The Haiku Spirit

An interview with scholar-artist Stephen Addiss

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Stephen AddissStephen Addiss, PhD, is Professor of Art at the University of Richmond in Virginia. Author of The Art of Haiku, one of Tricycle’s picks for “Books in Brief” this issue, Addiss is a prolific scholar-artist who has been practicing Japanese calligraphy and ink painting for over 40 years. He is a true jack-of-all-trades—Addiss also studied music under the tutelage of John Cage and toured internationally for 16 years as part of the folk duo “Addiss & Crofut.” Tricycle’s Emma Varvaloucas spoke with him by phone last month about his recently published book and his thoughts on the “haiku spirit.”


You’ve been doing Japanese calligraphy and ink painting for over 40 years. How has your work changed over that long period of time? Well, I started by being interested in Chinese and Japanese painting and calligraphy historically. Since I always felt that the best way to learn about something is to try it yourself, I started practicing, and I must say I was absolutely terrible. [Laughs] I kept going anyway, and it gradually got better over the years. I studied with a Chinese gentleman in New York and then with a Japanese calligrapher in Japan. I just kept doing it out of the fun of it, and one day I looked at it, and I looked at it, and it wasn’t so terrible anymore. I had progressed all the way up to mediocrity! So once I reached that point, I realized that I could go ahead, and I kept going. So I’ve been going for, yes, 40 years now.

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