Archive for the ‘haiku’ Category

Breaking the ice (haiku reading and upcoming workshops)

February 5, 2017

For the month of February (which is National Haiku Writing Month), I’m partnering with Vancouver’s Joy Kogawa House to celebrate haiku with events leading up to the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival. Last night, I was joined by other members of the Vancouver Haiku Group, as well as visiting poet Carole Glasser Langille, to kick off the month with a reading of prose, haiku and other poetry.

vhg-reading-feb-4-2017

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The weather was more wintery than I expected when I picked the theme (there were more hints of spring in Vancouver by this time last year), but despite the snow, the house was full, and by the end of the evening we’d fully moved into the spirit of spring.

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Cherry preserves in anticipation of the blossoms to come . . .

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In partnership with the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival (VCBF), renowned haiku poet Michael Dylan Welch (from Sammamish, Washington) will be teaching a “How to Haiku” workshop at the Terry Salman branch of the Vancouver public library February 18. More info on the VCBF site.

I’ll be teaching a “Haiku Secrets: beyond the basics of writing haiku” workshop at Joy Kogawa House on Feb 25 (move away from 5-7-5 and learn how these tiny poems can express powerful experiences in both nature and urban life). More info on the events page of Joy Kogawa House. To register contact info@kogawahouse.com.

Both workshops are followed by an opportunity to decorate a giant koi “scale” with haiku for a koinobori installation at Sakura Days Japan Fair, which will be held at VanDusen Garden April 8-9 (2017). We’ll also be encouraging participants to submit haiku to the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival international haiku contest.

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koi-installation

(Above photo courtesy of the VCBF and Powell St. Festival)

 

West Coast winter haiku

December 5, 2016

One thing I actually enjoy about Vancouver’s winter rain and early darkness is the neon reflections.

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(A version of the above photo-haiga was published in the last issue of A Hundred Gourds)

Today, we even got some snow. It’s days like this that I’m happy to work at home.

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A taste of Japan – through photos, haiku and food

July 7, 2016

Reminiscing, I decided to repost this haiku-photo collaboration from 2010. Sad to say that Ruriko, the owner of the cafe-gallery exhibit space, died of cancer a few years ago.

Note: Yokan is a winter citrus fruit. Also, I feel compelled to point out that my haiku have progressed since this time, and these older haiku have some problems, though I still like the yokan haiku and the collaboration with Jean-Pierre’s photos.

wild ink

Recently, Jean-Pierre Antonio, a friend who has lived and worked in Japan for over 20 years, asked me to write some haiku to accompany a series of photographs he took in Tokyo and Kyoto this past December. Usually my haiku is inspired by personal experience, and I wasn’t sure if I’d have any success trying to write in response to someone else’s photographs, but Jean-Pierre’s multiple images of  bright winter yokan fruit, calligraphic wisteria vines, and mysterious crows immediately evoked a strong feeling of place and mood, and the first haiku quickly took shape. Writing something to go with Jean-Pierre’s photos of young people engrossed in manga-reading and close-up sections of ancient fabric took a little more thought. To write about the fabric, I had to, in a sense, reach back across time to imagine what was going through the minds of the long-ago fabric artists…

The result of our collaboration is currently…

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Fall is cherry blossom time?

December 1, 2015

 

While spring is the traditional time for celebrating cherry blossoms, fall is when we hear the results of the annual Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Invitational contest. This year, I was excited to learn that one of my haiku (inspired by the Vancouver Canucks hockey team making the Stanley Cup playoffs) was selected as the top winner in the “Vancouver” category. And, seeming in honour of the occasion, these rather confused cherry blossoms were blooming in November when I visited Vancouver’s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden.

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Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Invitational Top Winners, 2015

Vancouver

Stanley Cup playoffs
the last cherry blossoms
still hanging on
                      Jacqueline Pearce
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

British Columbia

cherry blossoms
come and go
my seventy years
                      Dan Curtis
                      Victoria, British Columbia

Canada

Alzheimer’s ward
cherry blossoms
in the fog
                      Marco Fraticelli
                      Pointe-Claire, Quebec

United States

cherry blossoms
no room in the selfie
for me
                      Joe McKeon
                      Strongsville, Ohio

International

cherry blossoms
falling
in love again
                      Brendon Kent
                      Southampton, England

Youth

cherry blossoms—
grandma tells me about
her first date
                      Cucu Georgiana, age 12
                      Botosani, Romania

Click here for commentary on winning poems

Fall is also a time when local cherry trees are filled with beauty of a different colour.

fall cherry trees

Fall is in the air

September 2, 2015

Technically, it’s still summer, but with many people heading back to school and the long summer drought finally ending here on the BC coast, it feels like fall has arrived. The long string of dry hot days has also turned many leaves prematurely brown.

For years after I finished high school and university, I used to get itchy feet this time of year and feel that excited flutter in my chest that comes with the anticipation of seeing old friends again, the potential of meeting new ones, and (in university years) wondering what exciting vistas new classes might be about to open for me. In more recent years, this feeling seems to have morphed into a yearning to travel in the fall ─to explore new places and admire fall colours in different locations.

 

autumn wind─
I have the sudden urge
to buy school supplies

 

park

Getting ready for Chinese New Year

January 22, 2014

Dr Sun Yat-Sen Garden -cropI didn’t expect to see much in Vancouver’s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden in the middle of January, but when I visited last Saturday, I found it blooming with red lanterns and bustling with preparations for Chinese New Year. I was also surprised to see winter jasmine in flower and many trees full of early buds.

The Chinese  lunar New Year (which begins on January 31 this year) is a time for sweeping away the old (dust, clutter, debts, worries) and welcoming in the new (renewing hope for health, happiness, and good fortune). Staff and volunteers at the garden were busy cleaning, tidying, tying up loose-ends, and decorating in preparation for the upcoming Year of the Horse Temple Fair, Feb 2 (2014). Red lanterns are hung around the garden to bring good luck (red is considered the most auspicious colour because of its association with fire, the sun, energy, light, and life-blood, which demons fear, so it also keeps demons away), and they welcome back the light of spring.

A few images and haiku from my visit:

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New Year’s lanterns─
the courtyard mosaics
swept clear

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preparing for
the New Year─
peony buds

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still pond─
finding the courage
to say goodbye

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Bamboo & Basho

June 27, 2013

Interested in haiku poetry or how to use bamboo in your garden? This Saturday I’ll be joining other poets from the Vancouver Haiku Group at Vancouver’s Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden for a celebration of bamboo. Angela Naccarato, poet and Intuitive Consultant, will lead haiku workshops (open to anyone visiting the garden, with three workshop times between 1-3pm), and I will be sharing some of my photographs of “bamboo in Basho’s footsteps” (from my last visit to Japan).

Bamboo haiku workshop

A haiku I wrote on my last visit to the garden:

bamboo haiku

Sharing poetry & music (with a historical twist?)

May 21, 2013

If haiku expresses a “now moment,” can haiku be written about the past? I’m immersing myself in early Vancouver history today to see if some haiku emerge, and I’ll be sharing the resulting “historical haiku” Thursday evening at Chapters bookstore in downtown Vancouver as part of a larger celebration of poetry and music with the Vancouver Haiku Group. Everyone is welcome! (May 23, 7-9:30 pm, Robson St. Chapters store)

Chapters Reading

Needs some work, but here’s an example of what I’m working on:

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(Main & 7th Ave about 1899 – I don’t remember where I got the photo from, so I hope I can be forgiven for not giving credit. It is probably from the Vancouver Archives, and I believe most of their old photos are in the public domain.)

Added after the event (in this photo James Mullin’s Asian flute accompanies Kozue Uzawa’s tanka reading):

James&Kosue

The event was led by Angela J. Naccarato, founder and facilitator of the Vancouver Haiku Group, who read some of her own haiku and free verse.  Other poets included Marianne Dupre, Rosemary Carter, Brenda Larsen, Vicki McCullough, Liam Blackstock, Ashok Bhargava, Alegria Imperial, Donna Farley, Kozue Uzawa, James Mullin, and myself, taking the audience on a journey that evoked colours, sounds, and emotions from childhood memories in India to a monsoon in China to swimming with turtles in Barbados to Vancouver’s past to cherry blossoms in Vancouver’s present.

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(Here, Liam Blackstock entertains the audience with charismatic readings/performance of his free verse poetry)

Daily Haiku

May 5, 2013

Some of my haiku are being featured this week on Daily Haiku, starting with this one posted today:

yellow smudged moon—hoya2
scent of hoya flower
in the empty room

The timing is perfect, as my hoya plant is now in bloom (and, as usual, I was alerted by the scent when I was up alone in the middle of the night). When I was a kid, my parents had a hoya plant for years before it finally blossomed. My mom thought my dad had tied some plastic flowers to the plant to play a joke on her.

This Daily Haiku cycle started April 7 with the haiku of invited poet LeRoy Gorman. Seven different poets are featured in rotation, until September (2013). Here’s a short haiku by Jim Kacian posted April 15, which suggests a whole story in a single line (and reawakens some vivid summer memories):

summer night she smells faintly of fire

Haiku, or not?

April 11, 2013

What is haiku? Many people think it is simply a short three-line poem of 5-7-5 syllables. But please forget this definition! It leads to things like:

that song was poppinhaiku
hari ini tdr gk ya?
Sorting the bedroom
Haiku Robot

or

Haikus are easy
but sometimes they don’t make sense
Refrigerator
-anonymous

What is a haiku, really? Haiku is a very short form of poetry (originally Japanese) that aims to capture the essence of something. It uses simple, direct language to point to a thing or moment (usually in nature), while at the same time implying something more. Traditional haiku contains three main elements:

– a kigo (seasonal reference)

– a kireji (cutting word, symbol, or pause, that divides the haiku into two juxtaposed parts)

– 17 on (17 Japanese sound units), with the poem usually broken into three phrases of 5-7-5 on (written in Japanese as one or two vertical lines)

Today, haiku are written all over the world in many different languages, including English (the word “haiku” is both singular and plural).

The 17 Japanese on sounds do not actually correspond to English syllables (for example, the word “on” itself, which English-speakers would view as a single syllable, comprises two on). Translating a Japanese haiku into 17 English syllables actually makes the haiku longer than it was meant to be. For example, a famous haiku by the 17th century Japanese poet Basho was originally written using 17 on, but it is translated:

old pond…
a frog leaps in
water’s sound

To translate it into 17 English syllables would make it too cumbersome, moving away from the original intent of the poem. Here’s an example (from the Wikipedia haiku page):

at the age old pond
a frog leaps into water
a deep resonance

It’s the simplicity and directness of the first translation (and the original haiku) that catches the reader’s attention and leaves the reader room to see the moment for him or herself. In fact, it’s haiku’s simplicity ─its ability to focus the reader in on a precise, concrete “a-ha” moment─ that makes it so appealing to many haiku-lovers. Simplicity keeps the moment fresh. Any added decoration, metaphor or explanation entangles the reader; gives you so much that there is nothing to stop and think about. The simple wording engages your imagination. You pause and hear the sound of the water as the frog’s body breaks the surface. But the simply written haiku can also imply emotion and allude to deeper meaning. The “old pond,” for example, can be read as a reference to Basho, himself, an old poet still moved by the world around him.

So, the idea that English haiku should be written in 17 syllables is not actually correct, and throwing a bunch of words together into three lines of 5-7-5 syllables (even if they are poetically written, rather than generated by a robot) does not make those lines a haiku. To be a real haiku, a poem has to have some or all of the elements mentioned above (seasonal reference, simplicity, and also a juxtaposition or a space between images that suggests something deeper). In other words, “That song was poppin” is not a haiku.

Here are a few haiku I’ve come across recently that I really like (my favorite haiku are always changing):

evening walkblossoms_crop
the faded leash
I can’t throw out
-John Soules

abandoned farm
still there, the scents
in the barn
George Swede

graveside
forming one shadow
with my sister
-Tom Painting

solo hike─
slowly catching up
with myself
-Annette Makino

You’ll notice that none of them have 5-7-5 syllables. But yes, all of them are haiku.

I hope this post doesn’t sound like an anti-5-7-5 rant. Like many people, I grew up thinking English haiku had to be written as three lines of 5-7-5 syllables (you’ll find many haiku written this way in my earlier blog posts), and I wasn’t really conscious of the other elements of good haiku, other than the seasonal reference. I wrote and read haiku intuitively, I guess (with mixed results). I still write this way, but I’ve also been making an effort to think more about haiku, how it works, and what makes a good haiku (which leads to more re-writing), and I’ve come across an awful lot of writing that calls itself haiku, but is not. This pseudo-haiku is sometimes interesting writing forced to fit the 5-7-5 format (often with the first sentence ending in the middle of the second line), or even good poetry with intriguing metaphors, but it’s not haiku. The main point I want to make here is that haiku is about more than syllable count (I’m talking to you, Haiku Robot, children’s book publishers of stories written in so-called “haiku” format, companies that hold “haiku” slogan contests to advertise new products, and anyone who leaves comments on haiku blogs complaining that the haiku is not real haiku because the syllable count isn’t right).

Okay, maybe this is an anti-5-7-5 rant.

Anyway, if you want to learn more about haiku, here are some good websites and blog posts to check out:

Haiku on Wikipedia (good explanation of haiku and the issues around syllable count)

Graceguts, the website of haiku poet, Michael Dylan Welch (contains examples of haiku, articles, and links to other resources)

Haiku checklist (helpful for thinking about and revising your own haiku)

Essential elements of haiku

Haiku journey of poet Ferris Gilli (many good insights into how to write haiku)

How to write bad haiku (a fun post that looks at what makes a haiku “bad” or “good”)

Why No 5-7-5

Kireji and kigo (cutting word & seasonal reference)

More on juxtaposition and seasonal references