While on vacation recently, I spent a lot of time writing haiku. For those who are unfamiliar with it, it’s a Japanese form of poetry that has very strict syllabic limits. The first line is 5 syllables, the second is 7 syllables, and the third is five syllables. Seventeen syllables total. They often mention the season or some natural element, and have a cutting juxtaposition that is meant to make a new connection in the reader’s mind.
I was reading Matsu Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North, and got inspired since I was also pretty far north, in an out-of-the-way place of great natural beauty. That’s pretty much where the similarities end, since he was a Japanese poet writing in the 17th century. His writings combined prose and poetry, so the poems echoed the prose, and often illuminated its meaning in new ways.
I’m not saying I wrote great poetry. That wasn’t the point. How often do we allow ourselves to be inspired by a different way of writing? How often do we allow ourselves to just play, without thinking it has to be “good?” I enjoyed this form since it forced me to be specific and also gave me a snapshot of whatever was happening in the moment. Some were funny, some were more serious. In the spirit of sharing, here are a few I wrote:
Blue heron sitting
On a rock so very still
Regal blue Buddha
A round orange moon
Rises full over the lake
A beckoning path*
On this clear morning
A ringing bell summons us
Time to eat again
You don’t have to try haiku specifically. But it is fun to try new forms, which lead us out of a writing rut into new ways of looking at the world. Pick something and use it as a warm-up. I often choose poetry because it’s not my “real” writing, so I don’t care if it’s good or not, I’m just playing around. It gets my mind in the rhythm of words and images.
What have you tried that’s new lately? What do you use as a warm up for other writing?
(*No, the image above is not mine. I wish!)
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