NIU School of Music Students Transform Haiku into Music

DEKALB, IL–I was privileged to play a role in a unique event organized by musician, author and poet Regina Harris Baiocchi, in collaboration with the Northern Illinois University (NIU) School of Music. Haiku contributed by poets from around the world were transformed into Haiku-length morsels of music by a diverse set of composers. The Haiku compositions were part of the two-day 9th NIU New Music Festival.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, only three of the featured Haiku poets could attend the event in person, so the fourteen poems and original compositions were introduced by three of the poets: myself (James Morehead, Poet Laureate – Dublin, CA), Angie Trudell Vasquez – Poet Laureate – Madison, WI, and festival organizer Regina Harris Baiocchi. You can enjoy each of the performances and the Haiku below:

Haiku Set 1 Performances Narrated by James Morehead

Turn Over the Earth (Haiku: Lisa Marie Simmons, Music: Brian Penkrot)

Turn over the earth
There drop seeds in small holes dug

Petals (Haiku: James Morehead, Music: Yuko Asada)

still draped in pink no
skin exposed as nightfall draws
petals evanesce

she lies still dreaming
petal canopy above
on damp prickly grass

Mallards, Museums, Hot Rods (Haiku: Renée Moore, Music: Kayla Bivin)

mallards float to shore 
museum trembles in their wake 
hot rods cruise the lot

The Call (Haiku: John S. O’Connor, Music: Elena Stavropoulos)

call to prayer 
the bell
of a tulip

Little Crow Hop Hop (Haiku: Meg Wilhoite, Music: Melissa Wang)

Little crow hop hop 
Guardian of the sidewalk
As I pass, “squawk, squawk”

Haiku Set 2 Performances Narrated by Angela Trudell Vasquez

Loving Sun (Haiku: Regina Harris Baiocchi, Music: Mikaela Jackson)

red rising sun
translates lovemaking
into music

Spring Blossoms Below (Haiku: Samuel Barbour, Music: David Maki)

Dead leaves on branches
Stubborn refusal to fall
Spring blossoms below

Spring Returns (Haiku: Angie Trudeau Vasquez, Music: Kyle Anderson)

Red breasted robin
bathes in its blue eggshell bath
sings migration songs

Sunshine Sweeps the Floor (Haiku: Laurie Shoulter Karall, Music: Kayla Bivin)

sunshine sweeps the floor
dust motes lazily drift down
the cat, undisturbed

Celebration Will Go On (Haiku: Hifsa Ashraf, Music: Daniel Burke)

tumbaknari beat
echoing through the valley
monsoon rain droplets

Haiku Set 2 Performances Narrated by Regina Harris Biaocchi

Faster than Light Thoughts (Haiku: Michael Watson, Music: Emily Brown)

faster than light thoughts 
blackness beyond the present 
heralds a new world

The Misfortunate Monarch (Haiku: Lisa Marie Simmons, Music: Ethan Featherly)

captured there
in the middle of the net
butterfly in trouble

Turn (Haiku: Marilyn Allen, Music: Ben Wahlund)

Why kill anyone
Breathe life into those you meet
Honor your family

Do Not Tire (Haiku: Khari B, Music: Ben Heppner)

There R those who did
a lot more with a lot less
4 a lot longer

NIU New Music Ensemble

  • Abria Shaw, soprano
  • Anya Newsome, mezzo soprano
  • Amos Egleston, trumpet
  • Mitchell Garcia, clarinet
  • Melissa Milford, viola
  • Dayoung Park, cello
  • Elena Stravropolous, piano
  • David Czechut, percussion
  • Yuko Asada, piano on “Petals”

Two stanzas from the poem I contributed, petals in haiku, were set to music as part of the program; here is the full poem:

petals in haiku
by james c. morehead

she lies still—dreaming
petal canopy above
on damp prickly grass

cherry blossoms fly
in full bloom, singing springtime
dancing on the breeze

soon all depart, the
tree left bare only to watch
her buried below

still—draped in pink, no
skin exposed as nightfall draws
petals evanesce

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