Haiku Challenge

J treeOne of my sabbatical projects is the haiku challenge. I got the idea from a book I picked up in the Half Price Books dollar bin, The Haiku Year. A group of musician friends decided to stay in touch via the haiku challenge—a haiku every day for a year, “a shorthand way to stay in touch with where each others’ heads were at, far more poetically and accurately than a four-page letter could.”

And this is the part that hooked me:

This book surely will have succeeded if mail carriers begin to notice an increase in postcards with three lines scribbled on them. Then slowly but surely the amount of poetry in the mail would increase, and cut in on the amount of junk mail we get.

And I thought of the postal carriers (I love our postal system) and how fun it would be to have the occasional haiku to deliver, rather than the same old bills. And the haiku challenge sounded like an excellent vehicle to capture the experiences of my year off. But who to send it to? That seems so much the essence of the challenge—the sending of it. It’s putting it out there, a small creative act.

Margery Allingham

Margery Allingham

And then I thought of my friend Lori in Montana. I liked the idea of sending the postcards farther away than across town. Plus I trust Lori. We went to graduate school together. She intimidated the hell out of me because she was so smart and so serious. But she was also nice, and we became good friends. Interestingly, she’s the one who introduced me to mysteries (via Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion series) and reminded me how important it is to read for fun—even when you’re in graduate school and can never even remotely finish all the reading you should do. I will always love her for that.

Lori and I have stayed in touch throughout the years. Off and on, but almost always letters at Christmas and an occasional lunch when she’s in town. And we recently got back in pretty close touch when I got a Christmas card from her with a change of address, which I saved. And when I got around to her Christmas card (I am pretty sure it was early January), I had to send it to the old address because I couldn’t find the card she sent anywhere. Turns out she had moved, but she hadn’t sent me a card (cue Twilight Zone theme). And we’ve been in pretty close touch ever since. Lori graciously agreed to be the recipient and is holding on to them for me (which is really nice since I’ve used some of my most favorite postcards that I’ve collected over the years).

Back to haiku: I love poetry and haiku in particular, and I loved the idea of examining and capturing an essence of each day through poetry. Haiku is a Japanese poetic form of three lines, the first being 5 syllables, the second 7, and the third 5 again. In English the syllable rule is often disregarded, though English haiku are still (typically) three lines and succinct. Here was my very first attempt (I started at the end of October last year):

Happy home herbals
Making tinctures
Oh no—it’s GMO!

Here’s my second, when I was harvesting my hops (for the first time):

picking and clipping
cleaning for days
hops everywhere!

As I wrote more and more haiku, I put a little more effort into following the Japanese 5-7-5 form. Here’s the first that followed the form:

a beautiful day:
Foxy Falafel bookclub
haiku in the mail

And a couple of my favorites:

       The high of baking
a shiver of happiness
I had forgotten

      big fat flakes of snow
beauty—you are so slippery
happy indoor day!

J birdsI’m loving this haiku project. I’ve missed only a very few days in the 4+ months I’ve been doing it. There are times when I have to do some catch-up of a day or two (occasionally more). I do try to at least draft a few lines each night, to capture the key points of the day. Sometimes it can be a good processing tool—after an emotional hectic day I may write many many lines (of indiscriminate length) and after things have settled I come back and the haiku almost writes itself.

And it’s fun. It gets my mind thinking in a different way. And it makes me appreciate each day in its own unique way.

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