Learning to Write #6


For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to write haiku. This was prompted by a friend and there was a particular reason that she asked for haiku, but when we were discussing this she also suggested to me that a little discipline would be quite helpful for a poet trying to figure out how to get better.

She used the d word.

Discipline is the bad boy in the room that has given me 100 unfinished draft poems and maybe 40 that I’ve got the stage of not being able to do anything else with them. This is as close to “finished” as I get. Discipline is the naughty word gets used when I try to explain why I’ve spent ten years actually getting to a stage where I write reasonably regularly. Discipline is probably why I prefer to write free form, although this is also a reflection of how I hear poetry when I write it, and read it. Discipline is not what I want, as I wing it, and leave it till the last minute, and get distracted by #TrumpTweets.

So 5-7-5 didn’t come naturally to me.

But I know, I know, discipline is one part of getting better. Hard work, seeking and accepting feedback, practice, more hard work, reading lots of work by other people, they all help too, but discipline is a big thing. I will adhere to this structure. I will finish ten poems this month. I will do at least two stand ups this year. I will try to get something published somewhere. It hurts 🙂 But I know it’s good for me.

I’ve never done haiku before, so I read up about the contrasting element at the end, the sentence structure so you don’t leave as much hanging between lines, the half finished nature of the form so that the reader can finish it off, the links to nature and to the seasons, and lots of examples, both traditional and contemporary. Then I tried to shoe horn some ideas into 17 syllables. And that was a struggle, worse than my attempts to fit into medium t-shirts. But it’s non negotiable. 17 syllables. No more, no less. I found myself engaging with this struggle,  though, initially fighting the disciple but slowly realising the value in what I was doing. And it turned into a bit of fun. I’m not proficient, but it was fun.


I did an ironic one for Valentines Day, which I quite liked.valentinehaiku

Isn’t this part of the joy of poetry? Challenge, improving your skills, having fun? I think so.



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