3-Minute Interview: Poet Ellen Compton

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Local,People,3-Minute Interview,April Burbank

Compton is a D.C.-based freelance writer and poet who specializes in haiku, a three-line poetic form that originated in Japan. She is preparing her first published poetry collection, which features oyster boats, ospreys, seagulls and other images inspired by the Chesapeake Bay.

How did you get involved in poetry, and haiku specifically?

I always wrote some kind of poetry. Several years ago, in reading the poetry of the Beat Generation of poets, they had become interested in Japanese poetry -- that sort of stimulated me to learn what that was about. Haiku poetry is now, in English, written just about everywhere in the world. It's a subject that I find I can devote a lifetime of study to.

Why do you like haiku so much?

Learning to write haiku taught me more about poetry than I could ever have learned in a poetry class, because everything that applies to good poetry -- because it's so short and concise -- is even more so in haiku poetry. You express the most that you can in the minimum of words. ... Also, the haiku genre really has nature at its heart.

Where do you go around D.C. for that natural inspiration?

I have to take a walk in Rock Creek Park. Washington, D.C., is a wonderful place for people who love that kind of thing. I've written many poems also around the Chesapeake Bay because my family for a long time had a cottage on the Western Shore, for about 40 years.

How do you know whether one of your poems is good?

Often I have to sort of get them down, put them away, come back, edit them. ... Remember that poetry originally was music. ... I often recommend to people whom I'm teaching to always say the poem out loud. You can hear what the sounds are -- you can hear if the music is there.

- April Burbank

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April Burbank

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