Jane Reichhold 1937-2016

It is with great sadness that I report the death of Jane Reichhold – poet, editor, translator and much more besides.

Jane’s body was found on a beach near her home between Gualala and Point Arena on the northern California coast on July 28. Her husband, Werner, says she took her own life as symptoms of her fibromyalgia worsened. He has been quoted as saying  (scroll down to find the entry for Jane) that she wished to depart this life at a time of her choosing and had written her own obituary 2 months ago.

jane reichhold

Jane Reichhold, photographed at her home on July 9, 2016. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Read about my recent visit to Jane in Postcard from Gualala and read a well-written (apart from the misspelling of Lynx) 2015 profile of her from the Ukiah Daily Journal – she has done so much in her life that it’s difficult to understand just how much she has achieved in, for instance, haiku so needs must this is a personal appreciation.

Jane had worked with the Ukiah Haiku Festival for many years and a couple of years ago the festival renamed its international section the Jane Reichhold Prize. In the 2016 booklet of prizewinners, judges and committee members were each represented by a haiku.

in a humdrum life
the orchid

– Jane Reichhold, 14th ukiaHaiku festival, 2016

Jane was also a popular and busy figure around the Gualala Arts Centre where she instigated a short haiku walk (see the Postcard for more) and, since 2006, had operated and moderated the online AHAForum where poets could meet and discuss their work. She and husband Werner established AHA Poetry in 1996 and although the site is still active, it is now an archive, last updated in 2014 when they decided to close their journal Lynx.

Read some of Jane’s haiku that she chose to demonstrate her thoughts on haiku principles. Read a set of Jane’s favourite haiku by other people with her commentary. In 2009 Jane spoke to the Commonwealth Club of California about haiku – watch the video here (1:03) – and she kindly allowed me to transcribe portions of the text and form it into an article for Haiku NewZ, Building an Excellent Birdcage. You can find several other articles by Jane in the Archived Articles section of Haiku NewZ (put ‘jane’ into the page search).

She was a generous poet who deliberately didn’t copyright any of her work so it could be shared freely. It was also her ambition to have haiku and mainstream poetry ’embrace one another’ and she was happy, she told me, to have mainstream poets write haiku ‘their way’. She didn’t want a situation such as in Japan where haiku poets and tanka poets don’t mix and, she said, where tanka poets look down on those who write haiku.

Jane made her lesson plans freely available as the Bare Bones School of Haiku, Bare Bones School of Renga and Wind Five-Folded School of Tanka.

I’ve been trying to write a memorial haiku since I heard the news of Jane’s death yesterday evening but don’t believe I have managed it. However, I did come up with something that is directly based on my meeting with her, so that will have to do for now. The first line is taken from one of Jane’s own poems in her 2013 A Dictionary of Haiku (second edition) which is a large collection of her work presented in sajiki form. I’ll add her poem to this when I find it again!

black ink painting of the moon –
she rests her chin
on his shoulder

– Sandra Simpson

Jane always signed her emails ‘blessings’, so that’s what I’ll leave you with too.

23 thoughts on “Jane Reichhold 1937-2016

  1. Pingback: Jane Reichhold 1937-2016 | breath, a collection of haiku | word pond

    • ALL, of this she was, she is, she will always be to me… Dirk Holger (Maryland
      and now Berlin, formerly Muenchen). Her soul: what a win for this world!

  2. From Dorise Ford (original comment posted under ‘About the Author’):

    I am a friend of Jane Reichhold’s and have been near tears for weeks. I emailed her July 20 before her death, her response was upbeat, mentioning the possibility of cataract surgery in September and her current project of crocheting dragons and “having a ball.” Occasionally I would stop unexpectedly to visit her and her babies. Each time she would hand me one to hold during our visit. On July 20th i sent her an email and received her response. I miss her so very much and regret not seeing her in a while. Every visit was a joy as we commiserated about our rusting joints and painful backs, but each time I left feeling lighter, happier, less pain. I spoke to Werner when I read the ICO that week. I wrote a haiku for the following week’s local paper, but did not put my name to it. The haiku she left for that week was one that will haunt me forever.

    no visitors
    yet life is full
    of dolls

    I am not a poet, this is the one I wrote.

    alone she waited
    surrounded by little ones
    she waited alone

    I will forever think of her with love for this amazing friend. I could sure use one of her babies to hold now.

    Dorise Ford

  3. News is very slow to get here, I live in relative isolation, how sad I was to hear of Jane’s death. I hardly knew her, but we had a most appreciated e-mail communication after my haiku submission to the Ukiah haiku competition in 2010, her kind remarks were gratefully received. That haiku, I would now like to dedicate to her, may she be remembered with love.

    second hand book
    a place still held
    by the lacewing

    John Parsons

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  5. Reblogged this on Charlie Close and commented:
    I just learned that Jane Reichhold passed last year. I am very saddened to hear this. She is one of the first poets I encountered when I discovered haiku over a decade ago, and I remember her teaching, sharing, and enthusiasm for haiku with great fondness.

  6. Pingback: Werner Reichhold 1925-2017 | breath, a collection of haiku

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  8. As the person who found her, I will tell you my friend that I gave her as much dignity as possible given the situation. I’ve tried to learn as much as I can about her, and she seems like she was an amazing woman. I wish I had been there sooner. It will forever haunt me, even as a first responder. I hope her family has found peace, and I pray she is where she wanted to be. Much love to her and to those who knew and loved her.

    • Thanks so much, Grant, for sharing your experience here. Jane was ‘one out of the box’ all right. A deep thinker and very creative. It sounds like you were the right person in the right place at the right time. Thank you for caring for her in those urgent moments. Blessings (as Jane always signed her emails), Sandra

    • Hello Grant,

      I’m Jane’s daughter and currently at her house over this weekend. Please stop by if you have the chance, I would love to meet you. We are well and I particularly feel that mom is in a wonderful place.
      Thank you for your kind words,


      • Hi Bambi from Albion, CA: just learned of your mom’s passing…loved having connected with her and haiku…

  9. Thank you all for the touching memories and beautiful poems. My name is Bambi Steiner and I am one of Jane’s daughters. I am at Jane’s house getting it ready for sale and would love to touch base with those who loved Jane. I will be leaving on Tuesday, Jan 30th??. There is no phone service, but please just pop in if you see the red forester subaru in the drive. It has been a long year and a half since Jane’s death and I still am profoundly grateful for the time that I was able to share with such an amazing woman.

    Bambi Steiner

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  11. I was saddened and shocked by the news of Jane’s passing. As a member of her Tanka Yahoo group, I looked up to Jane as a mentor. I was the first person to give a critique of her book, “Writing and Enjoying Haiku” which pleased her. I treasure that book! It is because of her guidance that I was able to write a successful tanka that actually impressed her. I copy and paste our message here:

    At 03:23 PM 06/29/2001 -0000, you wrote:

    >her shriek
    >as a millipede on the wall
    >is crawling
    >up and down her rubbing arms
    >the thousand legs of goosebumps
    >–= Samurai =–
    >Samurai, you got a “oh that’s good” out of me this morning. Perfect parallelism and the pivot is perfect too. This is poetry — it gives one goosebumps. And I can never think of goosebumps again without ‘knowing’ they have legs! Thank you! \o/ Jane
    pob 1250
    Gualala, CA 95445 USA
    Fax: 707 884-1853

    Thank you dear Jane for all your kind advice and guidance. I wish you were still around to continue improving my haiku and tanka. Your writings will always inspire me. You will never be forgotten!

    Chris (–=Samurai=–)

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  13. I have only now discovered this wonderful, generous woman via her book Writing and enjoying Haiku. I suddenly started writing haiku in the middle of this month & this book has been a down-to-earth guide. It is almost like sitting down & sharing the sunlight & tea together. The copy I’m using belongs to the local library & since they probably wouldn’t appreciate underlining, I will get my own copy. Dear Jane, from an unknown student, thank you.

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