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An Interview with Andy Pomphrey

by Saša Važić

 

SV. It’s always a pleasure to discover and uncover new talents in the haiku world. Or, perhaps, you are not new but hidden well? If this is the case, does it have to do with the haiku principle that an author should be hidden behind his work?

AP. I think your question about the hidden poet is the challenge that faces all individuals who wish to say something in their media of choice. It is perhaps the struggle that face all artists, poets and writers who portray the world, to allow the medium to “speak” for itself, while they remain in the shadow. A reflection of the spirit that drives all artists along the path of recognition for their art, yet remain anonymous.

 Nevertheless, the intensity of the art means once the art is released, it can never be locked away in a drawer, as of course it shouldn’t be; as a consequence the artist also become exposed to the light of day with the subsequent celebration of his or her work.

SV. The title of your website is Flipancee. Does it have to do with the English word “flippancy”? If so, why do you think it is “not serious”?

AP.  In the 70’s, I wrote a concrete poem, Flipancee, which consisted of three vertical columns of nine words hanging on a mobile (the old-fashioned kind that used to hang from ceilings!). Any movement through the room would change vertically and horizontally the structure of the sentences. The OED describes flippancy as the 17th century word meaning nimble or playful! Couldn’t resist it!

 

 

SV. Your website seems very simple, as simple as haiku, I’d say. A few quotes from renowned writers, brief definitions of haiku, senryu (you call it senryru, please explain why) and haiga with examples of your own poetry and art. When did you create it and for what purpose?

AV. This is perhaps the most difficult question to answer. If I am honest, my reason for creating the website was to provide an opportunity to display my work! I could also say it was time for the haiku and haiga to be enjoyed. The spelling of senryru instead of senryu is mine, or Google’s spelling mistake!

SV. When did you first become interested in haiku and haiga?

AP.  I have always been interested in poetry, especially contemporary writers, and I had over the years tried to emulate that style of expression, with mixed success. My interest in haiku and haiga was a chance discovery of a book of Chinese poetry, which had a concluding chapter of contemporary Japanese haiku, which was like opening a chest full of jewels!

SV. Who are your major influences in these ancient Japanese art forms, and why?

AP.  Of course, the masters, Basho and Issa, for the purity of their words!  I particularly enjoy the contemporary work of  J. Barlow & M. Paul‘s “Wing Beats,” Larry Wilson for his concise use of words in his haiku, John Wills for his haiku that resonate the sounds of nature, and especially W. J. Higginson & P. Harter for their “The Haiku Handbook.”

 

 

SV. Where do you receive your inspiration?

AP. I’m inspired by nature. As John Clare, the 19th century peasant poet, said about his poems, he didn’t find them, they found him in the fields and trees. Likewise, haiku found me as I walk across the natural and industrialised landscape around me. The Romans once described the value of walking “Ambulanti Solvitor.” Once thorough the open door you can find the answers, and unusually we have had lots of snow this year!

snow seen

through snow

snow scene

 

the winter trees

reveal the egret’s flight

snow obscured

 

along the Holloway

bare branches reach up to the sky

snow flakes on the wind

 

 

SV. Do you find it easy to write haiku?

AP. The simplicity of  the structure belies the absolute complexity that is within the art of constructing a haiku! So do I find it easy to write haiku? It seems that it used to be easier, especially when I wrote them into my mobile, achieving a sense of immediacy. Yet I think, with practice, I have tried to create haiku that celebrate the craft without losing the spirit of the now.

SV. What are haiku and haiga to you and why have you chosen them to express your inner being?

AP. Haiku is for me is a writing form that provides a solution; a presentation of the world around me, that speaks for itself; a writing tool that, via the simplicity of words with minimalist structure, is able to convey so much by saying so little. The juxtaposition of an image with a haiku can add that sparkle enhancing both the image and the words.

Originally, I was unaware of the haiga form, but had been experimenting with the idea of  combining my watercolour painting with haiku, only to find that the form was already established.

SV. Can you recall your fist haiku poem?

AP. In response to your question, I found this first attempt at haiku writing in a 2000 diary. I’m amazed at the date!

The summer dreams of

borrowed hopes of springtime

rose petals blossom

SV. How would you relate haiku to other poetry genres?

AP. This is another hard question! Each genre achieves beauty in the words of the writer to express the world around them. But for me the significance of the haiku is that the style reduces the sense of saying you can maybe understand, share the content, but it is still mine. I hope that makes sense.

 

 

SV.  What are your personal inclinations in poetry, both western and eastern? Who are your favorite poets? And why?

AP. The imagist poets, Amy Lowell, William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound, have influenced my direction, as they were influenced by the haiku form. I also include the Beat Poets, especially Jack Kerouac, who also attempted to write haiku. Other influences must include the poets: John Clare, W.H. Davis and Edward Thomas for their writings that convey the love of nature.  Pablo Neruda and Philip Larkin for their lusty portrayal of life, and Roger Deakin and Roger Macfarlane for their inspirational descriptions of the natural landscape. Regarding eastern poets, I enjoy reading Chinese verse, the poets  Po chu-I and Li P’an-lung come to mind. Wish I could find that book of Zen poetry again, because that was inspirational!

SV. Who are your favorite haiku masters, both classical and contemporary?

AP. I have already mentioned the traditional masters Basho and Issa, but, of course, there is also Buson. Being aware that we’re dependent upon the translations, I have a preference to reading haiku written by European and American poets, who continue to provide inspiration in my writing, whether or not they can be described as masters.

SV. Do you plan to publish a collection of your haiku and haiga?

AP. Well, I suppose by promoting my work on a website implies that I would like to publish, if I feel there is an interest!

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Andy Pomphrey lives in Andover, Hampshire, UK, with his wife. Retired, he works voluntarily as an external music trainer, providing the opportunity for individuals using a rehabilitation program to play music. In his spare time, Pomphrey pursues his interests in music, painting, and poetry. He plays soprano saxophone and blues harmonica in a jazz band, and guitar and percussion in an Irish folk band. Pomphrey publishes the website: http://www.flipancee.co.uk to showcase examples of his haiku, haiga, and watercolour landscapes.

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