Writing Meaningful Verses

This morning, housebound and wandering round the web again, I came upon this post over at Penumbra Haiku. Interesting reading the various definitions and quotes from famous poets! A Poet Is

A Few More Thoughts On Writing Haiku

As you will know by now, I enjoy reading and writing haiku. There are a number of online sites dedicated to this art form — Cattails, Frogpond Journal, The Heron’s Nest, to name a few — plus there are bloggers who post their verses like I do on Tree Top Haiku and like the above blogger does.

Haiku, if done well, can really speak to you, catching a brief but touching scene, or revealing an interesting quirk of human nature. I follow The Haiku Foundation’s blog and have read some deep verses, both in their Troutswirl e-zine and in their featured books.

For some time now I’ve been thinking of publishing an e-book of haiku myself and last night I started this project, choosing the most-liked verses from both blogs. Mind you, I did it to gain practice in formatting an e-book as well as to publish my verses. I’ve been working on an allegory, editing and then setting it up as a print book to be published shortly, and the author wants me to publish as an e-book as well. I have the means to do e-publishing with my current WordPerfect version but hadn’t tried it out yet.

Wondering what the competition is like, I hopped over to Amazon to check out the poetry books listed there. First point noted is that haiku is “free verse” — in the literal sense as well as the figurative. Most of the haiku books listed on Amazon are “Read for Free on Kindle Unlimited.”

In the other corner, one brave poet listed his e-book of haiku for $24. Good luck with that.

Second point noted: one poet has seemingly flooded the haiku-book market. I saw at least two dozen of her books listed, but then I saw that one of her books had only nine verses, some others had only four. Book descriptions read like:
Given title. It is an e-book. 5-7-5 Haiku Quality

Hmm…

I checked out a couple, since they’re free for KD subscribers. Hmm…

My thoughts went back to an incident thirty-some years ago, when I was making a serious effort to learn French. Since I’d never lived in a French area, I had only an occasional opportunity to practice with the few local francophones in our community, but I did what I could when I could.

One day I was trying to converse with a young man from a francophone family in Dorval, Quebec, who’d travelled extensively in North America before settling in our area. His English was impeccable, but his tact wasn’t the best. After one quick practice session he told me — in an intriguing blend of kindness and honesty, “After you’ve learned French well, you’ll know how poorly you speak it now.”

Whimper.

But it was the truth. Once we lived in Quebec four years and I learned to speak it better — though never fluently— I knew what he meant. That’s what life and learning are all about.

When it comes to haiku, I have much to learn myself. However, poems like these (my examples) can’t really be classed as haiku:

yet I’ve
always
thought it so

today
I learned
I was wrong

One day a few weeks back I had to laugh when I saw a verse in an online book; it read (something like):

melon
inscrutably
meloning

This led me to write my own verse:

coconut
inexplicably
a nut

And then:

sunrise
promises
sunset

From what I have gleaned about haiku so far — as well as other modern short poems — writers should tell you what they see, but not what they think or conclude. These examples tell you plainly what I’ve seen AND what I want you to see or conclude:

her new outfit
too tight — nothing left
to the imagination

goose hunter
displays three dead birds
proud as a peacock

Verses aren’t to be disjointed to the point of confusion:

oil derricks pumping
countries in consuming competition
with world politics

The verse should not be just a sentence divided in three, nor use a telegraph style:

wind in wheat field
swirls heavy heads
of golden harvest

But rather leave you with a scene, imagining what happened or drawing your own conclusion. I’d love to quote a dozen better poets here, but their works are copyright, so here are my own adaptations again:

walking at dusk
the winnow of the nighthawk
lifts my thoughts

partway down the street
your shape disappears
in the fog

While I’m dealing specifically with haiku in this post, the same is true of all poetry — and writing as a whole. We should make it as concise as possible, thought-inspiring, but still accessible. Paint the scene, but not explain it.

Morning Musings

Good morning, everyone!winter-rural road-ahead

It’s a frosty one here on the Canadian prairie this morning; my phone registers our temperature as -36 C. Definitely CRISP, but warmer than the city of Saskatoon, which is -39 C or -37 F, according to Environment Canada. The predicted high today is -27 C.

Needless to say, our furnace is running pretty steady. I’m so thankful we don’t have to haul in firewood and keep the place warm with the old wood stove! We’ve had a couple more snowfalls this month — not heaps, but enough to keep the snow removal people on the go.

Our cats have serious cabin fever. During most of this winter our weather has fluctuated and they’ve had a few days every week when they could go out. But this cold spell (below -20 C) has settled on us all week and they don’t venture out for more than a few minutes until they’ve had enough.

And I have a cold. Mostly sinus drip, for which I’m taking decongestant and drinking hot stuff. A great day to stay inside and let my imagination wander to green grass and budding trees. The high for next week Wed is to be -16 C, so we will slowly come out of this.

I just came across this little verse in the 1974 Friendship Book of Francis Gay. I don’t know if I should find this a comfort or not?
When snow is deep and toes are numb,
when aches and pains make faces glum,
it’s odd to think you’ve only got
four months to wait to feel too hot!

Anyway, I wish you all a good day, wherever in the world you are. My thanks to all of you who are reading and following this blog. I’m delighted that I can “visit” with so many people this morning without having to leave my warm house. 🙂

 

Never Look Back

This is my response to fellow blogger Kristian’s “Tell the Story” Challenge. Here’s the picture he’s given about which to write my story:

IMG_3163

Never Look Down: A Lesson in Corporate Ladders

“Never look down,” I whispered to myself. “Never, never, never look down.” I forced myself to focus on the floor above and took another step on the winding staircase.

So what quirk of nature is at play in the human brain — or is it something more sinister perhaps, some evil force at work? How can it be that, when you so much don’t want to do a thing…

I couldn’t stop myself. I leaned over the railing and looked at the landing below. Before I could grab them, my glasses slid off my face and went sailing down the staircase and crashed on the floor. I shook my head and hurried back down to grab my shattered glasses, then started up again.

I’d been so delighted when, after several years on the working in Accounts Receivable on the ground floor at the Apex Complex, I was able to get the position of Personal Assistant to Ms DeVerre, one of the company executives three floors up. I didn’t realize when I started in my new position that there’d be days when the elevator was out-of-order or otherwise tied up, and I’d have to take the stairs.

I was hunched over my desk trying to read the daily planner when Ms DeVerre walked in. I looked up at the sound of her greeting and she stopped to take a good look at me.

“Lost another pair of glasses down the staircase,” she asked. “Isn’t that the third pair this month? This must be getting expensive for you.”

I quickly pulled my spare pair out of my desk drawer. “I can’t seem to resist looking down. I think it’s some kind of compulsion. Maybe I should apply for a job as chambermaid at the local Holiday Inn. At least if my glasses fall off there, they’ll land on a soft bed.”

She didn’t laugh at my joke. “Surely contact lenses would be a better solution, Miss Shattner. You should look into that.”

“I’ve never liked the thought of wearing contacts, but you’re right, of course.”

She gave me an odd look before she went into her office, almost like she was wondering about my intelligence.

I sighed. Something told me I wasn’t going to get much higher on this corporate ladder.

Possibilities

I haven’t written a short story for awhile, so I’ll go with the prompt from Word of the Day: POSSIBILITIES

Dark Door

My spirits are as bright as the sky above as I hurry down the street of the small Italian village. I’m so thrilled to think of what Gabriel is doing for me. It’s beyond wonderful! A few more blocks — maybe fifteen minutes — and I may be meeting my great Aunt Vittoria. Oh, I hope I’ve really found her!

Just before the Second World War my grandparents, Arturo and Bianca Santini, emigrated to Toronto from this little town in the north of Italy. Still teenagers, and just married, they left most of their family behind, promising to send for the others once they’d made their fortune in the land where money grew on trees.

Talk about delusion! Life as an immigrant in Toronto turned out to be decades of hard scrabble. Yes, they’re comfortable in their old age, but never have had the cash to support other family members. Still, it’s been their intention to someday come back, revisit their childhood home and renew family ties. Grandfather’s heart problems have prevented them from making the trip now, but I determined that I would visit this village and do what I could to restore the lost family connections on their behalf.

I started working as a physiotherapist and saving my money; now, with a little help from folks and grandpas, I had enough cash to make this two-week trip. April 8, 1996 was the big day! My parents and grandparents drove me to the airport in Toronto and I was off and the adventure of a lifetime. Before I boarded Mom waved a finger at me: “Don’t let any handsome young Italian turn your head. We don’t want you staying there!”

I landed in Firenze, I rented a car and headed for Pisa — the Leaning Tower being one of the first tourist stops on my list. I visited several more spots, then headed north toward the Alps where I finally found the little village I’ve heard so much about from Grandpa and Grandma.

For the first couple of days I just wandered around, getting a feel of the place and practicing my poor Italian on the natives. If they shake their heads, I pull out my Italian phrases book and show them what I’m trying to say. They laugh, shake their heads again, and pronounce it properly, delighted when, after half a dozen tries at copying, I finally get it right.

I visited the cemetery and found the great-grandparent’s graves. I visited the town records office, where I learned that my grandfathers’ siblings all scattered after the war. There are no Santinis left here, sorry. Maybe in the next village? Grandma’s sisters likely remarried and changed their names. I should check the church records.

Those first few mornings I’ve been enjoying real Italian espressos at a little bistro that caters to tourists like me. I was there yesterday when a very handsome young man approached me. Thankfully he does okay in English and I didn’t need my little book of phrases. He introduced himself as Gabriel Venturi and excused himself for being so bold, but said I look so much like his Auntie Ginevra did when she was young. He asked where I’m from and if I have family here in the village?

Grasping at the possibility of a connection, I spilled out the story of my grandparents who left before the war. He studied me closely until I turned very pink, then he apologized for being rude and asked, “Was your Grandma a Ricci before she married?”

Hope flared like fireworks. “Yes! And her two sisters stayed here, Maria and Vittoria. Grandpa’s parents had died in an accident but three of his brothers and a sister were here when he left. All communication stopped after the war, though.”

He looked rather grave for a moment. “A lot of young men died in the war, out in the battlefields. Or in the ocean. And others emigrated, hoping for a more peaceful life elsewhere. Your grandparents did well to leave when they did. But I think I maybe can help you. Vittoria Lorenzo, my Auntie Ginevra’s mother is still alive, though she’s very old and not able to get out much. She was a Ricci before she married and I think she did have a sister who went to Canada. Of course these are very common names and perhaps no relation. Still, I’ll talk to my auntie. Meet me here tomorrow morning and I’ll see if I can arrange for you to meet them.”

My heart skipped a beat. Could this old lady really be Grandma’s sister?

Gabriel smiled. “If you would like to walk around the town with me, I’ll show you where the Ricci family lived when those girls were growing up.”

I’ll confess, my heart did flutter a bit as we walked along. This man could be a tour guide. I wondered for a moment just what he did for a living, but the chance never came up. He seems like a great person to talk to about any subject under the sun.

Not only did he show me around the town, but also bought us a delicious dinner at the hotel. I did wonder for a moment when the young waiter gave him a sly wink. They must be friends. Or maybe he thought I was Gabriel’s new girlfriend. I didn’t see any wedding ring, but I still made a point of asking him if he had a wife or sweetheart. He shook his head, looking — or trying hard to look— very dejected, then asked about my work in Toronto. Again I wanted to ask what he did for a living, but somehow we never got to that topic.

This morning he met me at the café as promised and told me he’d arranged for me to meet my possible Great-Aunt Vittoria. He said he’d go a few minutes early and explain things to her again — she’s old and very forgetful. I should wait five minutes and then walk straight uphill from the bistro, cross five streets, and turn right at Giordano. Half a block up I’d see #16. Vittoria’s daughter lives downstairs and keep a box of pink flowers in the window and there’s a birdhouse hanging by the door. He’d be sure to leave the door ajar for me; I should go up the stairs to the first floor and knock at the second door. He’ll be waiting in the apartment with Vittoria and Aunt Ginevra.

So I’m following instructions, hurrying along with high hopes my search will be rewarded. Won’t Grandma Bianca be thrilled to know her sister still lives here in the village! If it’s her…

Suddenly some other possibilities sweep through my mind. Suspicions. I’ve always had a suspicious nature and now it’s rearing its ugly head, growling like the Troll of Terror. “Is Gabriel really the helpful fellow he’s pretending to be? What if, instead of meeting a sweet old lady, I’ll be meeting a couple of thugs? How can I know?” My feet start to drag.

I turn the corner at Giordano Street and see an old man sitting on a bench. I greet him politely and ask about Vittoria… Oh, what was her married name? I ask about Ginevra. He nods and points to the house down the street. Number 16. He holds up fingers to show me, just in case I don’t get it. I wince, knowing how poor my Italian really is. He says something else and I catch it that Vittoria is very old, very old.

Somewhat reassured, I approach the door, standing ajar just as Gabriel said it would be, and see the dark stairway inside.

“I’ll gladly hand over my cash, if that’s what they want. Wait! I’m being foolish.” I take the first few steps up the shadowy staircase and heave a sigh. “At least my passport and ID are hidden at the Inn. If this is a robbery, they won’t get that.” I scold myself for being such a fraidy cat and walk up the rest of the stairs. Gabriel is too kind and friendly to be a crook. “He surely wouldn’t let anyone murder me.”

Now I’m facing the door. I give it a couple quick knocks and hold my breath. Such possibilities!

Gabriel opens the door and waves his hand, inviting me in with a flourish. I take a step forward and my eyes pop open. The little old lady sitting in a soft chair and smiling up at me is a perfect copy of Grandma Santini.