Poetry Tips

In Calgary, spring and summer are always very welcome after a long winter.  It’s an amazing time of year, when life’s alive in everything, to paraphrase Christina Rossetti.  Poetic inspiration is all around us – in the sky, trees, plants, flowers, birds, insects and more.  Emotions seem heightened, as in this tanka that appears in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of GUSTS: Contemporary Tanka:

sipping wine
on a midsummer night
I wish I had more
than the man in the moon
for company

If you’re still not sure what to write about, consider juxtaposing images and moods, for a bittersweet take on the spring season:

if I can be an orphan
at my age
I take daffodils
to the cemetery

Got the winter doldrums and writer’s block, too?  If you’re a city dweller like me,  maybe take a drive in the country and observe the sky, land, trees, animals, etc.  In other words, get outta town!  I wrote the following haiku based on a  brief but memorable observation:

the old corral
a snow drift

I can still see in my mind’s eye the peaceful rural scene that inspired this haiku.

Here’s another seasonal haiku based on a brief encounter with a stranger:

winter night
I keep the telemarketer

Sometimes haiku that focus on human activities are called senryu.  The tone tends to be humorous or satirical.  Actually, the humor of the situation didn’t occur to me until I’d written the haiku, after the event.

Looking for inspiration for writing an autumn haiku?  It’s a walk in the park!

Stroll through your neighborhood or just have a look in your back yard.  Observe seasonal moments in time, and make a note of them.

Here’s a haiku I wrote after a walk around my neighborhood:

autumn dusk
the leaf pile stirs

You’ll notice that it’s only ten syllables long, not the seventeen traditionally associated with haiku length.  That’s because I don’t count syllables when I’m writing a haiku, although I keep in mind the basic configuration (short, long, short.)  I also don’t use a lot of punctuation – none in this case.  But you can see (or hear) that there are two sections to the poem, consisting of the first line (short section) and the second and third lines (longer section.)  This is called the fragment and phrase theory, which I first read about in Jane Reichhold’s excellent book Writing and Enjoying Haiku: A Hands-on Guide.  This theory is really helpful when putting words onto paper and actually formulating a haiku.  Go ahead and try it!