Pandemic Poetry ~ Let’s Write a Haiku

There’s something wonderful on April’s calendar that hasn’t been cancelled or postponed. It’s National Poetry Month. The celebration is taking on new meaning and importance this year as people all over the world turn to poetry for comfort, creativity and connection during this challenging time.

Each Sunday in April, The Simple Swan will offer a brief workshop of sorts to explore a certain type of poetry and encourage you to write and share your own poems. This week, let’s take a look at a familiar Japanese form of poetry called haiku.

Haikus were always a favorite of my literature students for an obvious reason ~ they’re short. Well-known for the rule of 5-7-5, a haiku consists of just three unrhymed lines. The first and third lines have five syllables, and the second line has seven syllables. (You probably remember tapping your pencil on the desk to learn syllables in school. For example, the word frog has one syllable. The word silent has two syllables.)

Nature often inspires poetry, but a haiku, by definition, is about nature. It can be traced back to 9th century Japan where it evolved as poetry that specifically celebrated the natural world. Matsuo Basho wrote one of the most famous haikus in the 1600s.

“The Old Pond” 

An old silent pond

A frog jumps into the pond –

Splash! Silence again. 

While you keep yourself and others safe by staying at home, I hope you find the time to pen your own haiku. Maybe you can make it a family activity. Find something in nature that makes you happy and form your thoughts about it into a simple three-line poem that follows the 5-7-5 rule.

Please consider sharing your poem by leaving it in the comments or emailing it to me at  aliciawoodward4@aol.com. You might want to get really creative and illustrate your poem. Haikus are often accompanied by simple watercolor paintings. Hang it on your refrigerator as a little food for thought.

Poetic inspiration struck me early this morning when, wrapped in a blanket, I stepped out on the porch for a fresh look at the new day. I inhaled deeply and watched my exhaled breath quickly disappear in the cool spring air. From inside, I heard the television mumble news of virus and ventilators. Closing my eyes, I took a slower, more intentional breath filled with gratitude and hope.

“Air” 

Nothing more precious

A calming, life-giving flow

In and out. Just breathe. §

Let’s Write a Haiku

Inspired by a recent spring day filled with happy moments, I penned this haiku ~

April drive with Mom
Yellow forsythia blooms
All roads lead back home

You probably tried your hand at writing haiku poetry in a classroom long ago. In honor of National Poetry Month, could I entice you to explore your creativity and try it again today?

To refresh your memory, a haiku (pronounced hi-koo) is a form of Japanese poetry. Traditionally, a haiku is about nature and has just three short lines that don’t rhyme. The first and third lines have five syllables, and the second line has seven syllables. Do you remember tapping your pencil on the desk to count syllables?

Haiku poetry can be traced back to 9th century Japan and was a way of celebrating the natural world. Matsuo Basho wrote this oft translated haiku in the 1600s ~

An old silent pond
A frog jumps in the water
Splash! Silence again

I always looked forward to teaching a unit on haiku poetry. Even the most reluctant students enjoyed it, especially when I brought out the cardboard box of individual watercolor sets and urged them to illustrate their poems. Their work made the most beautiful spring bulletin boards!

Knowing my love for poetry, my husband often writes me poems. He casually leaves them for me to find on post-it notes and torn sheets of notebook paper. They are written in the same distinctive handwriting that made my heart skip a beat when he passed me a note in high school.

A quiet rebel, he usually breaks the rules of haiku poetry, so we call his poems Mikus. Just like Mike, they are always sweet, often funny, and sometimes romantic like this favorite ~

Wooden rocking chairs
Sitting on the porch with you
Forever and ever

Nothing would please me more than knowing you were inspired to write your own haiku. Go outside, or look out the window, and find something in nature to write about. Follow the rules, or don’t. Artistic rules are made to be broken. For extra credit, get out some colored pencils, crayons, or watercolors and make a picture to go along with your poem.

National Poetry Month is a perfect time to be creative. I understand if you want to keep it private, but I would love to read your haiku in the comments. I know from experience your poem will spark creativity in others and invite us all to look at the world in a more beautiful, artistic way. §