There once was a girl who wrote haiku, who loved haiku and all art. Her name was Lisa Ann.
She also loved other languages, religions, and cultures. One day she hitchhiked from New York to Vermont to attend a yoga festival. There she made two new friends, who wrote haiku too!
Erick and Dan were on their first hired gig, writing haiku on typewriters. The three became inseparable, hitchhiked back to New York, and joined forces in life and business.
You walk into a party.
You grab a drink and scan the room.
You spot two poets in vintage suits beside antique typewriters.
You talk to them for a moment, and they start to write.
Ninety seconds later, you have a one of a kind haiku to take home and keep forever.
Five years later, the Haiku Guys + Gals do much more than capture moments in spurts of 17 syllables; they also give workshops, speeches, and performances. They write books, make art, and travel. Their goal: a more connected, conscious world.
A conversation with Lisa Ann Markuson. Apologies: this will be prose.
Do you remember the first poem you ever read?
I don’t remember the very first one, but it was definitely a haiku. That was my first introduction to the art of poetry.
I loved it. The first time I wrote a haiku, I was seven, maybe eight years old. But no one ever taught me that art could be a career.
What career did you pursue?
I majored in International Studies with minors in Religion and Politics, then fast-tracked to graduate school where I studied International Communications. My goal was to pursue a career with the U.S. State Department, but when I got there I realized it was all wrong for me.
I couldn’t take orders, I hated hierarchy. I quit grad school and started doing freelance work for art and creative events, trying everything to see what fit.
Writing haiku for people on a typewriter at a party in a sushi restaurant!
Why did you stick with poetry rather than any other form of creative expression?
To be honest, because it was and is the least saturated art form, the ripest for exploration. For someone with dynamic interests like me, poetry is the means, not the end.
I want to show people a world where they can live in the moment and show each other genuine empathy and curiosity.
I can do that through poetry and make a real impact. I sure as hell can’t do that as a pop star or a painter!
Is there a market for poetry in a fast-paced, material, shallow world?
It is true that people are afraid of the vulnerability required to face their own thoughts and feelings, and the framework of our society pushes us to seek satisfaction in complacency and passivity.
But individuals lack and desperately thirst for connection and consciousness. Our screens and apps and single-family suburban homes and personal automobiles are not satisfying that need.
Our value proposition as a business is this:
Through poetry, we can help people tap into their own abilities to deepen their connections with themselves and each other. We can raise their consciousness from the mundane and predictable nature of their daily lives, to a level that can give them a fresh perspective.
We meet people as close as we can to their comfort zone, using poetry as a portal into a slightly better place, a slightly fresher state of mind, a crack in the wall around the heart. And as we tell skeptics at events: “It only takes 90 seconds, and it doesn’t hurt at all.”
Can poetry change the world?
Fuck yes, it can! It has, it is, and it’s going to keep on doing so. Somehow, a strong poem can break a presumption as no prose can.
Has a poem ever changed yours?
There’s a haiku by Chiyo, an ancient female haiku master, about washing dishes and being amazed by the sweet sensation of water on your hands, and the view through the window outside. That poem changed my life and my perspective on all things. Like coming up for air.
Also, every time someone gets a tattoo of the words from a haiku that I wrote for them, it changes my life. It’s happened almost ten times at this point.
Tell us about some of your projects.
There are so many! Haiku in Rideshares, Haiku Duels, #poemsforsenators… I will let these links speak for some of them:
- NYT shoutout about my ride-share writing
- Our National Poetry Month YouTube micro web series
- My own YouTube channel
- CNN coverage of a political project I did, #poemsforsenators
- Bustle coverage of the Haiku Duel + #poemsforsenators
Where do you want to be in five years?
By 2023, we intend to be the most well-known and beloved poets on the planet, with a beautiful stage show, writing poems for world leaders, conducting a successful series, and well into our next phase of growth: poetic hospitality and philanthropy. We will still be working to move the world in a more peaceful and empathetic direction. I’ll still be writing on my typewriter too, of course, with more bounty to share.
A final, whimsical question: what is your favorite moment of the day?
I honestly love every moment. The only thing I don’t love is checking and responding to email. I love waking up, writing down my dreams from the night before, making coffee, reading in the morning in solitude with no phone or computer, having toast for breakfast, doing yoga or other exercise, coordinating with my poets, working on writing projects, talking to potential clients about how we can bring poetry into their events, offices, and creative projects.
I love shopping for groceries and cooking meals for my friends, watering my plants, sitting in my garden, drinking wine and cocktails, supporting my boyfriend and giving him love, volunteering, teaching, wandering, wondering…
I feel like much of my life is its own string of haiku.