This is Part 2 of two posts about writing haiku. Did you miss Part 1 on Monday? It’s here.
Why write haiku if you are a visual artist? Writing haiku uses the art-making skills of looking, seeing, focusing and making statements about big things (life, death, beauty) using very little material. It’s a great way to start your day in a relaxed and focused way.
So, onward we go. OK, you have your notebook and your pen Have you found your haiku spot?
Haiku are traditionally based in nature, but you can write haiku about anything. You should pick one spot and return to it for at least a week. Return even longer and you will be challenging yourself even more.
1. For this first haiku, pick one thing from your spot. Say to yourself, “I will write a haiku about this rock, this chair, this tree.”
2. Don’t wear or look at a watch, but say to yourself, “I have 30 seconds.” Or choose one minute or whatever space of time gives some urgency to the task, but doesn’t cause you to be in a panic.
You want a finite amount of time to write down all the descriptive words you can about the the item you chose.
You will learn over time what type of words work best. But for this first time, ask yourself, “What do I see?” Write down concrete words – green, needles, pinecones, swirling.
Then ask, “What do I hear? ” Trill, whistle, car. When you write down car – stop! Is it a sound? No. Is the car chugging, grinding, purring? Those are the specific, descriptive words you want to write down.
Continue through the five senses: What does the tree feel like? Its needles? Its bark? Would it be safe to taste your item? Or can you imagine what it might taste like? If I’m looking at a pine tree, I might think of a ship’s mast made from it and think, salty. What does the tree smell like besides pine-y? Is it sharp, lemony, woodsy, dark?
Work your way down the five senses, but mostly concentrate on writing many words and writing quickly. Be specific, be descriptive. You want a lot of words on your piece of paper.
3. Now choose nine words from your list that seem to catch the essence of your subject. Write those down, arranging them in three lines. if you have had enough excitement for the day, hey, you have written a poem. Go for a haiku tomorrow. Continue on to Step 4 if you are ready to finish a haiku today.
4. Now count the syllables. If counting syllables gives you fits, have a dictionary handy and use it this first time to check the number of syllables. Write down next to each line the syllables it contains.
How many syllables do you have? Seventeen? You have written a haiku – Congratulations! Not seventeen? Here is where it really becomes fun.
Perhaps your list has words with only one or two syllables. You will need to add more words to your haiku from your list to reach seventeen syllables. You may want to choose twelve words to begin with from now on.
Too many syllables? What can you cut? Do you need to make a substitution from your list of words? Does adding an -ing to a verb help? You shouldn’t have any of the little words, “the”, “an”, “a”, in your haiku, but perhaps you need to add them now.
It’s your haiku, so do what you need to do to make it right.
Does your haiku capture a feeling, a moment, a particular thing in a particular place?
I used this method of pre-writing for quite some time and I have taught kids to write haiku using it. It’s a place to begin, a place to start your pen writing and your eyes and other senses working. After a time, you will be able to do this in your head and in your rough drafts. I write all my haiku on the right-hand page of a two-page spread and use the facing left-hand page for revisions.
Now that you have written one haiku, can you write another from your list of words? If so, great! If not, no worries. You have learned what types of words would be more helpful. Come back tomorrow to your spot, choose an object, make another list of words and write more haiku.
Wren, so tiny, so quick,
Jumps on a chair.
Nervous, curious, fearless.
Feel free to share your haiku in a comment. Remember, we are not making THE perfect pot, we are making lots and lots of pots.