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Honorary Curator Jerry Ball

Jerry Ball
Honorary Curator, 2011-2012

Appointment Announcement

Jerry BallThe American Haiku Archives advisory board is pleased to announce the appointment of Jerry Ball as the 2011–2012 honorary curator of the American Haiku Archives at the California State Library in Sacramento. This honor is in recognition of his years of service to the haiku community, beginning with his active involvement with the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society around 1975, later serving as president. He also started that society’s Asilomar haiku retreat, which became a model for most other haiku retreats around the country (since it was first). Jerry also cofounded the Haiku North America and Haiku Pacific Rim conferences, coedited the San Francisco Haiku Anthology, served as president of the Haiku Society of America, started the Southern California Haiku Study Group, and has published seven of his own haiku books. Jerry was also a teacher for fifty years and brought the art of memorable instruction to other haiku poets whenever he talked about haiku. We are pleased 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 American Haiku Archives, which includes the Haiku Society of America archives, is the largest public collection of haiku materials outside Japan. Each year since the archives were established on July 12, 1996, the AHA advisory board, currently chaired together by Garry Gay and Randy Brooks, appoints a new honorary curator (an idea suggested by the former California state librarian, Dr. Kevin Starr). Past curators, in order starting from the first year, have been Elizabeth Searle Lamb, Jerry Kilbride, Cor van den Heuvel, Robert Spiess, Lorraine Ellis Harr, Leroy Kanterman, William J. Higginson, Makoto Ueda, Francine Porad, Hiroaki Sato, H. F. Noyes, George Swede, Stephen Addiss, and Gary Snyder.

The AHA advisory board is delighted to pay tribute to Jerry Ball as the fifteenth honorary curator of the American Haiku Archives.

—Michael Dylan Welch

Jerry Ball Appointed as Honorary Curator

Jerry Ball was selected for this honor in recognition of his many years of dedication and leadership in the haiku community. A past president of the Haiku Society of America and of the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society, Jerry has also had a hand in the beginning of many significant haiku organizations and events. He founded the Southern California Haiku Study Group in 1996, a group that continues to thrive years after he moved to Northern California. He also founded the Haiku Pacific Rim conference in Long Beach, California in 2002, a biennial gathering of haiku poets from around the Pacific Rim region and beyond. The Haiku Pacific Rim conference takes place in the years in between the biennial Haiku North America conference, of which he is also a cofounder. He founded the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society’s annual retreat at Asilomar, which will coincide in 2012 with the Haiku Pacific Rim conference for a much-anticipated international gathering there.
In addition to his leadership and knack for starting new haiku organizations, one of Jerry’s greatest contributions to the haiku community has been as a teacher of haiku. A professor of math and philosophy at California State University, Long Beach for many years, and before that at Los Positas College in Livermore, California, Jerry is at home in his role as a teacher. He regularly leads workshops for the Haiku Poets of Northern California, teaches poetry in the local elementary school classrooms whenever he gets the chance, leads poetry writing groups at the local bookstore, and is patient and generous with anyone interested in learning about haiku.

Jerry has authored seven collections of haiku, as well as three volumes of longer poetry. His haiku collections are Left Handed Year (1979), The Sound of Shoes (1984), Summer in Italy (1996), Winding the Clock Again (1996), Pieces of Eight (2004), The Eye of the Day (2006), and Baseball Seasons (2010).

Born on December 16, 1932 in Nebraska, Jerry moved with his family to San Francisco in 1939 and has spent much of his life in the Bay Area. He graduated from San Jose State University with a degree in philosophy in 1954 and did graduate work there before entering the army during the Korean War. After the war he resumed graduate studies in philosophy at the University of Minnesota. He returned to the Bay Area and earned the first master’s degree ever awarded by Alameda State University, now known as California State University, East Bay.

In 1976, while teaching mathematics and philosophy at Las Positas College, Jerry was asked to teach a course in the humanities department on poetry. As a part of this class, he included a section on haiku and soon became enamored with the form. He joined the Yuku Haru haiku group led by Kiyoshi and Kiyoko Tokutomi and met with that group every month for the next 30 years. This group eventually became the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society. He began writing traditional 5-7-5 haiku, but later wrote what he calls freestyle haiku as well. He continues to write and appreciate both traditional and freestyle haiku. Of writing haiku in either style, he says, “They come, not when they are summoned, but when they show themselves.”

When his appointment as curator of the archives was announced at Seattle’s Haiku North America conference in August, he read a selection of haiku written in 5-7-5 syllables, which were also each written with exactly seventeen words. His playful spirit and his openness to different approaches to haiku make him a rare gem in the haiku community.

—Susan Antolin, excerpted from Ripples 26:3, October 2011
(Haiku Society of America newsletter)

Read the San Jose Mercury News story about Jerry Ball's haiku and his appointment as honorary curator at <>.

Memorial Video

This memorial video was created for and shown at the Haiku North America conference, held virtually in 2021. Narrated by Patricia J. Machmiller. Deborah P Kolodji and Susan Antolin also contributed to the production of this memorial video.

Poetry Books by Jerry Ball

Left Handed Year. Livermore, California: Words and Pictures, 1979.

Basic Concepts of Poetry. Livermore, California: Las Positas College, 1981.

The Sound of Shoes. Livermore, California: Words and Pictures, 1984.

San Francisco Haiku Anthology. (coeditor with Garry Gay and Tom Tico) Windsor, California: Smythe-Waithe Press, 1991.

World Between Mirrors. Windsor, California: Smythe-Waithe Press, 1996.

Summer in Italy. Long Beach, California: privately published, 1996.

Winding the Clock Again. Long Beach, California: privately published, 1996.

Pieces of Eight. Long Beach, California: California State University Long Beach, 2004.

The Eye of the Day. Long Beach, California: California State University Long Beach, 2006.

A Second Look. Long Beach, California: California State University Long Beach, 2006.

Baseball Seasons. Oakland, California: Dave’s Garage Press, 2010.

Selected Haiku by Jerry Ball

spring afternoon
the old couple in the pub
recall their wedding

                                                                   summer evening
                                                                   the girl who forgot my name
                                                                   is laughing again

end of a long day
I invite the universe
into my office

                                                                   morning chill
                                                                   the shape of an old man's breath
                                                                   up a long stairway

spring theater
backstage the actors
competing for laughs

                                                                   the first plum blossoms
                                                                   she calls me by the name
                                                                   that she thinks is mine

first day of spring
the algebra problem
gets the attention

                                                                   spring moon
                                                                   deliberately I try
                                                                   to prolong the moment


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