NaHaiWriMo 2017

A selection of short poems for the shortest month

Schwabinger See am Morgen

For a number of years Michael Dylan Welch has been organizing National Haiku Writing Month, more commonly known as NaHaiWriMo during the month of February where anyone can post their minimalistic poetic contributions every day. There would be a prompt for each day the participants could, if they wanted, use as a theme for that day’s installment. I had fun participating this year and would like to present a selection of what I came up with.

I’ve been writing in the English language haiku form for quite a while and feel most comfortable when I can hold to a few guidelines for myself. Some of these are in reference to the Japanese form with its rules, some are adaptations to English, and some have more to do with the group setting of many people posting their work all set off by a single image or idea.

  1. The 5-7-5 rule in Japanese corresponds to something much more compact in English. I aim for twelve English syllables in the three-line form, nine for single line poems.
  2. Poems should hae two images or ideas juxtaposed hard against one another. This corresponds to the cutting word or kireji in Japanese.
  3. Although the poems have prompts which might be considered to correspond to the season word or kigo in Japanese, I prefer to suggest the topic instead of featuring it explicitly. Reading a long series of haiku all using the one same word as their main pivot is not so enjoyable for me. I know I’m in the distinct minority of practitioners on Facebook in this area.
  4. I am not at all strict about the orientation away from human preoccupations toward nature. If it’s what happens, then all well and good, but if not and what comes out is human-centric, more like a senryu, I’ll go with that too.

I wrote something for each day of the month, but not all of them are reproduced here, because I have some other plans for some of them. Here they are, in reverse sequence, each with the writing prompt given for the day. A few of them have images that go along with the prompt and my interpretation, which I have credited.

28: NATURE (yet again—whatever you want to write about from the natural word, and try to keep it a pure-nature poem).

two dozen eggs
and four besides,
some of them cracked

26: OUR (our what? see where that will take you, and try to use “our” in your poem).

spit drips
from her lips;    her boy stoops for
a good rock

25: TO (write a poem in which you use the word “to”).

all the way back
last fall's kim chee lifts
up the lid

22: LEAF.

then might they know:   someone passed this way

21: *FALLING.*
eighty year old
teacup --   its shards in
your two hands
20: *NATURE (yet again, but this time think of something seasonal that’s unique or special where you live).*
early September
the smoke plume a
lurid red
16: *NATURE (write about something natural rather than human-made that you can see right now).*
the place where
you used to park -  leaves
from last autumn
15: *RETURNING TO (what have you often returned to in life, or would you like to return to?).*
to begin again:
share your things,
try to be kind
14: *A WAY OF (either fill in a word after “of” or write a poem about a “way” of some kind).*
through life's
twenty thousand missteps we learn
the Tao
13: *IS (use this specific word in your poem, but try to be wary of introducing too much judgment into the poem).*
camp twenty-three
the place you knew
no longer is
11: *CLEAN.*
before mother comes
hide the bacon,
this raw shrimp
9: *A MIRROR.*
mass job cuts
I look at myself...
could have been me
8: *OPENED.*
ancient oyster
one kimono fold
in the flow
7: *HALF.*
two people
but one hearth:  the cherry
and its stone
I gave my love a cherry...
6: *A DOOR.*
I jab the button
twice...   still
no elevator
she has them look:
the transport that holds
their father
4: *HAND.*
the harlequin's
salute -- just a few
fingers short
3: *A (yes, just this letter of the alphabet—where will it take you? a what? or something starting with a?).*
tap of
a hammer... violet on

I really enjoyed participating in the haiku month this year and saw some really excellent submissions along the way by some really skilled writers. The plan is to produce an ebook of the twenty-eight best of the submissions for release sometime soon, something I will be looking forward to when it happens.

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