• James Haddad and Kathabela Wilson.

      James Haddad and Kathabela Wilson.

      An Interview with James Haddad, poet and owner of the Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden in Pasadena.

      ​Few people know that James Haddad has been writing his whole life. It’s an honor and a joy to share the secret inner garden that nourishes the life of the Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden, and all of us, in Pasadena! ​

      By Kathabela Wilson

      Mapping the poet

      We talked of the influence of a place on our work, and you’ve told me the poet actually becomes a place, how do you see it that way?

      James HaddadBeing over eighty, my understanding of life has changed. I think life has always been beautiful. When I was younger –when we were younger– we were beautiful then too. You have to live to where your life becomes a setting –not only for the muse– but for the reflection and nourishing of the coming years given to you.

      Pulse of the poet

      Art became your life, and you’ve told me you grew up in an art gallery, what does it mean?

      I was raised in Art, I sniffed it, tasted it, fondled it my entire life.​ ​As a child, I virtually lived in the back of my parents’ picture framing shop, surrounded by art, and absorbing its sights, smells, and techniques. I started as an adult with picture framing, then fine art publishing is still alive today over 50 years later.​ I ran the family art gallery… I, and my family, we have always been immersed in art.

      A microscope on the poet

      How did you come to write poetry?

      I’ve had a long inclination to write, printing out my stories, inspired by the family background, for family members-memoirs and fiction. I switched from “writing” to writing poetry as I found I could use words and descriptions in short meaningful phrases. Connie Haddad, wife of James. talks about the the Japanese Storrier Stearns Garden's history.I have a writing group in Yorba Linda for eight years now, where I “sing the song of letters”. The poetry is an outgrowth of my life’s background, and maybe a dream, like childhood. I was, and am, only a child.

      But I am in my fourth volume of poetry. I write a number of poems a week, sometimes in a hurricane of thought. I write the words of a line or two, then following, there comes a poem, and then there is peace.

      A telescope on the poet

      How did the Japanese Storrier Stearns Garden come into your life, and what has it meant to your poetry?

      At 18 I was sucked into the maw of World War II, and at 25 I was married and living in a Japanese garden​. My mother surprised us, and herself, when she went to an auction. She thought she would buy two Louis IV chairs at an estate sale and came back home saying…”guess what I bought today” It was the whole estate and garden. James Haddad reading his poetry at the Jthe Japanese Storrier Stearns Garden in Pasadena.So, first a three-month interlude (honeymoon?) ​sleeping in ​the ​​original ​teahouse —a romantic but primitive adventure, lacking all amenities, and sharing a mattress on the floor with my wife and her dog— then almost three years in the former carriage barn at the back corner of the property. ​Surprisingly, ​​m​y “retirement years” f​ind​ me back at the Japanese Garden, lovingly restoring it to the condition I remembered from decades earlier. Life takes unexpected twists and turns, it revives itself in unexpected ways. I am happy that many poets and musicians have become my friends and are lured, as I and my poems are, to the beauty of the Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden, reading their poems, celebrating the garden with me. I could never have imagined.. but a dream come true.​​

      One Day
      By James Haddad

      One day
      I stepped upon this step
      which took me
      into a place I’d never been
      scary it was that first day
      until I did sing
      and I listened for the classroom bell
      so I could go out and play
      every day the same
      and every day different
      it couldn’t be explained
      at least I couldn’t
      my teacher didn’t yell
      we were all her children
      for the moment,
      she told us tales
      we wouldn’t have known
      as we were kindergartners
      and just starting to read
      she laid us down on floor mats
      and sang a lullaby
      we dreamed of things
      only a child could dream
      of fun and games, the child’s world
      then bid us bye
      careful now
      look both ways
      the most important words
      she could say
      look both ways.


      ! All photos are by Rick and Kathabela Wilson.

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        • Kathabela Wilson

          Kathabela Wilson is a local poet/writer/artist and musician. Her Poets Salon has become an international respected must read in the poetry world. She's the creator and host of the Pasadena-based group, “Poets on Site.”

          Colorado Boulevard is your place for enlightening events, informative news and social living for the greater Pasadena area.
          We strive to inform, educate, and work together to make a better world for all of us, locally and globally.

        • Latest posts by Kathabela Wilson

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      1. Susan Dobay says:

        One of the most interesting interview by Kathabela is with James Haddad,
        I love his philosophy of life and his appreciation of life at it’s different stage.
        His meaningful poetry reflects the above.

      2. Briony James says:

        word art
        framed by leaves
        in rippling water
        lyrics for the wind

        what a beautiful interview with a fascinating and supremely talented man!

      3. Angela McEwan says:

        Hi Kathabella,
        Delightful article. I have enjoyed your accounts & photos of Japan.
        Angy McEwan

      4. Toti O'Brien says:

        His story s a hidden treasure – just like the gardens. Thank you Kathabela for bringing them both to light!!

      5. susandiri says:

        lovely to learn more about the Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden & poet James Haddad!!

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