HAIKU TO YOU TOO!

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Last October, I was invited to my first Montana Women Writers meeting in Kalispell by Betty Kuffel. The speaker would be talking about Flash Fiction, so Betty’s email suggested we “…bring a piece of flash fiction you’d like to share or Haiku, or a few pages of manuscript for peer input.” 

Haiku? The idea of writing a very short structured poem grabbed my attention. Since I had never written one before, it didn’t need to be perfect, or even good; it just needed to be a haiku: 

My First Haiku (10/31/19):

(5) Fawn strolls through snowy yard

(7) as kids dress up as animals. 

(5) Whitefish Halloween!

In haiku, less is literally more. The 5-7-5 indicates the number of syllables allowed for each line. Every word must be carefully chosen to fit the 17-syllable 3-line form. 

I quickly realized writing haikus is excellent training for all types of writing. As a book editor and screenwriting coach, I saw how haiku practice would improve my clients’ writing skills as well as mine – and it was fun!

When I researched “how to write haiku,” I discovered other syllable-dependent poetic structures like sestina, villanelle, dodoitsu and paradelle. Some of these use repeating words or rhythms. But haiku is the shortest and simplest form to learn. 

Here’s a haiku I recently wrote to remind me how to write one:

Five syllables plus

seven and five more create

a haiku for you!

Haiku began as a Japanese poetic form honoring nature and the world around us. Some people write haikus as a diary of their daily experiences, like author Jack Keroac. Others create fanciful, humorous or literary haikus. Check out “Suburban Haiku” by Peyton Price (www.suburbanhaiku.com) or “Haiku U “(100 great books in 17 syllables) by David M. Bader.

To begin writing your own haiku, use the basic 5-7-5 syllable structure. I find a starting point within the three lines, then work forward or backward from there. Once my theme and rhythm are clear, refining the words and sometimes shuffling the top and bottom lines follows. 

For practice, you can find Haiku sites and Facebook groups online:

At the Global Haiku Project (www.haiku.baronfig.com), you can add to or finish a three-author haiku.

For help going haiku, try Haiku Generator (www.poem-generator.org.uk/haiku/).

Facebook’s Haiku for a Global Pandemic group inspired my first Covid-19 haiku:

Despite Covid, how

can we all move through this day?

One breath at a time…

(8/4/20)

If you’re inspired to write your first haiku (or your hundredth), I’d love to read it. Email me at LiteraSee@gmail.com.

By Barbara Schiffman

Barbara will be presenting Haiku to You, Too! at our Zoom Montana Women Writers meeting September 24th for details how to join in the discussion contact her at the email address above.

Novel in Progress

eppersonBW

Deborah Epperson

Becky has returned to her childhood home in Sugardale Georgia. She is alone in her greenhouse when an uninvited stranger who has been following her appears.

Rebecca’s Return  (working title)                   (sequel to Breaking TWIG)                                               

Breaking TWIG

Breaking TWIG

      (scene edited for length)

I recognized the stranger standing in the green house doorway from Kyle’s description. About five-ten, 170 pounds, and wearing a cream-colored straw cowboy hat. 

He tipped his hat. “Good afternoon.” 

I said nothing, just stared at him and waited for my racing pulse to slow.  

“Sorry if I startled you, ma’am.”

“And I’m sorry for you too.” I didn’t know where those words came from, but they tumbled out of me as if I planned them.  

He hiked a brow. “You’re sorry for me?”

“I’m sorry you can’t read. The community college in Kirbyville offers free English classes to adults who want to learn. You should sign up for them.”

A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. “I reckon that new No Trespassing sign in your yard was intended for me.”

“Do you drive a jade-green sedan with a white vinyl roof?”

“I do sometimes.”

“Then yes, the sign was meant for you.” My hands fisted at my side.

He pulled a business card out of the pocket of his brown western style sport coat. “Let me introduce myself and tell you why I’m here.” He held out his card.

I crossed my arms. “Don’t care what your name is, and I know why you’re here. You can tell Marsha Ackerman, Daddy Ackerman, and  . . . and . . . .”

“Ackerman and Wilcox?” he asked.

“Tell all those vultures in Atlanta that Starview Mountain will never be sold to developers. I don’t want or need their money.” I sucked in a deep breath, blew it out. “I gave my word to someone that Starview Mountain would always remain as pristine as it is now. I keep my word.”

He slid the card back into his pocket, took two steps toward me. “Ackerman and Wilcox are known to be formidable enemies. They usually get whatever they’re after.”

“Not this time.” I relaxed my arms, widened my stance.  

The intruder stood between me and the doorway, so flight wasn’t a possibility. I slid my left hand over the garden shears lying on the countertop. I would not let this stranger intimidate me on my own property. “Give Marsha and her father my message and don’t come back.”

“I just need a few minutes of your time, ma’am.”

“You need to  fast-walk yourself off my property before I call Sheriff Hays and have you arrested for trespassing.”

“I know Nathan Hays very well,” he said.

“So, you’ve been arrested for trespassing before?”

The stranger grinned. “Actually, I’m looking for a woman.”

“You’ve come to the wrong place. Try the Come to Momma bar in Kirbyville. You might get lucky.”

He laughed, pushed his hat back on his head, revealing more of his comely face. “Did anyone ever tell you that you have a keen sense of humor?”

“Nope . . . never.” I pointed at the door behind him. “I’m not kidding, fellow. You’d better get off my property now or else—”

“Or else what, Mrs. Dumont?”

He knew my name. My grip on the shears tightened.

Thanks for stopping by and stay safe,

Deborah E.

A Work in Progress

Karen's author photo apr 2019

By Karen Wills

Accidents happened, varied in their seriousness. In midsummer 1925, Jim rode a seasoned bay leading a strung-out group of pack animals that included a favorite of Nora’s, the big white gelding named Cotton Two. The mild-mannered horse had been named after one of the draft animals that pulled his and Nora’s wagon when they made their long-ago journey to settle on the North Fork.

A young man from Coram sat his mount in the center of the string while a jocular boy from Martin City rode in last place. Jim didn’t dare pigtail the animals. On this steep, narrow trail heading to Camp 4, if one horse stumbled over the edge it would pull the whole line down to their doom.

Cotton Two carried four 50-pound boxes of dynamite. Jim heard the Coram boy’s shout of “Damnation and hell fire!” A horse’s scream drowned out the rest. Jim turned to see Nora’s favorite slip over the side and roll down and down, disappearing among the trees almost at once.

The boys calmed their mounts, then stopped and took off their hats. They waited for Jim to say something as they gazed woefully toward where Cotton Two must have landed. Jim’s one word, “Detachment,” seemed to puzzle them. They shrugged, replaced their battered hats, nodded with troubled expressions, and proceeded.

At Camp 4 Jim spoke briefly to Michael and helped unload supplies before he rode back to Camp 1, headquarters. He ate a thick ham sandwich for an early supper, then picked out the horse they’d named for the original Cotton’s teammate, Wink. As the sun slipped toward the western peaks, he rode Wink Two along a darkening trail.

Jim wanted to be able to tell Nora exactly how Cotton Two died. He wanted it to be true that the animal perished on impact with a broken neck. He dreaded finding it still suffering and in need of shooting.

Jim’s breath came hard. He gasped air that felt cold in the back of his throat as he approached where he calculated Cotton Two’s carcass should be. He planned to bring home the horse’s pack saddle and halter, and hoped he could handle the job alone in the dark. His heart sounded in his ears as ragged as his breath.

A familiar whinny broke the night stillness. Jim got down and tethered Wink Two to a branch. He walked toward the sound, not daring to imagine what he’d find. He stepped into a clearing full of high grass. Cotton Two stood before him in the last light of the day, the sky like a wall of ice lit from the other side. Cotton Two grazed with the solemn mien of a stoic accepting whatever fate intended for him. Except for a torn, bloody ear, and a few long scratches, the gelding appeared able to stand without pain. After running his hands over the horse, Jim felt sure it had sustained bruises, but no broken bones or life-threatening injuries.

“Cotton Two, Nora will be so pleased.” Jim, astonished, paraphrased a line from the poem, Invictus. “Your head is bloody, but unbowed.” Then he stroked the animal he’d given up for dead and rested his forehead against its white muzzle. For a long while neither of them moved.

Jim finally raised his head and breathed in the cold night air. Nora’s horse seemed a miracle that called for some act of gratitude, some bloodless sacrifice. “We want to go home, don’t we, white horse? We don’t do so well away from Nora and Evening Star. We should give these jobs of ours to ambitious youngsters. The two of us have earned our rest.”

Cotton Two nickered in full agreement.