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Word S9.2 – From prison to park, a festival of haiku continues anew

On this episode of Word, a Valley resident turns experience as a former prison inmate into a graphic novel.

Plus, addiction to an anti-anxiety drug leads to a debut mystery.

And, the haiku train is still running down the tracks as the KJZZ Annual Haiku Writing Contest keeps on chugging and the beloved Festival of Japan, better known as Arizona Matsuri returns to Phoenix, in person, the last weekend of this month.  

Guest list

Valley resident Jeffrey Kronenfeld is an author and former inmate who draws on his time spent in prison for his new graphic novel, “Dog Years,” illustrated by artist Russ Kazmierczak Jr.

The plot features a small band of anthropomorphic dogs and centers on Kurt, a former drug dealer who gets arrested. The theme asks whether his time behind bars will make him "more of animal or reveal the man he could become," as he faces "violent gangs, sadistic guards and the demons of his past," on the inside.

He said his “relationship to public radio goes way back, as my dad listened to it when driving me to school as a kid and Oregon's public radio was a real lifeline to me while I was incarcerated. I've listened to NPR and its podcasts at work for a long time too.”

Kronenfeld is a journalist, fiction writer, and screenwriter based out of Tempe, where he lives with his wife and cat. He earned an English degree from Arizona State University and has volunteered with community organizations like Four Chambers Press and Iron City Magazine, where he still serves as fiction editor. In 2018, he received a Simon Rockower Award for excellence in news reporting from the American Jewish Press Association.

He opened up from the start with frank discussion about what led to his time served.

Kazmierczak is a Phoenix-based illustrator, artist, writer and performer.

Since 2010, he has published “Amazing Arizona Comics,” which explores Arizona history and current events. It releases monthly and is distributed at comic stores throughout Arizona, as well as directly to fans. He also runs KarakokeFanboy Press. “The Phoenix New Times” declared him the city’s Best Storyteller in 2018.

“The House in the Pines” is a new thriller from  Ana Reyes.

According to a log line for this debut novel, the plot “follows Maya, who is half-Guatemalan and still processing the trauma that her family in Guatemala faced during the country’s civil war, before her father was murdered. [Reyes] uses a cabin and its seductive warm glow to unpack the complicated idea of 'home' and the danger that comes with idealizing nostalgia rather than living in the present. And the most visceral writing in the book describes Maya’s Klonopin withdrawal, a hellish experience that Reyes also experienced after slowly growing dependent on a drug her doctors never warned could lead to addiction."

Reyes described her own Guatemalan heritage, her writing process and how she turned adversity into an advantage.

She holds a MFA from Louisiana State University. Her work has appeared in "Bodega," "Pear Noir!," "New Delta Review," and elsewhere. She lives in Los Angeles where she teaches creative writing to older adults at Santa Monica College.   


Emma Sansone is a drummer with the group Fushicho Daiko and member of the Arizona Matsuri planning committee.

The festival, now in its 39th year, returns in person after a two-year virtual offering. The two-day event will be held at Steele Indian School Park in Phoenix on Feb. 25 - 26. 

Aside from the entertainment and food, the festival also boasts its own haiku contest exposition. 

Sansone described her hand in helping to organize the Arizona Matsuri as well as her participation in it.

This year’s theme is 和 (wa), or "harmony" and entry to the event is free.

While you’re here, enter the KJZZ Annual Haiku Writing Contest, or tell a friend to.

This year’s theme: “ What’s something you want to reset in your life?

Look below in the gallery for some current entries. Our contest runs until Friday, Feb. 24 at noon Arizona time.

Portions of KJZZ’s Word podcast have been nominated for Edward R. Murrow and Public Media Journalists Association awards.

Thanks for listening to and supporting public radio.

Tom Maxedon was the host of KJZZ’s Weekend Edition from 2017 to 2024.