Senryu, We Tried…

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When I decided to participate in this years April Poem A Day Challenge, I added the secondary goal of writing senryu for the entire month. The lesser known off shoot of haiku deals with human behavior in conjunction with nature, often with a sense of humor or strong emotional element. I’d written a few in the past and I enjoy the form so I thought it might be fun to commit to a month of writing them.

About half way through the month, I realized senryu is not totally my thing. I still love the form, but it became very clear to me that I don’t enjoy writing it as much as haiku. While human behavior fascinates me, it’s not something I can easily translate into a short poetic form. At least not with the same ease I can with nature.

I don’t know if I had a hard time because I prefer the company of a tree over a group of people (naturalist introverts would agree) or if I’m simply struggling with fundamental elements of senryu. Both are strong possibilities! The element of humor was something I could never quite grasp, although I was able to convey strong emotion.

This was an interesting discovery in that it helped confirm what I enjoy writing the most. During the last week of the challenge, I punched out a couple senryu, but almost everything else I wrote was haiku. And it felt great!  It’s almost as if my muse was dying to get back into the haiku groove.

I’m glad I tried to commit to a new form because it did challenge me and it did push me to see things from a different perspective. At the same time, it felt good to return “home” to haiku after what felt like eternity away.

In many ways, this is what the April Poem A Day Challenge is all about. Not only is there challenge of writing a prompt based poem every day, but there is also the deeper exploration of your identity as a poet.

 

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Special Note: One of my favorite senryu poets is Alexis Rotella. Writing senryu may not be my thing, but I still love reading it. I highly recommend checking out this poet’s work.

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c.b.w. 2016

A Year of Haiku

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It all started with a journal and a goal. The journal had been sitting on my shelf for quite some time – I was saving it for something special as it had a gorgeous suede cover embossed with maple leaves. The goal came from a newfound love of haiku that started with haikubes and grew to an all out obsession after participating in a poem-a-day challenge.

When I realized writing haiku was a full-blown passion, I decided to fully immerse myself in the practice. That meant writing at least one haiku every single day. Suddenly my beautiful suede journal had a purpose!

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A beautiful journal for a haiku challenge!

While it sounds easy enough to write three lines (or less) of poetry each day, the comes with its fair share of challenges. In September 2014, I started the process by using haikubes, but quickly found it was very time consuming and didn’t always lend itself to what I wanted to express.

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My first attempts were quite overwritten with metaphors and superfluous language. Haiku should instead be clean and simple.

So, I started looking out my window, where I found loads of inspiration from the birds, changing sunlight, and weather. From there, I simply focused my lens of observation anywhere I happened to be.  I have haikus scribbled on napkins, typed on my cell phone, and written on the back of receipts. There are little moments happening all the time and the practice of haiku has helped me open my eyes to see them.

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The last page of my journal puts the first page in perspective. These last entries are little closer to the true spirit of haiku.

Hungry for more, I sought more inspiration and found it on National Haiku Writing Month’s Facebook page. While February is technically the official Haiku Writing Month, the organization offers daily prompts during every month. While challenging, the prompts allowed me to dig even deeper into my haiku writing practice. So deep in fact, I started writing well outside the traditional 5-7-5 format.

The jump from 5-7-5 to contemporary haiku was a big one, but I don’t regret it. While the rules are a bit more relaxed, the challenge remains in place. Instead of 17 total syllables, I aim to keep my haiku at 12 syllables or less. This decision in itself made me realize how far my evolution has gone – instead of adhering to strict guidelines, I am finding my own voice and rules within the established form. I’m not afraid to be myself and experiment.

My most recent shift in haiku occurred recently. Reading contemporary English-language haiku opened up a new format called monoku or single line haiku. One line captures all the essential elements of haiku and is usually under 10 syllables. While simple, it is also incredibly difficult. That said, I am fascinated by this form and will continue to play with it.

On October 9, 2015, my haiku journal project was completed. I filled every page (front and back) with haikus I felt were the best I could make them (so many more remain in draft form in my “brainstorming” journals). All told, my journal holds 880 haikus. Upon reflection it is quite astounding to see where I started and where I ended up in terms of form, style, and technique.

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Page after page of haiku!

Even after 880 haikus, I feel like I’m just getting started. Hence, the start of a new project – another journal is prepped and ready to go. Between the personal satisfaction and inklings of publication (local and online journals) my haiku practice has brought me, all I want to do is write more. Whether it’s the traditional  5-7-5 or ultra-modern monoku, I am anxious to see what another year of haiku will bring.

 

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c.b.w. 2015

Timeless Troubadour

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Strumming a guitar
well past new
He taps his toe
to a beat his own
The stage is small
the people few
but his tune they know
and sing it true

A soft-spoken voice
sings so boldly
tales from days of old
which still pass through
his wise, warm heart
Alas there’s hope for today
and a belief that love is all

The past and present
dance like kindred mates
The words they play
Puns aplenty and
old world prose
All with thanks
to this wordsmith’s song

A traditional poet
shy and tender
Line by line
he hones his craft
A modern day minstrel
tall and slender
Newly-spun odes
revive vintage souls

c.b. 2011

This poem was inspired by my favorite “timeless troubadour,” Johnny Flynn.  One listen and you’ll see why he’s a well-kept secret the whole world should know.