Carlos Colón: In his own words

Carlos Colón (Haiku Elvis) died suddenly on October 30, aged 63.

His sister placed this note on Facebook: “R.I.P. my dearest brother Carlos Colón… He died yesterday, October 30, 2016, from a sudden heart attack. Fortunately, those present were his family and his first grandchild, a 7-day old grandson who Carlos was visiting for the first time. Performer and author, Haiku Elvis is known nationwide for his variety of poems, specifically his comical haiku poetry performed in Elvis costumes. My brother Carlos is the single most fascinating man I have ever had the privilege of knowing, and he just happens to be my brother.”

I met Carlos at Haiku North America in 2013 although we already knew one another by email a little bit. He shared a lunch table with me one day – I was so taken with his beautiful Louisiana accent and his sense of humour. He was a real gentleman – even when dressed as Haiku Elvis! He did a short talk at the festival about his path to becoming Haiku Elvis, needless to say it was hilarious.

Carlos as Haiku Elvis on board the Queen Mary at the Long Beach, California, Haiku North America in 2013. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Carlos was long-time librarian at Shreveport Memorial Library (he was born in Shreveport, Louisiana) and curated revolving exhibits of haiku by poets from around the world for the Electronic Poetry Network from 1997-2011. The library website has a small appreciation of Carlos accompanied by this haiku

fading moon
the gates to Graceland
click closed

– Haiku Elvis, aka Carlos Colón

Carlos authored at least 12 poetry chapbooks and had more than 900 poems printed in a variety of magazines including Modern Haiku and Frogpond. He was one of the poets featured in Tazuo Yamaguchi’s Haiku: Art of the Short Poem, a DVD documentary and has three haiku in Haiku in English: The First 100 Years (W.W. Norton, May 2013).

Here’s a 2009 selection of his senryu, plus a great photo of Carlos.

In 2015 I asked Carlos to contribute to the My Favourite Haiku section at Haiku NewZ, which he did – twice (see his final selection here). In a misunderstanding, Carlos first provided 10 favourite haiku that he had written (it seems he couldn’t help but make me smile). He wrote in the email:

“Oh, good grief! I just completed the assignment and realised I did it the wrong way.  Anyway, see what I sent you. Feel free to use it or discard it as you see fit.”

So here I am using it – Carlos, in his own words.

**

Having misinterpreted the assignment (sigh), I am offering my Top Ten favourite poems of the ones I have written.

at the hazardous
     waste site      
an eight-leaf clover

The best of my early poems, this one was reprinted more than 20 times including in The Red Moon Anthology (1997) and Haiku World: An International Poetry Almanac.

Between 2002 and 2006, the Shreveport Regional Arts Council and Lamar Advertising collaborated on a project called “Highway Haiku”. These two haiku above were among the 37 poems by 16 poets that were featured.

“overtaken” has been reprinted 15 times including in Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years.

“zen concert” has been reprinted 16 times including in the DVD Haiku: The Art of the Short Poem.

pointing
my way home
the starfish   

This is my favourite poem, with “zen concert” being a close second. It is interesting that both of them were inspired by Alexis Rotella links from the same renga (“Mardi Gras Parade”).

cassette tape
sound of the tonearm reaching
the last groove                                    

This poem speaks to my love of music and to the vinyl record collection I used to own.  Now, being a lot lazier, I listen to most of my music through iTunes and Rhapsody. I am also intrigued that the layout of the poem coincidentally resembles the end of a tonearm.

corncob smoke
the sound of a hound
in the hunter’s moon   

During my middle- and high-school years, I became a fan of Jesse Stuart, a regional writer from Kentucky. This poem was inspired by Stuart’s novel Hie to the Hunters, in which Did Hargis, a runaway city boy, is befriended by a rural family and experiences a different way of life. The corncob smoke comes from Arn Sparks, as she listens to the hounds hunting a fox.

strawberry blonde reading thackeray with a daiquiri

When I first began writing, I mostly wrote structured, rhymed poetry, and I still have a strong fondness for internal rhyme. This is the hokku for “Reading Thackeray”, a rhymga” (rhyming renga) I wrote with Marlene Mountain.

in the wrong
place again
my accent

– Cärlōs Cólòñ

This poem originally appeared in the local literary magazine of The Trapped Truth Society. When John Stevenson accepted the poem for From a Kind Neighbor: Haiku Society of America Members’ Anthology 1997, he made the marvellous suggestion of changing “my accent mark” to “my accent”.

This poem first appeared in Mountain Climbing, a book of haiku and concrete poetry that I self-published in 1993 and dedicated to Marlene Mountain. “Narcissus” was inspired by Marlene’s “peacock” from the second edition of The Haiku Anthology, edited by Cor van den Heuvel. For the previous 20 years, I had been experimenting with concrete poetry, especially with rhymed poetry. Seeing Marlene’s visual (“unaloud”) haiku was the catalyst for me to try to write some myself.

six k places i at t once t this e new n

When I sent a copy of Mountain Climbing to Marlene, she asked if I would like to write linked haiku together. This poem is part of “One Eight Hundred”, our first collaboration and is my first attempt at writing a concrete renga, although only about a third of the poem is concrete.

Publication credits

at the hazardous waste site              Point Judith Light II.2 (1993)
cassette tape                                    Frogpond XXVI.2 (2003)
corncob smoke                                 Haiku Headlines XV.7 (2002)
in the wrong place again                  Sunday at Four V.2 (1996)
Narcissus                                         Mountain Climbing (Tragg Publications, 1993)
overtaken by weeds                         Haiku Headlines X.3 (1997)
pointing my way home                     RAW NerVZ HAIKU III.1 (1996)
six places at once                            Mirrors, Winter 1995
strawberry blonde                            RAW NerVZ HAIKU VII.2 (2001)
zen concert                                      RAW NerVZ HAIKU III.1 (1996)

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