National Poetry Month: Exploring Haiku

poetry-688368_640I have a love/hate relationship with poetry. When I was a child, it was all love. I was given collections of poetry by Robert Louis Stevenson and A.A. Milne and encouraged to memorize both. When I got further into school and had to read Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and Edgar Allen Poe, I loved their poems, too. I even ventured into writing some poems of my own, and the Thanksgiving poem I wrote when I was seven is still framed and on display by both sets of grandparents.

Fast forward a decade. In college, I was required to take poetry-writing classes for my English degree. There was one big difference—all we got to read and write was modern poetry. Without the rhyme, meter, and clear story of my childhood favorites, I got lost pretty quickly in the deep imagery of the free verse. During those years, my love/hate relationship with poetry was definitely all hate.

My creative writing teacher was patient with me. When I would complain boldly in our small class that I didn’t get it and didn’t like it, she told me I didn’t have to like every poem. She suggested a few names to me and told me that in time, I would surely find some poets that I could connect with. I did find a few poems that I enjoyed, and I thank that class for adding Billy Collins to my list of favorite poets. Poetry wasn’t quite as ruined for me as I thought it had been.

It’s been a few years, and I’ve been quietly adding poets like Billy Collins, Maya Angelou, and Pablo Neruda (only in his original Spanish—English can’t do him justice!) to my shelf. With the help of some friends and Billy Collins’ Poetry 180 Project, I’m cautiously making a list of additional poets to sample sometime. Because April is National Poetry Month, I’ve decided that “sometime” will be now.

Time for haiku!

I also want to practice writing poetry again. I don’t have a lot of time, and I know I need to work on imagery, so I’ve decided to spend the rest of National Poetry Month reading and writing haiku. The intriguing little things have been popping up all over the place lately, and the word nerd in me loves to play with syllable count. I’m more than a little hooked. So far, I know three things about haiku:

  • Syllables: As a general rule, traditional haiku follow a fourteen-syllable pattern in three lines with 5-7-5 syllables.
  • Imagery: Haiku don’t waste time with any unnecessary words; it’s all about painting a tiny, clear word picture.
  • Time: Perhaps this goes along with imagery, but the haiku form is often an attempt to preserve an exact moment in time.

There’s a lot yet to learn, so I picked up two books at the library. One deals with the reading, writing, and teaching of haiku, and the other gives a collection of haiku in English. My goal in April is to read those books, update the list of things I know about haiku, and write some mini poems of my own. At the end of the month, I’ll post my findings along with the best of my creations.

Join me!

Do you love playing with words? Are you wishing you could dabble in poetry even with a busy schedule? You should join me in practicing the art of haiku over the next few weeks. Reach out to me through comments, Twitter (@ekbuege), or email (contact@elizabethbuege.com) if you’re interested in adding some haiku of your own to a collaborative list at the end of April.

On Thursday, I’ll be sticking with the National Poetry Month theme and sharing the poems and poets that have made the biggest impact on my reading, writing, and editing. I’m hoping to start a conversation and hear about the poems and poets that have influenced my readers and other guests, so get ready to share some names and titles with me!

Until then, I go /
To practice writing poems /
Tiny, but potent.

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