Monday, June 08, 2009

writing haiku, Part 1 of 2

Something different for June: a two part seminar on a poetic genre that’s not that popular in the UK, and is often dismissed as rather lightweight. My own interest in haiku writing began a few years ago and I hope to share some of my enthusiasm with you.

Most people think of haiku as: a short poem arranged in three lines of five, seven and five syllables that has something to do with nature.

These perceptions of haiku come from certain characteristics of classical Japanese haiku that were translated into English during the 19th century. Let’s take a look at those elements:

three lines
The three lines echo the structure of traditional Japanese haiku that were written in three parts, although in Japanese these tended to be written in one vertical line. This was obviously impractical in English… so the three horizontal lines served, and still serve, as an alternative. However, there are contemporary haiku writers who write one, two and four line haiku, although let’s not step too far ahead of ourselves at this point.

syllables
The Japanese language does not have syllables that compare to English language syllables. They have ‘on’, which are closer to our idea of sounds. For example, the word haiku in Japanese has three sounds: ha/i/ku, all of which have an equal amount of weight. So when English translators took Japanese haiku, they counted the ‘sounds’ in a haiku, (some of which were not even words as we know them, but the equivalent ‘sound’ for English punctuation, like a dash or a pause or an exclamation), realised they were composed of 17 sounds, and they subsequently made the translated haiku extend to 17 English syllables. Because of this imposed syllable count, and the 19th style of language, quite a lot of these translated haiku, can feel overstated and too wordy.

A poem, regardless of its form, is a piece of writing where every word has to earn its place. In such an economic form as haiku surplus words really do draw attention to themselves and contemporary practitioners have adopted the idea of ‘free verse’ haiku that will more often than not be less than 17 syllables, sometimes as few as 6. That’s not to say that there aren’t some good haiku around that do have 17 syllables. But that’s because they need that amount of syllables to effectively say what they’re saying and not because of an insistence on the syllable count regardless of content.

nature
More specifically, traditional haiku contain a ‘seasonal’ reference or a kigo. In Japan where haiku is still written and read by millions of people, haiku are still expected to contain ‘seasonal’ references. These references are often multi-layered and contain suggestions of Japanese life, customs and history.

No such expectation is required of English language haiku, although you will find seasonal references in many as a matter of course. Some haiku poets do insist that it isn’t a haiku without a seasonal reference, however, if haiku are written out of our life experience, (the present moment or from memory), then reflections of the season, from icicles to lambs, from barbecues to autumn leaves, will inevitably find their way in.

writing haiku
Martin Lucas, in his book Stepping Stones, an anthology of haiku with commentaries, talks about English language haiku being a completely different animal to Japanese haiku. And I’m inclined to agree with him. And while it is obviously beneficial to study the history of any form, I do feel that reading and examining contemporary English language haiku is more helpful if that’s what you want to write.

The art of writing haiku is centred on simplicity:
+ Saying no more than is absolutely necessary.
+ Using language that does not rely on special effects.
+ Not imposing judgement but letting the reader come to their own conclusion.

The best way to learn about haiku is to read them. And then to write them. And one of the most accessible approaches with which to begin writing haiku is ‘phrase and fragment’ structure – or more simply put, a short bit and a longer bit.

Example 1

snowy night
sometimes you can’t be
quiet enough

John Stevenson
quiet enough

In this haiku the first line contains the fragment and the last two lines contain the phrase. The fragment is an image, and a seasonal reference to winter. The phrase is a statement.

I find it difficult to write really effective haiku that juxtapose image and statement as there’s always the danger that the statement will be too didactic, or that it will direct the reader too much towards the poet’s way of ‘seeing’ things rather than letting the reader come to his/her own conclusions and insights. The use of the 2nd person here is a good choice, I think, as it encapsulates both the poet speaking to himself, and the ‘universal’ you. In addition, the poet has captured a moment that many of us will be able to respond to. This haiku, for me, produces the ‘ah!’ of recognition, but it took this poet’s articulation of the moment to make my response fully conscious.

Example 2

family court
the lawyer’s tie lolls
against his gut

Sharon Dean

Again, the fragment precedes the phrase, yet this haiku has no seasonal reference in it and focuses on a particular aspect of the human experience. It would be easy to dismiss this haiku as purely ‘description’ but a slow and careful reading reveals its subtlety.

The expression in the first line – family court – is very familiar, but it is only when it’s isolated in a piece of art, like this, that we ‘see’ it clearly and begin to think about the conflict it contains. Family should be about love and nurture, shouldn’t it? But a court is a place of battle and dispute. With these ideas in our minds the juxtaposed image of the lawyer becomes even more distasteful: the lolling tie, combined with the soft consonants in lawyer, suggests inactivity, ineffectualness, and the further idea that the only real winners in situations like this are the lawyers.

Example 3

sprinkling her ashes
on rocks at low tide
the long walk back

This is one of mine, written for my mother-in-law. This begins with the phrase in the first two lines and ends with the fragment. There’s no strong seasonal reference but, for me, ‘low tide’ connects the human and natural worlds here, both physically and emotionally, and gives the haiku a sense of place for the reader to experience. And I consciously chose the three long syllables in the last line to underpin the emotion of the haiku.

And finally, a few other things to consider when writing haiku:
+ No titles - the haiku shouldn’t need any kind of introduction.
+ A very light touch with any ‘effects’, e.g. line break, figurative language.
+ The suggestiveness of your language – work with concrete images that are significant not just descriptive.

So, how about attempting a few haiku of your own using the phrase and fragment construction, and juxtaposing either two images, or an image and a statement? I’ll choose a selection to comment on, although if you’d rather nor receive any feedback on anything you post then please let me know.

The second part of writing haiku will appear later in the month.

Happy haiku-ing!

Lynne

68 comments:

Keith Wallis said...

still-born twin
Susan breathing in
emotional verse

Lynne Rees said...

Thanks so much, Keith, for starting the haiku ball rolling.

Your opening line has tremendous power - it's specific. moving, and anchored in a moment. It makes an excellent 'fragment'.

It seems to me though, that there are 3 separate lines to this haiku. I can't read over from line 2 to 3 and make sense of it as one 'phrase'?

A suggestion for your 'phrase': rather than restricting the haiku to one person's experience (through the use of the name) and the explicit statement of the last line, try to think of a more concrete image that can be extended over two lines. Something that could be seen, heard, touched etc at this moment. Something that would resonate with the first line.

Maybe something seasonal - trees, weather, sky? Something outside the room, perhaps. Moving from close up to distance is often an effective contrast.

Take another look at the sample haiku to see what I mean re 'reading over' to the next line. There's a line break, but no 'stop' in the sense of the phrase.

Keith Wallis said...

hmm, fallen at the fisrt fence eh ! And it's only 13 syllables ! Mind you this version still only manages 14 syllables !

still-born twin
a dawn of life ceasing
with opening breath

Lynne Rees said...

Don't worry, Keith! I found haiku to be the most challenging form I've ever attempted.

Okay, you've created a phrase that reads across the two lines. Good.

The problem now is that the phrase is explaining the first line.

'still born twin' has all the emotional power in it without explanation. To me, it already 'communicates' grief, separation, loneliness, silence.

Try and think of 'detail' i.e. something that might have been seen, heard, touched etc to create your phrase.

E.g. a nurse's footsteps echoing down a corridor, a blue teddy with a sown on smile. Can you see how something like that would inform and expand the fragment, but NOT tell the reader how or what to feel?

That's the challenge. Suggest the emotion and ideas without stating, or overstating them.

Good luck.

Keith Wallis said...

This is difficult and I've not cracked it here either:

still-born twin
empty fruitbowl from the shelf
becomes makeshift font

Lynne Rees said...

But this really is an excellent draft, Keith, and the language in the phrase probably only needs some tweaking, for precision and rhythm.

Congratulations. Focusing on the detail in this scene/event lights up this haiku and makes it incredibly moving.

Anonymous said...

(I'll give it a try.)

a car's headlight
on a winter morning -
daybreak

rose bushes
sprawling onto the deck –
sudden shower

white clouds
willow catkins hang
below


Lu

Martin Cordrey said...

march moss
beneath a gutter
broken eggshells

late night café
aimless fish
drift in a bowl

plumb tree
pruned of her fruit
hykers

naked tree
stripped by lightning
crocuses

Lynne Rees said...

Thanks so much for joining in, Lu. I've added some comments below each haiku.

a car's headlight
on a winter morning -
daybreak

There's a nice contrast between the headlight and the unstated sombreness of a winter morning. I'm not sure, as you already have an image of light in the haiku, whether 'daybreak' is the best fragment.

rose bushes
sprawling onto the deck –
sudden shower

Again, an effective contrast between different kinds of movement - slowness and suddeness. I don't get much of an 'ah' feeling to this... but I see the scene clearly.

white clouds
willow catkins hang
below

This one is the one that works least well for me. Maybe it's because the willow catkins can ONLY 'hang/below' clouds, so I feel as if I'm being told too much. But I like the juxtaposition of the clouds and the catkins and the consonance of the w and the c in both lines holds the haiku together well too.

Lynne Rees said...

Hello, Martin - thanks for taking part in the haiku seminar. Comments appear below each haiku.

march moss
beneath a gutter
broken eggshells

I like the way the central line works as a pivot and can be read with both the first and third line. I'm unsure of the significance of 'march' moss, as opposed to any other moss, but there's an interesting contrast between the softness of moss and eggshell shards. And I like the 'story' the haiku suggests to me: a first brood hatched in early spring.


late night café
aimless fish
drift in a bowl

I think the 'late night cafe' sits very well against the fishbowl, but is 'aimless' overstating the idea too much? 'drift' is a strong verb - does the haiku need any more qualification? It's good to focus on concrete nouns and strong verbs when writing haiku, and question the role of any adjectives. This is the one that works the best, for me, and with some tweaking I think it's a keeper.

plumb tree
pruned of her fruit
hykers

I think you mean 'plum'? 'her' fruit? As in the tree's fruit? Or the tree owner's fruit? This one feels too explicit, to me, with the fragment offering an explanation for the phrase in the first two lines.

naked tree
stripped by lightning
crocuses

Once again 'naked' and 'stripped' might be saying the same thing? The contrast of the tree hit by lightening and the spring flowers creates a precise scene, but I'm not getting too much more than that from it.

Anonymous said...

pavements in blossom
past loves meet stirring the breeze
air kisses in tune

echulme@hotmail.com

Lynne Rees said...

Nice to read you here, Eileen, and thanks for posting a haiku.

pavements in blossom
past loves meet stirring the breeze
air kisses in tune

I think that there might be just a little too much going on here. The haiku is breaking into three parts rather than working with a fragment and a phrase that reads over two lines. Perhaps one of the elements could be trimmed/removed to give it a lighter touch?

Is it really the pavements in blossom? Could you be more specific - cherry blossom, apple blossom?

I do like the idea of air kisses - that suggests a lot without having to be explicit. Is it essential to state 'in tune'? Does it give the reader any essential information? Would the haiku still be effective without it?

Looking forward to seeing what you do with this.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lynne
yes I was staying with what I hoped was the more traditional form which I really love.
I'd gone for in tune...to show that even after all this time the past loves were still in tune so to speak.
To trim it I could go for

April blossom
old loves stir the breeze
air kisses

not sure that works with statement phrase? Mmm maybe it does?
Anyway I love the discipline of Haiku and will no doubt come back to this and attempt a few more.
Thanks Eileen

Anonymous said...

city centre rush
street performers entertain
an angel takes flight

echulme@hotmail.com

Thanks Lynne grateful for any comments, a good opportunity to try and work with this form, sorry I've gone for the traditional form again, just because that is what I'm used to attempting.

Lynne Rees said...

Hi again Eileen

Absolutely nothing wrong with sticking to the 5/7/5 syllable form, and I've read some wonderful contemporary haiku written this way.

What I thought might be useful here was the practice of writing in the fragment/phrase (or phrase/fragment) pattern.

To create a phrase, that extends over two lines, with your new version, you could consider:

April blossom
old loves stir the breeze
WITH air kisses

The addition of the preposition 'with' avoids a pause at the end of the middle line, and, for me, allows the haiku to flow more freely and feel less fragmented.

I like the contrast of 'old loves' and 'air kisses' as there's the suggestion that in the past there was so much more between them.

Lynne Rees said...

Hi Eileen,

city centre rush
street performers entertain
an angel takes flight

I presume that the street performers create some kind of angel during their performance?

I wonder if you could re-work the last two lines so we read 'over' the line break, rather than pausing at the end of line 2?

The other thing I wonder about this material is whether it's asking to be more than a haiku? I know that's something I struggle with regularly - trying to capture a scene/moment in a haiku only to realise that there's more I need to say about it.

Sometimes the poet's/narrator's insights and responses are important to an event, because they offer something that needs to be shared. A haiku can't really contain that, but a longer free verse poem has the space to do it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much, Lynne, for your detailed, well thought comments. I find writing Haiku is tricky and it's hard to get that Aha moment. Here's a fix for the third one. See if it's better.

flying in the air
willow catkins disappear
in mama’s hair


Many thanks.

Lu

Anonymous said...

Lynne
Thanks for the helfpul insights.
WITH works well to pull that together. Glad the suggestion of more between them came through, that is what I was aiming for.

Yes the idea was the street performers create an angel. I understand what you are saying about the pause at line 2, I had wondered if it worked and I don't really think it does as you rightly say needs a bit of re working.

Appreciate your comments and your thoughts on Haiku/longer free verse. Love trying though and will keep a close eye on this, this month see if I can gain some precision and something close to a good Haiku, that would be very satisfying if it happened.

Thanks again, Eileen

Lynne Rees said...

Hello Lu.

flying in the air
willow catkins disappear
in mama’s hair

Thanks for coming back to this, Lu.

The haiku might be too much 'all of one thing', and might be more effective for creating a stronger fragment in the first line.

'willow catkins' are a spring kigo, and spring is also associated with wind and breeze. I like the contrast of 'spring' with 'mama' which suggests an older woman, and for some reason I see 'white hair'.

I wonder if you could bring back the clouds? Cumulus or perhaps Cumulonimbus? It might be worth researching to see which ones are likely to appear when there's a breeze.

Something like:

cumulonimbus
willow catkins disappear
in mama’s hair

But that's only an idea for you to think about, and not what the haiku should be. It just serves as an example of how juxtaposing images can suggest ideas: spring and ageing, passage of time, activity.

I think you'll have a strong haiku here.

Keith Wallis said...

summer fruit
children playing soldiers
wasps at attention

Lynne Rees said...

Hi Keith

summer fruit
children playing soldiers
wasps at attention

Some lovely details here, but you've slipped back to a three part poem (which tends to read like a list), rather than a fragment and a phrase that reads across two lines.

Maybe one of the images can go?

Anonymous said...

Chinese characters
depict mood swings on wood chimes
reversing karma

echulme@hotmail.com

Anonymous said...

Hi Lynn,

cumulonimbus
willow catkins disappear
in mama’s hair

wow, this is awesome! I can't think of anything better than "cumulonimbus" or "cumulus clouds", at least for now.

Yes, you are quite right re aging and white hair. And I admit my version is "all of one thing", that needs to be avoided in haiku.

Thank you so much!

Lu

Lynne Rees said...

Hi Eileen

Again, I think this has tremendous potential but it feels a little over-explained at the moment.

Chinese characters
depict mood swings on wood chimes
reversing karma

I wonder if you can somehow get an image of the wind in there, actually moving the chimes so sound is suggested? And perhaps then 'mood swings' could become the fragment?

Some ideas anyway.

Thanks for posting.

Lynne Rees said...

Hi Lu

You have a great haiku here. I'll post details of some journals, paper and online, at the end of Part 2 later in the month that people can think about submitting to.

cumulonimbus
willow catkins disappear
in mama’s hair

Congratulations.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Lynne
lots of possibilties for that, good stuff really enjoying this and thanks for the feedback, immediately I'm thinking

Chinese characters
wafting mood swings on wood chimes
reversing karma

cheers
Eileen

Keith Wallis said...

slight rewrite then

summer fruit
children playing soldiers
in fading grass

Lynne Rees said...

Hi again, Eileen.

Hmmm. The last line still feels too explanatory to me.

Lynne Rees said...

Hello again, Keith.

Yes, you've got the fragment and phrase structure now:

summer fruit
children playing soldiers
in fading grass

Maybe you could lose one of the 'ing's? Because of haiku's economy any repetitions of words, or sounds, can sometimes feel like slips in the language, i.e. not conscious crafting decisions. Perhaps:

summer fruit
children play soldiers
in fading grass

The last line could work with the addition of an article:

in 'the' fading grass.

It might make it read more naturally, although that might vary with colloquial expression.

Congratulations. An interesting juxtaposition here.

anne.kenny said...

secret cache
of empty bottles
a broken promise

Lynne Rees said...

Hello Anne, and thanks for posting:

secret cache
of empty bottles
a broken promise

The phrase/fragment structure is clear here, and there's an element of mystery that I like too.

I'm wondering whether the haiku needs some more specific detail though?

secret cache/empty bottles/broken promise all have a similar register... or it may be the adjective/noun pattern repeated three times that's bothering me a little.

But this is still a competent haiku.

anne.kenny said...

Thanks Lynne - it is really difficult isn't it. I'll look carefully at your comments to see if I can improve it. In the mean time here's another attempt:

her scarred arms
tracing dark memories
of childhood

anne.kenny said...

This is fun!

dregs of wine
in hidden bottles
a broken promise

Martin Cordrey said...

late night café
bloated fish
drift in a bowl

loose moss
beneath a gutter
broken eggshells

Thanks Lynne, ‘the more I learn the less I know’ is so true. You talk about verbs and adjectives etc and I realise I truly understand so little of the craft. Writing by instinct is not enough.

fresh milk seeps
through a new blouse
black coffee

broken ice cream
melts on hot pavement
blurred cars

Keith Wallis said...

abstract shadows
summer shoots a salvo
of sideway glances

Anonymous said...

Going back with some changes...

city centre rush
street performers entertain
no carbon footprint

have I got a phrase/fragment...maybe! Maybe not!

Re the last line of the other effort
reversing karma that's the line I kind of liked best...oh dear, oh dear will have to look at the whole...lots of fun though, thanks Lynne for continuing with feedback and support...Eileen

Anonymous said...

your two hands
a nest of longing hesitation
to hold or be held

laure

JPK said...

In the attic
An old baby monitor
Voices of ghosts

Honeysuckle
Waits inside the gate
to steal my breath

Lynne Rees said...

I can't keep up with you all!! But it's great to read all these posts.

So, one at a time:

For ANNE:

her scarred arms
tracing dark memories
of childhood

This could read as one sentence, but there's also the possibility to pause after line one, so it does conform to the fragment/phrase structure. (Remember, EVERYONE, this is what this prompt it about.)

'tracing dark memories/of childhood' feels too explicitly stated. It's through imagery that we connect to the reader's own experience. Is there a place/an object that could be worked into a phrase to go with this fragment?

For ANNE:

dregs of wine
in hidden bottles
a broken promise

Phrase/fragment - great. I wonder if 'her' or 'his' 'broken promise' might add to the emotive quality of this?

For MARTIN:

As I've seen the first two Martin, I'll comment on the others:

fresh milk seeps
through a new blouse
black coffee

Yes, the structure is sound - phrase/fragment. I'm unsure of the connection between the two parts though. Watch out for the adjective/noun patterning - fresh milk, new blouse, black coffee - it draws a lot of attention to itself in such a short form.

For MARTIN:

broken ice cream
melts on hot pavement
blurred cars

Once again - maybe take a look at the adj/noun patterning and see if it can be relieved somehow. A precise description in the first 2 lines, but I'm unsure of what I should be seeing in the fragment?

For EILEEN:

city centre rush
street performers entertain
no carbon footprint

The phrase is created by two lines that read into each other - and for me, there are 3 parts to this, each line creating its own comment/scene. I'm also unsure what the last line means in relation to the haiku. Perhaps it's too compressed an idea?

Hello LAURE, and thank you for joining in:

your two hands
a nest of longing hesitation
to hold or be held

You have the fragment followed by a phrase - great. The phrase feels too explicitly stated, for me, though. Is there a way to SHOW this rather than TELL it? Something the hands do? Something about them?

JOHN - hi there:

In the attic
An old baby monitor
Voices of ghosts

Phrase followed by fragment - fine. Although the syntax is a little awkward don't you think? Would it be more natural to say:

an old baby monitor
in the attic?

'voices of ghosts' seems too explanatory, for me, perhaps trying too hard to create an atmosphere? I'm sure there's another fragment that would go well here, and perhaps start the haiku with it and let it resonate with the phrase that follows?

And JOHN, again:

Honeysuckle
Waits inside the gate
to steal my breath

You've lost the phrase/fragment or fragment/phrase structure here and it reads as one continual sentence. That's not necessarily a bad thing as some haiku work very well like that. But it's good practice working with fragments and phrases as it teaches us how effective juxtaposition can lift a haiku from description to something more significant.

I look forward to reading more in the next few days.

Lynne Rees said...

Ha - I knew I'd forget someone replying in one long list!

For KEITH:

abstract shadows
summer shoots a salvo
of sideway glances

A sound fragment/phrase structure -well done. 'abstract shadows'? I'm unsure what's meant by this - shadows must come from something/somewhere... I don't know what I should be seeing.

Similarly, I'm not sure what the phrase is saying either, and something more specific that recreates scene would be more effective, I think.

If we're writing from 'life' - either observing what's around us, or remembering an event in the past, then it's an idea to make notes of everything that one can see/hear/touch/taste/smell. The power really is in the details in a haiku.

But we're so conditioned to 'talk around' things, in life and in writing poetry, that it's difficult to get into the habit of being 'simple'... even if that simplicity is deceptive : )

Anonymous said...

here we go, fingers crossed...

amid city rush
street performers entertain
releasing angels

Eileen

Lynne Rees said...

Hi Eileen -

The scene is much clearer now, and I think you could get away with 'city rush' for the fragment in the first line... unless you think that 'amid' is adding something essential that's not communicated if it's taken away?

It seems to me that your desire to keep to a strict syllable count is getting in the way of an economic haiku. So, perhaps:

city rush
street performers entertain
releasing angels

Now let's look at the middle line. 'street performers' suggests that they'll be entertaining the passers-by, so, to me, 'entertain' is redundant. So, perhaps:

city rush
street performers
releasing angels

To me, the haiku is stronger for being trimmed... but that's not to say there isn't a way of writing it in the traditional 5/7/5 format... but beware of redundancies, saying things that don't need to be said.

Thanks for persevering with this and for putting yourself forward for so much feedback.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lynne once again thanks for your thoughts and suggestions, I love haiku and would like to write some good haiku so am happy to persevere as I have done with the 5-7-5, though I can see that there are reasons why it pays to be economic. I'm pleased you thought the scene clearer in this attempt. By way of explanation this is how I got there- I went for amid for that very reason to make the scene clearer, to show that the performers were caught in the midlle of all the rush, entertain because so much comes under the banner of street performer, and the last line I think works now.
I wanted to get the fragment/phrase sorted out.
Thanks again for the detailed comments I've found them really helpful.
cheers
Eileen

Mary Rose said...

Barren now,
bare arms point skyward
Bramley ghost

Keith Wallis said...

Looks like you've opened pandora's box here Lynne. A lot of contributions. Enjoying these conversations.

Anonymous said...

Lynne if you are not too tired...
what a great response to this prompt. I'll give you a break after this one! I did say I love haiku didn't I !!
Hoping the first line is the fragment the other two the phrase.


buses left to pass
lovers stand in the shadows
lengthening the day

Eileen

Lynne Rees said...

Hello, Mary Rose - lovely to see you here:

Barren now,
bare arms point skyward
Bramley ghost

I think you have something worth working on here.

You've got a fragment in the last line, but the first 2 lines could be a more fluid phrase, I think. Rather than having a pause at the end of line 1, there could be a way of reading over the line.

What I'd suggest is that you 'look' at this scene again, and make notes at what you can actually see, not what you think about it (e.g. ghost). And describe it as a tree, not a human being - so possibly 'branches' rather than arms?

Is there something about the sky it reaches towards? Or something about the ground it's planted in?

Perhaps you can switch from close up (the tree) to something in the distance - physical or from memory.

I look forward to reading what you make from this.

Lynne Rees said...

Of course, Eileen. I'm enjoying the posts and really pleased that there's so much enthusiasm to write haiku.

buses left to pass
lovers stand in the shadows
lengthening the day

Yep - a strong fragment/phrase pattern here.

And I really like the image in the phrase too - you're skirting with metaphor here (which can sometimes be too weighty for haiku) but it works here, with the shadows and the lovers 'lengthening the day'. Both nature and the human emotional experience.

And I like that long word on the third line. Your syllable count is supporting what the line has to say.

I'm a little unsure of the 1st line, as it's quite close in subject matter to the phrase, and I think this would shift from a good haiku to an exceptional one if you could find a stronger fragment. Maybe stick with the buses but don't be so explicit, don't explain it.

Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

oh thanks Lynne I feel encouraged by your comment.
I had thought at one point of the first line as

buses pass empty


I'll see if I can come up with anything else. Anyway thanks again.
Have a fine evening.
Eileen

anne.kenny said...

Thanks for your feedback Lynne - I can see what's wrong with them once you tell me!

I've added 'his' to this one:

dregs of wine
in hidden bottles
his broken promise

and I've tried again with the other - still not sure that it works though:

cutting her flesh
his reeking breath
vanishes

Keith Wallis said...

fragment
a moment of delight
smiles from the photo

Kay Dawson said...

Hi Lynne,
Thought I'd give this a go using colour as my starting point.

yellowed faces in the hospice ward
outside
daffodils

Candy-pink sunrise -
by the roadside
one red shoe

A shuttered room
red geraniums spill
from her window-box

Lynne Rees said...

Hello again, Anne. Firstly:

dregs of wine
in hidden bottles
his broken promise

This works well, I think. It's a moment captured along with a realisation in that moment.

cutting her flesh
his reeking breath
vanishes

This, on the other hand, feels too internalised (the phrase belonging firmly in the mind of the character) to be really effective as a haiku, though it has potential, possibly as a short poem. There's a five line poem called a tanka, and this could be exactly the right material ... but another day for that!!

Lynne Rees said...

On to your haiku, Keith:

fragment
a moment of delight
smiles from the photo

Hmmm. I'm confused! Does this mean you're yet to find a fragment, or the first line is 'fragment'?!

The phrase is a little too telling, I think. It explains what the reader should feel, rather than showing them the delight through some specific detail.

Perhaps there's a way you can work on that?

And yours, Kay - thanks for joining in.

yellowed faces in the hospice ward
outside
daffodils

Perhaps the line-breaks have been spoiled in the posting:

yellowed faces
in the hospice ward
outside daffodils??

Is that right?

Perhaps the link between the the faces and the daffodils is too explicit, but I think there's a haiku here, and without too much tweaking.

Candy-pink sunrise -
by the roadside
one red shoe

Again - the link between the colours a little too explicit. You could have:

sunrise
by the roadside
one red shoe

...which has a mystery to it that I like. How about you? By saying just 'sunrise' you leave the reader to create their own picture too.

A shuttered room
red geraniums spill
from her window-box

This is the one that works the best for me - the contrast of closure and expansion work well with each other. You might be able to drop the article from the first line:

shuttered room
red geraniums spill
from her window-box

Lovely imagery you've captured in all three of these though. Congratulations.

Kay Dawson said...

Thanks for the helpful comments. now bitten by the bug. Seeing haiku everywhere

Keith Wallis said...

seem to be taking one step forward and two back....another try:

fragmented
a moment of memory
echoes in the photograph

anne.kenny said...

Thanks for the comments Lynne - it's great to get such instant feedback.

Lynne Rees said...

Glad you're enjoying the haiku class, everyone.

Keith:

fragmented
a moment of memory
echoes in the photograph

Ah well - steps forward and back are part of any creative process. Not to worry.

This is still 'telling' and not 'showing'. If you're thinking of a particular photograph then make some notes on what you're seeing, and what memories, specifically, it arouses. With 'details' you have the basis for a haiku.

Martin Cordrey said...

breast milk
through her blouse
single espresso


silver birch
stripped by lightning
daffodil clumps


plum tree
pruned of blossom
solitary bee


ice-cream
melts on hot pavement
zebra crossing

anne.kenny said...

orchid in bloom
my daughter's eyes
meet mine

Mary Rose said...

Hi Lynne, thank you so much for your very helpful comments, using your advice I've made a second effort but have also tried a different subject as you suggest.

Honeysuckle and ivy thrive among its blackened branches
Dead Bramley

Heat becomes unbearable flames
eat hungrily as dead twigs crackle
Bonfire dies.
Mary Rose.

Martin Cordrey said...

Your head
on my shoulder
me reading


clap of thunder
overgrown canal mirrors
stray dog


afternoon cloud
eclipses factory smoke
gideon moon


derelict mill
lashed by rain
parked Mercedes

Martin Cordrey said...

conundrum - haiku appears to describe the briefest moment in two lines like the fragment of a second a butterfly takes flight, and yet contrast it with a single line of profound meaning. How can something so simply be so difficult?

Lynne Rees said...

MARTIN:
Thanks for posting your haiku again, though with the second lot that appears below too there's a few too many for me to comment in detail. So I've chosen just a few. Hope that's okay.

plum tree
pruned of blossom
solitary bee

This has a lonely, yet gentle effect - the single bee on a tree with no blossom. You might want to think about adding articles to avoid the haiku being too staccato. We're after economy but still natural expression. So, perhaps 'a' solitary bee? Or/and 'the' plum tree?

Your head
on my shoulder
me reading

Maybe a little too flat?

clap of thunder
overgrown canal mirrors
stray dog

I found the middle line a tad confusing when I first read it - reading 'mirrors' as a noun... perhaps that's me. Again, think about articles. Perhaps that would allow the haiku to read more clearly too? This is precise in its imagery, but I'm unsure of what it's saying?

afternoon cloud
eclipses factory smoke
gideon moon

This has potential. I don't know what a 'gideon moon' is? And maybe you need an image that juxtaposes more strongly with the wispiness of cloud and smoke?

derelict mill
lashed by rain
parked Mercedes

You're proving to be a sharp recorder of detail, Martin. (Think about articles again, though.) Haiku are difficult to do well, and there are some people who say that the recording of physical details is enough and that one shouldn't try and impose meaning. But I actually do want my writing to mean something, to me and other people. With this haiku, I'm not getting any particular meaning. What is it saying to you?


Hello, ANNE:

orchid in bloom
my daughter's eyes
meet mine

Beautiful! Effortless, subtle - the fragment and phrase work really well together.


Hello MARY ROSE:
Honeysuckle and ivy
thrive among its blackened branches
Dead Bramley

Heat becomes unbearable flames
eat hungrily as dead twigs crackle
Bonfire dies.

There's strong detail in both of these, but I think they lack a sense of contrast, and could be far more economic. You could use the following for a phrase:

honeysuckle and ivy
in the dead bramley

and add a fragment (either before it, or after it) that moves away from this scene to create a contrast - perhaps something more human?

Similarly, take another look at the 2nd one and see where you can pare away at the language. And how you can create a contrast with something outside of the bonfire.

Thanks so much, everyone, for all the posts. I'm now preparing the second part of the seminar, (so won't be able to give any more feedback, for now) and will put that up in a couple of days. In the meantime, I'll post an exercise to practice the phrase fragment structure.

donna said...

I just recently found you....hope to join in

hot days of summer
fields of lucious strawberries
call to mind my youth

Lynne Rees said...

Hello Donna - thanks so much for posting at AppleHouse. The haiku seminars have come to an end, but I can let you have some feedback on this one:

hot days of summer
fields of lucious strawberries
call to mind my youth

Memory and the senses work effectively together here, and you're working well with the fragment and phrase structure too.

For me, the middle line is a bit over-stated with 'luscious', though I can see that you need two syllables to retain the 5/7/5 format you've decided to work with.

Other critics would argue that 'hot' is redundant as 'summer', within the haiku world, automatically suggests heat, but I quite like the first line.

'call to mind my youth' feels a little too vague for me, and particularly as it's the last line, perhaps it should be stronger. A reversal of line 1 and 3 could solve the problem, whereby you finish with 'hot days of summer', but you'd need to re-work the syntax.

Hope that's of some use.

donna said...

thank you so much for your feedback especially taking the time when the session was over...much appreciated. I've already re-written it a few times in my head!

blessings
donna

Alan Summers said...

.
What a great start to Lynne's 'writing haiku'!

I'm very impressed.

As Lynne says, haiku are incredibly difficult at times to write yet are at the same time the easiest looking of poems. ;-)

For ease of clarity I should say that the word 'haiku' is both the singular way to spell, as well as being the plural way to spell it, just think 'sheep' and how odd it looks to say or write 'sheeps'. ;-)

Although 'haiku' isn't a FORM but a genre, it's more difficult than any Western poetry form, and there we have the nub, it's a non-Western type of poetry where we don't go for a story and/or put everything into it.

The more we leave out of haiku the more it says, sounds impossible? Well, it very nearly is, but a great discipline for other kinds of writing, and worth sticking with.;-)

all my best,

Alan