Poetry, Haiku Style: A Simple Way to Paint Pictures with Words
I use a diary app on my phone (Journey–Diary Journal) to write a haiku about my day as the last thing I do each night. I title each entry, Haiku My Day, and I enjoy this daily challenge. When I was in school, I hated it (like so many others) but now it’s one of my favorite forms of verse because of the simple format and forced focus. When I first taught it to my writer’s group, they groaned like I was one of the elementary teachers they remembered forcing this non-rhyming poetry on them as children–until the class was over. Then, they understood the following list of things writers can learn from creating haiku.
As a result of writing haiku…
- You will be more apt to notice, or be aware of, the present moment, (something important for every writer);
- You will realize the POET-ential (potential) of each moment for settings to be used in stories and articles.
- You can recapture some of the keen and vivid perception you had when you were young and everything was new and wonderful and worthy of further investigation, or at least of telling the world around you about. (Which is why we become writers in the first place, right?)
- You will have a heightened and deepened appreciation of life & nature, and how to paint them with word pictures.
Let’s begin with an answer to the question: What is haiku?
Haiku are Japanese in origin but have made their mark in American poetry where they traditionally consist of seventeen syllables, written in three lines that are usually divided into 5, 7 and 5 syllables, respectively. In Japanese haiku, there is always a nature theme. To express this, each haiku will use what is called a kigo (season word) to indicate the season in which the Haiku is taking place. For example, flowers & butterflies can indicate spring; snow & ice, winter; mosquitoes & lightning bugs, summer; and multicolored leaves, autumn. But in writing Americanized haiku, no topic is off limits.
Matsuo Basho, (1644-1694), considered the greatest master of this form of poetry, said the poet should write directly from his own experience and should try to seek the deeper, inner life of the subject or moment’s activity. He stated, “Learn of the pine from the pine: learn of the bamboo from the bamboo.” It is important to use your first impression, exactly as it was when you write about subjects taken from daily life.
Here’s a haiku I wrote the day I created the first lesson. For my examples, I’ll put the syllables in parentheses after each line. See if you can determine where I was while preparing.
…Quiet all around, (5)
…Just a whisper here and there; (7)
…People reading books. (5)
You likely figured out I was in a library. Now, here’s a set of haiku (called a renga) I wrote for the four seasons. See if you can figure out which season is represented by each.
…A cup of cocoa, (5)
…Flames blaze in a fireplace; (7)
…I am warmed inside. (5)
…New blossoms on trees, (5)
…Pink, white, purple, and yellow; (7)
…Generate new life. (5)
…The sidewalk is hot, (5)
…I do not have shoes to bear it; (7)
…I walk on the grass. (5)
…Feeding time is done, (5)
…The green has left the trees; (7)
…Look at the colors. (5)
I have plenty more, but now it’s your turn. Here are some suggested haiku exercises.
- Look around you right now and write one or more haiku about something you see. Think of it like playing twenty questions and answer some of the base questions. Then, see if someone else can figure out what you’ve written about.
- Write your own set of four three-line verses describing the four seasons.
- Think of two things that are opposites of each other: trust and fear; peace and war; rich and poor; tall and short; loud and quiet; hard and soft, etc. Now write a haiku that shows their differences. Try to get it into one three-line verse. Choose new opposites to write more verses. Here’s an example of an opposite haiku…
…Heat waves in the air, (5)
…Icicles aim for the ground; (7)
…Opposite seasons. (5)
- Think of two things that are like each other or that complement each other: faith and trust; peace and quiet; rage and violence; water and liquid; silk and satin; music and lyrics; etc. Write a haiku to draw attention to their similarities.
- Write about the most beautiful thing you can ever remember seeing. Make it visual enough for others to clearly see the same thing in their minds. If you’re tossed, don’t worry. Just write more than one haiku.
Try this form of writing to bring focus to a character or subject you may be struggling with. If you write a haiku you are willing to share, please comment on this post and let others see it. I’m excited to see what my readers might share.
Well, now it’s Wednesday (at least it still is for me since I am not an early to bed person even when I’ve been earlier to rise), so it’s time for Wordy Winsome Wednesday. On this weekly post, I will talk about writing or my writing and whatever that entails. Maybe I’ll talk about grammar, maybe my struggles with formatting and submitting, or maybe I’ll share excerpts from longer pieces. For this week, I want to share some of the ideas I’ve come up with for branding. More than that, I earnestly seek your opinions on these ideas, so I can finally create a brand from which to focus on future projects and marketing.
My problem with branding (and so many other things in life) is all about my eclectic tastes and personality. I don’t seem to fit into any of the usual molds. I write poetry, haiku, novel-length fiction, short stories, articles, lyrics, haiku, devotions, Bible studies, and have a couple books I’d like to do about bands. Oh, and I’ve got an old project for Christian writers that I’m getting ready to revive. In addition to writing, I edit, photograph, create graphic designs (like wallpaper and kaleidoscopes), do web design, and run a writer’s group. If I added all the work experiences in my life, this post would get way too long.
So, how do I create a brand when my creative desires are all over the map? You might say pick a favorite, but most of them are favorites and all of them have probably been a favorite at one time or another. On my business cards, I finally opted for the following line: “Writer–Editor–Creative Mind” and I added the words in the logo above. I was told by an agent at a conference that “The Lord is My Editor, I Shall Rewrite” is not actually a brand, and she came up with “Stories that Need to be Told” as an option. Most everyone in the group liked that one, but I found it used quite a bit when I did research.
All this brings us to my own brainstorming. I have come up with 10 possibilities in addition to the one from the agent. I created a poll that will allow readers to choose up to three favorites, so I could use a weighted voting technique to help select a favorite. Would you please choose your favorites, and/or add your own suggestions, to help this eclectic gal toward a final brand? In addition, you are welcome to comment on your choices and your suggestions. Thanks so much, and I truly appreciate all comments and ideas.
Monosyllabic is a five-syllable word that defines words of one syllable. Only in the English language, right? But, if you’re like me and like rhythmic poetry like haiku, you might count syllables in words just for fun. For example, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious has 14 syllables, even if it is a made-up word. If you want a real word, there is a word for a lung disease that has 19 syllables, but I’ll let you do that research for yourselves. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, in the urban dictionary, monosyllabic is actually a word that means “lame” or “boring.”
In an effort to keep this post from being lame, I’m going to challenge readers to write a monosyllabic piece. In other words, create a paragraph or story made up of only one-syllable words. You can keep it to yourself, or you can share it in comments for me to read. I prefer the latter. Just to make it fair, I will share a quick one-syllable story, and this one even includes a cat just to match the image above. Here goes…
High noon, when the sun sits at the top of the sky, is too hot to work, but there is so much work to be done. But how can I work when life will not yield its strength to me. I need strength. I need hope. I feel the pain of my loss as it digs a hole in my heart. It makes me weak. I am bound by it, and I can’t do a thing to make it set me free. It haunts me. It taunts me with its knock, knock, knock at my brain.
I watch the cat curl up in a warm spot of sun on the floor, and I wish I were a cat. Not that cat’s lives are filled with ease. I know they are not when I watch them sleep and dream of that cat and mouse chase where they may win or they may lose. But when one has just sensed a great loss, it makes me think it would suit me more to just lie down and sleep.
There are dreams I would like to keep in the depths of my heart, and there are dreams I would like to share. But gone are the dreams I think could come true for me since my new dream is now gone. And it would have worked so well. But, like the cat and mouse game, the thought was there when I went to sleep, but when I woke up, it was gone. So it seems best now to lie in the sun and take a nap like the cat does each day at noon. It could be that as I sleep, my dreams will wake in me once more.
In case you don’t get the hidden subject, I don’t want to leave you thinking this is a negative story. It’s just about those ideas that you think about when you lie down to sleep, or dreams you have in the middle of the night. You are so sure you will remember the idea or dream, so you don’t write it down. And then, when you wake up, it’s all gone. You then hope that it will come back to you the next time you sleep. If it doesn’t, you write a story about it just to have something to feed your muse. 🙂
Now it’s your turn, and I hope you share.
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