To the surprise of anyone familiar with his physical and mental vitality (and that cherubic face), Yu Chang is 70 years old today. We couldn’t find a party room big enough for all his friends and admirers; and one weblog posting is not adequate to express the depth of our affection and breadth of our well-wishes for Yu.
just long enough
to leave an impression
….. by Yu Chang – Upstate Dim Sum
Yu Chang plays and lives many roles, including: husband, father of four, and grandfather; Union College professor of electrical and computer engineering; accomplished haiku poet and editor; skillful and enthusiastic photographer; avid chef and kayaker; tender of gardens (rock and floral); and — for especially lucky and undeserving ones like myself — generous, mischevous, and caring friend. No matter how he enters your life, Yu leaves a positive, lasting impression, with his intelligence and talent, empathy, sense of humor, and humility.
Personal note: Many good things have come out of my discovery and love of haiku. At the top of my haiku-related blessings is making the acquaintance and enjoying the friendship of my goombah and bocce-mate Yu Chang. As told in the post introducing Yu here at f/k/a, “all poetics is local” (May 27, 2005), I admired his poetry for several years before realizing that Yu lives right down the road from me here in Schenectady. He has become such an important part of my everyday life, it’s hard to believe it’s only been a few years since we met.
As poet-editor John Stevenson — Yu’s very good friend, frequent kayaking and dining companion, and Rt. 9 Haiku Club co-founder — wrote to me this morning:
My life has been immensely enriched by my friendship with Yu. I wish him a happy birthday and a happy day after. I suspect that he would prefer less fanfare for the occasion but he will be gracious about our effusions of affection today.
“So many of my poems remind me of Yu or relate to him in ways that might not be clear to others. I could make a collection consisting entirely of poems I’ve written while kayaking with him and another of poems that reflect our summers in Maine. His editorial skill in producing our first sixteen issues of Upstate Dim Sum has added something special to many another poem, which forever carries additional resonance as a result of his juxtapositions with the work of Tom Clausen, Hilary Tann, or Yu himself.
Emblematic of Upstate Dim Sum (because it first appeared there), of my friendship with Yu, and of the present occasion, the following poem comes to mind:
Although not prone to produce on deadline (like so many other haiku poets I could name so often must do), John says:
In order to honor the occasion, I have attempted to produce a few overnight poems; something that Yu is known for accomplishing on a regular basis. It’s not my usual method, so I just hope that these are okay:
fiercely red leaves
our two autumns
both of us
we bushwhack toward
the open water
…. by John Stevenson (written for Yu Chang’s 70th Birthday)
– Ed. Note: They’re definitely more than “okay,” John. As is the photo you took of Yu kayaking that we’re using with this posting. Many thanks.
Ed Markowski has long admired Yu Chang’s work and has heard about him and his personality from me over the past few years. Ed wanted to join our party today, and wrote a few poems this morning for Yu’s birthday.
father’s soft voice
still stops us
the birthday boy lays rubber
with the lawn tractor
. . . by Ed Markowski (for Yu Chang’s 70th Birthday)
update (Aug. 31, 2008): Ed kept celebrating even after Yu went to bed last night:
his finger traces a trail
through the icing
another year older
Most of my closest friends will be turning sixty in 2008 or 2009. And, frankly, some of us approach that number with a bit of anxiety over what all this aging might mean for our physical and mental capabilities. Seeing Yu at 70 gives me — and probably many others — a lot more hope about the possibilities for continuing to thrive as the decades slip by.
Here’s what Tom Clausen, another member with Yu in the 4-poet Rt. 9 Haiku Club, wrote in response to my request for poems to honor Yu’s 70th birthday:
“I am honestly shocked by your message… I had heard Yu had a big birthday coming up and was not sure what age he is, but assumed he was turning 60… he is so incredibly young spirited, playfully wonderful a person that it hardly seems possible he could be 70, not that any age has to be thought of any particular way!”
From Tom’s cache of haiku and senryu, he sent along quite a few to help celebrate Yu’s special birthday:
in the attic
an old sleeping bag
rolled with childhood
a young woman there
stands in the swing
out my childhood window
flats of seeds
and letting them go
a sprinkle of valley lights
… by Tom Clausen and dedicated to his friend Yu Chang
the smoke detector
photo after photo
he bends closer
to smell a rose
birthday party —
after dim sum
a little bocce
the stones chosen
sharing the last
.. by dagosan (for Yu)
八 八 We all recently learned how lucky the number eight is in Chinese society. As Yu Chang begins his eighth decade, all of his friends, fans and loved ones wish him 8X8 luck and longevity, with gratitude for our good fortune in knowing this special man. Other haiku poets who want to join the party are invited to add greetings and/or poetry of their own (by email or in a Comment).
— Pass this Party to friends with this easy URL: http://tinyurl.com/YuChang70thBirthday
afterwords (Sept. 2, 2008): Yu’s friend and fellow Route-9er Hilary Tann was incommunicado while I was putting this post together, but just wrote in to send her greetings and good wishes to Yu. Hilary offers this poem in tribute:
old friends –
through the leaves
… by Hilary Tann – Upstate Dim Sum 6/II
Below the fold, Yu’s gift to us — a small sampler of his haiku and senryu. (Find many more by clicking the links on our Yu Chang Archive Page.
– Yu Chang – (Simply Haiku, Modern Haiga, Winter 2007) –