from torrential rain . . .
wooded hills . . .
the evening downpour
fogs distant city lights
The two haiku above were published years ago and reprinted, among hundreds of writers’ poems, in my new book, Haiku and Senryu: A Simple Guide for All. Like all haiku, they should allow the reader to feel the emotion and mood of the writer, as I explain in my how-to book.
Let this be a good lesson for you in writing haiku. If the image is something that the reader can’t relate to and only has significance for the writer, it isn’t an effective haiku.
Even if the reader has never experienced a particular image before, can he at least understand how the writer is feeling? That is key. So often, beginning haikuists ask me to look over their haiku, and I find it is a personal image that isn’t developed enough for the reader to understand. They saw an image, maybe a pretty one, that stuck in their minds, but when the reader reads it, it is nothing more than a pretty image. We, as readers, say “so what?” There is no real thought behind it.
Haiku allows the reader to feel an emotion, a mood, without describing too much. It is subtle. The poet doesn’t hammer the reader with the image.
Often, beginners can’t tell whether their image actually says something. This is normal. Until you do a lot of reading of a poetic form, you can’t very well pick up the style points and expression of it.
As with any genre, do your homework about haiku. A good starting point is the Haiku Society of America. I have been a member for more than twenty years, and I now serve as the organization’s Second Vice President. The HSA publishes wonderful journals and anthologies, including Frogpond. Log onto the HSA site, http://www.hsa-haiku.org, to learn more.
A great haiku journal is bottle rockets, published by Stanford Forrester in Windsor, CT. My book mentioned above also contains generous examples of good haiku with detailed analysis. Haiku is flourishing today, written in dozens of languages worldwide. It appeals to people in a fast-paced society for its brevity, much like flash fiction does.
Haiku teaches us to slow down and experience the moments of our lives and to write about them. Haiku is about our moments, whether happy, sad, fun, or even tragic. But, they aren’t written in a sentimental way, and they come across as being all the more powerful for their subtlety. Haiku are good therapy for readers and writers alike, if they are written well and catch us dead in our tracks from their evocative images.
Copyright 2015 by Charlotte Digregorio.