Way back in 2015, when I was still a young lad, I took a brief seminar called “Literary Detective Fiction.” It was a small but good class (four of us) with a good instructor (John Straley), in a lovely setting (Pebble Beach, Calif.)
John Straley (https://sohopress.com/authors/john-straley/) shared with us that he keeps a journal and writes a haiku each day. “A haiku has the same virtues as a murder mystery,” he says.
Often focusing on images from nature, haiku emphasizes simplicity, intensity, and directness of expression. A traditional Japanese haiku is a three-line poem with seventeen syllables, written in a 5/7/5 syllable count. John doesn’t care about the number of syllables. But he looks for a seasonal reference in the first two lines and an emotional turn/surprise ending. (The emotional turn helps me with the Aristotelean reversal I strive for in a good mystery or suspense story.) Finally, the ego of the writer should be invisible, which is also important for me to remember when writing fiction.
Beginning with a "nature" image seems consistent with John’s thoughts on writing:
- Ecology is about place.
- Everything starts with "the place"
- Characters evolve from place
- A story has to know where it is in time and place.
I managed to start a journal and write haikus (on and off) for about five months after the class. I enjoyed it. Here are a few of mine:
Evergreen trees pop
Against a fierce blue background
Not just for the rich.
We held most classes outside, and when I wrote that one, I was looking up at the underside of this tree:
Sunday, I found a few other Catholics and we went into Carmel, to church.
Early mass, warm sun
Shines bright on Carmel Mission
Not quiet but hushed.
From something said in class:
Surfaces in rain
Appear, shiny and poppy.
Vivid when wet.
Back in Maryland:
Dog days dragging on
Nothing moves, chiefly the air,
But including me.
Into a humid
Day I sink, like a warm bath.
I like cold showers.
2015 was a year of locusts here.
Late summer chirping,
Buzzing in the morning air.
Noisy li’l’ buggers.
Me (and War) on literary fiction:
Hooie! What is it good for?
Wife’s office upstairs;
I work down here. Ought to keep
In touch more often.
Anyhow, that was fun. See if you can use the comments section to post some of your own haikus.