Werner Reichhold 1925-2017

Received the sad news yesterday that Werner Reichhold had died on June 21, the summer solstice in the United States. He was the husband of the late Jane Reichhold, who chose to end her life last July and Jane’s daughter Heidi tells me that Werner also chose the time of his passing.

Werner and Jane Reichhold, pictured at their home in July last year. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Werner, who was born in Germany, would have been 92 on July 18. A prisoner of war in Egypt during World War 2, Werner began exhibiting as a sculptor in 1955 (winning awards in the 1960s) with his final participation in an exhibition in 1995. His art work was exhibited throughout Europe, including at the Musee Rodin in Paris, and in Japan, Canada and the US.

He and Jane founded and co-edited Lynx journal (2000-2014), and published one of the first anthologies of English-language tanka – Wind Five-Folded – in 1994. They also explored other genres of poetry, including what they termed ‘symbiotic poetry’ and published anthologies such as A Film of Words (the link takes you to Jane and Werner’s description of the book).

Haiku by Werner Reichhold at the Gualala Arts Centre Haiku Walk. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The couple were penpals for 4 years before meeting and when Jane decided to go to Germany she suggested they exchange photographs – without discussing it, they each chose a third grade photo (9 years old) to send. And when they exchanged wedding gifts, it turned out they’d bought each other the same thing! The couple moved to Gualala, California from Germany in 1987 and lived there until their deaths.

Read Werner’s selection of his favourite German haiku (with translations).


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.

Postcard from Gualala

Northern California has a strong haiku scene including major groups like Haiku Poets of Northern California and Yuki Tekei (and more about them in another postcard), but is also home to the renowned Jane Reichhold, a poet and editor that I’ve had friendly email dealings with for many years.

We dropped in to see Jane and her husband Werner after first visiting the impressive Gualala Arts Centre where in 2013 Jane instigated a short haiku walk as part of the Global Harmony Sculpture Garden.

Haiku by Werner Reichhold. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Jane and Werner edited the online journal Lynx together for 14 years (to 2014) before reluctantly deciding they no longer had the energy for it. Jane’s more recent work includes translating, with Machiko Kobayashi, the 399 tanka in Akiko Yosano’s 1901 collection. A Girl with Tangled Hair (AHA Books, 2014) took a while, Jane says, because she needed the right Japanese translator to work with – her first co-translator of Japanese tanka fell seriously ill and it took time to find someone else with the attributes Jane sought, which included “free and bold” translations.

sa wa iedo
sono hitotoki yo
natsu no no shimeshi
shirayuri no hana

no matter
what they said at the time
it was dazzling
when the summer field
was taken by white lilies

She and Werner published one of the first anthologies of English-language tanka – Wind Five-Folded – in 1994.

In 2013 Jane published a second volume of her A Dictionary of Haiku (essentially a collected works arranged by season and topic) and brought to fruition her 15-year project of translating all of Basho’s haiku. Basho The Complete Haiku was published by Kondasha.

how loud the surf
filled with moonlight
high and round

– Jane Reichhold, from A Dictionary of Haiku (second edition)

One of the undoubted highlights of her long career in haiku, tanka and renga was a personal invitation from the Emperor and Empress of Japan to attend the 1998 Imperial New Year’s Poetry Party at the palace in Tokyo. “There seemed to be two people waiting to fulfil our every wish,” she recalls. “It was marvellous, if slightly unreal.”

Speaking of slightly unreal, we’d spent the day driving in and out of the fogbanks that are common along this stretch of coast in summer and when we arrived Jane was sitting in a patch of sunlight crocheting, surrounded by shelves of very lifelike dolls! (Bodega Bay, where Hitchcock filmed The Birds is a little further down the coast …)

Turns out, she “repurposes” dolls that are weighted and dressed as if they were infants and then given to dementia patients.

Jane and Werner Reichhold. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The couple are great fun – Werner spent some 40 or 50 years working as an installation artist and now, at the age of 90, enjoys collages as well as poetry. They were penpals for 4 years before meeting and when Jane decided to go to Germany she suggested they exchanged photographs – without discussing it, they each chose a third grade photo (8 years old) to send. And when they exchanged wedding gifts, it turned out they’d bought each other the same thing!

As we were leaving Jane pressed two small notebooks into my hand, a new project. “Write down what you’re thankful for,” she said. “Send it back and be part of the exhibition at the Gualala Arts Centre … or drop it somewhere and let a stranger do it.”

I’ve kept one notebook and given the other to a haiku poet. My first entry is being thankful for the kindness and generosity of the worldwide haiku community. As Jane would say, blessings!

Read Jane’s My Favourite Haiku selection. Read Werner’s selection of his favourite German haiku (with translations).