Practical Haiku: How Reading and Writing an Ancient Form of Poetry Can Change Your Life

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Reading and writing haiku can make you a better writer, a closer observer of things, more patient, more attentive, calmer, happier, sexier, and better connected to people and the world around you. …

Reading and writing haiku can make you a better writer, a closer observer of things, more patient, more attentive, calmer, happier, sexier, and better connected to people and the world around you. (OK, maybe not sexier.) This short presentation shows you how.

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  • Thank you, Dylan.

    Peter Bryenton
    http://braiku.blogspot.com/
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  • I’m going to tell you how reading and writing haiku can change your life. Now, I’m no scholar, but I’ve been reading, writing and publishing haiku at tinywords.com for almost 10 years, and it’s definitely changed my life. I’d like to show you why, and how you can use haiku to change yours.
  • We were all taught to write 17-syllable haiku in grade school.
  • But because of the way Japanese and English work, 17 syllables is actually too wordy in English – as you can see by these 2 different translations of the same classic haiku. Note: The Japanese actually count “onji,” or sounds, which aren’t the same as syllables. The word “haiku” has 2 syllables but it would count as 3 “onji.”
  • Following the spirit of haiku is a lot more fun than counting syllables anyway. The spirit includes immediacy, close observation, humor and surprise.
  • When you don’t have many words, you’ve got to choose each one carefully, and think hard about how it works with the words around it. This is useful for writing headlines, captions, web copy, emails, and probably advertisements too. It’s just good writing practice as well.
  • Harlan Ellison quote via Ozan Yigit
  • You might have to write 5, 10, or 100 versions of a haiku before you get it right. Or sometimes inspiration just doesn’t strike at all. So you have to be patient.
  • Because really, it’s the details that make life interesting.
  • There are lots of good haiku books in the library. And these websites publish daily haiku, too – some will even email the haiku to you.
  • Carry a notebook. You can use a trendy, expensive one, or a cheap drugstore notebook, or even a small stack of index cards in your pocket. Write down a haiku, or even a few notes, whenever inspiration strikes.
  • Pay attention. You never know when something might happen, or you might notice a sight, a smell, or a sound, that inspires a haiku.
  • The essence of haiku is pointing out something, like a finger. Check this out! The best haiku will transport the reader back into the moment that inspired the haiku. So keep it direct.
  • You can write about big things like Mars landings or the economy, but it works best if you do so by focusing on some small detail: the dust rising up from the spacesuit’s boot, instead of the whole Mars rocket or whatever.
  • Likewise, you can write about strong emotions and feelings – but it will be more powerful if you do so indirectly. Find some telling detail that illustrates the emotion, rather than just blurting out how you feel.
  • Most haiku break into 2 parts: one short part followed by a longer part, or the reverse. It works best if there’s some comparison, contrast, or tension between the two parts.
  • Avoid archaic language like “thee” and “thou,” artificially elevated language, and don’t cut out so many words (like “a” and “the”) that your poem starts sounding like Tonto. You should be able to say your haiku aloud normally.
  • You should be able to say your haiku in a single breath. 10-12 syllables is about right in English; 17 is the max.
  • This is Jeff Winke’s idea: See if you can find what’s wrong with the picture, at any given moment. Chances are, that thing will be a good subject for a haiku.
  • Haiku is a deeply social art form (in fact, it started with parties, where people wrote haiku verses back and forth). So share it with your friends, with a group, with an email list, with the world!

Transcript

  • 1. Practical Haiku How a tiny, ancient form of poetry can make your life better by making you more creative, a better writer, happier, nicer to be around, more productive, sexier … by Dylan Tweney
  • 2. Everybody knows how to write haiku, right?
    • 5 Haiku are easy
    • 7 But sometimes they don’t make sense
    • 5 Refrigerator
    • Rolf Nelson, threadless.com
  • 3. Actually, it’s not so simple
    • There’s a lot more to haiku than counting syllables.
    On a withered bough A crow alone is perching; Autumn evening now.           Basho, tr. Kenneth Yasuda on a bare branch a crow lands autumn dusk           Basho, tr. Jane Reichhold
  • 4. But it’s a lot more fun!
    • sudden downpour –
    • no one wins
    • the wet-t-shirt contest
    • David Giacalone
  • 5. How haiku helps you live better
    • Haiku helps you write more precisely
    home addition– the carpenter's math penciled on drywall Barry George
  • 6. Haiku helps you see
    • The message that precedes all others -- in art as well as life -- is simple:  pay attention               Harlan Ellison
    Photo: GregHickman
  • 7. Haiku teaches patience…
    • Because you can’t always go out and make a haiku, you often have to wait for one to come to you.
  • 8. Haiku helps you appreciate the small, wonderful things in life
    • Like cherry petals, ants, spoons, blades of grass, peeling paint, nuts and bolts, dew, earlobes, discarded coins, scraps of paper, oil rainbows in puddles, snowflakes, stray wisps of hair …
    Photo: Lily
  • 9. The haiku way: How you can make it happen
    • 1. Read haiku every day
    Daily Issa http://cat.xula.edu/issa/ Mann Library, Cornell http://haiku.mannlib.cornell.edu/ @dailyku tinywords.com
  • 10. The haiku way
    • Read haiku every day
    • Write haiku every day
  • 11. The haiku way
    • Read haiku every day
    • Write haiku every day
    • Be alert to haiku moments
    morning news with the paper, I bring in a cherry petal Dylan Tweney
  • 12. Haiku Basics: Immediacy
    • Right here, right now. Lookit this!
    Photo: Funkandjazz
  • 13. Think small
    • Mars landing --
    • a tendril of red dust
    • shifts from a footfall
    • Alan Summers
    Photo: intherough
  • 14. Show, don’t tell
    • in the old stable we made hot, passionate love like wild horses do
    • anonymous horrible poet
    • stolen kisses barn swallows twitter in the eaves Mike Farley
  • 15. Contrast/comparison
    • 2 parts: short - long or long - short
    the whoosh of steam from the espresso machine – frosty evening Charles Trumbull
  • 16. Use natural language If you can’t say it with a straight face, try again
  • 17. “ One breath poetry” 10-12 syllables is usually enough in one breath the whole autumn Valeria Simonova-Cecon
  • 18. Look at the world as a “what's wrong with this picture?” puzzle
    • mannequin faces
    • a cosmetic counter woman
    • offers a spritz
    • Jeffrey Winke
    Photo: Lisa Brewster
  • 19. Share your haiku with others
    • ReadWritePoem.org
    • WorldHaikuReview.org
    • Haiku Poets of Northern California – hpnc.org
    • Or, just write haiku and send them to your friends, leave them tucked in library books, on Muni, scrawled on the bathroom wall…
  • 20. Happy haiku-ing hum of the laptop watching a lost world flicker to life Dylan Tweney [email_address] @tinywords @dylan20