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.

Speak On These Things

by Canadian Poet Edna Jacques

If there be faith and love and charity,
The shining wonder of a bluebird’s wings,
If there is joy and beauty in your life,
Speak on these things.

If there be trust when all men seem to doubt,
A lullaby that some young mother sings,
A neighbour on whose goodness you rely,
Speak on these things.

If there be majesty and truth and grace,
A happy message that the postman brings,
The welcome visitor who comes to call,
Speak on these things.

If there be goldenrod, like tapers lit,
An old gray wall where coloured ivy clings,
A garden where tall lilies scent the air,
Speak on these things.

If there is beauty in a world of ill,
A quiet valley where a church bell rings,
Where there is faith and love and little homes,
Speak on these things.

Edna Jacques,
1891- 1978

Paper Airplanes & Haiku

Good morning everyone!

I’m up before the sun today, but it’s slowly getting out of bed. Our weather’s been up and down for most of the winter, but the forecasters are telling us now that we’re in for a spell of -20 to -30 C, such as you’d expect in February here on the prairies.

A great time to stay home, but our comfy conveyances are so handy nowadays. Not like in Grandma’s day when the rare trip to town meant piling into the old sled (sleigh?) with warm stones at their feet and bouncing across frozen fields. These cold snaps were when moms and grandmas circa 1900 darned the socks, patched clothes, wrote letters, and got their quilting done.

But here I am this morning, hopping around the globe via the internet to pop in on poets in Australia, Mexico, Britain and the US. I’ve read Frank Prem’s new book of poetry and his request for pre-pub readers and reviewers, then shared a fishy limerick with Kristian.

Now I’ve finished an interesting article on Objective Hokku written by David from I-assume-the-US. He explains that Objective Hokku is simply a reflection, via the poet, of what it there, making no comparisons, offering no personal opinion or interpretation. I’ll take a stab at it:

Winter morning.
The cat curled up
In the office chair.

You get the immediate picture and some sense of coziness. This verse doesn’t tell you that the office chair is mine and I should be in it, that because I’m too soft to dump the cat out, I’m sitting beside it on a hard-seated folding chair typing this. 🙂

The poem below is haiku, because it definitely leads you to a conclusion about my reading habits. 😉 Actually it’s more of a senryu, a haiku which makes a wry comment on human nature.

all the books
I hope to someday read
paper airplanes

And this even more so:

high pressure system
distant cousins arrive
family picnic drenched

Even though I’m not into the deeper significance of haiku and hokku, I do enjoy these “snapshot” verses. I hope you do, too.

The Best of Friends

To An Old Friend

by Edgar A. Guest

When we have lived our little lives
and wandered all their byways through,
when we’ve seen all that we shall see
and finished all that we must do,

when we shall take one backward look
off yonder where our journey ends,
I pray that you shall be as glad as I
shall be that we were friends.

Time was we started out to find
the treasures and the joys of life;
we sought them in the land of gold
through many days of bitter strife.

When we were young we yearned for fame;
in search of joy we went afar,
only to learn how very cold
and distant all the strangers are.

When we have met all we shall meet
and know what destiny has planned,
I shall rejoice in that last hour that I
have known your friendly hand.

I shall go singing down the way
off yonder as my sun descends
as one who’s had a happy life,
made glorious by the best of friends.

From Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co

Everyone Envies My Hat

sea snail

Everyone envies
my flexible vision,
my unique sparkling hat
perched atop my healthy
yellow complexion.
I blush green over
all their compliments.

Then down I swim
into the depths where
I play hide and seek
with the urchins
in a world you only dream
of visiting someday.

My response to today’s Word of the Day prompt: UNIQUE