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a question for the mentors

Started by josie hibbing, February 07, 2011, 06:44:26 AM

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I just wanted to highlight what Cat said, as all newcomers (and the rest) will benefit from this useful way of explaining "show don't tell":

Cat said:
After you've written a draft, look at each line of your haiku and ask yourself if it's something that can be perceived by the five senses --

"Can I see it?" 
"Can I hear it?" and so on. 

If so, there's a good chance that you're showing us what you experienced. 

If not, there's a good chance you're telling us an idea or a reaction. 

It's not a foolproof strategy, but it will help. 

And if you find you've written a reaction,
your next question would be,
"What did I see/hear/etc that made me react that way?" 

And there will be the image you need to show your readers.

Alan says:
Great stuff, this post is worth copy and paste for anyone not sure what "show don't tell" means.


If I can add a bit to Alan's fundamentals?  (my "tup pence" as it were):

Perhaps, it spins from Master Bashou (truly I am unclear the origin) but I do understand and support this reasoning:  tell confines ... show expands.  That is to say, if I tell you Hell is hot, what chance will you have to understand, "A cold day in Hell"?  One of the attributes of short poetry I love is with few words you can open up a spectrum of interpretations based upon your experiences and as your experiences expand so your depth of understanding.  It is a bit ironic and somewhat a paradox, that, terse verse of the moment can shout wide and whisper deep.  Then, please understand, I'm a'smitten with haiku and short poetry.

Hmmm... at the current exchange rate, that, a bit more than, tup pence, eh?

josie hibbing

Thanks a ton Cat! Your pointers are very helpful. I will write them down in my notebook.

Alan-- thank you for reaffirming Cat's words!

A wonderful day to you both!


josie hibbing

Hi Chibi! Thank you so much for the enlightenment!!!


David Caruso


When you read a haiku that really stands out to you, copy it down to examine and think about.  What makes it great?  The more haiku you read, the better you'll write.  Like a lot of other things, experience is an important part of poetry and experience comes from reading and writing (and discussing).

David Caruso
a poem is a naked person :  Bob Dylan


Great advice, that.

Josie, I second David.

I keep a notebook of haiku that I particularly like.  Not only is it useful in the ways he mentions, it's also just the thing when I'm having a dry spell and need a whack in the head.  I start reading at the beginning, and before long, one of the haiku gives me a thump and the ideas start to flow again.

"Nature inspires me. I am only a messenger."  ~Kitaro


I agree with both previous posts.

Reading haiku that you know is published from established writers is vital.  All poets, however great they are, read everything from Milton onwards to the book out today.

I was inspired, and commissioned, to create the Haiku Fieldbook, where I designed this notebook for good classic and contemporary haiku, space for your own drafts, and pages for revisions and final versions.  

Off the back of my successful Haiku Poet-in-Residency at the Bristol Festival of Nature (6 weeks back in 2004) and the biggest ever natural history festival in the U.K. (we also run the biggest natural history TV awards in the world too) I created the Haiku Journal notebook, a follow on from the Fieldbook.

But all you need to do basically is get an ordinary notebook that can get dirty, and has offwhite pages. Record some haiku you BOTH like and don't quite like or understand yet. This is so you can both write, and read examples at the same time.

But keep a published book, an anthology or a collection, with you when you are mobile as well.  

Be prepared to be stretched in your reading materials otherwise you'll get stuck in a rut, and no haiku writer should ever do that. ;-)

Set a rough target of reading ten haiku a day minimum from respected magazines, journals, books etc...

Enjoy! ;-)


josie hibbing

Hi David! Thank you for the advice. It means a lot to me :)


josie hibbing

Hi Alan and Cat! As always I'm grateful for your words of haiku wisdom. I used to write down haiku that I liked but I quit doing it. (I did it for a few weeks.) I wrote them down in my messy haiku notebook and they got mixed up with my own haiku. I should have a notebook only for writing haiku that I like from other poets.

Thanks again!


Don Baird

Some great advice already given here, Josie.  Keep up the searching ... and write a lot.

I write haiku because they're there to be written ...

storm drain
the vertical axis
of winter


Hello, Josie,

I agree, you need a separate notebook for keeping the haiku of other writers, partly because you want to be able to page through it or read it in depth without the distraction of extraneous stuff, such as your own drafts.

Mine, I figure, is one I'll always keep, so I started it in a beautiful notebook with a sumi-e inspired cover, given me by a friend and colleague who knows how much I love fine paper and notebooks and pens.  After all, these are poems that will inspire you throughout your journey, so they deserve a lovely place to reside.  It should be a pleasure to pick it up and read it -- whether you're reading for instruction or inspiration.

On the other hand, for your drafts, Alan gives great advice.  That notebook should be durable, portable, and if not impervious to life's messes, at least able to recover from them by allowing your drafts to remain legible.  I learned the hard way that ballpoint ink, much as I hate those pens, doesn't run and fade if the book gets wet the way gel ink and liquid ink do.

Don's advice to write a lot is spot on, too.

"Nature inspires me. I am only a messenger."  ~Kitaro

josie hibbing

Hi Don! Thanks for the haiku wisdom. I'll do my best  :)


josie hibbing

Thanks for the great advice, Cat! I have just the special notebook for other writer's haiku that I like.

Have a nice day! :)


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