Meet Alvin B. Cruz
A very warm welcome from the whiptail team. Tell us a little about yourself - your family, your hobbies, your dreams, or anything else you want the readers to know about you, apart from being a haiku poet.
First, I would like to thank you and the whole team of whiptail for this chance to share a little bit about my journey in writing haiku. It’s an honor and I hope that this will interest and inspire your readers in their own haiku-writing journeys.
I’m currently teaching English at Far Eastern University–Alabang campus, which is around 25 kilometers away from Manila, the capital of the Philippines. Born and raised in the province of Bulacan, I came from a family that struggled to make both ends meet, so early on I learned the value of hard work, family, and education. But difficult as my childhood was, I had fond memories of it from which I had drawn inspiration so many times in writing haiku.
When not working, I enjoy taking trips around the country and explore the natural beauty of its many awe-inspiring sights. As you may know, the Philippines is blessed with 7,641 islands. Yes, so many to explore, but so little time…
What is something that people don't know about your poetry or poetry practice, process, or inspiration that you'd like to share?
In writing poetry, anything—and I mean anything at all—can catch my fancy and get me all worked up enough to grab my pen and start composing a line or two. I love to take a second look at ordinary things in my ordinary life, and somehow make a connection to what I am feeling and thinking at that moment. Recently, I was alone on a bus on a rainy day, and the image of the rain streaming down the bus window stirred a mix of emotions in me. For the next few minutes, I just got lost in that moment and then I began texting lines on my phone. The problem with me is that when I get in the mood of writing, it’s really very hard for me to stop. So, on that bus ride I almost missed my destination!
Aside from my own personal experiences, I also get inspired by the experiences of other people. I am currently reading a book about the life and poetry of Santoka Taneda, Japan’s beloved modern haiku poet. He had a very difficult and painful life, yet this did not deter him from living the life he wanted–traveling and writing haiku until his last breath.
What made you decide to try out haiku and/or tanka in one line versus their more popular enjambed formats? How does it feel different to you?
When whiptail first announced that it would publish one-line poems, I got really interested. So, I did a little bit of research here and there, reading many one-line poems in different online journals. This was the time when I decided to push the boundaries in my creative writing and see where it would lead me…
I think writing one-line poems is the most challenging of all in the sense that one has to really concentrate on one specific idea or emotion that he or she intends to convey. It’s like looking at an infinitesimal object using a microscope. As a poet one has to be able to use such a tool or skill in order to see that microcosm clearly.
It would be a great help to our readers if you could walk us through your writing process from conception to the eventual birth of a one-line poem. You are most welcome to take a one-line poem or two of yours to discuss how it came to be and/or process.
I would like to talk about the first two one-line poems that were published in whiptail. The first one goes like this:
searching for my ikigai blue sky
When I wrote this, I was reading a book about ikigai—the ancient Japanese concept of living your purpose in life. Being a Christian, knowing one’s purpose in life is at the core of my spirituality. This philosophy had struck me in a way that made me appreciate the culture and way of thinking of the Japanese people. So, I thought this would be a good starting point in my first attempt at writing one-line poems.
And here’s the other poem:
my assigned gender violets are blue
About my inspiration in writing this particular poem, I have always wanted to tackle the theme of gender and sexual orientation in my poetry without the tendency to be too political or intellectual about it. So by working around the term “gender” I began writing a few phrases until finally I came up with what I thought was a perfect opening…“my assigned gender.” The last part of what turned out to be a monoku came almost naturally...“violets are blue” implying that the gender one was born with is not always how he sees himself. The labels we use to identify our gender are really not as important as the way we see ourselves.
Do you have any tips for aspiring poets of one-line forms?
I honestly think I am not the best person to offer advice on this subject matter. I am certain that I still have a lot to learn about writing one-line poems. But maybe for now all I can leave you with is this: Write about what really matters to you. That is always where it begins. Then, strive hard, trusting your instinct the rest of the way.
Alvin B. Cruz is a writer, professor, and communication consultant. His early poems were published in The Philippine Graphic. His haiku, senryu, and tanka have appeared in different print and online journals and anthologies. Some of his works won awards, including the Haiku Society of America Senryu Award (Second Place), and Honorable Mention in H. Gene Murtha Senryu Award, Irish Haiku Society, Maya Lyubenova International Haiku Contest, and Setouchi-Matsuyama International Photo Haiku Contest. He is the author of Sunsets Are Sonnets & Other Poems and Written on Water: Haiku & Watercolor Through the Seasons. He owes—and offers—everything to God.