In 1987 I attended the East-West Haiku conference, the first ever such meeting between Japanese and Western haiku poets. It was sponsored by Japan Airlines and held at the just finished Hotel Nikko in San Francisco. In addition to the several speakers from Japan and the United States, there was a haiku competition held to commemorate the occasion. Jerry Kilbride was the winner of the English language division. His winning poem:
fog . . .
just the tree and I
at the bus stop
has been anthologized several times and remains a classic among English language haiku poets. Jerry has won many awards for his haiku. He was also known for the eloquence of his prose. Haibun, in particular, was a love of his. Jerry’s haibun count among the most powerful I’ve read. “Losing Private Sutherland,” for instance, is a wrenching piece about the loss of a friend with whom Jerry served in Korea.
In 1989, Jerry helped cofound the Haiku Poets of California. He also served a term as the vice-president of the Haiku Society of America that year. In 1996, he helped found the American Haiku Archives at the California State Library in Sacramento.
Jerry Kilbride was an outgoing man. He had a knack for storytelling which made bartending for the San Francisco Olympic Club an ideal job for him. He had a way of bringing people together, connecting folks with similar interests, haiku poets, for instance. It was he who introduced me to the haiku community in 1990. Although I’d been writing for quite some time, I had no idea there was a global community of haiku poets. Out of the blue, Jerry called and invited me to join him and John Thompson for a walk on a beach near Half Moon Bay. Through him, I learned of the Haiku Poets of Northern California, the Haiku Society of America, and much more. Jerry made a point of keeping in touch with his friends. Even after I moved to Washington in 1998, he continued to call me a couple of times each year. Our conversations would always end with a hearty “God love ya, Chris.” I miss Jerry. How fortunate that we can continue to connect with him each time we read the wonderful haikai legacy he has left for us.
— Christopher Herold
Here are a few of Jerry’s haiku: