softer than a butterfly
every time you smile.”
- by Margaret Russell
One day she snatched a white feather in midair and that was the beginning of her love of feathers.
“I was walking down the street one day and this white feather was just floating through the air,” said Margaret Russell, haiku poet. “I just reached out and plucked it out of the air. I couldn't believe it.”
She didn't know anyone saw it happen but her neighbor said, “If I hadn't seen that, I wouldn't have believed it. That will never happen in our lifetimes again.”
Sometimes people have butterflies in the tummy, and feathers in the heart are soft, making your heart flutter, but remember that the other end of the feather is a quill, she said. That kind of thinking, analyzing and contemplating a feather, is what inspires Russell to write haiku.
“Soft feathers have quills and lovely roses are thorned, beware soft objects,” she quoted the last poem in her new book “Feathers in my Heart.”
Russell, of Portsmouth, sits at her antique secretary desk with index cards and a rice paper book, writing her poetry.
She is a self-described “romantic at heart” and as she takes a breath, out comes a new haiku poem.
Her first book, “Feathers in my Heart,” was recently released by Miami Publishing and a second book is in the planning stages.
As a member of Phoenix Writers, in 2002, she learned the formula for haiku from another member, Charles Clevenger.
Since then, Russell has written more than 200 poems.
“I was trying to write but I didn't have any discipline to my writing,” she said. “They were merely ramblings and I couldn't do the long sing-song poems. I like brevity and simplicity.”
Haiku is a short three-lined poem with the first line in five syllables, the second in seven, and the third in five syllables. It originated in Japan in the 17th century, evolving from the renga poetry in the 15th century where several poets would create poetry in the five-seven-five syllables and two lines with seven syllables each.
In the 16th century, the popular poetry of the day was humorous and called haikai, which was made up of 17 and 14 syllables like renga.
“It just spoke to me,” Russell said. “I love things of nature and kindness. Kindness is the greatest characteristic a person can have.”
Traditionally, haiku is about nature and the seasons, which Russell writes, but a lot of her poems have a more personal, deeper meaning.
“I try to take that discipline of the five-seven-five syllables in a three-line poem and put a little romantic or mysterious spin into that,” she said.
She is inspired by the environment, traveling and relationships. Russell has been influenced by Ralph Waldo Emerson's essays, Emily Dickinson's poetry, Einstein's ideas and opinions, and song lyrics by Dan Fogelberg and Steve Free.
“The beauty about this book is that it is not self-published,” Russell said. “I was discovered in the old-fashioned sense. I am really humbled and honored that (Miami Publishing) chose my haiku. I couldn't believe it was real until I saw the bar code.”
The next book, second of a trilogy, will be “Fabric of my Life.”
Russell has several book signings planned. A book signing and reception will be at the Portsmouth Public Library on Feb. 5 at 1:00 p.m.
Her publisher is working with Barnes and Noble in Westchester where she will be reading in April during National Poetry Month.
She has read locally at the Portsmouth Public Library and in Boneyfiddle.
The book is available in Portsmouth at Russell's art, antiques and collectibles store, the Boneyfiddle Gallery or at Little Miami Publishing in Milford near Cincinnati.
PHYLLIS NOAH can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 234 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.