Ruby Spriggs

                                                                               Hydrangea Photograph, Sandra Morgan ©2001
                              remembering her face
                              in the face 
                              of the swan

                              - Terry Carter

The delicate strength of Ruby Spriggs.  I always wished to capture some of it, gossamer in wind, anchored by a grin.  I would wish that I were known to her, important to her,  for to be important to Ruby was to have passed some test that I wanted to pass.  I wanted to share in her magic, the magic that transformed wherever she was, and those in her orbit.  I wanted her to remember me, think of me, be someone she wanted to spend time with, all this from some brief meetings and encounters.

a quiet lake
trove of excitement
for those
who chance its depths

To have been delighted by her drawings in RawNervz, by her presence, by the light she emanated is a pleasure, a treasure to hold on to forever. 

    - Claudia Graf

her delightful drawings
sprinkled through the magazine
sprigs of ruby

- Carlos Colón

     atop a stepstool
     to change a lightbulb—
     the cool breeze

I was thinking of Ruby, of the fine evening's conversation we had, she, Penny, and I, on an HSA retreat evening at Spring Lake in 1988. Her poems were quiet and striking to me, much as she was in
person. The Howard and Duhaime anthology of 1986, of which they had kindly let me read a manuscript-in-preparation, announced her to me as I was putting the finishing touches on The Haiku Hand- book, and I saw her work as among the most interesting then coming from Canada. The contact thus initiated allowed me to include in the Handbook her brief and marvelous one-liner:

     moment of birth new shadow

Penny had long before observed that birth brings death into the world, and here was a wonderful haiku, with a broader range of implication while the same realization was particularized and
concretized at the heart of it. How many other poets can work with ideas in such a thing-y way?

Perhaps because she was a long way from home and knew hardly anyone at that HSA event, Ruby played a very low-key role there. We had breakfast with her at least once that weekend, and drove her to some connection after the retreat. Her after-image continues with me, and her calm, slight reserve, with just a glint of a rich sense of humor in her eyes.

And so, replacing a lightbulb,  I think of shadow and light, and of Ruby's later poem:

     switching off the lights
     switching off the shadows

                                   - William J. Higginson*
                                      Wednesday, 25 July 2001

At Spring Lake, 1988
(for Ruby Spriggs)

twilight fading
into the dark, the sea foam

   - Penny Harter

On reading about Ruby's passing I drew a sharp breath and felt instantly sad. I was fortunate to have met Ruby at the Haiku Canada Retreat in May this year (Grant and Ruby came for the Saturday). When I took her picture, she was self-conscious about her swollen left arm, and hid it behind her back. She may not have been well, and apparently only had enough energy to attend one day of the retreat, but I would not have dreamed that she would pass away in less than two months. 

I didn't know Ruby very much, except through occasional correspondence and through her poems, but on my brief meeting in May she struck me as being a lot like Pat Shelley -- they both exuded a quiet, deep-seated graciousness. Ruby's legacy will, at the very least, include a quantity of fine haiku and tanka. I wish I had had the privilege of knowing her better.

moment of death a lost shadow
        - Michael Dylan Welch

the clear call
of an unknown bird   and then
a new dawn

    - Elizabeth Searle Lamb

I last saw Ruby Spriggs about two months before she died. She 
attended Haiku Canada in Kingston, Ontario for part of one day. Her  speech had the same fascinatingly slow pace and tender inflection as in all the times I spoke with her in the course of many years. As she  sat there with her usual delicate smile there was a soft radiance that emanated from her and enclosed her in a velvety glow. When it was time for her to leave I told her she was a beautiful lady. That evening I wrote the following haiku which now remains dedicated to her:

sunset . . .
the pink glow of rocks
in still water

                                    - Bruce Ross 

Just the other day I was  putting away a copy of RAW NERVZ and noticed a drawing of Ruby's and wondered how she was. Now, I realize that she  was already probably "in that terrible rowing toward god." We will dedicate  the next issue of LYNX to her.

the fire in a stone
life of a poem

- Jane Reichhold

                           thinning mists—
                          the mourning dove's faint call
                          and your words

    - Billie Wilson


I know what a wonderful and caring voice Ruby has been for a long time.. Am very sorry to know of her passing ... it was just over a month ago when I attended Haiku Canada Weekend in Kingston and was most pleasantly surprised to actually meet her at the dinner when she and Grant were seated close by to me. I had never seen her before yet knew it was her somehow and knew she was in poor healt.h. Even so she was entirely poised and graceful and I'd
never have thought she was so close to dying ... I guess we all are in some way ... as durable and resistant as we each are there is also an incredible fragility and vulnerability that goes hand in hand with us.

    - Tom Clausen


- LeRoy Gorman

The shock of her passing and the deep sense of loss are felt by so many of us. 

        half the sundeck
        shaded by the house
        motionless windchimes 
                                -  Francine Porad

.May Ruby rest in peace...  - André Duhaime


summer dusk
the bellbird
stops singing

    - Ernest Berry

I didn't know Ruby well enough to write anything (in her honor) that would be meaningful, (therefore) I must simply bow to Ruby and the wonderful work she shared with the haiku community.

   - Christopher Herold

She seemed a dear gentle person to me.  -  Winona Baker

I am really glad that Ruby managed to see her fine haiku re-printed in still before she died. It is always so sad to lose a fine woman writer in the Haiku & Tanka world . . .

tonight dew on her parkbench

    - ai li 

So sorry to hear about Ruby Spriggs. I have always thought of her as being among the very finest haiku artists in all of North America. And in addition to her poetry, she gave a lot to Haiku Canada in its early days. What a great loss!

    - James Deahl

                               grass of parnassus 
                               where the hills meet the sky 
                               her gentleness 

                               - Raffael de Gruttola

Thanks for letting us know about Ruby Spriggs. Though Alex and I
did not know her personally, we of course knew of her poetry and honored her for her strong haiku voice and spirit. She will be missed, even in these far corners of the haiku world.

    - Alice and Alex Benedict

storm clouds at sunset
far in the east
the sky is clearing

    - Jeanne Jorgensen

I am very sad to hear the news; I never knew her except by her work, which I admired greatly.

    - Charles Trumbull

top of the falls
a bird's long flight
into the song

    -  Peggy Willis Lyles

In my original
Art of Haiku book (1992)
I published two haiku by Ruby Spriggs:

firehall floor—
pairs of running shoes
                    in disorder
    anne's blue smoke
weaves through the screen
            with each word

My condolences to her family. May she rest in peace.

    - Gerald England 

When I first met Ruby at the wonderful Haiku Canada meeting in 1986, I bought her book, “Sun Shadow Moon Shadow.” She signed it “… With Love, keep creating.”  It is the best advice a young writer can get – after all, at that time my first language was Dutch and writing in English was difficult. Not only was I taken by Ruby’s graceful charm, but also by her ability to let others blow their own horn. Without looking for it (pardon the pun, but she would have loved it!), Ruby shone in Canada’s haiku firmament. 

Like many others who met Ruby in May (2001) during the HC Weekend, we would have loved her participation during the writing of the renku, but that would have been too much to have expected. Although she looked very fragile the Saturday she dropped by, grace had only strengthened her resolve to honour Haiku Canada with her presence.

Gone but not forgotten.

I kneel
before the broken glass (hj)

from sand
through the hour glass
time runs away (rs) 

(from “Her Lipstick Kiss” renku,
Haiku Canada Weekend, 1989)

for the hell of it
another filthy war (rs) 

napalm victim
hugs the bomb run leader
peace in her heart (hj)

(from “Waterfall” renku,
Haiku Canada Weekend, 1997)

— Hans Jongman 

One of my most pleasurable moments as a member of Haiku Canada was to meet fellow members for the first time. Such was the case when attending Haiku Canada’s annual meeting in Alymer, Quebec in 1988, and being introduced to Ruby Spriggs. A beautiful, slender women with a welcoming smile, soft flowing voice, and sparkling eyes, Ruby’s quiet, gracious disposition was irresistable. I longed to know her better. 

To my great delight, we corresponded frequently over the ensuing years, and became good friends. What a pleasure it was to touch the light and loving warmth of her spirit, read her gentle haiku and tanka, and create renga with her.

She also shared with me beautiful photographs she had taken as well as varied styles of her artwork. When she generously granted permission re several pieces of her delicate artwork to illustrate my 1995 haiku and sijo collections, I was deeply honored and touched -- and forever grateful.

While Ruby kept me informed of her failing health, she never complained, and concluded each brief report with optimism. Understandably, over the last couple of years, her letters became notes and arrived less frequently. Yet this cheerful, courageous lady continued to submit her work to competitions, journals, and write renga with me and others until shortly before her long suffering was stilled. 

Ruby died before hearing that her tanka had earned First Place in the North American Tanka Contest, but I like to think that the news reached her on high and she joins us in celebrating her award and of all those who placed. 

Loved by all who had the pleasure of meeting and/or working with her, Ruby's special 'voice' and gentle being will be dearly missed. I give thanks for having known and worked with this wonderful woman, and shall long cherish her haiku and tanka, as well as renga collections with her beloved partner, Grant Savage.

Forever in the light, dear Ruby.

soft moonlight
pressed between pages
the delicate white flower
                                - Elizabeth St Jacques

SOURCES re William J. Higginson's Memorial:

William J. Higginson, "atop a stepstool," not previously published.

Spriggs, "moment of birth", from The Haiku Handbook:How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku by William J. Higginson with Penny Harter (McGraw-Hill), copyright 1985.

Spriggs, "switching off the lights", from Haiku World: An International Poetry Almanac by William J. Higginson  (Kodansha International), copyright 1996.

Harter, "twilight fading", from "Haiku, Spring Lake, New Jersey", from Stories from Where We Live: The North Atlantic Coast, edited by Sara St. Antoine (Milkweed Editions), copyright 2000.

 Ruby Spriggs with Friends : Photo

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