Hello, dear wordsmiths. What is there in front of you today? (A flower, a desert, a problem, a new path?)
Georgia O’Keeffe, in the book of her work I’ve been looking through recently, says that on her first trip to New Mexico there were no flowers; there hadn’t been enough sun. But there were lots of bones, particularly of cattle, so that’s what she painted.
(While doing so, she realised that much of America is cattle country – which pleased her. Writers at that time dreamed of creating ‘the great American novel’, but for artists there was no corresponding idea of 'the great American painting'. The vogue was for Cubism, influenced by the vision of European painters. O’Keeffe elected to paint her own country, in her own style.)
Haikuists, too, traditionally look at what’s right there in the moment and write of that. Today there are many departures from that tradition; not everyone is a haiku purist any more. Nevertheless I like this, which was recently posted in a facebook haiku group:
How to Write a Haiku
Details confuse me,
so when I see a rose,
although I do not know
its pedigree, I write down “rose.”
And when I cut it,
I do not know whether
I should cut it on a slant
or straight, or underwater twice,
so I write down “cut.”
And when I put it in a vase,
I do not know whether it is raku
or glaze, or, perhaps good plastic,
so I write down “vase.”
and when I see two red leaves
on the earth beside the rose bush,
I do not know from which tree
they have fallen
so I write down “red leaves.”
And as I set the vase
and the leaves on the table,
I write down
rose just cut
beside the vase
two red leaves
And although I do not know
the details of what I have just done,
the sadness of it all
cracks my heart open.
Naomi Beth Wakan
This poem first appeared in Segues (Toronto: Wolsak and Wynn, 2005) and Sex After 70 and Other Poems (Toronto: Bevalia Press, 2010).
But sometimes a more precise word is better, for instance "blackbird" rather than "bird" etc. And sometimes a vague word works better and sometimes a more precise one. Haiku writing is an art with guidelines not rules.
All very true – and I don't think it invalidates the poem. In fact, the blurb of one of Wakan's books says: Wakan shows by example that the "rules" are not to be taken as impediments, but rather as guideposts on the journey....
[Someone also wondered why simplicity should make the poet sad. I think that was a misunderstanding; I believe Wakan meant to convey the ‘wabi-sabi’ which many Japanese poets strive for, to do with the ephemeral nature of all things.]
Anyway – your optional prompt today is to look and see what is present, in your surroundings and/or your heart, and write of that.
We accept verse or prose, old or new, formal or free (prose to be a maximum of 369 words, excluding title). Please share by linking below to the relevant post at your blog, ONE link per person; then enjoy each other's writings.
Next Week, Magaly will invite us to Upcycle Words: take previously discarded prose or poetry or thoughts, and reuse them to craft a piece of higher quality than the original.
(Rose photo © Rosemary Nissen-Wade 2019.)