her in 2003.

As president of the Haiku Society of America in 1993 and 1994, she encouraged national and international discourse and friendships among haiku practitioners. She presented workshops at the Haiku Canada Weekend (1992) and the Haiku North America conference (1993, 1995). She judged local, national, and international contests, including contests for the Haiku Society of America (1997), New Zealand International Haiku Contest (1995), North Carolina Poetry Contest (1994), Washington Poets Association Haiku Contest (1994), and San Francisco International Haiku and Senryu Contest (1992). In addition, she was featured in the public television show “Cactus Poetry Series” (Seattle), placed first in the 1993 Japan International Tanka Competition, and won awards in the 1996 and 1998 Itoen Tea International Haiku Contests.

In a 1995 Poet’s Market interview, Francine told an editor that she began publishing her collections to share with her family the poems that she had published during the year, and to challenge herself to create an artistically pleasing volume. The result is an impressive body of work. It includes twenty-three individual collections of her haiku, senryu, and tanka that also incorporated her art. In addition, she published three collaborations of linked poetry with Marlene Mountain (Cur*rent, 2000; Probably, 2002; Probably II, 2004), and the “Other Rens” series with Marlene Mountain and Kris Kondo (Other Rens, books 1, 2, and 3, and Trio of Wrens, 2000, with books 5 through 9 in manuscript form, 2001–2002), all of which take the tradition and practice of linked verse to new levels.

Marilyn Sandall, Northwest regional coordinator of the HSA for 2004, points out Francine’s “enthusiasm to be inclusive, to give each of us a chance to participate, indeed to take on leadership roles in the group” as examples of the traits that endear her to us. In recognition of her achievement and leadership in this field, the Washington Poets Association established the Francine Porad Haiku Award in 2003.

Because she views and practices writing haiku as a way to record incidents and wonderful memories of her life, her books of haiku literally reflect her and become a window on her life. The following are some of my favorite haiku written by Francine, selected from her many books.

—notes compiled by Connie Hutchison, November 2004
A Portrait of Francine: In Her Own Words

A selection of Francine Porad's haiku, senryu, and tanka, compiled by Connie Hutchison

I raise my head
from his chest, heartbeats
to crickets

                                                                        occupational hazard:
                                                                        paint on her nightgown

tapped his Moses on the knee:
arise and walk!
I kiss the cherry-red mouth
on the canvas

                                                                        fond grandma
                                                                        rose-colored glasses
                                                                        banana smeared

finding my father
in a Franz Hals painting—
how his eyes twinkle

                                                                        open house
                                                                        my children, their children . . .
                                                                        joy is my middle name

warmed by the fire
           not wanting to be older
           or younger

                                                                        poolside, we chat
                                                                        about reincarnation;
                                                                        no longer strangers

lilac buds
affirming the earth
and its fullness

                                                                        snapped line—
                                                                        the salmon's full length
                                                                        in the air

hospital vigil
the imperceptible shift
of clouds

                                                                        on her hospital bed:
                                                                        beyond vogue
                                                                        without lipstick
                                                                        without rouge

her hand,
I reach
the coma

                                                                        twilight deepens—
                                                                                   the wordless things
                                                                                   I know

snowy night
the crunch
of milkbones

                                                                        first yoga session:

drawing a house
with a fenced-in yard
the deaf boy

                                                                        husband spellbound—
                                                                                   his wife’s version
                                                                                   of their courtship

Mother’s Day
gift-wrapped box of chocolates
one piece missing

                                                                        star-shaped leaves
                                                                            on each point
                                                                                a raindrop

watering the garden
         Taylor waters Grandpa

                                                                        family album:
                                                                        as many photos of salmon
                                                                        as of dad

his laugh rings out—
no need for the fisherman
to exaggerate

                                                                        bare to the waist
                                                                        my son chops firewood
                                                                        tells me how much
                                                                        he loves his wife, children, land—
                                                                        I store this for my winter

vacation’s end;
I learn by heart
the cloudless blue

                                                                        bird house empty of seed
                                                                        even the jays
                                                                        look for Bernard

tied to the bush
hundreds of wishes
fluttering white

          (Meiji Shrine, Tokyo)

                                                                        clearer, higher
                                                                        he blows the horn
                                                                        to the new moon

These poems all previously appeared in the books listed in the Bibliography of Books by Francine Porad, and appear here by permission of the estate of Francine Porad.