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Cindy Zackowitz

Cindy Zackowitz, ca.2009

Cindy Zackowitz (born Cindy Lynn Zackowitz, May 28, 1965, Fairbanks, Alaska, U.S.A.; died September 23, 2012, Anchorage, Alaska), American photographer and haiku poet especially noted for her nature haiku and photo haiku of Alaska. She resided in Anchorage, Alaska.


A life-long Alaskan, Cindy Lynn Zackowitz was born, the youngest in a family of girls, on May 28, 1965, at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Fairbanks, Alaska, to Walter Glen and Barbara Zackowitz. The family moved to Anchorage in 1970, where she attended public schools, graduated from Robert Service High School in 1983, and earned a BA in journalism and photography from the University of Alaska Anchorage.

She was employed at Sam’s Club, a retail warehouse club. She particularly enjoyed taking long walks, ever alert for inspirations for photographs and haiku. She also enjoyed cross-stitching, fishing, and tai chi. 


Zackowitz’s award-winning photographs were highlighted on more than 50 national and international websites. She was a frequent contributor to the Sierra Club’s Daily Ray of Hope website. Her special talent was a seemingly uncanny ability to meld scenes from nature with haiku such as this one, published in 1999, early in her haiku career:

spawning salmon
even their bones
point upstream1

She wrote in an email to a friend:

I came to haiku from a need to express my love of nature. My second grade class had written some haiku during a study of Japan, as had my sixth grade class.  By 1997, when I felt led to poetry, I was left with the vague memory that syllables and nature were important, but not much else. I was sure though that haiku was the outlet I was looking for if I could just figure out how to go about it. I turned to the internet for information and, after lurking long enough to learn the basics of haiku and the customs of the group, joined the [Shiki Internet Haiku Salon Biweekly Kukai] e-mail list. I posted my first haiku to the internet on July 7, 1997. It opened up a whole new world. The critiques were invaluable as were book discussions and debates on subjects such as kigo.

Even her earliest haiku were composed with effortless skill, as shown in these two unpublished examples:2

cottonwood stand—
the sound of leaves
under thin snow

behind the haze
the curve of a mountain
I know well

As her compositional skills developed, Zackowitz was able somehow to capture the ineffable, a depth within delicacy, inviting readers to be present in the moment and be captivated by it.

Zackowitz joined the Haiku Society of America in 2003 and served several terms as HSA Alaska Region Coordinator. With Mark Arvid White and Billie Wilson, she cofounded the Alaska Haiku Society and participated enthusiastically in its efforts to stimulate interest in haiku in the state. Their efforts included placing ads in statewide newspapers, distributing trifolds for display at local bookstores with examples of their published haiku and illustrated with Zackowitz’s photographs, and circulating information about the HSA.


Belgian haiku poet and critic Serge Tomé recognized the strength in Cindy Zackowitz’s haiku early on and frequently published examples on his Temps Libre/Free Times website. For example, he wrote:

A haiku written by Cindy Zackowitz can be recognized even without seeing her name.… She describes for us the North, in a very simple way, with its silences, its coolness, its short summers, its snows and its rains. She writes our dreams of the North. [Her haiku are] always in detail. She has a strong connection to Nature, each haiku is an immersion in it. Her haiku give us the feeling of having been present.… Each haiku is self-sufficient. It is an enclosed world, a space of dream, autonomous. There is always an infinite sadness hidden under the words.… always an unforgettable image.

Tomé created a special feature about her work entitled “Short Summers” on the website. A selection from each season in that work:

chickadees calling 
across the stream—
slow rain

lingering dusk 
a moose chewing 
the last poppies

black spots 
where the mushrooms were 
a turning leaf 

winter afternoon— 
the coal train’s 
long shadow 

Zackowitz’s haiku publication of choice was The Heron’s Nest, a hybrid print/digital quarterly. Her first haiku appeared in that journal in 1999:

the sound of rakes
in a neighbour’s yard—
fingernail moon3

Paul MacNeil, Zackowitz’s editor at The Heron’s Nest, commented: “Cindy represents the naturalist-as-haiku-writer. Her eye for a photograph was the same as her penning a haiku poem. Her photos rose above mere craft to Art itself. Sympathetic and true images were framed to convey the essence of her subjects. So it was with Cindy’s haiku topics. She carried both camera and pad of paper, it seems.” 

Several of her Heron’s Nest haiku were Editors‘ Choice (second or third best-of-issue) selections:

a persistent whistle
in the grosbeak’s song—
the fading moon4

black water—
a goose paddles
through morning snow5

autumn afternoon
a shaft of light
ends in moss6

September sun—
a bubble wavers
between salmon bones7

In total, from 1999 to 2012, 96 of Zackowitz’s poems were printed in The Heron’s Nest.

She also found success publishing in the print journal Acorn. Founding editor A. C. Missias chose this haiku as a favorite:

skunk cabbage—
the sound of bells
leads down the trail8

Missias commented:

It’s light and spring/summery, tinged with a bit of mystery.  The smell of skunk cabbage is rich and dank, conjuring up a forest or marshy scene; then we have bells (unexplained) leading off ahead—they could be as mundane as a jingling harness, or ‘bear-bells’ to keep grizzlies on notice, but could also be the imaginary bells of elves or spirits of the woods.  We don’t know, but our curiosity is drawn off down the trail and around the next bend … the whole thing has an engaging effect, somehow capturing the lure of possibility.9

Otherwise, however, Zackowitz submitted few haiku to established haiku journals, generally preferring to share her work—often on a daily basis—on email lists and online kukai. She was a member of the private online Cricket haiku discussion group, and her haiku often placed well in the popular Shiki Internet Kukai. One example is this one written on the theme “pussy willow” in March 1999 that garnered a 1st Place vote from readers:

snow slides
from the pussy willows —
spring wind 10

Zackowitz was primarily a nature poet and wrote with a keen sense of place. The natural beauty of her native state figured in much of her work, as in this one that bore the title “Alaska”:

midnight —
the last of the sunset
in the curtain’s folds11

Others of her haiku on Alaskan themes include:

daylight moon— 
the pregnant moose 
settles into snow12

wildfire haze
between the icebergs
blue wind13

Zackowitz was also an accomplished photographer, and she enjoyed pairing her nature photographs with haiku. She considered this composition, which she posted on the online site Flickr, to be her first haiga (haiku accompanying an image):

These two later photo haiga were also shared on Flickr:

Many Zackowitz haiku were selected for anthologies, including this one : 

biting cold—
moonlight on the nail heads
of the old fence 14

From the response to news of Cindy Zackowitz’s death in 2012 at the young age of 47, it was clear that her haiku and photography had deeply touched far more people—and touched them more profoundly—than this modest and retiring artist could have ever imagined. 

Author: Billie Wilson


Books and chapbooks

Zackowitz, Cindy. Through My Earmuffs: The Collected Haiku of Cindy Zackowitz. No place [Alaska]: published privately by the Zackowitz family, 2013. Collection, haiku and photo haiga.

In anthologies

  • Kacian, Jim, and the Red Moon editorial staff, eds. Dust of Summers: The 2007 Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku. Winchester, Va.: Red Moon Press, 2008. 1 haiku.
  • Kacian, Jim, and the Red Moon editorial staff, eds. A Glimpse of Red: The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku. Winchester, Va.: Red Moon Press, 2001. 3 haiku.
  • Kacian, Jim, and the Red Moon editorial staff, eds. Inside the Mirror: The 2005 Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku. Winchester, Va.: Red Moon Press, 2006. 1 haiku.
  • Kacian, Jim, and the Red Moon editorial staff, eds. The Loose Thread: The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku. Winchester, Va.: Red Moon Press, 2002. 1 haiku.
  • Kacian, Jim, and the Red Moon editorial staff, eds. Pegging the Wind: The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku. Winchester, Va.: Red Moon Press, 2003. 1 haiku.
  • Kacian, Jim, and the Red Moon editorial staff, eds. Snow on the Water: The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku. Winchester, Va.: Red Moon Press, 1999. 1 haiku.
  • Mason, Scott. The Wonder Code: Discover the Way of Haiku and See the World with New Eyes. Chappaqua, N.Y.: Girasole Press, 2017. 2 haiku.
  • Missias, A. C., ed. A Loose Thread: Selected Poems from 10 Years of Acorn, with commentary. Philadelphia: RefPress, 2008. 1 haiku.
  • Stevenson, John, ed. Nest Feathers: Selected Haiku from the First 15 Years of The Heron’s Nest. No place [Nassau, N.Y.]: The Heron’s Nest Press, 2015. 3 haiku.
  • Takiguchi, Susumu, ed. Wild Flowers, New Leaves: A Collection of World Haiku. Oxford, England: Ami-Net International Press for the World Haiku Club, 2002. 7 haiku.

Longer poems, sequences, etc.

  • Klontz, Joann, and Cindy Zackowitz. “Standby.” Frogpond 23:1 (2000), 41. Rengay. 
  • Zackowitz, Cindy, and Ferris Gilli, “plain brown wrapper,” Frogpond 24:3 (2001), 40. Rengay.

Work in print journals

  • Acorn, 1998–2003. 18 haiku.
  • Frogpond, 1999–2002. 7 haiku.
  • The Heron’s Nest, 1997–2012. 96 haiku.
  • Modern Haiku, 1999–2000. 4 haiku (excluding memorials)
  • Snapshots 7, 2000. 2 haiku. 
  • Tundra 1, 1999. 1 haiku.


  • “Haiku Northwest Poets: In Memoriam,” No Longer Strangers (Haiku Northwest 25th Anniversary Anthology, 2014). 1 haiku.
  • “In Memoriam Cindy Zackowitz (1965–2012).” Frogpond 35:3 (Autumn 2012). 2 haiku
  • “In Memoriam Cindy Zackowitz (1965–2012).” Modern Haiku 44:1 (Winter–Spring 2013). 2 haiku.
  • “Cindy Zackowitz in memoriam, 1965-05-28–2012-09-23” on Alaska Haiku Society website: http://home.gci.net/~alaskahaiku/index.html (no longer accessible), reprinted on the Temps Libres—Free Times website: https://cindy.tempslibres.org/en/cindy.html.



  • Cofounder (with Mark Arvid White and Billie Wilson), Alaska Haiku Society, 2005.
  • Member, Haiku Society of America, 1999–2012.
  • Member, Cricket Discussion Group, 1998– .
  • Participant, Shiki internet Haiku Group, 1997–1999.


  • The Heron’s Nest 2:5 (2000) Editor’s Choice.
  • The Heron’s Nest 3:2 (2001) Editor’s Choice.
  • The Heron’s Nest 3:10 (2001) Editor’s Choice.
  • The Heron’s Nest 4:12 (2002) Editor’s Choice.
  • The Heron’s Nest Readers’ Choice Valentine Awards (2004) Special Mention.


  1. Tundra 1 (July 1999). []
  2. Cindy Zackowitz private papers. []
  3. The Heron’s Nest 1:3 (November 1999). []
  4. The Heron’s Nest 2:5 (May 2000), Editors’ Choice. []
  5. The Heron’s Nest 3:2 (February 2001), Editors’ Choice. []
  6. The Heron’s Nest 3:10 (December 2001), Editors’ Choice. []
  7. The Heron’s Nest 4:12 (December 2002), Editors’ Choice. []
  8. Acorn 3 (Fall 1999). []
  9. Shiki Internet Kukai, April 6, 2001. []
  10. Shiki Internet Kukai, March 3, 1999 (kigo section). []
  11. Modern Haiku 30:1 (Winter–Spring 1999). []
  12. The Heron's Nest  12:3 (2010). []
  13. The Heron’s Nest 3:9 (November 2001). []
  14. The Heron’s Nest 9:3 (September 2007); Jim Kacian et al., eds., Dust of Summers (Red Moon Anthology 2007). []
Updated on August 16, 2023