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Volume VII, Number 1: March, 2005.
Copyright © 2005. All rights reserved by the respective authors.

Editors’ Choices • Commentary • Index of Poets • 
Haiku Pages:  1,  2,  3,  4,  5,  6,  7,  8,  9,  10,  11
Haiku for Elizabeth - Pages:  1,  2,  3 • 
Elizabeth Searle Lamb Memorial - Index of Contributors

Peggy Willis Lyles

Penny Harter

Tom Clausen

paul m.

Angelee Deodhar

Arizona Zipper

Bruce Ross

Tom Clausen

John Stevenson

Carol Conti-Entin

Fay Aoyagi

Ebba Story

William J. Higginson


In Memory of

Elizabeth Searle Lamb
January 22, 1917 — February 16, 2005


The editors of The Heron’s Nest join the family, friends, and world-wide admirers of Elizabeth Searle Lamb in grateful celebration of her remarkable life. Her immeasurable contributions to the development of American haiku weave threads of kindness, compassion, intelligence, depth, experimentation, enthusiasm, and twinkling humor into its fabric and spirit. She leaves a body of poems so rich and timeless that when I am sad there will be no new ones in my mailbox, I imagine Elizabeth suggesting, “You could read some old ones again,” and then adding a little smiley face to her note. I believe she would be pleased that so many of us have re-read and shared her haiku since her death. Surely, she would welcome the words of comfort and fellow feeling that have passed among us and the thoughtful way her closest friends have assured us that her passing was gentle. Elizabeth’s message was always one of love and peace, and her wish for us remains clear and simple: “May haiku bring you joy.”

— Peggy Willis Lyles

Thinking of Elizabeth

From first meeting Elizabeth and Bruce years ago in Manhattan, through times shared with them in Santa Fe until Bruce’s death in 1992, and with Elizabeth since then, she has been one of my dearest friends. Her vibrant optimism and caring friendship, her indomitable spirit (always seeing things “in the light”), and her gentle humor nourished my days. She was a superb haiku poet with a lively intellect and finely tuned creative voice, and we often shared both haiku and longer poems. How beautifully she opened her heart to so many of us. She was a source of spiritual strength!

We shared both fine and challenging times, many a good meal, well loved novels, lots of poems, and a running joke about how easily I fell asleep on her couch. We both loved to watch ice-skating, and even from New Jersey, I’d still call her to say, “Turn on ABC; Michele Kwan is skating.” And then we’d watch together across the miles. Elizabeth was and continues to be such a strong presence in my life that, although I already miss her sorely, I feel she’s still here, looking over my shoulder as I write this, and saying, in her usual fashion, “Oh my!”

broken harp string —
but how the wind sings
in the cottonwood

— Penny Harter

I have posted one of Elizabeth’s haiku on a dictionary stand here in the lobby of Cornell University’s A. R. Mann Library:

the broken harp string
into sunlight

— Elizabeth Searle Lamb

and in looking at her many wonderful haiku in Across the Windharp, I am very moved at the indelible graciousness, specialness, and extraordinary life she lived. I’ll never forget all her encouraging feedback from the days she was editor at Frogpond. She always had kind words, and gentle yet clear guidance to offer, and she made me feel very accepted as a novice writer way back then. It is hard to imagine her not “here” but hopefully she is in peace, and love, and certainly we will all celebrate her magnificent life and her many gifts to us. To share the sorrow of her passing and the joy in knowing such a remarkable and beautiful being:

opening the door
to hear better . . .
owl hoots

— Tom Clausen

I regret not knowing Elizabeth personally, but I have always admired her work. My favorite poem of hers is:

by the night light
tiny spider’s tiny web
leaving it there

— Elizabeth Searle Lamb

Over these last years I have always thought of her that way, as that tiny spider—our night light if you will—at the edge of the community, at the edge of her beloved desert, her poetic web spun years ago. She helped make it possible for later poets like myself to find a receptive audience.

the tiny web remains —
to I donít know where
this arroyo wind

— paul m.

I was very sorry to hear about dear Elizabeth’s passing . . . a very gentle, kind soul, a true haiku spirit. I corresponded with her often and she was always very encouraging. She was a haiku mentor for me.

winter evening
the beggar’s breath
joins smoke from the fire

— Angelee Deodhar

A letter and collective gift to Elizabeth sent by John Stevenson, March 31, 1998:

Dear Elizabeth,

The enclosed is returned to you, with love. I am told that this began as your Christmas greeting to Arizona Zipper. From there, it has passed through the hands of a series of haiku friends, wintering with Bruce Ross, Tom Clausen, Carol Conti-Entin, Fay Aoyagi, Ebba Story, and me. Now it is spring and we return your greeting, sevenfold.

(Elizabeth’s poem to Zipper was)

early blizzard
the faintest cries of wild geese
in the dark, in the snow

— Elizabeth Searle Lamb

(And the following poems were added, in this order)


— Arizona Zipper

heavy ice storm
icicles hang from the two-tier

— Bruce Ross

under the streetlight
    — looking up into
             the slow snow

— Tom Clausen

winter beach
a piece of driftwood
charred at one end

— John Stevenson

purple coneflowers
enter me in capsule form

— Carol Conti-Entin

winter rain —
an umbrella, not big enough
to catch my jealousy

— Fay Aoyagi

winter sunset
drifts of sea foam
whiten the shore

— Ebba Story

I always thought this was an example of how Elizabeth’s generous spirit inspired something of the kind in others.

— John Stevenson

On Elizabeth’s Going

Carolyn Lamb, Elizabeth’s daughter, has lived for some time in a house just across a shared driveway from her mother. She was with her mother much of the time through the two recent short hospitalizations, and told us that when Elizabeth was last in the hospital, her regular M.D. stopped in to see her, and she told him she was ready to go. She said to him, “When I get there, I’ll write you a letter and let you know how it is.” Wry humor and light inextricably mixed in much of what Elizabeth said and wrote.

After that hospitalization, Elizabeth went home to hospice care, which she and Carolyn had agreed was the best for her situation. On Elizabeth’s last afternoon, Carolyn was with her mother, and shared the fact that one of her poems that appeared in The Heron’s Nest in 2004 was singled out for special mention in the annual Valentine’s Day awards. The poem goes:

still wanting
to fly     these feathers
of the dead owl

— Elizabeth Searle Lamb

A few tears ran down Elizabeth’s cheek when when Carolyn read the poem. Carolyn went on to read some of her mother’s poems from Across the Windharp to her. And so it was when Elizabeth stopped breathing, with Carolyn and a caregiver on either side of her, and she at peace.

a spring flurry
crows large as ravens
move tree to tree

— William J. Higginson

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