Haiku It to It!


Ponder the haiku—tiny little “one-breath” poem, the utmostly concise observation of a moment, possessor of half a bajillion rules (give or take a few) concerning how it should be written, and, quite possibly the key to helping you become a better writer.
Oh, wait a minute! some of you may be thinking.  I think I took a wrong toin at Albuquoikie—I’m not a writer!  Oh, but aren’t you?  Perhaps you don’t pen poetry (yet!), and mayhap you don’t map out macabre murder mysteries, but do you ever tuck a note in your child’s backpack for his teacher?  Send a birthday letter to your best friend?  Email the old folks at home?  Maybe you are toiling away at the Great American Novel.  If you pick up a pen or peck at a keyboard, there are lots of ways to perk up what you say, and playing around with the little haiku just might do the job for you.
So, what is haiku?  Well, one thing it isn’t is a neat little arrangement of 5-7-5 syllables.  Did you learn that once upon a time?  I did, too.  
Something got lost in the translation (probably at that pesky toin in
Albuquoikie). But since this post isn’t meant to be a how-to for writing traditional Japanese haiku, and since there’s already lots of info out there (try www.haikusociety.com, www.ahapoetry.com, and www.haikuguy.com, for starters), let’s for our own purposes just
call it a teensy little peek at a moment, object, thought, emotion, etc.  Ah, methinks I hear a few purists gnashing their teeth and moaning, then why are you using our special word for it?  Well, you know—as a reference point, so people can hop on board easier. 
And besides, it’s fun to say… Haiku.  Hai-kooooo.  Hai- hai- hai- KU! 

O.k., ready to try some writing exercises?  You may want to dedicate a special notebook for this, to keep all your examples of haikuishness in one place, ‘cause once you start, you may become an addict.  You might start to look at everything in a haikuey kind of way, and that would be good—you’ll be living more in each little nugget of a moment, and if you’re living, looking, and thinking that way, chances are good you’ll be writing that way, too.

Exercise Number One
Choose one of the five senses and write a verse about it—or write one for each.  You needn’t even name the sense, just describe how the cucumber slice felt when it first touched your tongue.  What exactly did the raindrop sound like when it pattered into the puddle?

                                    Sparrow’s song
                                    jabbing the air
                                from the spruce bough
Sometimes details are just details; but sometimes, they are what makes your writing worth reading… and remembering!
Exercise Number Dos
Remember what onomatopoeia is?  When a word’s meaning is evident in its sound?  Crackle… crash… crunch…  Pick an onomatopoeic word and haiku something out of it.  Chatter… shatter… clatter…

Exercise Number Kolme
Metaphor.  This one’s a bit more of a mind-stretcher, designed to get you thinking differently than you normally might.  Choose an object and describe it in terms of another unrelated object, like, oh maybe like this:

I don’t claim to be an expert, but I think this kind of thinking uses a different part of the brain; practice tapping into it regularly and see whether or not it adds an extra dimension to your writing.

Exercise Number Shi
Take a fairy tale and pare it down to its absolute skeletal essence.  How would you sum up Cinderella in three lines?  Goldilocks and the Three Bears?  Try it with your favorite song or a piece of writing you’re currently laboring on.  Cut the main idea down to the barest of bones, then flesh it out again only as much as needed.  This little challenge can help you take rambling, bogged-down wordiness and sleeken it up.

Exercise Number Tano
O.k.—how ‘bout just one more?  (Or are you too busy Googling some of these number words to see where they come from? :) ) Let’s play around with alliteration—the repetition of initial sounds in words that occur near each other—to create a certain mood:

                                    Snow sifts, stars’ silence
                                   skis slide softly, steadily…
                                            silken susurrus

Do all the “s” sounds convey a whispery sense of peacefulness to you?  Crash things around a little and try writing a snippet full of “cr” words.  See how the sounds you choose can help set the tone of your writing.

                                                 * * * * *
Okey-doke—that’s all for now!  Hopefully I’ll be back soon with more ideas that you might like to try.  Happy Writing!

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