I’ve said before that English wasn’t my strongest or most-loved subject at school, and I’ve also mentioned recently that my poetry button seems to be broken, or at best faulty. OneMonkey has tried several times to explain the delights of iambic pentameter, to which I have responded with a blank look that suggests I’m listening but not really taking anything on board.
However, I have now discovered the joy of the haiku. To my knowledge (though friend T may correct me) it’s not something I came across at school, and even now I’m not about to sit down and read a whole book of them. A haiku, though, is more than just a tiny poem with rules: it is a writing exercise.
Imagine trying to distil a description of a scene down to three lines. Now imagine you’re only allowed a certain number of syllables in each line. What do you keep? What’s just trimming, and what constitutes the essence? It’s like writing a text message (I don’t know about your phone, but mine allows me 120 characters), discarding unnecessary words, rifling the thesaurus in your head for something shorter that means the same thing.
In Writing Fiction by Linda Anderson and Derek Neale (which I think is a highly useful book) they suggest a daily haiku for a quick brain workout: 3 lines, 5-7-5 syllables, showing a natural object or scene. It’s short, it can be done during your teabreak, on the bus, sitting on the toilet if you like (plenty of people do the crossword) but it keeps that all-important writing muscle flexing. I’m not saying every (or any) haiku you or I write in this way will be good, or would pass muster with a poet (or even an English teacher), but it makes you think, it makes you look at things in a particular way, and it can be fun.
Steaming mug of tea –
Hand-warming, comforting weight.
Book poised and ready.
That’s me right now. Sayonara.