My friend and mentor “Ted” Bookey passed away March. We met 12 years ago in his Joy of Poetry class at University of Maine at Augusta’s Senior College. I’m grateful for the seven semesters of glee he dispensed while reworking 40 years of doggerel into free verse. Robert Frost once said, “Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.” Amen to that!

At Ted’s prompting, I enjoyed several years of rewarding membership in Maine’s Poet Society, challenged by competition from a heft of our state’s gifted writers of verse. In a September 2010 contest, without the judge knowing authorship, I won third place for “Foot Feat,” earning an eight- dollar check; I’ve framed. The judge was Ted.

When “Ted” introduced me to haiku, he created a haiku guru. Not the grammar school, 5-7-5 style with its lack of punch, but the Jane Reichhold fragment-and-phrase method practiced by the Japanese masters Basho, Buson and Issa. For a year and a half, I authored “Grumpy John’s Haiku” in a former Augusta weekly. I even got to meet and communicate with Bangor’s Bruce Ross, past president of the Haiku Society of America.

My present query is this: Why didn’t Frost ever use lower case in his unstopped lines? It aids the reader. Haiku is entirely lower case. I should have asked Ted.


John Benoit


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