Can You Haiku?

The far reach of AROHO lives on, this time with the inspiration of Nicole Galland, one of the wonderful writers I met in New Mexico last August at Ghost Ranch.  Nicole had a friend who had written one haiku each day for an entire year.  Not being a poet herself, Nicole still thought the challenge of trying to write in this very tight form every day sounded interesting.  So she put out the call on Facebook.  Like myself, many of the people who responded were AROHO alumnae, but the circle widened with friends of friends of friends joining in.  Nicole created a group called The Haiku Room, and the fun began on January 1, 2014.

Since that time, I have written a haiku every day and received copious haiku from other people. I read each and every one although I find it difficult to "like" or comment on each.  But I love the fact that my inbox is filled with poetry instead of just advertisements or pleas for money from the Democratic Party.

I will admit that many of my haiku have been written out of desperation; the end the day is looming and I haven't found the time or subject to write.  Even so, I post those as well as the ones I'm proud of.  It's the discipline of writing them that I am finding so valuable.

That was a result I expected from the start.  After all, I'm still reaping the results of my early morning writing ritual (it's 6:10 as I write this on the 161st day).  What I didn't expect is how writing poems with such constraints would effect my writing.  I found an article about writing haiku which said many modern haiku in English no longer stick to the 5-7-5 syllable format.  However, I decided that I would keep my poems within that constraint.

And that has made a real difference in my writing.  I have had to hone and pare every unnecessary word while trying to convey as much with those words as possible.  I've had to struggle to actually make the poems say something worth reading with only those 17 syllables as well. And I've found that struggle to crystallize imagery to be spilling into my other poetry writing as well. I'm surprised I didn't think that would happen when I started, but am glad just the same.

In my post Last Post of 2013: Inspired by David Hockney I wrote about wanting to look more carefully at the world around me, to record what I see in vivid detail like Hockney did in his paintings.  That is another result of writing these haiku: looking at the smallest moment as a source of inspiration.  I find what I have come to call haiku mind to be a wonderful form of meditation for me.

I have now written a total of 27 haiku having yet to compose my poem for today.  Here are a few of my favorites so far:

winter city view
sun splash on dirty windows
watch the plum tree dance

gulls white-ride windward
over mist-mountains bay to ocean
winging stories home

after-school walk home
behind chain-link sharp-eared growl
thrill of near peril

night glow through curtains
pursue Artemis moon dreams
not human-lit streets

flock of daffodils
golden feathers bob and sway
winter's flown awry

moon, softly rounding
train whistle pulls my heart - wild
and just beginning

dun dried hills riven
by drought my tongue swollen
with dreams of water

Queen Anne's Lace, she wrote
pansies, fireflies awoke
childhood prairie fields
--for Tania

So I ask you again, can you haiku?  I highly recommend it.

Last Post of 2013: Inspired by David Hockney

I can think of no better way to spend a lovely San Francisco afternoon than to go to the museum. Two days ago I went to see the David Hockney exhibition at the De Young Museum in San Francisco.  This is one of the largest current exhibitions of his work in the United States.  Of course it has been wildly popular, so I had the bright idea of joining the hordes of people flowing into the museum on a holiday weekend to view it.  My friend Charlotte had told me it was life changing, which made me both eager to see the work and a little skeptical. I didn’t know much about Hockney other than that he painted a lot of pretty blue swimming pools in L.A. back in the 1970’s.

At first it was difficult to enjoy the art, especially since I kept stumbling over people with audio guides glued to their ears. I was cranky, not happy to be trapped with all those strangers, but as I started to weave my way through the crowds, the art did what art always does: it took hold of me.

What was it that grabbed me, that shook something loose in me?  Partly it was the color and scale of the work. I loved having to put my head back to gaze up at his huge canvases full of vibrant color as well as individual works mounted in groups high up to the ceiling.   

Partly it was his use of technology. I was mesmerized by the drawings he had done on his iPad and iPhone. I loved the fact that this man in his 70’s continues to embrace new media to accomplish his art. The quality of those drawings is different, soft and with a rather mysterious air about them, as if the world they depict was misty, with a haze in the air that put everything into soft focus.

However, it wasn’t just the vibrant color that enthralled me. I found out that recently Hockney has been working in charcoal to record the same views of his native Yorkshire countryside at different times of the day and season.  I’ve always been such a sucker for color that I’ve never been much interested in drawings.  But those series of charcoal drawings stunned me.  Running up and down the walls, they made me stop and look slowly at each one. I thought about how I have forgotten to do this very thing – sit and reflect and record the passing of the day and what is happening around me.  I’ve been too busy worrying about the twists and turns of my own mind to sit and observe what is going on around me.

I did that last summer at Ghost Ranch – every morning going outside and gazing at the sky, trying to experience what each day brought. But recently, after the initial euphoria of establishing my writing routine, I’d forgotten to lift my eyes from the page to look at the stripe of sun that falling across the page of my journal. Or watch how I  make shadows dance with my pen as I carry it along the pages. I have forgotten to notice the sweet, spicy scent of the candle that burns among my jumble of rocks and flotsam that I’ve gathered to remind me of the person I want to become. 

What I got from the exhibit:  the reminder to look up, look up, look forward. And take hold of everything at your disposal to create.To make sure I don't forget (at least for a little while), I bought this print of one of Hockney's watercolors.