Topic Tuesday: A Haiku or two

Flowers shake raindrops

thrilled to feel cool mud again

happy as wet dogs


I was chatting to Jade Herriman the other day about writing haiku when there’s little time for writing. That got me thinking again about all the things I use my little haikus for (yes, I like adding the s). When I started writing poems as a kid, I loved trying out the structured forms like limericks and the different kinds of sonnets. The old Japanese haiku (5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables) also got a turn, but it was only in 2010 that I really started writing them as a habit. I love telling the story of how I travelled to Namibia with friends at a time when my friend Pat and I were trying to do a 100 consecutive days of writing a daily haiku. At first it was about the challenge and the fun of coming up with images to fit into these little forms.

But we discovered something amazing after the trip: those daily haikus made a wonderful travel journal. With minimal effort we had created a day-by-day log of our trip: vivid, memorable and condensed. Since then, I’ve made a habit of writing haiku on trips, look at how this one captures the kind of trip another friend and I recently made to Hogsback:

Icy waterfall

glittering under bent ferns

Here we had to stop

Recognise the picture at the top of the post? It gets better. Even the most mundane work day was given some meaning by documenting it with a haiku. And they aren’t always beautiful or happy, but they often were funny and made everything better. I’m the world’s worst diary keeper and journal writer, but suddenly I could read back over my days and recall them vividly! It is like having a photo album of words, of even seemingly mundane things like the weather. Last week it was very hot:

Slowly the night bakes

till the sound of cicadas

quiver out the sun

And then it started to rain:

Sharp drumming raindrops

swaddle the heat with a roar

in a white blanket

Turns out documenting was only part of it. We started sending our haikus to friends via email, SMS, WhatsApp and Social Media and not only do you have an instant audience and travel companion; it turns out these little poems are contagious! More friends joined in, added lines when we got stuck, made up their own. It was also a wonderful way to get people who don’t normally write poetry or who thought that writing poetry wasn’t for them, to stick a foot into the water. Here are two fun ones we all slapped up together at the Afrikaans Leeskring (reading circle) in Empangeni:

Bol poedel sit en wag
Bol rol en rol en rol en
poedel is gebol
Hygend op die mat
ogies wag vir beter dae
stertjie bly vol hoop

During times when I feel I have no time or energy for writing or anything creative, a little haiku is an easy way out. But turns out that writing them is like putting a bucket under a leaking tap. Sooner or later those little drops make a bucket full of water! They’re like oil for that engine, a kind of low effort maintenance.  And after a while I noticed how the constant squeezing of images into these little poems improved and sharpened my writing in other genres too – even my academic writing!

Fietsspeke knetter

langs die gras wat wakkerword

en ruik na oop pad

Do you write haiku? Would you like to try it? You can go Google all the rules and conventions and traditions that go with this art form, it’s fascinating. But I generally stick to the 5-7-5 and biedem the rest.

Leave me your haiku in your comment on this post and I’ll feature all the ones I get by Friday in a post!

21 thoughts on “Topic Tuesday: A Haiku or two

    • Thanks Jade! That’s brilliant, I love how you contrast what the noise means to you and to the neighbourhood. I felt a shudder!

  1. I like the way you’ve listed so many different benefits of writing haikus. They do seem to present a more accessible form of poetry, especially for people who are more scientifically-minded. Those rules seem to be easy to follow. There’s more to them than that, but it’s a good start!

    Mid afternoon slump
    Tatters of the day melt down
    In pools of sunlight

      • Nice! I love the contributors’ haikus.
        Doret, I LOVE this post! You’ve reminded me of how much I enjoy this form, and your haikus are brilliant! Thanks so much.

  2. I’ve got one, I’ve got one…. thank you Doret for initiating this!

    In the morning me
    the sunshine makes the color
    inside painting now

  3. Now here a little from me in german:

    Ich lausche leise
    dem Wind auf seiner Reise
    flieg mit ihm fort g’schwind
    fühlend wie sein eigen Kind

    (It’s my first try now – last time I have write was at school , excuse me. the haikus from all are sounds wonderful.)

    • That’s great, Elke! That’s exactly what the Dust-offs are about: so people can get a chance to practice a new, forgotten or rusty skill or interest 🙂 Last year we had one with musical instruments, such fun! Dein Gedicht ist sehr schoen, es hat so viel Bewegung und Gefuehl drin!

  4. What a great post Doret. I love your writing style. Somehow I’m transported and ‘see’ what you are writing about in images in my mind. Very powerful. I will have a go at a Haiku…..not something I’ve ever done much of, the last one being with you guys and Barbara at the course………….here goes.
    Sunshine glistens
    Silver rooftops
    Blinding reminder of summer

    • Thanks Maggie! And thanks for the haiku! I love how it makes me see what you’re seeing! That’s the heat of summer in a tiny poem!

  5. Dear Doret,

    it IS a lovely post! It’s easy to imagine how theses haikus got a travel book full of word pictures.

    I haven’t done Haikus yet. A friend of mine does “Elevensees” (Elfchen = eleven words)
    one word
    two words
    three words
    four words
    one word

    as a habit. Having gone through depression, she could do with an easy way out, how you so wonderfully called it.

    Maybe I could do something like that for my staycation. 🙂
    Probably in German, my mother tongue…

    • Thanks, Jana! I enjoyed reading the story about your friend too. Yes, try it! I also write most of mine in my mother tongue, as much as I enjoy playing around with other languages. It’s even fun to mix languages 🙂 The participants in my haiku workshop enjoy the fact that they can walk out with a few small poems in their hand.

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