Happy Haiku to You!

It’s spring.  The first graders are trying their hand at poetry.  They scribble and draw and make images – some silly, some that will take your breath away.  That is the beauty of first graders – the child-mind at work not afraid of making mistakes.  They are intrepid and curious.  I was so excited when their teacher invited me to “teach” haiku to them.  I put teach in quotation marks because the first graders really taught me more about how they construct language than I really taught them.  Their exuberance led the way.  It energized me and made me see things anew.  Isn’t that what poetry and haiku are all about?

At first, I asked the first graders what they knew about haiku. Lots of hands went up: it’s a little poem; it has three lines; it has a pattern with 5-7- syllables.  They had been working all week learning and writing haiku. Next, we talked about how haiku is a Japanese form of poetry usually about nature.  Then, I told them about Basho, a famous Japanese poet and shared some of his poems.

Then,  I read Basho and the River Stones by Tim Myers. The story is about how the fox tricked Basho by giving him three pieces of gold for a cherry tree, but the gold turns into three stones.  Basho out-foxes the fox, because he cares most about nature and poetry.  It’s a great read aloud.  It is a good story to use to introduce haiku. 

After reading the story,  we wrote some group haikus.  First, we listed some natural things we could write a haiku about: seashells, stones, bunnies, flowers, sunshine, rain, etc. Then we made a list of how these things makes us feel: happy, sad, lonely, friendly, curious, excited. I read some of my haiku to them and we counted syllables to make sure I was keeping the haiku form.

Finally, the students got busy writing their own haikus.  They were ready to go.  No one hesitated. They took up their pencils and began to create. It is so gratifying to see how these are able to stretch words out, count syllables and think about meaning and emotion. The haiku form helps them keep focused and since it is short, it is easy for them to write two or three poems in one workshop session.

The best part for me is that I get to witness our students grow as readers and writers. By the time students get to 5th grade, they are putting it all together and coming up with a haiku in three stanzas. This writer lacked confidence when she was a young writer, and now you can see in her composition how far she has come.  Haiku is a celebration not only of nature but of growth and possibility.

April Poems #3: Make Your Presence Known

April is making its presence known today with steady ,silver showers. I woke up to the sound of rain and immediately felt comforted. I don’t know whether I love the rain because I was born on a rainy Tuesday in April, or because I am always attracted by just a hint of sadness. That hint of sadness reminds that I am a survivor, and I can weather the storms that come. When the rain comes, I know it’s time to slow down, to put on the tea kettle ,and find a good book. The rain invites me to contemplate, to go inward, to take stock of my day, my week, my life. The rain says, “It’s okay to go nowhere. You can stop being busy. You can read, write a poem, lay in bed with your head under the pillows. It is perfectly fine to rest. In fact, I demand that you rest!” And so I listen to the rain. I hear the drips, drops, plunks, and patters. I watch it fall silver from the sky and drip like jewels on each tree branch. I watch the birds puff-up and shake the water from their feathers. The world is greening and so am I. And that takes time.

My inspiration for Afterwinter: Rain comes from NaPoWriMo, or National Poetry Writing Month: 30 Poems in 30 Days, which was created by Maureen Thorson, My inspiration for Make Your Presence Known comes from Verse-Love, Ethical ELA, which was created by Sarah J. Donovan. I am grateful for these two platforms for providing inspiration.

Afterwinter: Rain - Three Haikus

Gray sky, springtime rain,
Drops forming into puddles.
Here comes a great splash!

Rain comes in April,
Pouring down on the meadows,
All things are washed green.

Daffodil trumpets
Fill with rain water - golden
Nectar for fairies.


Make Your Presence Known

The clouds make their presence known.
Swirling white and gray,
Ever-moving, shape-shifting,
Becoming new, changed.

The rain makes its presence known.
Solid, steady drops -
Gray, silver, glistening,
Soaking the earth, nourishing.

The sun make her presence known,
Shy at first, hesitating -
Peeking behind great columns of clouds,
Finding her voice at last and shining.

The birds make their presence known,
Taking cover under the thickets
Until the rain slowly ceases, 
Then soaring with a song, into the air.

Fall Flow: Haiku for Autumn

This week, I entered a 4th grade classroom to see students at their desks silently moving their lips and quietly tapping their fingers.  I heard a hum, “5-7-5… 5,7,5…” and then tapping, clapping, and snapping.  I knew immediately what they were busy creating.  They were constructing haiku.

In the last two weeks, the teacher introduced haiku as an accessible way for students to get to know each other.  She asked them to write haiku which described who were without giving a physical description. First, she had laid the groundwork reminding them of the haiku form and reviewing background information, sharing examples of haiku from the Japanese poets, Basho, Shiki, and Issa. As I listened, I learned something I had not know before.  In Matsuyama, Japan and its surrounding prefecture,  they have built special mailboxes expressly for the purpose of sharing haiku.  They are beautiful works of art in and of themselves, and as I saw the pictures of the mailboxes placed all around the city, I had an idea. I asked the teacher if I could construct a haiku mailbox for the 4th grade.  She thought it was a wonderful idea and reported that her students have been happily depositing their work into the mailbox.  I am looking forward to the time when we share our poems.

The school year began in a rush and is continuing at a frenetic pace.  I have been trying to pause throughout my day and catch a breath. I’m finding that this is not enough.  I am making it my intention to pull away on the weekends and devote time to poetry, photography and art.  Photography helps me get into the flow of the moment.  When I am walking in the woods, gardens, or parks, I direct my attention to what I see. It is like going on a treasure hunt, and my camera records my beautiful or surprising sights. When I am looking through my camera lens, I am not thinking of anything else.  I am only concentrating on the object.  I let it tell me how it wants to be captured and remembered. I experiment with angles and exposures until I feel I have expressed the object’s mood and essence. Immediately,  a sense of calm permeates my spirit.  I have entered a fall flow.  After I have collected several photographs, I sit quietly and let the words come to me.  They come tapping into my mind – “5-7-5,… 5,7,5…”  The rhythm relaxes me.  I can continue to flow.

Orange pumpkins now
sit heavy in beds of leaves
expectant with seeds.
Leaves float down the stream:
yellow, orange, red, rust, brown –
reflections of fall.
Here, hidden toadstools
peeking through the fallen leaves,
silent guardians.
Spring-summer green wanes –
In its places brilliant yellow,
Autumn returns now.
Baskets abundant –
October’s golden harvest,
Gathering plenty.

HAIKU BOOKS FOR CHILDREN


A Pocketful of Poems by Nikki Grimes.

Cool Melons – Turn To Frogs!: The Life And Poems Of Issa Story and translations by Matthew Gollub, illustrated by Kazuko G. Stone.

Dogku by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Tim Bowers.

GUYKU: A Year of Haiku for Boys by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. 

Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons by Jon J. Muth.


If It Rains Pancakes: Haiku and Lantern Poems by Brian P. Cleary, illustrated by Andy Rowland.

If Not for the Cat by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Ted Rand.

I Haiku You  by Betsy Snyder.

My First Book of Haiku Poems by Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen, illustrated by Tracy Gallup.

One Leaf Rides the Wind by Celeste Mannis, illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung.

The Cuckoo’s Haiku: and Other Birding Poems by Michael J. Rosen, illustrated by

Stan Fellows.  

The Horse’s Haiku by Michael J. Rosen, illustrated by Stan Fellows.

The Maine Coon’s Haiku: And Other Poems for Cat Lovers by Michael J. Rosen, illustrated by Lee Anthony White.

Today And Today by Kobayashi Issa, illustrated by G. Brian Karas.


Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein, illustrated by Ed Young.

Wing Nuts: Screwy Haiku by Paul B. Janeczko and J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Tricia Tusa

Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin. 

Won Ton and Chopstick: A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku

Haiku Mailbox: Wrapping paper, Washi tape, and image from My First Book of Haiku