Dan’s day begins with a thirty minute commute out of Milwaukee into Waukesha, Wisconsin where he serves as the Minister of Administration at the First United Methodist Church Waukesha. When he arrives, the first thing he sees is the homeless member of his church who sleeps close by in the home of another member. They enter the building together and start the first pot of coffee. “It does something to you to begin every day with people in humble circumstances.” Dan spends the first hour of his day in his office surrounded with books by some of his favorite poets: Santoka, Issa, Wendell Berry, Jim Harrison, Ted Kooser, Raymond Carver and Bukowski. It is his time to read and think about the day before and the day ahead. It’s when he puts pencil to paper with the thoughts that surface.
the oars at rest
where I am
For Dan, writing is a spiritual practice and a joy. It is a practice that slows the pace and adds perspective to the day before stepping into the complexities of his position. As a minister, he spends a lot of time writing sermons and letters. He describes writing haiku as bringing him “out of the clutter into the crystalline.” As far as his process, “I put something down, even if it is garbage, and endlessly revise it.”
Many years ago, a friend who knew of his long-held love of poetry pointed him to haiku. The suggestion took him to his library where he discovered old copies of American Haiku. From there, he read all the books and journals he could get his hands on, including Lee Gurga’s book, Haiku: A Poet’s Guide. The biggest change to his writing came when he switched from writing in isolation to making the trip to Gayle Bull’s Foundry Books Group in Mineral Point, Wisconsin. There he found “awesome poets and gentle guides”. It seems particularly relevant that he returns to Mineral Point each year, to the place where Gayle Bull and her late husband Jim, published that first American Haiku journal.
Haiku’s appeal for Dan lies in the epiphanies it offers, its accessibility and the community of poets each putting down “one essential poem about what it means to be human.” His inspiration comes from being a husband, dad and clergy. It comes from a fresh image in his reading or from the prairie of his youth. With his poetry, he hopes to evoke a world, “to tell something thoroughly Midwestern about disappearing farms and the power of good churches or something that toggles between the wildness of a prairie or the domesticity of cabin fever.” He also tries to show the truth he sees each day; honest images of homelessness or human trafficking.
when the shelter closes
since the trafficking her imagines herself somewhere else
Besides haiku, Dan has written both tanka and haibun and most recently rengay. He is a voracious reader of many journals. Inspired by the experimental poets, he is intentional about fighting his “old Germanic oughts” to push at form. As a twenty year member of the Haiku Society of America, his work has appeared in a number of journals and anthologies and was included in A New Resonance 8 in 2013. Dan’s first collection, Ors, will be released by Red Moon Press in February 2015.
not as green as the grass has been saying
this fig in my hand
I would pay for