What an amazing response to the first haiku seminar and prompt. You’ve all re-inspired me too and once again I find myself making notes for haiku as well as ‘seeing’ fragments of them throughout the day... just like you, Kay.
The second part of the seminar will ask you to think about writing haiku in a different format, but before we move on to that, let’s just recap on some general aspects of writing haiku:
say no more than is absolutely necessary; question the role of every word.
avoid overstatement, decorative language, explanations.
use concrete imagery that is capable of suggesting more than its literal meaning; allow meaning and idea to emerge from the details.
write from your own experience, your insights, observations, memories.
‘Light touch’ is a good expression to keep in mind as an overall guide to writing haiku - with language, punctuation (is it really needed?) and the effects of line-break.
However, you won’t have to worry about line break in this half of the seminar as we’ll be looking at one line haiku, or single sentence haiku.
Take a look at this one by Jim Kacian, a master of the one line haiku:
a last glint of sunlight from each polished headstone
(originally published by White Lotus, Winter 2006)
When I read this haiku the language propels me (albeit gently) from the beginning to the end of the line. There’s no sense of pause within the line and the image, although divided into two parts (sunlight and gravestone) is all of one thing. It’s the kind of scene that we notice in a split second, with no sense of division, no conscious realisation that we’re aware of the sunlight before we notice it glinting against the stone. A moment perfectly captured.
This ‘oneness’ is what makes it, for me, an effective one line haiku.
Now take a look at another one by w.f. owen:
spring rain drips from the still naked tree
This can be read in two parts:
rain drips from the still naked tree
or as a single sentence with ‘spring rain’ as the subject and ‘drips’ as the verb. And it can also be read with a pause after ‘spring rain’, with drips acting as a noun. But the overall image still feels contained within a single theme. There’s no strong juxtaposition that we were exploring in the phrase and fragment structure.
Here’s one of mine that was published on tiny words last year:
all this green forgiving the rain
I enjoyed playing with different pauses in this haiku: after ‘all this’, or ‘all this green’, or even, ‘all this green forgiving’, but I also wanted the reader to have a single experience of rain and spring time, to be submerged in a single experience, so the one line haiku was a better option than splitting into two or three lines that would direct the reader where to pause.
So, to recap on these one line haiku:
propulsion: language that drives you to the end of the line with the single line seeming essential to what the haiku is saying, what it has captured.
multi-reading: pauses that are not marked through punctuation but which can be applied at different points in the line to suggest different meanings and/or relationships.
You’ll notice that I haven’t attempted to interpret or suggest meaning in either Jim Kacian’s or w.f. owen’s haiku. There are things that they suggest to me but I’d prefer you to have your own responses rather than be influenced by mine.
Haiku are quiet poems and it’s true that we can sometimes feel they’re not saying much, or anything at all. That can be due to the way we read them, or the mood we read them in, or even to our expectations of what they should be doing. And sometimes, it’s just a case of a particular haiku not being the poem for us. But there are plenty more haiku that will speak to us.
I hope you enjoy playing with this form and if you can restrict yourself to posting one at a time that will make it easier for me to respond.
Looking forward to reading your work.