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Honorary Curator Fay Aoyagi

Fay Aoyagi
Honorary Curator, 2023-2024

Appointment Announcement

John Stevenson photoThe American Haiku Archives advisory board is pleased to announce the appointment of Fay Aoyagi as the 2023–2024 honorary curator of the American Haiku Archives at the California State Library in Sacramento. This honor recognizes her wide impact on English-language haiku through her translations, her own books of poems, and her long service to haiku. Her service has included four years as president of the Haiku Society of America (2016–2019), coordinating the Haiku Poets of Northern California’s rengay contest since 2003, and serving as an associate editor of The Heron’s Nest since 2013.

She has published three award-winning haiku collections, Chrysanthemum Love (2003), In Borrowed Shoes (2006), and Beyond the Reach of My Chopsticks (2011), and curates the “Blue Willow Haiku World” blog [], presenting her daily translations of contemporary Japanese haiku (now more than 5,000).

Originally from Tokyo, Fay immigrated to the United States in 1984. In 1995, after moving to San Francisco from New York City, she started writing haiku in English, and has lived again in San Francisco, California since the late 1990s. Fay is also a dojin (leading member) of the Japanese haiku groups Ten’i and Aki. For decades she has been a significant bridge between contemporary Japanese and North American haiku, holding a unique place in the relationship between these two unfolding literary histories.
We are pleased to celebrate Fay Aoyagi, and to bestow this honor from the American Haiku Archives, which seeks to preserve and promote haiku and related poetry throughout the North American continent. The following are six of Fay’s haiku:
cold rain
my application
to become a crab
                                          Independence Day
                                          I let him touch
                                          a little bit of me
                                                                                    New Year’s Eve bath—
                                                                                    I failed to become
                                                                                    a swan
                     Hiroshima Day—
                     I lean into the heat
                     of the stone wall
                                                               low winter moon
                                                               just beyond the reach
                                                               of my chopsticks
the unfamiliar feel
of once-familiar coins
The AHA advisory board is delighted to pay tribute to Fay Aoyagi as the twenty-seventh honorary curator of the American Haiku Archives.

~Michael Dylan Welch, American Haiku Archives Advisory Board Co-chair


Honorary Curator Reading on October 1, 2023

Fay Aoyagi - October 1, 2023

American Haiku Archives celebrated Fay Aoyagi as its 2023–24 honorary curator with a Zoom event on October 1, 2023. Fay read a selection of her haiku, introduced by Patricia Machmiller, with AHA cochair Michael Dylan Welch serving as MC.

You may view a video featuring her haiku and haibun online.
              reading video


Here is the introduction of Fay Aoyagi by Patricia J. Machmiller:

Celebrating Fay Aoyagi

Fay Aoyagi was born in 1956 in Tokyo, Japan. She studied English from middle school through college. She was fortunate to live near Kyoko Matsuoka, the Japanese translator of the Paddington bear series. Ms. Matsuoka opened her private library to young people in the neighborhood. Fay said without this library she would not have been exposed to the many exciting books for children by American and British authors as she was. She grew up reading Kazuo Ishiguro, J.R.R. Tolkien, John Irving, and Haruki Murakami.

Fay emigrated to the United States in 1984. She lived in New York, planning to stay for six months. But then her stay lasted twelve years. She got her green card and began working for Chris Welas, an Oscar-winning special effects expert who lived in San Rafael. And so, in 1995, Fay moved to San Francisco.

Fay’s haiku career began in elementary school where she was exposed to the ancient masters; she was not impressed. “Who cares about a frog in an old pond, anyway?” she thought. However, in 1995, right after she moved to San Francisco, she changed her mind, thanks to hearing English translations of Japanese haiku at a bookstore in San Francisco (A Long Rainy Season: Contemporary Japanese Women’s Poetry, edited and translated Leza Lowitz, Miyuki Aoyama, and Akemi Tomioka, Stone Bridge Press, 1994). She says she was shocked to find how beautiful haiku sounded in English! She also hadn’t known until then, that people were writing haiku in English.

Today Fay is a professional interpreter; she is haiku poet writing in Japanese and English and a member of the Japanese haiku groups Ten’i and Aki. In the United States she’s a member of the Haiku Society of America; she served as president from 2016 to 2019. She’s also a member of the Haiku Poets of Northern California and has coordinated the HPNC rengay contest since 2003. She’s written three award-winning haiku collections, Chrysanthemum Love (2003), In Borrowed Shoes (2006), and Beyond the Reach of My Chopsticks (2011). She curates the “Blue Willow Haiku World” blog, presenting her translations of contemporary Japanese haiku, which has now showcased more than 5,000 poems. Fay is co-compiler of the Haikupedia article “San Francisco International Rengay Contest.”

One last story about Fay’s haiku journey: She told me when she started writing haiku as an adult that she became a frequent reader at an open-mic session in a neighborhood café where she met Jerry Kilbride. Lee Gurga was looking for a Japanese translator for the international conference in Chicago and Jerry introduced her to him. She attended an HSA meeting held in San Francisco and became a friend of Lee, Garry Gay, and Bill Higginson. When she published her first book, Chrysanthemum Love, Higginson wrote a very favorable review. Fay says she remembers Jerry calling her excitedly, saying, “Fay, you’ve become a star!”

And so she has.

~ ~ ~


Selected Haiku by Fay Aoyagi

From Chrysanthemum Love (Blue Willow Press, 2003)
intact zero fighter
at the Smithsonian—
cherry blossom rain
                                          for the rabbits
                                          on the misty moon
                                          … fado
                                                                                    cold rain
                                                                                    my application
                                                                                    to become a crab
                                          August waves
                                          I tell my history
                                          to jellyfish
Independence Day
I let him touch
a little bit of me
                                          citizenship interview
                                          the officer’s accent
                                          thicker than mine
                                                                                    migrating birds—
                                                                                    the weight
                                                                                    of my first voters’ guide
                                          fallen camellias—
                                          I learn the name
                                          of the baby with his eyes
New Year’s Eve bath—
I fail to become
a swan
                                          New Year’s mirror—
                                          I practice the smile
                                          of a dictator

From In Borrowed Shoes (Blue Willow Press, 2006)
the hunter and the hunted
a black balloon becomes
a hole in the sky
                                          ants out of a hole—
                                          when did I stop playing
                                          the red toy piano?
                                                                                    of the deep sea fish
                                                                                    misty stars
                                          withered grass—
                                          footsteps of an assassin
                                          become mine
lacy gloves
will I metamorphose
into Vivian Leigh?
                                          Hiroshima Day—
                                          I lean into the heat
                                          of the stone wall
                                                                                    Nagasaki Anniversary
                                                                                    I push
                                                                                    the mute button
                                          these stones
                                          with a story inside—
                                          autumn deepens
a hole in my sweater
I ask him one more time
what he meant
                                          I look for traces
                                          of Santa’s reconnaissance
                                          frosty morning

From Beyond the Reach of My Chopsticks (Blue Willow Press, 2011)
another day without
an adventure
                                          low winter moon
                                          just beyond the reach
                                          of my chopsticks
                                                                                    rumble of the metro
                                                                                    a queue of city crabs
                                                                                    inches forward
                                          handcuffed lobsters
                                          in the water tank
                                          A-bomb Anniversary
Hiroshima Day
multi-color threads
on the weaving machine
                                          icy rain—
                                          at the bottom of the lake
                                          a door to yesterday
                                                                                    the winter moon wins
                                          simmering tofu—
                                          father asks where I intend
                                          to be buried
plum blossoms
a specimen of my dream
sent to the lab
                                          night ocean
                                          death’s puppeteer
                                          clears his throat

After Beyond the Reach of My Chopsticks
I turn my last year
by thirty degrees

                     Frogpond 36:2, Spring/Summer 2013

mirror-tocracy of frozen moon and me

                     Acorn 34, Spring/Summer 2015

undone button I delete myself

                     Acorn 36, Spring 2016

I pretend I am
an obedient daughter
winter cherry blossoms

                     Mariposa 37, Autumn/Winter 2018

the north facing window
a piano goes for a walk

                     Modern Haiku 49.2, Summer 2018

I am 15%
water goblin

                     Mariposa 37, Autumn/Winter 2017

in the center
of my Venn diagram
withered chrysanthemum

                     Frogpond 44:2, Summer/Spring 2021

spring mud
the hyphen
before American

                     Frogpond 44:2, Summer/Spring 2021


                     Modern Haiku 52.3, Autumn 2021

of fireflies
by fireflies
for fireflies

                     Mariposa 45, Autumn/Winter 2021

and sea cucumbers
at diversity training

                     Visiting the Wind: 2021 Haiku Society of America Membership Anthology

in hiragana

                     Acorn 47, Fall 2021

rug sale
one of them
no longer flies

                     Kingfisher 5, May 2022

in her

                     Frogpond 45:2, Spring/Summer 2022

muscle memory
of a paper plane

                     Frogpond 45:3, Autumn 2022

the unfamiliar feel
of once-familiar coins

                     Acorn 49, Fall 2022

departing spring
the erhu
plays dusk

                     Mariposa 47, Autumn winter 2022

Basho’s Day
a serious talk
with a pine

                     Frogpond 45:3, Winter 2022

river stones

                     Mariposa 48, Spring/Summer 2023

all day long
spring waves playing
hana ichi monme

                     Acorn 50, Spring 2023

Snow Woman

                     Frogpond 46.2, Spring/Summer 2023


Haiku Collections

Aoyagi, Fay. Hachigatsu (August). San Francisco, CA:1995.

Aoyagi, Fay, Alex Benedict, Alice Benedict, June Hymas, Lynne Leach, Patricia Machmiller, Kiyoko Tokutomi. Seven Poets. San Francisco, CA:1997.

Aoyagi, Fay. Six Haiku. San Francisco, CA:1997.

Aoyagi, Fay. December Dance: Solo Rengay. San Francisco, CA: 1998.

Aoyagi, Fay. Chrysanthemum Love. San Francisco, CA: Blue Willow Press, 2003.

Aoyagi, Fay. In Borrowed Shoes. San Francisco, CA: Blue Willow Press, 2006.

Aoyagi, Fay. Beyond the Reach of My Chopsticks. San Francisco, CA: Blue Willow Press, 2011. First place, Merit Book Awards sponsored by the Haiku Society of America.



Anderson, Kay, Editor. Beneath Cherry Blossoms. San Francisco, CA: Two Autumns Press, 1997.

Benedict, Alice, Editor. The Open Sky: 1996 Members Anthology. San Jose, CA: Yuki Teikei Haiku Society, 1997.

Moonlight Changing Direction. Oakland, CA: Two Atutumns Press, 2008.

Machmiller, Patricia, Editor. Bending Reeds: Yuki Teiki Haiku Society Members Anthology 2012. San Jose, CA: Yuki Teikei Haiku Society, 2012.

Kacian, Jim, Editor with Philip Rowland and Allan Burns. Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2013.

Beary, Roberta and Lenard D. Moore, Editors. Seven. Durham, NC; Jacar Press, 2014.

Stevenson, John, Editor. Nest Feathers: Selected Haiku from the First 15 Years of the Heron’s Nest. Heron’s Nest, 2015.


Essays & Reviews on Fay Aoyagi

Higginson, William J. Book review of Chrysanthemum Love, Modern Haiku 35.2, Summer 2004.

Lanoue, David. “Something with Wings: Fay Aoyagi’s Haiku Inner Landscape,” Modern Haiku 40:2, Summer 2009.

Miller, Paul. “Field Note 3: Life-Changing Haiku,” Haiku Foundation website, 9/14/2013..


Translations & Edited Collections

Natsuishi, Ban’ya. Translated by Fay Aoyagi & Jim Kacian. Transparent Current: Haiku from The Inaugural World Haiku Association Conference. Tokyo: Ginyu Press, 2000.

Tokutomi, Kiyoko. Translated by Patricia J. Machmiller and Fay Aoyagi. Kiyoko’s Sky: The Haiku of Kiyoko Tokutomi. Decatur, IL: Brooks Books, 2002.

Stevenson, John, Editor. Ferris Gilli, Paul MacNeil, Fay Aoyagi, Billie Wilson, and Scott Mason, Associate Editors. Nest Feathers: Selected Haiku from the First 15 Years of the Heron’s Nest. Heron’s Nest, 2015.


Web Links

Fay Aoyagi honorary curator Zoom reading on October 1, 2023.

Blue Willow Haiku World (daily translation of contemporary Japanese haiku)

Fay Aoyagi Special Presentation for the Haiku Poets of Northern California.
On August 21, 2022, she gave a presentation on contemporary Japanese haiku.

Featured Poet: Fay Aoyagi. Simply Haiku: A Quarterly of Japanese Short Form Poetry, Winter 2005, volume 3, number 4.

Mann Library's Daily Haiku featured Fay Aoyagi for the month of March 2008.

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