Today’s post is a fun change of pace. A fellow blogger, jiu-jitsu practitioner and (most importantly) friend, Lori Latimer, is on the cusp of having a book of haiku poems released so I wanted to take the opportunity to ask her about her writing and her book. For those of you who don’t know Lori, you can find her blog at http://www.latattack.wordpress.com. I highly recommend checking it out, Lori writes about everything from her experiences training Judo and jiu-jitsu to her social work to her musings on life in general and it’s always entertaining.
If you would like to learn more about the book, check out the trailer at https://vimeo.com/121580167
To pre-order her e-book from Amazon for the low, low price of $0.99, follow this link http://amzn.com/B00T6NO6WK.
Without further ado, here are some questions I came up with for Lori about her latest project and her answers, enjoy!
What inspired you to start writing haiku poems?
I started writing a weekly haiku in 2011. My friend, Brandi, has a blog and each Tuesday, she and other bloggers in her network would compose a haiku for “Haikuesday.” I just loved the idea and decided to join in for my own blog, “Uphill.” I love haiku because it is a deceptively hard practice. I aim to convey a complete thought or capture a moment, so the constraint of the form poses a nice challenge. I was drawn to the concept of “Haikuesday” because it was a bunch of people linking to each other through art. I thought that was awesome. I love building a sense a community.
Do you like to read haiku from other writers? If so do you have a favorite?
I love reading other people’s haiku in general, but a few years ago for Christmas, my family got me a haiku collection by some of the Japanese masters, Basho, Buson, and Issa. Reading their work opened my eyes to how vivid and expressive the art can be. I was surprised by how many funny ones there were. I remember reading one by Basho and it stuck with me because I felt like he was talking to me:
Don’t imitate me;
it’s as boring
as the two halves of a melon
I know that I’ve seen your haikuesday posts on your blog, do you only write one haiku a week or are there more and you pick your favorite for the blog?
I actually write two haiku per week, each on Tuesday for Haikuesday. I post on my own blog, and the I write one for the online community, Service of Change, which aims to build communities of positive change agents at the grassroots level. SOC was started by my childhood friend, Dennis, so we decided that I could contribute positive change through art. So like we stick to our jiu jitsu class schedule, I stick to my haiku schedule. Each Tuesday, I wait for a moment to hit me and let the haiku evolve. And like jiu jitsu, some days I have these awesome little poems that I’m so happy with, and then other weeks I think, “I could have done that better. I rushed that.”
What would you say is the greatest benefit you’ve gotten from writing haiku?
I think the greatest benefit if the connection I’ve made with other people. When I started this four years ago, I never, ever thought I would get the excited response that I have. My friends love them and sometimes I learn that people I never expect stalk my blog for Haikuesday. Through my blog, I’ve connected with other writers and get encouragement, and then get to read their work. I never thought something so small could turn into something so big. My favorite thing is when I post my haiku, and someone writes one of their own in response. It’s so awesome!
How did you end up publishing a book of haiku?
Dennis has his own small publishing company, and after a year of me writing for SOC, he suggested we put out a book. I was hesitant at first because the idea never crossed my mind, but Dennis really believed in my work, and that made me jump on board. We’ve been working on this since August 2014. I’ve learned so much from this process, and it made me reflect on why I write and what I hope to each with my work. I think it’s pushed me to develop my craft even further. I guess it’s like after all the time you put in at BJJ practice, one day your coach pulls you aside and tells you should give a tournament a try. It’s scary, but kind of flattering at the same time. And then you come out of the experience changed a little bit.
I know that you like to write things other than haiku, what is your favorite style of writing?
As far as what I love to read, I love magical realism and philosophical fiction. Absolutely love it. I don’t write fiction myself, but I am drawn to personal reflection essays. That’s primarily what I write for Uphill. I try to take my experiences, whether from grappling, my profession as a social worker, or my personal experiences and make the universal. I don’t want to write a diary, I aim to write about an experience that someone else can connect with. Blogging feels very vulnerable sometimes because it’s so public, but I’ve had some incredible interaction with friends and strangers through writing.
I know it’s been a while but I figure it’s time to get back to this blogging business. I haven’t really been intentionally ignoring it, I just am having trouble thinking of brilliant things to say about training.
When last I left off, I had just registered for the NY Open and decided to start tournament training again. Training for the tournament went ok but not as well as I would have liked. Even though mentally I wanted to train more and get focused, I found that life doesn’t always care about my training. In the past I have been able to train 5-6 days a week (sometimes more) for tournaments and I never felt prepared. So this time when I was lucky to get to training 3 days during the week, I really didn’t feel prepared. There were many times I didn’t think I’d be able to handle it and wanted to pull out from the tournament but I had already committed to it so I decided I was going to do it.
April 11th came and with it the NY Open. I only had one other person in my division (the joys of being a women’s master competitor) and it was someone I know and I knew it would be a challenging match. I wanted to take her down, get on top and stay there. I was able to get the takedown and I did get on top but I failed at staying there. Once she reversed the positions I could not get back on top and she ended up keeping me on bottom the rest of the match. She went for a few submissions which I defended but I just couldn’t escape. I have issues every now and then where when I feel stuck on bottom, I start to feel very panicky. Unfortunately this panic decided to show up during my match. I actually had to fight the urge to tap just because I started to freak out. So my takeaways from this are work on keeping position and stop freaking out. I am not sure how to work on that second one, the idea of asking people to smother me is very unappealing.
After my division was done I fought a brief battle with myself over doing the absolute division. On the one hand I figured it would be more matches and why not do it but on the other I felt I had done poorly in my division, I was still feeling the aftereffects of the match and it felt kind of weird to me to lose and still compete in absolute. In the end I decided I would compete. I had two matches in the absolute division. My goals were the same for these matches as in my previous: get the takedown, get on top, stay on top.
In my first match I was able to succeed at all this. I got the takedown and ended up in half guard. Eventually I passed and I got to side and spent pretty much the entire rest of the match there. I used shoulder pressure and I went for a few subs, mostly ezekiels. When rolling, I like to get to side control and then transition to mount and go for subs (my favorite being an arm triangle) but I was really hesitant to do that in the match. In the end I sort of wished I had gone for more. Oh well…I won this match on points.
My second match was against a friend who trains close to me and who I often train with at open mats. She is very fast and strong and always gives me trouble. She went for a snap down (I think) and I got on top and sprawled out. She ended up getting me in guard and then continually broke my posture down. She has a very active guard and went for armbars a lot. I defended and eventually she got out to my back (I forget how) and she took mount as well. I was on the defense the whole time and ended up losing on points. This was good enough for a bronze (which I split with a teammate) as we had 9 competitors.
After the tournament, I left for a relaxing vacation in Punta Cana (I highly recommend everyone take a vacation after a tournament) and had a lot of time to reflect on it. I always go through a minor slump when I lose at a tournament but it was worse this time. It was very emotional losing for many reasons and I started thinking that maybe it was time to realize jiu-jitsu is done with me.
I wasn’t just reacting to losing but to the ongoing struggle I’ve had getting back into jiu-jitsu after my yearlong fun with a herniated disc. Getting back to where I used to be is not very easy and I feel like I’m stuck here being overweight and out of shape for jits. Switching gyms has been difficult and even though I knew many of the people who train there and the coaches before I started, at times I still feel very much like an outsider. This feeling was intensified after the tournament.
However after a few days of contemplating being done with jits, I came back to sanity and realized that I didn’t want to quit jits. I still very much love it and I still feel like it’s part of who I am but the struggle to get back to where I was before is very hard. I guess it’s only natural to feel the urge to give up when the struggle is hard but I don’t want to leave something I love because it got hard.
So in the end I am pretty happy that I pushed myself to compete. I definitely identified things I need to work on and it has given me new determination to get out of this slump and commit myself to getting to where I want to be. I know that life is not going to get less hectic anytime soon and that I am still going to be lucky to get to the gym 3 times a week but I am ok with making slow and steady progress. It’s better than no progress at all.