Days of Haiku

Haiku are short, beautiful poems, consisting of seventeen syllables and three verses - a style of poetry that origins in Japan. In Japanese, haiku are traditionally printed in a single vertical line. In English, on the other hand, haiku are often written in three lines. This is done to parallel the three phrases of Japanese haiku. Some of the most common themes of this genre, are nature, moments of beauty and specific moving memories (although nature isn’t as normal to come by in modern haiku).

Each haiku is supposed to be cutting. To achieve this, it is normal to use a cutting word to separate two different images or ideas. This phenomenon is often called a verbal punctuation mark. Personally, I deeply adore haiku exactly because of that cutting effect - they are so focused that they end up feeling very elegant, yet raw.

I was first introduced to these tiny magical works of art, when I read The peculiar life of a lonely postman. The book is about a solitary postman who is secretly steaming open envelopes and reading the letters inside and eventually becomes fixated on a relationship between a long-distance couple, who write to each other, only using haiku. Each poem he reads somehow feeds his soul and gives his lonely life a feeling of purpose, until he ends up devoting his life to the art of haiku.

whenever I speak out

my lips are chilled

autumn wind

– Basho

paper moon
       any kiss
will do

Francine Banwarth 

adding father’s name

to the family tombstone

with room for my own

-Nicholas Virgilio

Here is a tiny introduction guide if you want to learn more about the art of haiku or challenge yourself as a writer. I am not an expert, but I hope you will enjoy the following 18 days of exploring a new (or not) genre:

Day 1: Read a few haiku poems to get inspired and a better understanding of the genre. You can check out some of the traditional poets, like Matsuo Basho and Yosa Buson or more modern ones, like Nicholas Virgilio and Francine Banwarth.

Day 2: Today, I don’t want you to focus on the poetic side of it, just the technical. Write a haiku about your day where you simply try to make it fit the form. Seventeen syllables and three verses. You can do this. If you want to, you can try to incorporate a cutting word that seperates two images.

Day 3: Let’s start off with one of the classical themes: nature. Go out in nature and take a few notes of what you see. Afterwards, try to turn those notes into a haiku.

Day 4: Make a haiku about the last detail that made you smile – like a flower growing in the cracks of the pavement, sunbeams dancing on the wall, the sound of being underwater etc.

Everything I touch
with tenderness, alas,
pricks like a bramble.

-Kobayashi Issa

Nightfall,
Too dark to read the page
Too cold.
- Jack Kerouac

meteor shower
a gentle wave
wets our sandals
- Michael Dylan Welch

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Day 5: Write a haiku about a regret you have.

Day 6: Ask your friend/ family to describe a certain moment of beauty. Then turn it into a haiku.

Day 7: Read through the haiku you’ve written the past days out loud, and pay attention to the sound. Then read a couple of famous haiku (for example the ones featured in this article) out loud. Did you notice any differences? Was there a haiku that sounded especially beautiful to you?

Day 8: Write a haiku about an experience that has been important for your own evolution, an experience that has defined you in some way. 

Day 9: Describe a person that has impacted you somehow. Remember to solely focus on that person alone. You only have 3 lines, so keep it focused.

Day 10: Write a haiku about a country that you’ve never been to, but wish to see with your own eyes someday. Focus on including a cutting word.

Day 11: Create a haiku about a specific piece of art. Try to incorporate strong details. 

Day 12: Write a haiku about an object you treasure. Once again, keep in mind to focus only on that specific object. 

Day 13: A haiku about this season. What do you see? What are the scents?

Day 14: Anything that keeps your mind busy at the moment? Troubles or worries? Put it onto paper in the format of a haiku. 

Day 15: Create four different haikus today. Write about a specific place in nature where you live, like a pond or reed, in different seasonal settings. One poem describing the place in the winter, one for summer, one for spring and one describing fall.

Day 16: Write a haiku about an everyday object. A scissor, a comb or maybe a cup?

Day 17: Read through the poems you’ve written the past days. Have you noticed any changes in sound or form? Did you prefer writing about a certain theme? Nature? Poignant experiences? Beautiful moments?

Day 18: Pick up a piece of literature on the subject. I hope that the past days has sparked your interest in haiku and got you started, but now it’s time to learn this art from the best. Learn about the ancient history of Japanese haiku, read the Peculiar life of a lonely postman or a “How-to guide”.

If any of you have a personal connection to haiku or have studied the art yourself, and would like to share, please reach out to us via contact.nuet@gmail.com! We would also love to read some of the haiku you’ve written as a result of this challenge, so please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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