African- American Haiku Master: Lenard Moore

“Poetry is figurative language with rhythmic, emotionally-infused, shaped literary work; it is also textured with imagery and symbolism.” Lenard Moore

I met Leonard in 1998 at Cave Canem. I had been writing Haiku and wanted to meet the African American Haiku master; we hit it off instantly, and have been friends ever since.

In recognition of his commitment, promotion, teaching, and integration of  haiku, the American Haiku Archives advisory board has appointment Lenard D. Moore as the 2020–2021 honorary curator of the American Haiku Archives at the California State Library in Sacramento. Moore was o the recipient of the Haiku Museum of Tokyo Award in 2003, 1994 and 1983and was  the first African American president of the Haiku Society of America, a post he held in 2008 and 2009.

Lenard D. Moore  is also the founder and executive director of the Carolina[DB1]  African American Writers’ Collective (CAAWC), which began in 1995. The objective of the CAAWC  is  ‘to make literature available to members, to encourage reading and thinking about literature, and to generate writing by members.”

Below is Lenard Moore’s interview.

OPA: What kind of writer are you and in what genres?

LM: I am always trying to do something new with my writing. I take risks with my writing. I am a compassionate writer of contemporary issues, sense of place, interdisciplinary arts, environmental concerns, social justice concerns, family and farming spotlights, the literary movements, imagery-infused writing, musical writing, and textured writing. I write poetry in more than 30 different poetic forms, including persona poems, dramatic monologues, sestinas, villanelles, pantoums, triolets, minute poems, Kwansabas, blank verse, acrostic, syllabic verse, cinquain, sonnet, haiku, senryu, haibun, tanka, prose poems, free verse, ghazal, blues poems, jazz poems, limerick, concrete poetry, sequences, envelope verse, lyric poetry, narrative poetry, odes, tanka prose, and Afro-futuristic poems. I have also collaborated with several poets to write renga, renku, rengay, and tanrenga. I am sure I am leaving out some poetic forms in which I wrote poetry 35-to40 years ago. Yet, most of my poetry writing is haiku, though I write lots of jazz and blues poetry. Writing is a way of life for me. When I lost my daughter almost seventeen years ago, I turned to my poetry writing because writing is healing.

OPA: What factors in your childhood influenced your decision to write?

LM:   I loved listening to my maternal grandfather’s storytelling. I also enjoyed listening to our preacher’s sermons. In addition, I enjoyed listening to our choir. I have been singing in two choirs, except for during the pandemic.

OPA: What role does place (geography) have in your writing? 

LM:   A sense of place is a major part of my writing. In fact, my book Forever Home (St. Andrews College Press, 1992 and 1996) depicts family, farming, and my hometown. The book is long out-of-print. It would be an honor to have it back in print.

OPA: How do you see your writing in relation to social justice? 

LM:   I have written some social justice poems, though most of my poetry deals with other topics, including racism and poverty. Of course, those topics are part of social justice. 

OPA: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your writing/craft/process? 

LM:   I have told many people that I have turned the pandemic or lockdown into a home writing retreat. To that end, I have written numerous poems. It has impacted my writing in the topics with which I have written poems. For example, I have written several poems about the COVID-19 pandemic, including several blues poems and haiku. I have also written more gospel poems and gospel haiku or my coined word gospel-ku.

OPA: What are you writing now? 

LM:   I am still writing poetry and essays. I plan to write another book review, too. During the past few years, I have read other manuscripts to write blurbs. Before the lockdown because of the covid pandemic, I wrote lyrics, mostly in rehearsal with jazz bands. I hope to make a difference in the world with my writing, teaching and mentoring. I also hope to do more collaborations. In addition, I hope more Black writing will be included in curricula and on the syllabus. Moreover, I hope more Black writing will be included in textbooks. In fact, I would like to experience more diversified textbooks with writing from many different cultures and geographies.


for Trayvon Martin

We can’t believe the mouths

that bore the three syllables against our prayers,

as if they didn’t know

that blues would climb the town hall

and nothing could crescendo

over the invited crowd.

We can’t stop all this marching

into the city streets,

though it lifts half-closed shutters

of more than a hundred officers’ eyes,

occupying this summer heat,

this sun-astonished evening.

We can’t stop carrying signs

in the bright stiffening air,

our burden undeniably raw

though the gunshot,

having got your teenage light—

your story still shines.

Copyright © 2013 by Lenard D. Moore

NOTE:  “We Will Not Be Stilled” was previously published in Pluck! The Journal

            of Affrilachian Arts & Culture. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


Our churches are burning

beneath locust black skies.

Empty pews hiss

the names of silent thieves.

Cracking stained windows reflect

the faces of thieves

who haunt the rafters

on rural southern roads.

Shadows bow

like Sunday congregations

to preachers holy-ghosting sermons.

Our churches are burning.

The graveyards’ spirits are quiet.

Bats dip and swerve

like flames.

Our churches become charcoal aftermath

and cornfields are full of smoke.

The willows wail and weep.

Ferns fan themselves.

Wind erases footprints

of thieves who stalk by night.

Our churches are burning.

No one searches the woods.

Thieves slip in and out.

No sirens scream, no alarms go wild.

Our churches are burning.

These are bad times

bad times

bad times

Our churches are burning.

The bells do not peal.

The covenant still speaks

to our people’s weary hearts.

Copyright © 1996 by Lenard D. Moore

NOTE: The poem “Bad Times” was originally published in One Trick Pony; it was reprinted in bum rush the page (Three Rivers Press, 2001).  Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Below are links to scholarly essays  and special appointment on his work here:

Lenard at Haiku North America 2019

Lenard D. Moore and the Matt Kendrick Trio perform Geography of Jazz.

The Satire Project: Goldsboro, NC Apr 12 2016

Lenard at Quail Ridge book store in Raleigh, NC in 2019

Photos of Leonard Moore, credit  Dave w. Russo


2 thoughts on “African- American Haiku Master: Lenard Moore”

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