I know, it’s a pretty long title for a book of super short poems. I began writing senryu back in 2006 when fellow-poet Michael Gravel started up Daily Haiku and I thought the form would be fun to play with.
It took a couple of years, but I ended up with about 50 decent poems and figured I’d send them out into the world as a chapbook. My friend Greig Rasmussen, with whom I collaborated on an art book project with SNAP at the time, was kind enough to give it a read and went ten steps further by arranging the poems in a thematic arc. Inspired, I kept writing and editing and arranging them, year after year, thinking I could make a bigger, better book.
Then three years ago, I rediscovered drawing – after thirty-odd years away from it. I know I learn best through a real world project, and the senryu chapbook felt like a far less daunting task than illustrating a children’s book (my ultimate aim).
Starting in high school, my favorite drawing tools were Bic pen and fine line Sharpie. So when I returned to drawing in 2020, I went straight to the beautifully precise Micron pens they have these days.
Well, I figured, if I can learn that, why not the classical line-art tools as well? So I took a stab at dip pen and ink brush. After months of practice, I saw clearly how steep the learning curve was. If I didn’t train my drawing hand four hours a day for two years, just for this one tool, my images were going to look like crap.
By then, I had discovered digital drawing tools, the ridiculously customizable apps, pens and pads. Everything I could do with real-world drawing tools, I could do with this. And waaay more. I hadn’t done much with graphic software in a decade and was shocked at both the hardware and software advances. In this realm, digital had caught up with analog – and surpassed it.
Anyway, I decided early on that if I didn’t draw every line myself, the pictures wouldn’t have much value. Style-wise, I’d already done a couple Fumbled Kiss drawings on 17” art paper with dip pen. For consistency (and to keep up my skills) I decided not to draw anything digitally that I couldn’t do manually. In technical terms, that meant no pen stabilization or any other robo-helping.
While all this was going on, trying to draw a decent picture for the book in under a week, the poetry writing and arranging continued. And just when I thought I was done, my editor, Marg Gilks, threw a huge wrench in the works by pointing out some of my 5-7-5s were in fact 5-8-6s and worse.
Everything came together early this year: one hundred poems that I would not be embarrassed to show my fellow poets. And twenty pictures that may not be high art, but that let me learn how to make images again – and have a heck of a lot of fun doing it.