Upstate Dim Sum – A Biannual Anthology of Haiku and Senryu

Hilary Tann and I (Yu Chang)  talked about forming a small haiku group in Schenectady NY off and on for at least a couple of years.   We were well aware of John Stevenson’s haiku reputation, and toward the latter part of 1999, we finally mustered enough courage to give him a call. The rest is history.

Hope the following excerpts ( in John’s words ) from three Upstate Dim Sum pages are helpful.

Since February 2000 Yu Chang, John Stevenson, and Hilary Tann have been meeting once a month to present their haiku for discussion and possible revisions. These meetings have taken place at the Tai Pan restaurant on Route 9 in Halfmoon, NY. In addition to the poems, the three of them have shared leisurely meals of three, four, and five hours with dim sum served at intervals throughout. If you have only experienced dim sum as offered by a buffet restaurant you would probably be surprised at the variety of flavors, textures and style of presentation at a place like Tai Pan, which makes every dish fresh to order. For those of you who have never had dim sum in any form, it is a Chinese specialty consisting of various meat, vegetable and dessert dishes served in small portions, each a bite or two. Patrons either order a series of dishes from the menu or select them from a cart. The term dim sum translates as “little hearts.”

Beginning in October 2000 our “dim sum” haiku group set aside some poems for a publication. Here is the first issue of a series that we intend to carry forward on a biannual basis, publishing in the spring and autumn. Each issue will contain a selection of poems discussed in the workshop plus the work of a guest writer. We are very pleased that Tom Clausen, a librarian at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY and a fine poet, has accepted the invitation to be our first guest.

                                                                                  – Upstate Dim Sum Spring 2001

Since publishing our first Upstate Dim Sum last spring, the Route 9 Haiku Group has continued to meet once a month at the Tai Pan restaurant in Halfmoon, New York for long, satisfying sessions of haiku and dim sum. We have also had the privelege and pleasure, during this period, of sharing meals with Tom Clausen and Ion and Mihaela Codrescu.

Although we call ourselves the Route 9 Haiku Group, we feel it’s important for us to acknowledge that a significant portion of the work in Upstate Dim Sum is senryu, rather than haiku. We find that we have a taste for senryu-flavored haiku and for senryu with a haiku tone.

                                                                                – Upstate Dim Sum Autumn 2001

The poems for this issue reached our table at the Tai Pan Restaurant in the months of March through August of this year. Each of them first appeared among us as a set of three index cards, dealt face-down, then turned over and read silently by all, including the author. After a period of response and discussion, which was sometimes very brief and sometimes as long as ten or fifteen minutes, the next poem was dealt. At the end of a three to five hour meal, favorite poems were selected and added to a pool for the next issue. Only about half of the poems in the pool are eventually used. We hope that this process, featuring a series of check points, is producing a good selection of poems. It is certainly producing good friendships and one day each month that we eagerly anticipate.

                                                                                – Upstate Dim Sum Autumn 2002.