Friday, April 8, 2022

Friday Writings #21: What’s There

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).

One reader commented that haiku can be more specific:
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.)



  1. I really enjoyed the write up of todays post, being (what i will call myself) a haiku enthusiast


    1. You are that and more! I'm so glad you enjoyed the post.

  2. I really like "How to Write a Haiku", and agree with your thoughts on why the poet was sad--a cut flower, a bloom ended sooner than nature intended, always makes me a bit sad. When the pieces are turned into something lovely, the feelings are mixed and bittersweet.

    Also, every time you write about this O’Keeffe book, I'm rather tempted to get myself a copy.

    1. A number of people said they would be interested in what she had to say in this book, so I am sharing the bits that seem applicable to writers too.

      Also I promised to keep offering some of the kinds of things I used to on 'Wild Fridays' – which basically boils down to discussions of writing and the many ways to do it.

  3. Good day, Poets & Storytellers. :)
    It's good to be back posting.

    This post reminds me about a "small stone", which is about a moment in time, though a "stone" may not be a haiku.
    yes, i like it that rules "are not to be taken as impediments, but rather as guideposts on the journey". How right, because many of today's modern haiku do not have a 'seasonal' word. My opinion, of course, and i am still learning.

    1. (Blogger keeps messing with my attempts to reply. Having another go –)

      Welcome back!

      Very true: I could well have mentioned small stones in this context. As you'll recall, that's one of my favourite ways to write.

      I think seasonal words are less readily understood now that haiku are international. In Japan, cherry blossom may clearly indicate Spring. But if I in Australia mention a lorikeet, overseas readers won't necessarily even know that is a bird, much less what time of year it appears. Having to look things up must spoil the impact of the image.

  4. Wonderful poem. For some reason I have never been a fan of Haiku, I just don't know why. I think looking things up, and discovering something anew, is one of the joys! Wouldn't be dead for quids as my dad used to say.

    1. Your dad must not have been American, then? (Quids are pounds – once both English and Australian currency. I was brought up on that saying, too.)

  5. I am yet to learn about the details of Haiku and then can I attempt a good one.
    Have shared a new poem about my observation and I wonder- "What will happen?" Do you wonder too?

    1. Thanks, Anita, very thought-provoking! Your link wasn't working, but because you left this comment I was able to find your blog and fix it. Hope to see more of you at P&SU.

    2. Thank you so much!
      Thanks for your comment. I have linked here before (though with a different profile photograph that had sunglasses on my face!)
      I thought I shared the correct link in the linky.
      Thanks a lot for fixing it!
      Thanks for visiting and sharing :):)

  6. I like the poem and
    the paradox
    of the rose:
    the more "brutally" it's cut,
    the more the bush grows.


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