Saturday, April 30, 2016

Haiku A to Z: Z is for Zoom In

photo google images
"...look out your window and describe what you see. Try to 'zoom in' on a small detail that contains the feeling of the larger scene." --How to Write a Haiku Poem: Haiku Examples and Tips

Zoom in. This pretty much sums up what haiku has come to mean to me as this Haiku A-Z Challenge comes to a close. Of course, in the language of haiku, the zooming technique is only one of many (as noted with Ms. Reichhold's article, quoted in my T is for Technique post) but for me the idea of zooming in has come to simply mean awareness. Awareness in the moment. Seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling. Experiencing. Connecting. Appreciating. Living.

Zoning in, not zoning out. With a little zest here, a little zip there.

Interestingly, we've come full circle in the challenge: A is for Ancient (day one)...Z is for Zoom In and A is for Awareness.

I've sure had fun on this project, and I've learned zillions of things. I give a shout out to all those who ventured by and especially to those who added to the conversation. I've learned from you, too.

So, before I go (with the intent to catch up on extra zzzzz's as a reward for making it all the way to the end), I share one more haiku, day twenty six:

a to z challenge...
mister bluebird, come on in
--Kenda Turner

Friday, April 29, 2016

Haiku A to Z: Y is for You

archive 2012
"Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!"--Dr. Seuss

Haiku is a lot of things: sensory, evocative, a moment, an image, a feeling, a mood. But at the end of the day it all really comes down to you. What resonates with you. What meaning is in it for you. What joy and/or fulfillment do you receive from it. What do you have to offer a reader.

You. Haiku will expand the world you live in. 

At the beginning of the A-Z Challenge, the day of the reveal, I wrote: "Haiku for me is a writer's prompt, a word-lover's playground, and an invitation to see things in a new light...I'm a student, still learning and experimenting, so the subject continues to take me on a path of discovery." After almost twenty-six days (one more to go!) I still feel this way. I also have found that haiku is a gift, helping to open my eyes and heart to more around me.

Hopefully it will do the same for you. Maybe you'll say yes and give it a try, too?

Still uncovering the gift with day twenty-five haiku:

yesterday's barn sighs
as bumblebee rides echoes...
flower seeds snatch dream
--Kenda Turner

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Haiku A to Z: X is for Xenia

photo courtesy pixabay
"Xenia (Greek: xenia, translated 'guest-friendship') is the ancient Greek concept of hospitality, the generosity and courtesy shown to those who are far from home and/or associates of the person bestowing guest-friendship. In Latin it means 'gifts.'" --wikipedia

Well, this might be a stretch (with a nod to those friends who questioned how I would handle the letter -x- in relation to haiku)  since there are no references I can find connecting my challenge theme to the concept of xenia, but I will go out on a limb and make that connection.* I suggest that we blend a bit of the Japanese tradition of writing haiku to the Greek concept of hospitality. Haiku can easily offer up a genial [(adj) smiling, friendly, cheerful, kindly], xenial [(adj.) having to do with hospitality] approach to the craft.

For example, haiku's xenia welcomes and invites the reader to an image, a moment, often a calmness, or even good conversation. Haiku, though not generous with words, is generous in spirit. Haiku opens a xenial door and promotes a feeling of wanting to return and is its own version of a personal gift. My vote is for xenial haiku!

On another note, there is a town just fifty miles up the road from where I live. It's name? Xenia. On April 3, 1974, an F-5 tornado tore through the heart of the town, killing 32 people and heavily damaging or destroying over 1200 homes. I remember the night vividly. Though not hit by a tornado ourselves, the night was frightening enough--black skies, high winds, torrential rains, hailstones the size of golf balls. I was in the house alone at the time and our baby was only two months old. Memories stirring, I offer day twenty-four haiku:

Xenia, Ohio...
maniac cloud silences
--Kenda Turner

*A few days after posting this, I did find a quote that makes a connection to haiku and hospitality! Speaking on the subject of objectivity in haiku, Michael Dylan Welch (here) writes, "Thus, it's helpful for us to draw back, to be aware of when 'we' (the self, the ego) intrude too much in our poetic descriptions. It's a sort of poetic graciousness (emphasis mine), where the poet is a good host for the reader's emotional reactions, enabling them to flower where they will."

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Haiku A to Z: W is for Worthwhile

photo archive 2013
"As with any art, your first attempts may not be the most successful, but it's worthwhile to persist in learning and studying haiku, because few poetic forms manage to capture life's joys and pleasures (and also its sadnesses) as well as haiku." --nahaiwrimo, "Why 'No 5-7-5?'"

Worthwhile--a great word in describing haiku. Nancy Strauss at Creative Writing Now, says it this way: "A haiku uses just a few words to capture a moment and create a picture in the reader's mind. It is like a tiny window into a scene much larger than itself."

Oh, the -W-words: worthwhile...window... add the process itself, writing! Maybe sprinkle a bit of wisdom? Haiku can offer all of these and more.

For example, what about wit? After all, humor can also factor into the craft. Although wittiness is not one of my strengths in writing, I appreciate it when I see (or hear) it. Thus I can't resist sharing the following haiku I've found along the way:

"To convey one's mood
in seventeen syllables
is very diffic"--John Cooper Clarke

"The only problem
with Haiku is that you just 
get started and then"--Roger McGough

And what about this one, reportedly seen on a t-shirt:
Haikus are easy
But sometimes they don't make sense.

(typed with a chuckle!)

Wandering on in the world of haiku, I pause with day twenty-three haiku:

bubbles ricochet
on rush to falls...splash! weary
feet soak in the sound
--Kenda Turner

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Haiku A to Z: V is for Variation--and Venture

a favorite 2014
"There are many variations of haiku, but all haiku are small poems. Some forms count syllables, others don't. Some are written in variations of longer and shorter lines--others are simply limited by the overall number of syllables." --Haiku Journal

Does the idea of variation--so many varying styles and approaches--in haiku put up roadblocks to your attempts to write this type of poetry and cause you to veer away before even giving it a chance? Here comes my pep talk--don't be afraid to venture into the world of haiku!

Simple exercises can help get you started. One idea I particularly like:

"Try to write a haiku--or several haiku. Before you do, go to a natural setting and study a specific area. Visually create a circle thirty feet in diameter, and keep your eyes trained on that spot. When your observation connects with a specific movement, write our opening line. The movement may carry you through two lines, or just one. Either way, look for the juxtaposition in the relationship--aging willow/image unsteady--and use the rest of your haiku to write it out. Write sparsely and with precision. When you've completed your written observation, hone it to a 5-7-5 syllable count but leave nothing essential out." --"Experience the World Precisely" at Poetry Through the Ages

Charles Trumbull, editor of Modern Haiku has said, "Haiku, like other forms of poetry, are vehicles for transmitting meaning." Using haiku as a vehicle we come to day twenty-two haiku:

violet face sweet
quietness tucked in the grass...
smiles pass hand to heart
--Kenda Turner

Monday, April 25, 2016

Haiku A to Z: U is for Unfinished, Unique

at the park 2013
"Because of its brevity, haiku can say only so much. Yet it really does say so much. It does this by relying on implication, on what is not said. No wonder haiku has been called an 'unfinished' poem. The reader must finish it, bringing his or her own experience into the picture. The poem itself makes the most of this expectation by focusing on the universal in the particular, and the particular in the universal. A haiku makes us aware of what we already know, but may not know that we know." --Michael Dylan Welch, Ten Ways to Improve Your Poetry with Haiku

Unfinished poetry...universal in the particular...particular in the universal. Unusual definitions but quite apt considering all the qualities of haiku.

Might we also add the word unique? A unique form of poetry, a unique group of poets, each haiku poem written unique in its own right.

On the surface, a simple form of poetry--unhurried, unruffled. But unfolding the layers, often profound. So, yes, unique.

Sometimes we miss the mark, but the upshot is that the journey is the best part of it all. And so contributing to the discussion once more, day twenty-one haiku:

under cobalt sky
young boy chasing raft of ducks...
shoreline undulates
--Kenda Turner

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Haiku A to Z: T is for Techniques and Tips

photo archives 2013
"I felt rescued when I came across Aware--a haiku primer written by hand and illustrated by Betty Drevniok...I came away with her precept: 'Write [haiku] in three short lines using the principle of comparison, contrast, or association.' On page 39 she used an expression I had been missing in the discussion of haiku when she wrote: 'This technique provides the pivot on which the reader's thought turns and expands.' Technique! So there are tools one can use! I thought joyfully." --Jane Reichhold, Haiku Techniques

The feelings expressed by Ms. Reichhold (above link) have probably been relived many times over by writers of haiku through the years. We finally find out we've not been left alone in our efforts--there are guidelines to help us, tips and advice on techniques.  And her essay is one of the best on the subject.

In it she expands beyond the ideas of comparison, contrast and association to include some twenty additional techniques. Among other things, her list includes: riddle, sense-switching, narrowing focus, sketch, and word-plays. If you are interested in writing haiku, you might check out the link.

Mark Blasini, in Five Techniques for Writing Haiku, expands on the idea of technique with these subjects: what-when-where, juxtaposition, unfolding, zooming, and sketch from life.

Michael Dylan Welch, in Ten Ways to Improve Your Poetry with Haiku, has compiled an even different list. His includes:  focus on concrete images, come to your senses, control objectivity and subjectivity, and distinguish between description and inference.

And there's more! Ms. Reichhold goes from techniques and tips to a discussion on rules: Haiku Rules That Have Come and Gone, Take Your Pick. It appears that Pablo Picasso, to whom the quote "learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist" is attributed, could have been speaking of haiku, too.

Tremendous treasures have been uncovered the last few days with more to go. As we travel on this journey, I share this day twenty haiku:

teasel cones aim at
far field galaxies...cargo
stands at the ready
--Kenda Turner

(note, update: I first posted this with my haiku reading: 'thistle cones...' until I realized my photo is not of thistles! It took some research to learn they are called 'common teasels.' What, who knew? After all these years of calling them thistles. Amazingly, for this challenge, the correct name also starts with a -t-!)

Friday, April 22, 2016

Haiku A to Z: S is for Smorgasboard

in woods 2014
"smorgasboard (n): 1.) a buffet offering a variety of hot and cold meats, salads, hor'doeuvres, etc. 2.) a wide range of something, a variety."

Seems like a discussion on haiku offers a buffet table variety of thoughts, approaches, invitations, opinions and more. Dishing up some examples:

On simple moments: "I guess haiku is an inspiration for me. Everyday, simple moments." --Misha Collins

On sounds: "Try to use sounds that reinforce your meaning. For example, words with short i's and t's might sound like raindrops; words with sh's might sound like wind or rushing water" --Fran Santoro Hamilton, "How to Write a Powerful Haiku Poem"

On success: "Crafting your content to fit with the seventeen-syllable framework is simultaneously an amusement and a challenge. Success can produce a unique feeling of triumph." --Fran Santoroa Hamilton (same as above)

On stress: "Haiku will keep you working with words, but it will also help you deal with your stress. And here's the best part: you don't have to wrestle with rhyme!" --Bruce Lansky

On submissions: "My first publication was a haiku in a children's magazine when I was 9 years old. I received one dollar for it! I gave the check to my dad for Christmas, and he framed it and hung it over his desk." --Linda Sue Park, Newbery Award winning author of A Single Shard

So, adding to the smorgasboard, I submit a day nineteen haiku:

silver spider web
collects diamond dew drops
for woodland showcase
--Kenda Turner

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Haiku A to Z: R is for Reinforcement, Revelation

photo archives 2012
"Haiku reinforces elements of the writing process as well as supports personal growth." --Chris Colderley, Let's Do Haiku!

I like the two sides to haiku.

Yes, writing haiku does reinforce elements of the writing process which include, but are not exclusive to, rewriting and revision

But its capacity for revelation and resonance, generally rooted in the every day, often jumpstarts a period of growth. That ah-ha moment isn't just for the reader. It comes first for the poet.

So, thanks to haiku, a writing life can be re-inspired. It has happened to me. Writing these short poems might not be a true retreat to a cabin in the woods, but I can pretend...

Has anything come along to reinforce and restart your writing life lately?

Revealing day eighteen haiku:

red berries turn on
porch light and illuminate
way to empty nest
--Kenda Turner

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Haiku A to Z: Q is for Quiet, with Quotes

following quiet path 2014
"Only in quiet waters do things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world." --Hans Margolius

In an article at Poetry Through the Ages titled "Movement Frozen in Time" (here), a quiet picture of haiku masters is painted: "The beauty of haiku often becomes the bane of impatient writers: capturing a single moment, movement, or experience in its entirety, in three lines totaling 17 syllables or less. The masters of form spent years of traveling, wandering, observing, contemplating, and writing to refine their craft into the timeless flashes that populate haiku collections and anthologies today."

Imagine the moments of quiet they relished as they lived out their quest. Might we not benefit from some of that, too? Perhaps a slower pace, taking intentional time for reflection, or even curtailed electronic device time? Haiku--writing and/or reading--can also create these kinds of moments.

Actually, any form of poetry can help accomplish this. A few quotes to inspire us on our way:

"Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance." --Carl Sandburg

"Breathe-in experience, breathe-out poetry." --Muriel Rukeyser

"The world is full of poetry. The air is living with its spirit; and the waves dance to the music of its melodies and sparkle in its brightness." --James Gates Percival

"It is written on the arched sky; it looks out from every star. It is the poetry of Nature; it is that which uplifts the spirit within us." --John Ruskin

"If I feel physically as if the top of my heard were taken off, I know that is poetry." --Emily Dickinson

...and a personal favorite:

"Don't underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering." --Pooh's Little Instruction Book, inspired by A. A. Milne

And so in a moment of quietness I share day seventeen haiku:

quest for haiku path 
begins long before words pass
from pen to paper
--Kenda Turner

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Haiku A to Z: P is for Punctuation

local pioneer cemetery 2016

"(On) Too Much Punctuation: Avoid periods. A haiku is one moment in a continuum: a period often destroys that illusion (so may beginning with a capital letter). Other punctuation: The average haiku has one break in thought or continuity, usually at the end of line 1 or 2 (sometimes, the middle of line 2). If punctuated at all, it is usually with a colon, dash or ellipsis. An occasional dash or ellipsis may provide emphasis either before or after the final word (or phrase). In general, shy away from punctuation unless you are sure of its benefit." --Larry Gross, Japanese Poetry Patterns

The appropriate use (or not) of punctuation is an important consideration in the pursuit of writing haiku, as Mr. Gross explains above. Thus punctuation plays in the particulars. But I've found other -P- words that play into the process as well. My short list includes:

Ponder (nurture a sense of wonder and curiosity)... Practice (no, the final version does not come automatically in the first draft)... Permission (to write bad poetry on the way to good)... Patience (there are positives in the journey even if the end goal is elusive)...

And don't forget portable--it's poetry you can easily take with you!

Still pursuing the elusive haiku, so here we go--presenting Day Sixteen Haiku:

wildflower clusters
decorate pioneer graves...
bluebird comes singing
--Kenda Turner

Monday, April 18, 2016

Haiku A to Z: O is for Overheard Haiku

photo courtesy pixabay
"It seems that unintentional haiku can be found anywhere if you bother to look and listen. I myself have overheard accidental haiku in such unlikely places as a school hallway and a supermarket aisle." --Billy Collins, Introduction to Haiku in English

I have my ears open for overheard haiku...and it's not the same as eavesdropping :-)

I first came across this concept when reading an online piece by Damion Searls, "Overheard Haiku." He writes of speech  rhythms and how we can hear the rhythms of haiku in everyday speech. He says: "It's not a haiku--the haiku form has demands besides 5-7-5 syllables e.g. seasonal key words (kigo), one image, two moments with a turn or jump cut between them indicated by a 'cutting word' (kireji). It's the serendipitous, spoken, American form: the overheard haiku."

Continuing: "After paying attention and counting syllables for not very long at all, you can hear this form everywhere. The length of a thought--in English? Or with average walking speeds? Or that you can remember when you're not really listening?--seems naturally to fall into 5-7-5 syllables."

One of his examples:
She has a home phone.
Who has home phones?...Yeah, different

"English is a great language for writing headlines, and tweets, but also for hearing haiku," Collins concludes. "You can't plan a phrase like this, craft it, present yourself to the world with it; it's something you run across, something the facts of the world and of language fall into. As though by chance. It's something you've trained your ear to notice, a way of paying attention."

Another opening to new ideas the study of haiku has brought into play. I tried really hard over the weekend to tune into haiku speech patterns and this is what I heard at a t-ball game, day fifteen:

okay, you can ask
all you want, I'll still say
no...oh, whatever
--Kenda Turner

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Haiku A to Z: N is for Nature--and Next

photo courtesy google images
"Haiku is a poetry of nature, but it is also a poetry of human nature. Haiku gives readers feelings, and shows human existence amid nature. Not all haiku is about beauty, but they are always about what is real... On reading a good haiku, we are mentally and emotionally moved to experience what the poet experienced, yet we do so without being told what to feel." --Michael Dylan Welch, Haiku and the Japanese Garden

Haiku--the poetry of nature and also of human nature. I'm still noodling with the concept and form. What's next?

Well, neat books on haiku I'd love to read for one thing. Some titles I've come across that sound interesting:

To Walk in Seasons: an Introduction to Haiku, by William Howard Cohen
Haiku Mind: 108 Poems to Cultivate Awareness and Open Your Heart, by Patricia Donegan
Writing and Enjoying Haiku: A Hands-On Guide, by Jane Reichhold

There's also a little something called NaHaiWriMo: National Haiku Writing Month. The challenge here is to write one haiku a day in the month of February. This, of course, is not to be mistaken for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) held each November. Will I participate in one of these events next?  Though not on the radar screen at the moment, never say never.

And, lest we forget, April is National Poetry Month!

It was one of those aha moments the day the squirrel and I faced off. Though I cannot take credit for the photo above, the expression I saw on my neighborhood squirrel was similar, which then brings us to my day fourteen haiku:

nearby squirrel sneaks
peek from hole, surprise lights face...
that makes two of us
--Kenda Turner

Friday, April 15, 2016

Haiku A to Z: M is for Mood, and Middle

photo courtesy of pixabay
"Haiku poems celebrate appreciation for beauty and nature. Plants, animals, water, weather, and seasons are often subjects of haiku. Powerful yet sensitive, these poems communicate a mood or tone without actually using words to describe feelings." --Kim Kautzer, Writing Haiku Poetry

We are smack-dab in the middle of the A-Z Challenge and, most appropriately, M is not only for mood, but for middle--being that the letter M is exactly in the middle of the alphabet and all!

And so we take a look at mood--the emotional effect that the poem creates for the reader. As Ms. Kautzer (above quote) continues to explain: "When writing haiku poetry, think about the emotions you want your reader to experience. Paint a picture with your words to express a mood." (A great resource for a list of "mood words" can be found here at English with Mr. Scott.)

At the same time, we are at the middle point of our challenge. What mood are we in here (ha)?

And so, for day thirteen haiku, I ask:

in the middle of
a challenge is your cup half
empty or half full?
--Kenda Turner

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Haiku A to Z: L is for Look

captured moment, bee to flower 2013
"Haiku is a way of looking at the world around you and capturing beautiful moments." --From the Mixed Up Files...of Middle Grade Authors

One thing the writing of haiku accomplishes--it makes you want to look around at what most of the time is commonplace and find the beauty in it. Japanese poet and painter Yosa Buson (1716-1784) expressed it this way: "Use the commonplace to escape the commonplace."

Other inspiring quotes on what it means to really look:

"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see." --Henry David Thoreau

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." --Albert Einstein

"When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not." --artist Georgia O'Keefe

"Do days go by when you are too busy to write haiku until a pressing deadline forces you to look! and there they are, haiku all around you?" --Jane Reichhold

Still learning to look--with the goal of really seeing--and sharing day twelve haiku:

lone thistle in field--
how can this proud beauty be
considered a weed?
--Kenda Turner

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Haiku A to Z: K is for Kigo, Kidai, and Key

full moon over backyard 2012
"Haiku's imagery and affective content are unique. Traditional haiku incorporates a kigo (season word) or a kidai (seasonal topic) including recurring human events usually connected to natural cycles...Almost always traditional haiku include a concrete image drawn from non-human nature. Therefore one could define haiku as human feeling connected with nature." --Bruce Ross

Haiku incorporates a kigo (season word) or kidai (seasonal topic). Or not.

Haiku has three lines of 5, 7, 5 syllables. Or not.

Haiku contains seventeen syllables. Or not.

For the longest time I was somewhat baffled over things I was reading about haiku; guidelines seemed contradictory. And then one day, something clicked. I found the key to my confusion.

Simply put, there's a difference between traditional Japanese haiku and later-developing English-language or Western haiku. The change began in the 1950s when poets of the more modern form embarked on paths that varied from the traditional.

The online literary publication Daily Haiku says this: "There is some debate as to the definition of haiku and its 'proper' form. The best and most concise definition seems to be: Haiku is a minimalist form of unrhymed poetry consisting of seventeen syllables or less. Traditional Japanese haiku carry an unrhymed, three line, 5-7-5 syllabic (beat) structure with a seasonal reference. Over the years, English Language haiku authors have transplanted the traditional Japanese structure into their own language with varying degrees of success...Contemporary English-language haiku artists have largely abandoned the 5-7-5 structure and tend to gravitate toward shorter syllabic counts more representative of the verbal length of Japanese counterparts."

Whew, once I came to ken (Scottish dialect for 'understand') the difference, I could relax--and enjoy the variations that come with the form. Both can be greatly appreciated!

A few sources that explain this concept in more depth include:
Becoming a Haiku Poet
Beyond the Haiku Moment
Forms in English Haiku
Japanese Poetry Patterns
How to Write a Haiku Poem
Understanding Modern English-Language Haiku

(And, adding to the conversation, I've come across these terms: desk haiku and pseudo-haiku. Loosely defined: haiku that uses any inspiration as a starting point (as opposed to writing haiku only from an 'ah-ha' moment). Thus explains the three-lined ditties that are fun and spontaneous, often entertaining and light-hearted. Jack Preluksky's If Not for the Cat comes to mind, a book of haiku that "asks you to think about seventeen favorite residents of the animal kingdom in a new way." So don't be intimidated by haiku--there's a form out there for just about everyone. And certainly don't kill the moment over fear of doing it right or wrong. The key is to enjoy writing!) 

Kicking around ideas again with Day Eleven Haiku:

katydids strum wing
strings, choir song crescendos...
lullaby brings sleep
--Kenda Turner

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Haiku A to Z: J is for Juxtaposition

spring day walk 2016
"Haiku juxtaposes seemingly unrelated observations in order to glimpse the hidden connections between things. It relies on mood and suggestiveness." --John Drury, Creating Poetry

.Juxtaposition (n): "the action of putting close together; place side-by-side."

This dictionary definition of juxtaposition is fine, as far as it goes. But one writer, speaking on the subject of haiku, takes the definition to a higher level. Michael Dylan Welch in his article Becoming a Haiku Poet speaks of juxtaposition in terms of a spark plug. I love the analogy:

"A haiku," Welch says, "also centers structurally on a pause or caesura ('kire' in Japanese). By juxtaposing two elements or parts (with one of the elements spanning over two of the poem's three lines), the two parts create a spark of energy, like the gap in a spark plug. The two elements of a good haiku may seem unrelated at first glance, but if the reader lingers on them sufficiently, he or she may notice a reverberation. When you realize the connection between the two parts (sometimes called an 'internal comparison'), you have a 'spark' of realization, an 'aha' moment. As a writer of haiku, it's your job to allow the poem to have that spark--and not spell it out for the reader. This is perhaps the most difficult thing to do with haiku, as well as its most important--yet often least understood--structural characteristic."

Juxtaposition equates to a spark plug? Now that's a way to express a concept in a visual way! I'm still processing but hope to incorporate the technique as I continue to learn.

Joining in with a Day Ten Haiku:

jumping children grab
grandpa's hand and pull to creek...
robin wrestles bait
--Kenda Turner

Monday, April 11, 2016

Haiku A to Z: I is for Imagery and Ideas

across the road 2014
"The most important characteristic of haiku is how it conveys, through implication and suggestion, a moment of keen perception and perhaps insight into nature or human nature. Haiku does not state this insight, however, but implies it. In the last hundred years--in Japanese and English-language haiku--implication has been achieved most successfully through the use of objective imagery." --Michael Dylan Welch, Becoming a Haiku Poet

Characteristics of haiku: implication and suggestion, a moment of keen perception, perhaps insight into nature, yes. Achieved most successfully through the use of objective imagery, yes. Haiku is a beautiful medium that offers so much in so few words.

But what is the one thing that comes first? Why, the idea! 

Where might the idea come from? Tom Painting (here) suggests three possibilities: 1. memory; 2. imagination; 3. the 'here-and-now.' I'd add a #4: inspiration. And for me, inspiration often comes on walks or through photography. For others it might mean being around people, listening to music, reflecting on a good book (or even, as we found out in the last two A-Z days, grammar and history).

No matter the source of our inspiration, there's one more element (another 'i'-word) to fit into the equation: intentionality. If we want to write haiku (or any form of writing) we must choose to actually write. It was after I set a goal of writing two haiku a week that poems began to come. I might not have known what I was doing, but at least it was a start--only because I was intentional.

Having said all of that, I offer this invitation to my Day Nine Haiku:

ice rinks fall through night,
snow-laces freeze and tangle...
dodge 'em cars skate past
--Kenda Turner

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Haiku A to Z: H is for History in Haiku

photo courtesy of pixabay
"'If you wanted to, you could write history in Haiku.' I'd been saying this for some years when one semester, one bright student said, 'Well, Professor Brands, have you ever written history in haiku?'"--H.W. Brands, author and history professor

 Talk about picking up a challenge and running with it. H.W. Brands, author of over 25 books and professor at the University of Texas started tweeting the history of America in haiku in 2009, and is still at it today. In an interview with PBS News Hour he said, "I've observed that the forms available to writers have changed over time and I thought one of the most radical changes was Twitter, the idea that you would send this message in 140 characters. It occurred to me that the 17 syllables in a haiku fit conveniently in 140 characters of twitter." He began his project at 15,000 B.C. with the first peopling of the Americas. To date he's up to the first moon landing.

Now that's a highly innovative use of haiku!

I often visited a dear neighbor who lived into her nineties, and she would share stories of growing up in pre-war Germany. One of her accounts prompted my history in haiku, day eight:

happy German kids
bike into Holland, nineteen-
thirties' innocence
--Kenda Turner

Friday, April 8, 2016

Haiku A to Z: G is for Goals and Groups

on walk 2015
"Your goal (in haiku) is to paint a picture in the mind of your reader." --nursery-rhymes-fun

Oh, to paint a picture with words. Certainly that is the goal of all writing, but for haiku the goal carries its own set of challenges. You're writing a snippet, an impression, a glimpse--and in so few lines, words, syllables. But you're not alone! There are groups and gatherings with a passion for haiku around the world. One source (here) shows active groups throughout Europe, in New Zealand, Bangladesh, Croatia, and Sweden--as well as the home of haiku, Japan. You can also find haiku groups on Facebook and Twitter.  The haiku writer never needs to feel isolated. Websites are dedicated to haiku, as well as magazines, submission opportunities, and contests.

Speaking of contests, how about a haiku contest in honor of National Grammar Day? Ha, I didn't even know there was such a thing as a national grammar day (March 4 each year). And to celebrate, the American Copy Editors Society holds a yearly haiku contest on Twitter. Submissions are not in your traditional form, but great fun. Have you ever tried to write a haiku about a verb or about sentence fragments? Check out the 2016 winners at Grammar Girl's Winning Haiku.

So here we are, going forward with Day Seven Haiku:

goldfinches this morn
chirp joy tunes from fence row seats
sunny symphony
--Kenda Turner

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Haiku A to Z: F is for Feeling

backyard discovery 2014
"Does your poem give readers a feeling? It can do this by presenting what caused your feeling rather than the feeling itself. So others can feel what you felt, don't explain or judge what you describe." --Michael Dylan Welch, Haiku Checklist

Haiku is a great medium for sharing the feeling of a moment. A moment is just that, a moment--fast, fleeting, fading. You don't have time to explain. You don't want to explain. You simply want to invite the reader into a fresh, flowing moment--with freedom to feel it their way.

A hard concept to capture, but worth trying. That's where the fun comes in!

Having fun with my Day Six Haiku:

flickering sunlight
partners with trees--dance breaks out
in silver shadows
--Kenda Turner

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Haiku A to Z: E is for Essence

on road home 2015
"The essence of haiku is the way it describes natural phenomena in the fewest number of words, making an indelible impression on the reader." --Bruce Lansky

The word essence, from the Latin essentia (esse to be) has a number of different meanings, depending on how the word is used:
1. "the basic, real, and invariable nature of a thing"
2. "a substance obtained from a plant, drug or the like, by distillation, infusion, etc. and containing its characteristic properties in concentrated form"
3. "an alcoholic solution of an essential oil, spirit"
4. "a perfume, scent"
5. "something that exists, especially a spiritual or immaterial entity" (source:

I suggest that the "essence" of haiku takes on each of these meanings in its own way. Yes, the essence of haiku, as in Lansky's definition above, is in the way it describes natural phenomena in the fewest number of words, hence: definition #1, the basic nature of the thing.

Haiku is also a distillation (definition #2): the poet's thoughts distilled into an image or a moment and containing properties of observation in concentrated form.

Haiku, though not alcoholic (but maybe addictive?) and not liquid, also consists of essential oils (definition #3)--or, in this case, we might say 'qualities.' These might include, but are not limited to, a quietness, calmness, insight, or surprising lift.

Haiku, because of its emphasis on engaging the five senses, often carries a mental "perfume," especially when a reference calls to mind an association to a seasonal scent (definition #4).

And haiku, in its existence (definition #5), often speaks of spiritual things, hence it can be said to contain 'heart'--a spiritual entity.

Essence: nature, substance distilled, spirit, scent, heart. Who would have thought haiku could take us to all of these places. At the same time it can be said that the essence of haiku can be elusive--the poet has her work cut out for her.

Of course, none of this discussion touches on other e-words of the day: experience, emotion, editing, experimentation, exercise, engagement of the right side of the brain, encapsulating the feeling of a scene, evoking. So many things to touch on, so little time!

All of this being said, I extend to you my Day Five Haiku:

evening clouds sweep the
sky and cool daytime's fire...
ashes bank embers
--Kenda Turner

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Haiku A to Z: D is for Differing Opinions, Debate, Discovery

morning moment 2015
"There are understandably differing opinions about the 'proper' way to write these wonderful poetic forms. Those traditionalists who think that retaining the classic Japanese style is most important are totally committed to their stance. Contemporary liberals who believe that adaptations are appropriate are equally as dogmatic in their opinions. Who's right? I feel the answer lies completely and subjectively within the mind of the writer...or perhaps the reader... doesn't it?" --Nancy Ness

I appreciate the debate about haiku...

Nancy Ness (All About Haiku, here) expands on the thought:
          "The appeal of these seemingly simple verses undoubtedly stems from their unique messages that deliver succinct words of wisdom to their readers. A well-written Haiku will incorporate two criteria. It will impart a universal sentiment that relates to all of humanity--in 17 'onji' (Japanese equivalent of syllables) or less--and it will allude thematically in some way to nature...Modern day Western versions of Haiku differ somewhat from the original classic format. The ultimate "English Haiku" challenge is to write effective verse in fewer syllables than the standard 17. 
          "The Western writer must make a choice. If she/he opts to conform to the rigid structure of form, then a 17-syllable Haiku will adhere to the Japanese onji format. If one prefers to adapt to the doctrine of brevity, an abbreviated version of genre is choice..."

Lee Wardlaw (Eight Things I Learned From My Cats About Haiku, here) says:
          "Japanese haiku feature a total of seventeen beats or sound units: five in the first line, seven in the second, five again in the third. This 5-7-5 form doesn't apply to American haiku, however, because of the differences in English phonics, vocabulary, grammar and syntax. Forcing an unnecessary adjective or adverb into a haiku simply to meet the 17-beats rule can ruin the flow, brevity and meaning of your poem. So feel free to experiment with any pattern you prefer (i.e. 2-3-2, 5-6-4, 4-7-3)--provided the structure remains two short lines separated by a longer one. Remember: what's most important here is not syllables but the essence of a chosen moment."

Recognizing there are differing opinions on haiku patterns, I still lean toward the traditional form, but who knows? After all, discovery (not dogmatism) is what writing's all about, isn't it?

On the discovery journey with Day Four Haiku:
dawn switches on stage 
lights--windblown trees bow to the
opening curtain
--Kenda Turner

Monday, April 4, 2016

Haiku A to Z: C is for Capture

moment in time 2012
"Haiku captures a moment in time, revealing a surprise or evoking a response of aha! or ahhh. This pounce helps the reader awaken and experience the ordinary in an extraordinary way." --Lee Wardlaw

"Captures a moment in time": this is one aspect of haiku that draws me to the form. Catching a moment, an image, in words that in turn offers an invitation to linger over and savor the moment again. Wardlaw says it is to experience the ordinary in an extraordinary way. It's also seeing something seemingly common in an uncommon way, to make a forgettable moment an indelible one, to slow a hectic pace to a pause that encourages wonder.

I didn't realize this when I first started writing haiku. I thought I was simply adhering to a pattern of syllables. Boy, was I wrong. There's a whole world out there that haiku invites one into. I'm captivated!

And so I offer my Day Three Haiku:
cardinal swoops in
to paint red feather strokes on
evergreen canvas
--Kenda Turner

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Haiku A to Z: B is for Basho

photo by Kenda 2013
"Haiku are based on the five senses. They are about things you can experience, not your interpretation or analysis of those things. To do this effectively, it is good to rely on sensory description, and to use mostly objective rather than subjective words." --Write-a-Haiku-Poem

A name often associated with haiku is Matsuo Basho, 17th century Japanese haiku master. "Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) was the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan. During his lifetime, Basho was recognized for his works in the collaborative haikai no renga form; today, after centuries of commentary, he is recognized as the greatest master of haiku (then called hokku). Basho's poetry is internationally renowned; and, in Japan, many of his poems are reproduced on monuments and traditional sites...Basho was introduced to poetry young, and after integrating himself into the intellectual scene of Edo (modern Tokyo) he quickly became well known throughout Japan. He made a living as a teacher; but then renounced the social, urban life of the literary circles and was inclined to wander throughout the country, heading west, east, and far into the northern wilderness to gain inspiration for his writing. His poems were influenced by his firsthand experience of the world around him, often encapsulating the feeling of a scene in a few simple elements." --wikipedia

One of Basho's most famous haiku, translated by Harry Behn:
An old silent pond...
A frog jumps into the pond.
Splash! Silence again. 

Still a student with much yet to learn, I offer Day Two Haiku:
bejeweled butterflies
glitter and shimmer in flight
across field's new gown
                                                                                        --Kenda Turner

Friday, April 1, 2016

Haiku A to Z: A is for Ancient

one of my photos on a spring walk 2015
“Haiku is an ancient form of Japanese poetry often containing (in English) a total of 17 syllables shared between three lines, arranged in a pattern of 5-7-5. It is important to note that the original Japanese haiku was measured in sounds, or ‘breaths,’ not English syllables. The 5-7-5 approach was a rough approximation.”

The A to Z Challenge has begun! 

Day One Haiku:
April redbuds bloom
on the heels of winter boots
and dance to bluebells
                                                                                                              --Kenda Turner