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Honorary Curator Ruth Yarrrow

Ruth Yarrow
Honorary Curator, 2015–2016

Appointment Announcement

Marlene MountainThe American Haiku Archives advisory board is pleased to announce the appointment of Ruth Yarrow as the 2015–2016 honorary curator of the American Haiku Archives at the California State Library in Sacramento. This honor recognizes Ruth’s four decades of devotion to haiku poetry and its innate environmental concerns, together with her surefooted work in teaching haiku in classrooms, workshops, and essays. It also honors the example of her poetry, which excels in both domestic and nature-focused subjects. She does not write of idealized nature, but nature as it is.

In an essay on environmental haiku in Frogpond (14:3, 1999), Ruth noted that “the power of haiku in helping us focus on natural beauty is one reason the form attracts so many adherents in this time of environmental crisis. . . . But if we only cling to the unsullied nature we want to see, our haiku can become naively romantic.” Allan Burns, in Where the River Goes: The Nature Tradition in English-Language Haiku (Ormskirk, United Kingdom: Snapshot Press, 2013) has described Ruth as being “among the most acclaimed haiku poets of [her] generation.”

We are pleased to celebrate Ruth Yarrow, 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.

                    after the garden party      the garden

Ruth Yarrow was born in 1939 in southern New Jersey and grew up in small college towns from North Dakota to Ohio. In the 1950s, a nature study camp she attended in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia led her to choose Antioch College in Ohio for its strong environmental education program. She taught science with the Peace Corps in Ghana, and then earned a Masters degree in ecology from Cornell University.

While on the environmental studies faculty of Stockton State College in New Jersey in the early 70s she taught a course on the natural world seen through world literature. In this class she asked her students to write haiku and got hooked herself. She taught ecology in colleges and environmental centers for many years while volunteering with such organizations as the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign.

When their two children fledged, she and her husband Mike moved to the Pacific Northwest where they reveled in mountain backpacking. In Seattle, Ruth worked with Physicians for Social Responsibility for nuclear waste cleanup and with the Fellowship of Reconciliation on peace and justice.

After her husband died in 2014, Ruth moved back to Ithaca, New York to be near her children and grandchildren. Ruth has had more than 650 haiku in the major journals and five books of haiku published. She has given readings and workshops, judged contests, and served as an editor and Haiku Society of America regional coordinator. She says that writing haiku helps her be aware of the richness of life.

                    warm rain before dawn:
                    my milk flows into her

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, Gary Snyder, Jerry Ball, LeRoy Gorman, Charles Trumbull, and Marlene Mountain. The AHA advisory board is delighted to pay tribute to Ruth Yarrow as the nineteenth honorary curator of the American Haiku Archives.

—Michael Dylan Welch



"View from Rattlesnake"

Books by Ruth Yarrow

No One Sees the Stems, 1981, High/Coo Press

Down Marble Canyon, 1984, Wind Chimes

A Journal for Reflections, 1988, Crossing Press

Sun Gilds the Edge, 1998, Saki Press

Whiff of Cedar, 2007, privately published

Standing Still: Haiku North America Anthology, 2009, edited with Michael Dylan Welch

Lit from Within, 2016, Red Moon Press

Selected Haiku by Ruth Yarrow

the toddler stirs her reflection
with one mitten

                                                                      a marmot’s whistle
                                                                      pierces the mountain
                                                                      first star

at the very edge

                                                                      touching the fossil—
                                                                      low rumblings
                                                                      of thunder

I step into old growth:
autumn moon deeper
into sky

                                                                      planting peas
                                                                      the earth curves under
                                                                      my fingernails

against the wind
we hold the peace banner—
our spines straighten

                                                                      food bank line—
                                                                      a pigeon picks up crumbs
                                                                      too small to see

crowded bus through fog—
someone singing softly
in another language

                                                                      riveredge old growth:
                                                                      a towering window
                                                                      of stars

moonlit okra leaves
floating in blackness
no one sees the stems

                                                                      the baby’s pee
                                                                      pulls roadside dust
                                                                      into rolling beads

children squealing
slowly the oldest gorilla
focuses elsewhere

                                                                      minor key
                                                                      of the Hebrew peace song:
                                                                      the wind


   Web Links

Piercing the Mountain: An Interview with Ruth Yarrow

Leading a Nature Walk at the 2014 Seabeck Haiku Getaway in Washington State

Ruth Yarrow on Haiku with Feathers

No One Sees the Stems (PDF)

Blogging Along Tobacco Road: Ruth Yarrow—Three Questions

June Jordan and Ruth Yarrow: Poems to Rebuild Kosovo

“Ruth Yarrow: American Haiku Master” by Mike Dillon

Ruth Yarrow - Particles on the Wall (video interview)

Ruth Yarrow’s Haiku—Terebess Asia Online

“World Economy in Word Economy” (essay)

Brass Bell: Ruth Yarrow

Millikin University Reader Response Essays

Childhood Through Ruth Yarrow’s Haiku Eyes by Olivia Cuff

Ruth Yarrow’s Haiku by Diana Howell Kupish

Ruth Yarrow’s Haiku by Betsy Quigg



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This site is independent of and not endorsed by the California State Library. It is operated by the American Haiku Archives advisory board in support of the archives and its mission, which is to collect, preserve, and promote haiku and related poetry as a vital component of literature in the English language. Web Manager: Michael Dylan Welch.
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