1. Home
  2. Biographies
  3. Ted van Zutphen

Ted van Zutphen

Ted van Zutphen, 2023
Photo by Hannah Olson

Ted van Zutphen (born Theodore van Zutphen, November 28, 1950, Rotterdam, Netherlands; found dead April 7, 2023 [died about April 5], in his camper near Quartzsite, Arizona, U.S.A.), Dutch-born American road show performer and motor coach operator who began composing haiku on social media platforms about 2010. He gathered his work written in collaboration with and influenced by a Facebook friend, Russian-born New Zealand poet Svetlana Marisova, into a popular book, “Be Still and Know” (2011). Van Zutphen’s address was Ann Arbor, Michigan, before he retired and chose to live full time on the road in his camper/motorhome.

Early Life

Theodore van Zutphen1 was born November 28, 1950, in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and from 1963 to 1967 attended the Erasmiaans Gymnasium, a college preparatory secondary school in that city. In 1967 he transferred to Dalton Hogere Burgerschool (Higher Civic School) in Rotterdam, a preparatory school for students bound for a career in industry and trade. He graduated in 1970, and began two years of studies in architecture at the Delft University of Technology.

From 1972 to 1974 van Zutphen worked at Melkweg, a nonprofit musical venue and cultural center in Amsterdam, before joining the Friends Roadshow. This was a British communal theater group formed from the London Mime Company and Black Theatre Company about 1973 but soon expanded to the Continent, notably Amsterdam (they performed at Melkweg), as well as America and North Africa. A promotional postcard dated about 1974 showed the troupe performing in a modified double-decker bus in an open field. The text on the card read in part, “We perform a variety of lighthearted shows and events to fit any situation, creating an enjoyable, festive atmosphere through a mixture of mime, magic, clowning, puppetry, music, song and dance.”

It seems likely that van Zutphen became involved with Friends Roadshow during his stay at Melkweg and decided to join the troupe and go on the road with them. In any event, he was probably not a principal performer, as he is not named in any of the photo captions or text about the group on the Web.2

Life in the United States

Friends Roadshow split in two about 1976 or 1977 as some American members wanted to return home while others decided to remain working in Europe. At the same time van Zutphen met a young woman from Michigan, Elizabeth N. Kann, and her son Ben, who were touring Europe. One of the principals of the Friends Roadshow, Jango Edwards,3 an American clown, returned home to Detroit, and it seems likely that van Zutphen, Elizabeth, and Ben followed him after stopping over in San Francisco for a short period. Friends Roadshow is known to have performed at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival and other venues in southeastern Michigan from 1973 through 1979.

Ted van Zutphen ,Family photo, ca. 2010, posted on Facebook, April 11, 2023.
Maisie, Ted’s “soul dog,” died just before Ted went on the road.

Three children were born to Ted and Elizabeth in Ann Arbor.4 Ted was employed as a motor coach operator for the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority for 32 years, retiring on October 2010. He was also instrumental in founding the All Nations Football Club, an adult recreational soccer club competing in the men’s and women’s United Soccer League 2. He was an enthusiastic supporter of other sports organizations, including the Netherlands World Cup soccer team, the Detroit Lions and Tigers, and the University of Michigan Wolverines.

Ted van Zutphen was an avid traveler, especially after his retirement.5 He owned a Tiger Motorhome, which he named “Tijger Betsy,” joined the Tiger Motorhome Owners social networking group, and especially enjoyed visiting his children in the western United States. He wintered with a group of like-minded campers in the RV community of Quartzsite in western Arizona.

Activities in Haiku

It is not known what prompted Zutphen’s interest in haiku or when he began recording his compositions, but it seems likely that he was submitting his work to online haiku sites at least as early as 2010.

Van Zutphen’s first recorded published haiku were these two, from the Shiki Internet Kukai for November 2010, kigo section and free-format section respectively:

honking geese
emerge from the mist—
peaceful morning

the old woman weaves
a dreamcatcher

It was also in 2010 that van Zutphen made the acquaintance of Russian-born New Zealand immigrant Svetlana Marisova on Facebook. For a year and a half, until Marisova’s death, the two conducted an intense exchange. Upon her passing, van Zutphen quickly compiled a collection of their posts. He also edited and designed the book, enlisting the help of founding editor of the online journal Simply Haiku, Robert D. Wilson, who had promoted Marisova’s work—as she said, he had been her mentor. They contacted Hansha Teki, a haiku poet, critic, and publisher, who agreed to publish the book, titled “Be Still and Know,” setting up his own Karakia Press in Upper Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand, to do so.

Van Zutphen told of the genesis of the book in his Foreword:

The front cover of
Ted van Zutphen’s collection of haikai with Svetlana Marisova (2011)

This book is the culmination of a year and a half long on-line relationship between Svetlana and me. It started on the so-called “sarcasm pages” of facebook and, through mischief and mayhem, ended up in the world of English language Japanese short form poetry, where it continues to this day even after the passing of Svetlana on September 7th of 2011.

ua wai …
na te kore te po
ki te whai-ao
two waters .. .
from the void flows the night
to the glimmer of dawn

I am so happy I friended this marvelous young woman, who led me into haiku as she was discovering it herself. We grew up together through haiku and after only a few short months the seed of this book was born. It was only a year ago, that we agreed October 2011 was our target date. Unfortunately Svetlana never made it that far, but she did enjoy the first chapter that I put together, before she was called into His love.6

Anatoly Kudryavitsky, reviewing ”Be Still and Know” in his online journal Shamrock, pointed out several shortcomings typical of on-demand publications such as this one: no contents page or index, no page numbers, amateurish design. He was also baffled by the organization of the book, offering van Zutphen’s own explanation:

“In the first three chapters you’ll find Svetlana’s poems on the left pages and mine on the right, with un-noted exceptions in some sequences near the end of the third chapter. The fourth chapter is all Svetlana’s, and the fifth chapter is all my work. In the final chapter I have deviated from all identifying distinctions made to let our story flow. By then I expect the reader will be thoroughly familiar with our different styles that it doesn’t matter anyway.”

Kudryavitsky felt that of the two poets Marisova’s work was superior: “the majority of her poems display a very high standard of haiku writing,” but he identified several haiku of van Zutphen’s as his best in the book:

this snail
taking his shell …

winter dawn—
the crackling of ice
on the old pond

early spring …
feeding my hungry nose
a hyacinth

Kurdryavitsky pointed out an interesting example of personification, an effect he found comical, but not necessarily a bad thing:

winter silence
a squirrel scampers,
stops … and prays7

Francine Banwarth reviewed ”Be Still and Know” for Frogpond and marveled at the two authors’ “journey through love” that resulted in the book. She chose these two haiku of van Zutphen’s as examples:

summer shade …
     a fallen fig 
  shows its flesh

          a grackle,
ruffling its feathers …
          and song8

An unsigned “Briefly Noted” in Modern Haiku allowed that “both poets produce some fine poems … yet both fall into over-sentimentality.” Of van Zutphen’s work, this one was selected as one of the better poems:

                  an ant
carries more than its weight
          morning prayer9
Ted van Zutphen at HNA 2013
aboard the Queen Mary
Photo by Sandra Simpson

Ted van Zutphen joined the Haiku Society of America in August 2011. Soon after the copies of “Be Still and Know” were delivered to him in Ann Arbor, he began a journey around the country in his camper, Tijger Betsy, promoting the book and distributing and signing copies. His odyssey took him to the 3rd Cradle of American Haiku Festival in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, July 20–22, 2012, the First Annual Southeast Haiku Society of America Ginko Haikufest at Lake Guntersville State Park, Alabama, September 28–30, 2012, and Haiku North America 2013—Long Beach, Calif., and probably other gatherings as well. This haiku of van Zutphen’s was selected for inclusion in the HNA 2013 conference anthology:

a doe …
the path through the forest
in her eyes

After the flurry of activity promoting his book, Ted van Zutphen scaled back his haiku publishing activities. He continued to post on Facebook and submitted work occasionally to the Shiki Internet Kukai until that forum closed in 2015. These haiku are van Zutphen’s last on the kukai:

the “to be”
of the bee …
cactus bloom10

desert chill …
a turtle turns

cold snap …
the sudden silence
of cricket song12

the beginning
of her last breath …

perseid shower …
the path i follow
to nothing14

On April 10, 2023, Stephen Bailey (Hansha Teki) wrote on Facebook, “This appears to be Ted van Zutphen’s very last haiku, posted on April 5, 2023“ (i.e., the likely day of his death):

Cherry blossoms …
the eternal silence
between heartbeats

According to his family, in the spring of 2023 Ted van Zutphen was gathering materials for a second book of poems. A celebration of his life was scheduled to take place on August 18, 2023, at Delhi Park North Picnic Shelter, Ann Arbor.

Sources /Further Reading

Work by or about Ted van Zutphen

  • Bailey, Stephen. Post on the Haiku Magic Facebook page, November 28, 2011: https://www.facebook.com/legacy/notes/10150487385103352/.
  • Banwarth, Francine. “Svetlana Marisova and Ted van Zutphen. “Be Still and Know”: A Journey Through Love in Japanese Short Form Poetry.” Frogpond 35:2 (2012), 119. Review.
  • ‘Be Still and Know’: A Journey Through Love in Japanese Short Form Poetry by Svetlana Marisova and Ted van Zutphen.” Modern Haiku 43:2 (Summer 2012), 130. Brief review.
  • Hoarau, Vincent. “Suggestiveness in Haiku Through the Work of Svetlana Marisova.” Haiku Stvarnost / Haiku Reality 8:15 (2011).
  • Marisova, Svetlana, and Ted van Zutphen. “Be Still and Know”: A Journey Through Love in Japanese Short Form Poetry. Upper Hutt, Wellington, N.Z.: Karakia Press, 2011. Available online from Calameo at: https://www.calameo.com/books/001095378a3b3d0efea6c.
  • Montreuil, Mike, and Aubrie Cox, eds. Brambles: Cradle of American Haiku 3. Ottawa: Éditions des petits nuages, 2013.
  • Nikonova, Natasha. “Swan Song: Depth and Mystery in the Poems of Svetlana Marisova.” Simply Haiku 10:1 (2012).
  • Regional News, Ripples: The Haiku Society of American Newsletter 27:3 (November 2012), 12.
  • Kudryavitsky, Anatoly. ”Svetlana Marisova, Ted van Zutphen.“Be Still and Know.” Shamrock 22 (2012): https://shamrockhaiku.webs.com/shamrockno22.htm. Review.
  • “Theodore Vanzutphen Obituary.” Ann Arbor News, July 22–23, 2023. On the website at: https://obits.mlive.com/us/obituaries/annarbor/name/theodore-vanzutphen-obituary.
  • “Obituary: Theodore van Zutphen. Dignity Memorial website: https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/parker-az/theodore-zutphen-11248398.
  • Welch, Michael Dylan, and William Hart, eds. Close to the Wind: An Anthology of Poems Commemorating the 2013 Haiku North America Conference. Sammamish, Wash.: Press Here, 2013. 
  • Welch, Michael Dylan, and Scott Mason, eds.. Fire in the Treetops: Celebrating Twenty-Five Years of Haiku North America. Sammamish, Wash.: Press Here, 2015. 
  • Wilson, Robert D. “An Exegesis of a Haibun Written by the Late Svetlana Marisova.” Simply Haiku 10:1 (2012).
  • Wilson, Robert D. “Svetlana Marisova: The 21st Century’s First English–Language Haiku Master.” Simply Haiku 9:3 (2011).

Periodicals and websites publishing van Zutphen’s haiku

  • Facebook, ca. 2010–2023.
  • Haijinx, 2021. 1 haiku.
  • The Heron’s Nest, 2011. 1 haiku.
  • The Living Haiku Anthology, 2023: https://livinghaikuanthology.com/lha.html. 15 haiku.
  • Mainichi Haiku in English, 2011. 1 haiku.
  • Marisova, Svetlana. Loon’s Laugh: Poetry, Haiku, Haiga, Haibun blog: https://marisova.com.
  • Notes from the Gean, March 2011. 1 haiku.
  • Per Diem Archive (The Haiku Foundation website), September 2013. 1 haiku.
  • Simply Haiku, Spring 2011 and Summer 2011. 9 haiku.
  • Under the Bashō 1.1 (Autumn 2013). 6 haiku.
  • van Zutphen, Ted. Facebook page: https://m.facebook.com/tedvanzutphen/about/.


  • Member, The Four Seasons of Haiku online community
  • Participated in the Shiki Internet Kukai, November 2010–August 2015. 34 haiku.
  • Participated in Haiku North America 2013—Long Beach, Calif.
  • Member, the Haiku Society of America from 2011.
  • Participated in the 3rd Cradle of American Haiku Festival, July 20– 22, 2012, Mineral Point, Wis.
  • Participated in the First Annual Southeast HSA Ginko Haikufest, Lake Guntersville State Park, Alabama, September 28–30, 2012.

Awards and Contests

  • 2012—First Annual Southeast Haiku Society of America Ginko Haikufest, Lake Guntersville State Park, Alabama, The Issa Award for Best Haiku.

Author: Charles Trumbull


  1. In the United States his surname was sometimes spelled Vanzutphen or vanZutphen. []
  2. For example, https://www.unfinishedhistories.com/interviews/interviewees-f-k/robert-hahn-and-jenn-ben-jackov/robert-hahn-and-jenn-ben-jackov-interview-outline/. []
  3. “Jango Edwards.” Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jango_Edwards. []
  4. Elizabeth kept the surname Kann, and the children were legally “van Zutphen-Kann” growing up. Ted and Elizabeth divorced in March 2010. []
  5. After he left Ann Arbor, he used his daughter’s home in West Lafayette, Indiana, as his address for mail, bank business, and camper registration. []
  6. “Be Still and Know,” n.p. []
  7. Kudryavitsky in Shamrock 22 (2012). []
  8. Banwarth in Frogpond 35:2 (2012). []
  9. Modern Haiku 43:2 (Summer 2012), 130. This haiku was originally published in The Heron’s Nest 13:3 (September 2011). []
  10. Shiki Internet Kukai, April 2014 (free-format section, theme: allusion). []
  11. Shiki Internet Kukai, April 2014 (kigo section, theme: slow day. []
  12. Shiki Internet Kukai, September 2014 (kigo section, theme: cricket). []
  13. Shiki Internet Kukai, September 2014 (free-format section, theme: lost and/or found). []
  14. Shiki Internet Kukai, August 2015 (both the kigo section, theme: starlit night, and the free-format section, theme: path). []
Updated on July 29, 2023