A couple of poems from my NaPoWriMo collection

Now that I’ve caught up on Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve been focusing more energy on the poetic front to catch up on NaPoWriMo (somebody tell me why I thought it was a good idea to take on two writing challenges at the same time?).

Strangely enough, the haiku I’ve been writing are among some of the better poems, so I thought I’d share two more I’ve written that I only shared on my Instagram yesterday. I’ll transcribe them below, and explain them more afterwards.

It reads: Endless oceans sway Blue on blue, no cloud up high. Dark desert below.

It reads:
Endless oceans sway
Blue on blue, no cloud up high.
Dark desert below.

It reads: Grey day, grey dad, why did you have to take the sun away? We were warm.

It reads:
Grey day, grey day, why
did you have to take the sun
away? We were warm.

The first poem was my attempt at writing about the deceptiveness of the ocean – the way it can be like nothingness going on forever, like a desert, yet can and does hold all these stories, some of which are beautiful and some of which are dark or tragic.

The second poem was quite simply about that day – we have had surprisingly warm weather here in this part of Sweden, and this day was a grey day and a lot cooler (but still really warm, to be honest), so I thought I’d write something silly and sweet about it.

Anyway, back to writing I go. Only a few days left of the month…

NaPoWriMo 2013: Week One Round-up

NaPoWriMo 2013I was off to a smashing start for this year’s NaPoWriMo, in which I write 30 poems in 30 days. The 1st of April was a public holiday for us in Australia, and so I had the whole day to run around getting various things done and still have time to write my first poem for the month. I wrote it quickly and with ease, a series of haiku ending in a senryu, and while I’m not overly keen on sharing it on here, I was fairly happy with it for the first poem I had written in some time.

Then the 2nd of April came along. The 3rd and 4th quickly followed, the 5th whooshed by, and the 6th snuck past me while my eyes were closed mid-sneeze (I’m a violent sneezer – I once sneezed so hard while standing up that I fell back into a chair. And by ‘once’ I mean it happens all the time).

But today, on the 7th of April, I woke up…feeling pretty awful actually. But anyway, fast forward to this afternoon, and I decided now was the time to catch up on this poetry, before it really is too late. And so I picked up the little writing pad I’m using for NaPoWriMo this year, and a pen, and I started scribbling down some poems, until a couple of hours later I was suddenly caught up (much to my own surprise).

The poem for day 2 was just a simple, quick haiku about a wintry day by the sea. Day 3 was a longer, free form poem about how life can feel like it is speeding away at its own pace and there’s nothing you can do but run along with it and see what happens (a feeling that I’m sure we all get from time to time). Day 4 was a silly limerick about a drunkard. Day 5 was inspired by a wedding I went to on that day. Day 6 was a villanelle for and about my girlfriend (and she will be the only one who will ever see/hear it), and today’s poem was a series of six haiku that were all vaguely based on some record breaking hot days from this summer that has just ended here in Australia.

So I’m all caught up, and ready to fall behind by a week again. But luckily I have one more week of teaching and then the kidlets (well…teenagers, they’re hardly kidlets) go on holidays for a couple of weeks, so I’ll have plenty of time for poetry writing later in the month.

For my fellow NaPoWriMoers, how are you going? What about those of you doing other writing endeavours such as Camp NaNo? I would love to hear from you all!

I can’t believe it’s not a haiku…

HaikuI’ve addressed this issue before, but quite a long time ago now, and I figured that considering it’s National Poetry Month and NaPoWriMo, and as I found myself just recently explaining this to both friends and some of my students, that it would be a good time to mention this again.

You see, a lot of people write what they think is a haiku, except what they are writing is not in fact a haiku. This in itself is a bit of a contentious issue – some believe that they it is not a true haiku unless in Japanese, as that language has features that help the haiku to be appreciated on a greater level than in English. Others also argue about how many syllables are supposed to be in each line, while others again argue that none of this is that important.

But there is one aspect that, to me at least, is quite important – the content. Many people write in the haiku form about people or feelings, and automatically this makes whatever they are writing not a haiku but a senryu – kind of like a sister form, one could say. A haiku needs to reference the season somehow, or at the very least the weather, the atmosphere, and nature – this reference word is called a kigo word. The haiku should contain little to no verbs at all, focusing instead on engaging the senses with a quick snapshot of nature. The senryu instead focuses on human nature, rather than geographical nature, with a lack of kigo word.

Aside from this, the generally accepted rules are much the same – 3 lines, the first line with 5 syllables, the second with 7, and the last with 5 again. Both forms are quite fun, and while the haiku is more popular, a lot of beat poets (such as Ginsberg and Corso) enjoyed the senryu, and more importantly what most people think is a haiku is quite often a senryu.

I’m sure some people will think I have too much time on my hands to worry about such silly, tiny details with these forms, but I can’t help but think that if you’re going to write specific poetic forms, you should take the time to learn about them and write them properly. They are much more enjoyable that way, and you’ll grow more as a poet by making yourself stick to the at times rigid rules that come with some types of poetry. And besides, we only keep these forms alive by practising them, and doing so in the correct manner.

What are your thoughts on these rules of writing a haiku – do you think they are necessary? Were you aware of them previously?

On Poetry – Part 6: Exotic forms – the Haiku, Luc Bat and Tanaga

In this post, we are going to look at forms of poetry that originated in languages other than English. In many cases, there is the argument that a lot of the power of the poetry has been lost, or at least changed, through the language differences, but many will also argue that these forms are still lovely in any language, and I certainly believe this to be true.

We’re going to look at the haiku, as well as two similar forms, the senryu and the tanka, before moving on to the luc bat and tanaga. All are relatively short and quite simple to understand, but as always if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

The haiku, senryu and tanka

All three of these forms are of Japanese origin, and all have very similar rules. We’ll start with the haiku, a form that many people know to be a three line poem, with five syllables, then seven syllables, then five syllables for the lines. What less people seem to be aware of is that there are more rules than this to the haiku – the haiku needs to have some sort of reference to the season, or at the very least the weather or atmosphere (often known as a kigo word), and it should include little if no verbs, instead engaging the senses with an image of nature, a single moment. As a quick example, I’m going to make something up on the spot (uh oh):

The sun shimmers on
the icy cold winter waves,
no life to be seen.  

The senryu follows the same syllabic rules of that haiku, but instead focuses more on the human nature (without that kigo word) than the physical or geographical nature. English-speakers and writers tend not to follow the syllabic conventions so strongly for this form, and overall it hasn’t been as popular as the haiku (though often the content of the two has been mixed up anyway, and the rules appropriated for different purposes). Despite this, this form was popular with the American beat poets like Ginsberg, Corso and Kerouac.

The tanka is similar to both these forms, only with five lines and a syllable count of 5,7,5,7,7. It is becoming more popular, and there is a growing amount of websites dedicated to the tanka online, for those interested in this odd form. The other rules for this one are rather vague and lost in translation, so again it is best just to enjoy it for what it is.

Luc Bat

The luc bat is a Vietnamese poem, in which lines of six syllables alternate with lines of eight syllables (‘luc bat’ translates as ‘six eight’). The length is not fixed, but the rhyming pattern makes this a form that is easier to do than to try and explain. The sixth syllable of the first line rhymes with the sixth syllable of the next line, but the eighth syllable of that second line then rhymes with the sixth syllable of lines three and four, and the eight syllable of the fourth line rhymes with the sixth syllable of the fifth and sixth, so that each rhyme appears three times (though not always at the end of the line), until the end of the poem, where it will finish rhyming with the first line again. If this doesn’t quite make sense, look at this example below, taken from http://lonestar.texas.net/~robison/luc_bat.html :

The luc bat shows two trends.
The poem’s rhyme scheme tends to climb;
Lines alternate in time.
A six-beat line is prime; an eight-
Beat one succeeds its mate.
The form is not ornate, and yet
Does its job… Don’t forget,
To conclude this vignette, it bends.

Hopefully you can see the rhyme pattern in this poem – I have underlined one set of rhyming words to illustrate how it works. The best way to get your head around this form, as always, is to try it!

Tanaga

The tanaga consists of four seven-syllable lines, usually with a rhyme scheme of aaaa, although it has lately been changed to abab, abba, and aabb. It is a Filipino form, and is not particularly well known in English as yet – so much so that there aren’t any well known English tanagas (an opportunity for a talented poet, perhaps?), so I will simply move on and show an example, this one coming from the ever trusty Stephen Fry book, The Ode Less Travelled (I am suspecting he wrote this one):

The tanaga owes its genes
to forms from the Philippines.
To count all your words like beans
you may need adding machines. 

So there we have it, five forms from non-English speaking languages, all quite easy to master and quite fun to write.

Do you enjoy any of these forms, and will you try any you haven’t heard of before?

What are your thoughts on the language barriers – do you think these poems still work in English? Do you still enjoy them in English?

Poetry Writing Month begins! Oh fine, I’ll show you my first poem too…

As we begin the month of April, many writing challenges around the world are beginning. Most notably, Script Frenzy, the script writing sister event to NaNoWriMo, has begun, an event in which I partook last year, and ended up completing in the space of a week, instead of a month, because I am both a lunatic and a severe procrastinator.

But this year, I am giving Script Frenzy a miss to try my hand at NaPoWriMo, which I recently blogged about here, and in which I am to write 30 poems in 30 days. I plan to post a weekly blog about my progress, rather than write about it every single day, and in each of these weekly blogs I will perhaps include my best and worst poems of the week. On top of this I will also try and continue my On Poetry blogs, looking at different blog forms to provide ideas for those of you taking on this challenge with me. I will also write my usual blogs about books here and there, and, believe me or not, despite how behind I am on my 12 Novellas in 12 Months writing challenge (1 finished, 2 half finished), I intend on having the first 4 novellas completely finished by the end of April, and if I can achieve this, I will blog about this as well.

Phew. I am going to pass out from writing, aren’t I?

Anyway, I don’t plan on showing all my poems, as I have said, but as I have just written my first poem, for today, I might as well show you this one. I haven’t written as much poetry these last few months, and so I wanted to ease myself into this challenge. With that in mind, I decided to write a chain of haikus, just four of them together, capturing four moments of a particular event. I also decided to start off with a simple and more upbeat theme. This poem is silly really, and I wrote it almost spontaneously, without thinking about it, but oh well. Hope you all like it, anyway.

The Frog

A little green frog
sits upon a big, green tree.
Then rain! And he’s gone.

Washed down the river,
bubbles and foamy water
mask the small frog’s fate.

The deluge now ends,
the stillness interrupted
by one final drop.

A splash on a leaf.
The leaf quivers, and out jumps
the little green frog.

So there we have it, the first day is done. In the next few days I am going to dive into some of the harder forms, and of course some free verse, to try and shake myself firmly into this challenge. But for now, I have started, and that’s the main thing.

Good luck to those of you doing this challenge. And for those of you who are not, good luck reading all my awful poems that will no doubt grace the pages of my blog in the coming weeks.