Hockey Haiku: The Essential Collection by John Poch and Chad Davidson is an amazingly brilliant collection of hockey-related haiku. For someone like me, who is a huge fan of both haiku and hockey, this collection sounded like a dream come true. Reading through the collection, the dream was realized. It’s high-quality, funny haiku.
Interestingly, these guys are academics. Poch teaches at Texas Tech and edits the journal 32 Poems Magazine and Davidson is an assistant English professor at the University of West Georgia.
I caught up with Poch via email for this PuckUpdate exclusive:
Steve Ovadia: There’s a very modern bent to the poems. Did you just start crafting hockey haiku within the past few years? How did those start?
John Poch: Chad Davidson and some of his posse used to work on hockey haiku together in their spare time. We met in Texas in the late ’90’s and began to take HH to the next level. Literature, I mean.
SO:How did this collection come together? When did you realize it was publishable?
JP:We used to get really bored at writer’s conferences listening to famous writers wax philosophical about how to write a good historical novel or how to do research for poems blah blah blah…we started passing hockey haiku back and forth instead of listening to this nonsense. He’d write a line or two and I’d finish the poem, or vice versa. Before long we had a couple hundred. We cut them down to the “essential” ones. We knew a few small presses that were interested, but then I thought we should at least try the big presses. Sean Desmond, an editor with St. Martins called right away and made us an offer. We’re poets. We had to ask some fiction writers, “What’s an offer?”
SO: What do you think of the post-lockout NHL? Is too much made of the rule changes?
JP: Well, these guys have a ways to go to win back the hearts of Americans. The Canadians, they’ve moved on, because, well, they need hockey like you or I need an opposable thumb: life’s too hard without it.
SO: You have some lockout haiku. Do the new NHL rules impact your new haiku?
JP: The rules have affected the haiku drastically. A bigger net means we need to cram even more natural imagery into each line. We are against bigger goals. We are for smaller goalies.
SO: You also seem vaguely intrigued by the absurdity of expansion teams. Is this the case? What is it about them that captures your fancy?
JP: It’s a little nutty, these expansion teams coming out of such weird places, especially the south where ice is not such a natural thing. But, you need these young kids to keep the older establishments on their toes, what with their new ideas, their tube socks, and their hamburger sandwiches. Nevertheless, as they say in HIGHLANDER: At the end, “there can be only one.”
SO: Back in Feb., Keith Gessen lamented that there’s no great American hockey novel. Is this book at attempt to raise the literary status of hockey?
JP: In a word, yes. We saw that article in the New York Times, and we raised our eyebrows at each other, and then we lowered them.
SO: This book is a sendup of academic literary collections as much as it is a tribute to hockey. What has been the response of your colleagues in the academy and your colleagues in the stands?
JP: They’re jealous, basically.
SO: Is there one favorite haiku in the collection?
JP: My favorites keep shifting. Here’s today’s favorite:
I cut my teeth on
roller hockey, but I broke
my teeth on the ice.
SO: There’s a fair amount of Dallas Stars-themed haiku. Are those yours? What teams do you guys root for?
JP: We both lived in Texas during grad school, and we’ve watched Dallas more than any other team, I suppose. Chad knows much more about hockey than I do. I tend to get distracted by the colorful goalie helmets.
SO: Writer’s Workshop: Is this haiku good enough for a future collection:
Bye John Davidson.
You left the booth for the Blues.
We muted our sets.
JP: You see, I like the way you’re approaching this with flattery. You include both my first name, and Chad Davidson’s last name in the first line of this generous haiku. You clearly understand the postmodern/classical notion of gift exchange embedded in the heartiest of hockey haiku.