Poetry Monday July: Jim Haba

POETRY MONDAY:  July 5, 2010

Jim Haba

I’m proud to be able to introduce someone that many of you will recognize in this photo. Jim Haba was the tireless person everywhere at once at the famous Dodge Poetry Festival — behind the microphone introducing world-famous poets to cheering crowds and organizing talks and workshops all over a sylvan campus every two years. There was much more, as you will read below, but what many of you may not know is that he is, and has been for many years, a fine poet himself.

Jim Haba grew up on farms and islands in rural Washington. In 1962 he earned a B.A. from Reed College and in 1967 a Ph.D. from Cornell University. He taught in the English department at Rutgers, New Brunswick, from 1966 to 1972. From 1967 to 1970 he also began to study visual art, at Douglass College and at The Studio School for Drawing and Sculpture in New York City. In 1972 he joined the English department of Glassboro State College, now Rowan University, where he taught a wide range of courses and organized dozens of readings and workshops by distinguished poets. He retired from Rowan in 2003.

From 1986 through 2008 he was responsible for developing and directing the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Program. In this capacity, and as Festival Director, he designed and produced all twelve ground-breaking Geraldine R. Dodge Biennial Poetry Festivals, the largest poetry events in North America. In 1987 he inaugurated the Dodge Poetry-in-the-Schools Program, which sends poets into New Jersey high schools and provides a variety of poetry-related experiences for New Jersey teachers at every classroom level. In 1992 he designed and organized what has become an annual, statewide series of poetry discussion and writing groups for teachers called Clearing the Spring, Tending the Fountain. He became the Dodge Foundation’s Poetry Director in 1999.

In 1995 he edited the best-selling book The Language of Life, which included poems by and interviews with poets featured at the 1988 and 1994 Dodge Poetry Festivals. He served as Poetry Consultant for the 1995 Bill Moyers (8-hour) television series The Language of Life and three other Bill Moyers series also derived from Dodge Poetry Festivals: the 1989 series The Power of the Word (6 hours) and both 1999 series — Fooling With Words (2 hours) and Sounds of Poetry (4 ½ hours). In addition, he served as Poetry Consultant for the 1998 series Poetry Heaven (3 hours) and three, separate one-hour PBS programs that grew out of other Dodge Poetry Festivals, including Bill Moyers’ 1994 Emmy-winning portrait of Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon: A Life Together.

He began writing poems while teaching at Rowan University and has become a frequent reader in the northeast. His poems have won both fellowships and prizes. As a visual artist he continues to construct painted-paper collages and with his wife, Erica Barton Haba, he also designs and produces ceramic tile murals. Work from their studio in Hillsborough, New Jersey www.jimhaba.com), has been installed from Maine to California.

Now that you’ve read about Jim Haba’s life, here are three of his poems. All three are from his chapbook, Love Poems (2006), .Go to a quiet place, read them aloud, and savor them. Then read them again and again. They deserve it.

Irene Willis
Poetry Editor

The Listener

When my wife tells me that she wasn’t
able to listen to my poems carefully,
I am convinced that my worst fears
have come true; but when, knowing
how I hear her, she adds that she felt
too close to them, that she felt,
in fact, like a wooden instrument
upon which they were being played,
something inside me shifts and,
for the first time, I glimpse
the secret inner life
music shares with marriage.


our pulsing hearts               our steady breathing
a room windows,                 one facing east
a dry bed pillows,                a quilt

your miraculous skin         and mine

beyond the window            leafless trees
beyond the trees                  quiet fields
beyond the fields                 darkness that is not darkness

a pale pearlescence            a gathering glow
tangerine, cerulean            rose streaked with gold
all changing                           all alive

your miraculous                 skin and mine

a dry bed pillows,               a quilt
a room windows,                one facing east
our pulsing hearts              our steady breathing


Listen, Friends

We live like barnacles clinging to rocks
swept night and day by tides of love.

Let’s not waste time asking if war is ever good.

With each flood curiosity, desire, ecstatic action.
With each ebb suspicion, dread, armored solitude.

What stands between us and what we want?
What could we want except to live as love,

fluid and in motion, unafraid and eternal?
Listen, Friends, this drunkenness needs no wine.

When did we last kiss as if it were our last kiss?

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