How Good Are You at Writing Haiku?

by Melannie Svoboda SND on February 18, 2019

As many of you may know, a haiku is a traditional three-line Japanese poem of 17 syllables. The first line has five syllables, the second has seven, and the third has five again. Haiku are characterized by simplicity and often focus on nature or daily life. Each poem tries to capture a brief moment in time.

Let’s look at a few haiku. This first one is a famous haiku by Basho Matsuo, a 17th Century Japanese poet:

An old silent pond…

A frog jumps into the pond

Splash! Silence again.

 

Here’s another one by an unknown author:

Majestic beauty,

Buck, doe, fawn, listening stand:

Nature’s family.

The strict form of the poem forces the poet to choose words carefully. The tight form can add impact to the poet’s message. The poet Robert Frost liked strict poetic form, poetry with a traditional meter and rhyme. He once quipped, “Writing free verse is like playing tennis without a net.” Notice, haiku don’t need titles, but they can have them. In modern times, haiku without the traditional number of syllables for each line have become more acceptable. Punctuation is optional too.

A few months ago I featured some poetry by one of our Sisters, Doreen Strahler. Sister Doreen has “translated” several of Jesus’ parables into the haiku form. Here are a few of her haiku:

“Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:11-23)

Repentant vagrant

Seeking a father’s mercy

Is welcomed with love.

 

“Vineyard Workers” (Mt. 20:1-16)

Last and first equaled

Speaks that generosity

Surpasses fairness.

 

“Pharisee and Tax Collector” (Lk. 18:10-14)

One flaunts his virtues

The other prays for mercy

Humility wins!

 

“Two Sons” (Mt. 21:28-32)

One said “no” but went.

One said “yes” but did not go.

Which of them obeyed?

What about you? How good are you at writing haiku? I would love to see what kind of poems you can come up with. To encourage you, I wrote a few haiku myself. I entitled mine, but you don’t have to.

“Mary” (Lk. 1:38)

“The angel left her.”

But she’s not alone; she feels

the God-child within.

 

“Tea”

Boiling water de-

mands patience. No tea until

the fat kettle sings!

 

“Spider”

Spider scoots beneath

my dresser. Good! Live there and

we can cohabit.

 

“The Giggling”

Discouraged and sad,

I hear a toddler giggling.

Life’s good, after all.

 

“Winter Time”

Getting old. Can’t do

many things. But today I

made a snow angel!

 

So now it’s your turn. Why not give it a try? Your haiku can be about anything: nature, faith, scripture, marriage, family, daily activities, prayer, friendship, being a priest or nun, a hobby, or whatever tickles your fancy!

To close, I will leave you with one final haiku I wrote:

“Blog’s Due”

Sunday night: Blog’s due.

What to write about? I know:

Japanese haiku!

 

PS: I want to thank you for your prayers for the retreat cruise, Feb. 7-12, aboard the Royal Caribbean “Majesty of the Seas.” Some of you were among the 85 people who signed up for the retreat aboard the ship. Thank you for coming! For me, the cruise was wonderful in every way: beautiful group of retreatants, caring cruise staff, lovely sights along the way, memorable experiences in Cuba and Mexico, great entertainment, and exceptional food! One fact stood out for me: there were over 2100 passengers from various countries on the ship served by a crew of 850 from 59 different countries! The ship was a little floating United Nations! Our handsome Captain Daniel was from Poland. The largest group of crew members was from the Philippines–over 150 of them. I was inspired just seeing all those individuals working so beautifully together. Most of the crew is at sea for 7 months straight. Then they have a few months at home before cruising again. They work very hard and are always most gracious! … I have been asked by Educational Opportunities to do another retreat cruise in the future. I’ll let you know what develops…

In honor of the haiku, I thought it was appropriate to hear some traditional Japanese music today. This piece is entitled Sakura which means a flowering cherry tree. It is played on a koto, a Japanese stringed instrument that dates back to the 8th Century. A Koto usually has 13 strings, but they can have 20, 21, or 25 strings as this one has. The movable bridge on the Koto can create a wide range of tones. This piece is 4 minutes long.

I welcome your responses to today’s reflection and/or music–as well as your haiku!

 

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Thomas DeFreitas February 18, 2019 at 4:23 am

Dear Sr Melannie:

I can’t wait to hear the music!

I offer two haiku and a tanka (5-7-5 followed by 7-7):

Almost December —
crows shiver in the stubble;
snow stings us awake.

*

Are they worth more than
windblown dandelion seeds,
these frail words of mine?

*

Sleeved in recent snow,
branches of the trees and shrubs
now seem transfigured,
shining like Taboric light
in the January gray.

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Anne Marie Vencill February 18, 2019 at 5:41 am

Rain sings on the roof
Swirls, gurgling through the gutters
Monday morning’s alarm

Frogs. Chirping outside
in February rain. A
sign Spring is coming.

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Thomas DeFreitas February 18, 2019 at 8:13 am

Wonderful!

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Anne Marie Vencill February 18, 2019 at 6:35 am

One more for your Monday morning amusement:

In steamy shower
writing haiku in my head.
Forgot to wash hair.

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Thomas DeFreitas February 18, 2019 at 8:20 am

Brava!

Here’s my haiku-ish diary-note for the day:

Eight inches of snow.
Outside, one thick cloud. I’ll stay
inside with coffee.

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Karen February 18, 2019 at 6:48 am

Haiku is my favorite poetry style. I have been writing haiku for years.

Happy black dog bounds
Thru untrammell’d snowy drifts
Heedless of brilliance

So easy to miss
Snowflakes bending blades of grass
Tears in sad girl’s eyes

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Thomas DeFreitas February 18, 2019 at 8:11 am

These are beautiful!

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John E Hopkins February 18, 2019 at 6:48 am

At dusk birds gather
together to sing their mel-
odious panic.

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Thomas DeFreitas February 18, 2019 at 8:33 am

Nicely done! And an unusual but accurate phrase with which to end!

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Kathy Donnermeyer February 18, 2019 at 6:56 am

Dear Sister Melannie,

Love the music. Looking forward to ready many other poems. Here’s my contribution today.

Baby Watch

Waiting for Liam,
praying for my dear daughter.
Grandma soon I’ll be!

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Thomas DeFreitas February 18, 2019 at 8:14 am

Ah, the note of expectation! A beautifully affectionate poem, anticipating true blessing.

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Kathi S February 18, 2019 at 7:45 am

A wonderful way to start the week, especially enjoyed the Sakura.
My haiku attempts:

Snow – snow – snow
Will it ever end
Maybe June

Melannie
Blessed to hear her words
Thank you, God!

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Thomas DeFreitas February 18, 2019 at 8:12 am

I cherish the lightness and humour of the first, and the note of gratitude in the second! Well done!

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Marty February 18, 2019 at 8:08 am

Loved the scene and music so here is my try. Beneath cherry trees SAKURA playing alone yet not really so.

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Thomas DeFreitas February 18, 2019 at 8:15 am

Excellent!

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Thomas DeFreitas February 18, 2019 at 8:10 am

There’s also something called “renga”: a collaborative Japanese poem where one person writes a haiku. The next person adds two lines, each of seven syllables (making the first haiku a tanka!), and then adds a haiku of her own.

In 2006, a blogger friend of mine, Steven from Florida, invited folks to add to his haiku to make a renga. I note the year because from May 2003 until September 2007, I wrote nothing except my contribution to Steven’s renga. Here it is, below:

dewdrop on red leaf fallen
in the early autumn grass

color surprises
morning’s brightness magnified
with a trace of chill

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Michelle February 19, 2019 at 11:51 am

Thomas, thank you for your contributions each week. You make me laugh and cry and so very grateful for a kindred spirit. Blessings, Michelle

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Rachel February 18, 2019 at 9:38 am

HANDS

God-Mother-Daughter
Deeper than my eyes can see
We are one; we touch

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Pat February 18, 2019 at 9:42 am

Is this one???

Snow, hot biscuits
Butter and peach jam
Memories of summer
Thank You Jesus

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Jean Canatsey February 18, 2019 at 9:56 am

Seeds planted in spring;
green beans ready to harvest.
Very tasty meal!

Soft arpeggios
Fingers meander on keys
Peaceful afternoon

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MARY NAUSADIS February 18, 2019 at 10:44 am

I actually see this outside my window this morning…..

Brilliant sunshine
Sparkling amid the snow
Diamonds aglow

Winter at it’s best, I’d say!

While the music isn’t particulaly pleasing to my ear, I was mesmerized by her gift for playing that instrument and the beautiful background which is so typical of Japan, from my experience.

Lovely way to begin our week….thank you,
Mary

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CLARANELL ZIMMERMAN February 18, 2019 at 10:53 am

Cells
Building blocks of life
Negated by prison walls
Monk’s sanctuary

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Pat February 18, 2019 at 3:39 pm

Sakura music
Serenity,peacefulness
Morning reflection

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Carol A. Graham February 18, 2019 at 5:59 pm

Sister Melannie – I was at the Ascension Womens Retreat at Bergamo back in October, 2018 and recently have subscribed to your weekly Sunflower Seeds. I’m not much for poetry but I am the Dayton Catholic Women’s Club President and have to write a President’s Message each quarter for our newsletter. I recently wrote about resolving your Christmas, New Years, then Ordinary Time, and blending that into Lent. Anyway, I pulled some information from it and came up with this Haiku:

Family and Friends
Sharing your resolutions
Prayers and Support

Hope you like it.

Carol

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Helen February 18, 2019 at 7:38 pm

Beautiful new home,
Awesome view, lovely neighbors
Life-giving silence.

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Ron February 18, 2019 at 11:20 pm

Horse always hungry
Every hour wants room service
Hey there, you, hay here.

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Theresa February 19, 2019 at 12:50 pm

Great play on words.

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Michelle February 19, 2019 at 11:45 am

Good morning, Sr. Melannie.

Husband recently had a stroke. Hard days and nights. I pray constantly, repent often and praise my merciful God and Savior for His tendermercy. Thank you for your lovely post this week.

God saved my day again
Righteous anger turned to joy
Forgiven, praise Him.

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Debbie Turner SND ASSOCIATE February 19, 2019 at 12:10 pm

Dear Sister Melanie,
Thank you so much for the wonderful Retreat Cruise! It was very insightful and I met do many wonderful women!This is my first attempt at composing a haiku. It is about the retreat cruise. Here goes…

Finding happiness

While cruising with my sisters

In so many ways!

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Cheryl Zellhoefer March 4, 2019 at 10:17 am

Amen!!!

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Theresa February 19, 2019 at 12:49 pm

At the bird feeder
Tentively chickadee lands
Open eyes cat stares

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Judy Dieter February 19, 2019 at 2:12 pm

I am from a small Northern California town. A (terribly offensive) columnist once said about it: The only interesting thing about Ukiah is that it spells “haiku” backwards. Well, heck with him!
My favorite haiku is rather irreverent:
Writing a poem
with seventeen syllables
is very diffic

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Carol Kapostasy February 20, 2019 at 8:13 am

I forgot what a great reflective process this is….thank you!

Cancer so random
Life will never be the same
Only sister gone

Children loaned from God
Whisked away by another
Time is not my friend

Senses are sacred
Dulling, slipping with age
Fleeting gifts from God

Mantra guides a life
Strive to live with few regrets
Time’s up! I’m called Home

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Cheryl Zellhoefer February 21, 2019 at 1:26 pm

Ocean retreat cruise
Dazzling new prayer, friends, views
God is everywhere

Ps. I made dazzling 3 syllables to fit the structure…

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Susan Slaninka February 22, 2019 at 8:08 am

I take a poetry class once a month offered by Stockton University for seniors and love it. I used to do a Haiku assignment with beginning nursing students and actually got the poems published in Advance for Nurses. The students loved tapping into their creative side and loved seeing their creations in print! .
Here’s just one I wrote this morning:

Nurses are caring
Making a big difference
In all that they do

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Andrée March 2, 2019 at 5:57 pm

Sister-
I praise God for all your talents that you share with us! Your Haiku is amazing…I am also looking for your Reflection in “Give Us This Day” that appeared at almost the same time in February. I have tried to find it again, but I cannot locate it in my February issue. Can you tell me what date it was, please? I remember being moved by it…
Bless you!
Andrée

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Melannie Svoboda SND March 3, 2019 at 9:14 am

Dear Andree, Thank you for your response. I didn’t have a reflection in the Feb. 2019 issue of “Give Us this Day,” But I did have a reflection on friendship in the March 2019 issue (for March 1). I also had reflections For Jan. 2018 (pp. 8-9), March 18, 2018, June 2018 (pp. 5-6) and other issues. I hope this helps. Thanks again! Sr. Melannie

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