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Sheila Sondik

Sheila Sondik

Country of Residence: USA


Current Occupation: Printmaker, Painter, Poet

Past Occupations:  Accountant, Non-profit board member

Education: I started out in math and science at Harvard but moved on to political activism and drawing classes. After graduation, my burning desire to move to the West Coast brought me to Berkeley, California.

I began my art studies in the Bay Area at Oakland’s Laney College, where I made my first etchings. I went on to earn a BFA in Painting and Printmaking at the California College of Arts and Crafts.

I studied Sogetsu Ikebana for 5 years and earned a teacher’s certificate. (Here’s a link to the headquarters of the Sogetsu organization:


Haiku-Related Affiliations:

Interests/Hobbies: Printmaking, poetry, ikebana, hiking, Chinese calligraphy, painting

Editor’s note: Ikebana (生花) is the ancient Japanese art of flower arranging (literally ‘flowers kept alive’). For more information, here is an excellent article with photographs:

Book Publications:

Fishing a Familiar Pond: Found Poetry from The Yearling (Egress Studio Press, 2013) (poetry chapbook)

Feathered Light, 2013, limited edition Mezzotints by Mikio Watanabe, haiku by Sheila Sondik

When & how were you introduced to haiku & Japanese-related poetry?

I discovered my affinity with Chinese and Japanese art in a art history class at the California College of Arts & Crafts in the late 1970s. At the same time, I fell in love with poetry. I admired Kenneth Rexroth’s books of translations of Chinese and Japanese poets and pored over Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry. I read and enjoyed English translations of Japanese haiku for decades. When Patricia Donegan came to Berkeley in 1998 on her book tour for Chiyo-ni: Woman Haiku Master, which she translated with Yoshie Ishibashi, I attended her reading and bought the book. How wonderful to discover haiku embodying a woman’s sensibility!

In 2010, in Bellingham, Washington, where I’ve lived since 2008, I attended an evening introductory workshop by Michael Dylan Welch on English-language haiku. Michael’s presentation helped me understand why I was so attracted to haiku and why those corny themed collections of 5-7-5 verse didn’t seem to have much in common with the haiku I loved. I began writing and publishing haiku shortly after that.

What do you enjoy the most about haiku?

I appreciate the brevity, the music, the mystery of haiku. How can so few words evoke so much? I also love being part of the haiku community. I never imagined meeting, both virtually and in-person, so many like-minded people. The fact that there are creative and caring people all over the world who value and celebrate the small miracles of life is a great source of hope for me.

Haiku writing reflects my lifelong tendency to express thoughts and emotions with very few words. Soho Sakai, my ikebana teacher is famous for her critiques, in which she showed how removing some of the plant material from an arrangement could make it much more powerful. “Less is more,” she often said, “but not skimpy.”

I walk in nature as often as I can, and my artwork almost always begins with something I’ve observed outdoors. The same is true for my haiku writing practice.

What do you enjoy the most about tanka?

I like that the five lines of tanka afford the writer more choices for where the break between the two juxtaposed parts can be. There’s a bit less reliance on readers completing the poem and more room for the writer’s subjectivity.

What do you enjoy the most about haibun?

I’m just beginning to write haibun again. I really like short prose poems, too, so I’m finding it pleasurable to start with the prose and see what develops. Haibun give the haiku a set-up where they can spin off in another direction. I like this expansiveness.

Who are your top 5 favorite poets?

If I tried to name just five, I would immediately regret the myriad poets I hadn’t named whose work has thrilled and inspired me. And I know there are so many more superb poets whose work I haven’t yet read. I’d like to thank everyone who shares their work.

What haiku/writing projects are you currently working on?

I have some ideas for book projects. The ones I’m planning are all hybrid in some way: combinations of poetry and prints, collages, and photos, or Japanese forms and Western poetry in conversation.

Anthologies & Collaborations: (A Partial List)

The Ink Sinks Deeper, ed. Hazel Hall and Kathy Kituai (Ginninderra Press, 2021): An anthology of work by the members of the Haiku @ The Oaks group in Canberra, Australia, whose meetings I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of occasionally attending.

Editor’s note: This 28-page chapbook is published by Picaro Poets, an imprint of Ginninderra Press. A sample can be found here:

The chapbook itself can be bought here (just have to scroll down a bit):

The Signature Haiku Anthology edited by Robert Epstein (Middle Island Press, 2020)

All the Way Home: Aging in Haiku edited by Robert Epstein (Middle Island Press, 2019)

They Gave Us Life: Celebrating Mothers, Fathers, & Others in Haiku edited by Robert Epstein (Middle Island Press, 2017)

The Sacred in Contemporary Haiku edited by Robert Epstein (CreateSpace, 2014)

No Longer Strangers: Haiku Northwest 25th Anniversary Anthology, ed. Tanya McDonald, Marilyn Sandall, Michelle Schaefer, Angela Terry (Haiku Northwest Press, 2014)

Editor’s note: No Longer Strangers is the Winner of the 2nd Place Merit Book Award in the 2015 Kanterman Awards sponsored by the Haiku Society of America.

Moving Meditation: A collection of Tai Chi and Qigong haiku, edited by Lynne Jambor (2021) – Canada ISBN # 9781777488000. For ordering info please contact Lynne at:

The Wanderer Brush: haiga of Ion Codrescu (Red Moon Press, 2020)

Editor’s note: The Wanderer Brush is the Winner of a Merit Book Award, 2020 by the Haiku Society of America and was Shortlisted in the 2020 Touchstone Distinguished Books Award by The Haiku Foundation.

Another Trip Around the Sun: 365 Days of Haiku for Children Young and Old, ed. Jessica Malone Latham (Brooks Books, 2019)

Tanka 2020: Poems from Today’s World, editor-in-chief: Alexis Rotella (Red Moon Press, 2020)

KYSO Flash Anthology of Haibun and Tanka Forms, edited by Clare MacQueen & Roberta Beary (KYSO Flash, 2015)

KYSO Flash Anthology: State of the Art, ed. Clare MacQueen (KYSO Flash, 2016)

Bright Stars: An Organic Tanka Anthology, Volume 4, editor M. Kei (CreateSpace, 2014)

Noisy Water: Poetry from Whatcom County, Washington, ed. Luther Allen and J.I. Kleinberg (Other Mind Press, 2015)

For Love of Orcas: An Anthology, ed. Andrew Shattuck McBride and Jill McCabe Johnson (Wandering Aengus Press, 2019)

My poems are included in many anthologies published annually by HSA and TSA, and many others commemorating Seabeck Haiku Retreats and Haiku North America conferences.

The first Haiku Society of America members’ anthology I participated in remains a highlight for me. Sharing the Sun: Haiku Society of America Members’ Anthology 2010 was edited by Scott Mason in honor of the United Nations declaration of 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity. Each haiku references a particular plant or animal, identified by its Latin name below the haiku.

Journal Publications: (A Partial List)

Editor’s note: some of Sheila’s work can also be read & listened to in the following links:


Calyx (audio)  

Echidna Tracks:

Daily Haiku Special on Charlotte Digregorio’s Writer’s Blog: March 27, 2022–Sheila Sondik (3 haiku)

Awards & Honorable Mentions: 

all my devices
plugged in for the night
I'm free to dream
of the years I had babies
and no screens to nurture

Sheila Sondik, Bellingham, Washington, Honorable Mention, 2017 Sanford Goldstein International Tanka Contest, Tanka Society of America

Editor’s Note: Sheila’s tanka above has been re-published on the NeverEnding Story blog (with Chinese translations):

if only
I’d read the novel
my mother
wanted to share with me
the bitter taste of rue

Sheila Sondik, Bellingham, Washington, Honorable Mention, 2018 Sanford Goldstein International Tanka Contest Winners, Tanka Society of America

Bellingham Poetry Booth, 3rd Quarter Winner, 2017

Golden Haku Competition, Washington, DC: Selected for Display in 2018, 2019 & 2022

Haiku Poets of Northern California, 2014 Rengay Contest, 3rd Place with Seren Fargo, “Coming to Light”

newly in love
we hiked the high Sierras
forty-five years later
far below those soaring peaks
we walk countless clinic hallways

Sheila Sondik, Bellingham, Washington, Fujisan Award Contest (Japan) Contest, Honourable Mention, 2019

Haiku Presentations:

My Literati Journey, exploring the influence of Japanese and Chinese aesthetics on my visual art and poetry, Seabeck Haiku Retreat, 2019

Please share 3 of your haiku and/or tanka (with publication credits if they are in a book, journal or anthology):    

bento box
my worries

tinywords, Issue 19.1, 4/9/19

Lyft driver —
his words transport me
to his childhood village

Modern Haiku, Volume 51.2, Summer 2020

a male spider
touches her web
the dance begins

The Heron’s Nest, Volume XX, Number 4: December 2018

© Sheila Sondik 

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