Haiku Poet and Bartender Jerry Kilbride

Alex Chadwick offers an appreciation of Jerry Kilbride, a San Francisco bartender who also composed haikus, the Japanese style of poetry that requires exactly 17 syllables. Kilbride died at the age of 75 in November.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Here's a note about a memorial service tomorrow that we'd like to attend. It's in San Francisco, and it's for a man who died last month, Jerry Kilbride. He was a bartender and a haiku poet; that's the Japanese form of poetry that uses exactly 17 syllables to express an idea or an image. As Steve Rubenstein recounts in a fine expression of the obituary form in the San Francisco Chronicle, Mr. Kilbride was a very accomplished person of the sort your parents did not want you hanging around with. After high school, he went hitchhiking out of Chicago and managed to get all over this country and several others. He appeared to like the Mediterranean and Mexico. In Japan, he climbed Mt. Fuji--well, it's a hike, not a climb. But the point is he was well-traveled on the cheap.

Along the way, he worked at a lot of different jobs, none of them very well-paid. He was a clerk for the IRS, for instance. Then 40 years ago, he started tending bar, and that worked out; he stayed with it in LA and Chicago, and for 20 years at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, and that's where he started with haiku. He loved it. Here's a sample of his work: `From winter storage, the prow of a canoe entering sunlight.' He was published in dozens of journals. He became vice president of The Haiku Society of America. His final poem reads, `Terminally ill, when I was a kid I tried to count all the stars.'

Jerry Kilbride died at 75 last month in San Francisco. His memorial service there is tomorrow.

NPR's DAY TO DAY continues. I'm Alex Chadwick.

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