MUKILTEO — Steve K. Bertrand is a teacher and track coach by day.
He’s a writer 24/7.
Words fill his head when he is running, gardening, eating, driving and dreaming.
“Some people knit, some play guitar. I like to play around with words,” he said. “I write a little bit every day. It adds up. It’s like pulling weeds in the yard.”
Bertrand, 62, has written 20 books on everything from history to haiku.
About 10 books of poems were self-published this year, wrangled from scraps of notebook paper stored in boxes in his attic.
His wife, Donna Marie, provided the encouragement that the poems should be seen by more than moths and mice.
“My wife said, ‘You wouldn’t bake a cake and not eat it,’ ” Bertrand said.
“In December, I went up into the attic and started mission impossible,” he said. “I started pulling everything out and bundling it into piles of likeness around various themes.”
Now he has his cake and he can eat it, too — and so can you. His 200-page haiku books are on Amazon for $20 and have 1,000 poems.
The way he sees it: “If it were doughnuts, getting 1,000 for 20 bucks is a pretty good deal.”
He scores either way.
“If I make enough from a reading and a signing for my wife and I to go to dinner and a movie, it’s been a good night,” he said. “I didn’t get into it to be Ernest Hemingway, or for fame and fortune. It’s a way to preserve an experience and make sense of it.”
His poetry books reflect observations and interactions of everyday life, nature and nurture.
“A Thousand Miles” is a haiku collection about everything from midnight snacks and Buddha to traffic jams and his wife (it’s dedicated to her).
“To the Mountain’s Peak” is about his experiences tied to the geography, geology, flora and fauna of regional mountains. “Into the Cavern” explores themes about the sea, sky, mountain and forest in the Pacific Northwest.
Other poetry books compiled in 2017 include: “Between the Tides,” “Tell Me, Moon,” “The Book of Fours,” “Warriors and Peacemakers” and “Dead Reckoning and Other Sea Poems.”
“As the Crow Flies” has a variety of poetry forms, all on the subject of crows.
“I have always been fascinated with them; they are my favorite bird,” Bertrand said. “I find them very intelligent and creative, and get a kick out of watching them and tying their mannerisms to people. When I watch the way they act and behave with people and other crows and critters such as squirrels, a face comes to mind, a person.”
Most of his haiku poems do not follow the traditional format of 17 syllables in three lines metered in a 5-7-5 count. He keeps it to three lines, but doesn’t count syllables.
However, he adhered to the Japanese form when he entered Arlington’s Eagle Festival Haiku Contest.
His haiku won first place in the 2017 adult division:
with three crows harassing him
I’ve had days like that
“Writing is good for the soul,” said Bertrand, a special ed, music and physical education teacher at Cascade High School in Everett, where he has coached track and cross-country for 43 years.
His history books, “Mukilteo” (2011) and “Paine Field” (2014), are part of the Images of America series. In the works is a book called “Modern Everett” and another with vignettes about growing up in the neighborhood of Eastmont.
“I’m never short of things to write about. I like writing about the places where I’ve lived,” he said.
His writing tools have changed over time.
“In the old days it was on a bar coaster and slips of paper at the gas station and receipts at the grocery store — whatever you find so you don’t lose the moment,” he said.
Sometimes, while running, he’d stop in businesses to borrow a pen to jot down his jolt of brilliance.
“Now I carry my cellphone and type the poem into my phone. I did that yesterday with three poems,” he said.
“My record is 63 haiku while driving from Everett to Lake Chelan.”
From “A Thousand Miles”:
Traffic jam —
only mouths pressed to phones
That pretty girl
passing by — even the dahlias
turn their heads…
Autumn sky —
wild geese hurrying
to catch up with their honking
Midnight snack —
a turkey sandwich,
mustard on my belly button