For those of you not making plans to flee the UK now that you have jettisoned the European Union, you might wish to relax into your environs a bit by taking a Haiku Walk. Andrew Stuck, founder of The Museum of Walking, organizes just such a walk on the first Thursday of each month, called, oddly enough, First Thursday. Stuck (ironic name for a walker) describes the process:
Take a handful of strangers on a walk and encourage them to join you in counting syllables and write and recite short poems. Think it would be popular? — too right! Being an enthusiast for getting people out and about on foot and doing creative things together, I conceived the idea of a walkshop (workshop on foot) in which participants would take part in a series of simple exercises to inspire them to write haiku. Haiku can be seen as the forerunner to Twitter — it’s a challenge to get across what you observe, feel or encounter to Tweet in 140 characters, but that’s luxury compared to writing a haiku, where you are restricted to just 17 syllables in 3 lines.
We publicise the walks via social media and ask people to sign up in advance to take part in this free event. On arrival, they are lent notebooks and pencils, and introduced to each other by first name — this is an opportunity for them to learn about the structure of haiku and in a subtle way, begin to compose their own, invited to write one based on the names of their fellow participants.
We don’t walk far, and choose a spot where participants can undertake an activity to spark their creativity. One very popular exercise is to stand back to back at a point that offers a view, with one person describing what they see, the other writing a haiku — this immediately gets people talking, laughing and comparing what they observe with what another describes — switch places and roles and it doubles up to be a inspiring way to compose haiku. We then ask participants to share what they have written with the rest of the group. If they are proud of what they have written, they are asked if they would like to have their haiku published in a a zine anthology of the walkshop — if so, we ask them to transpose what they have written to a note we collect in. Each 90 minute haiku walkshop has a minimum of five breaks at which activities occur. By the end of the walk, participants may have composed half a dozen haiku each, a large proportion of which they are willing to have published and put to public scrutiny.
A couple of days after the walkshop, they get the opportunity to approve, improve or delete their haiku, and once the haiku for the anthology have been finalized, the haiku are typed up as a pdf that can be printed on a sheet of paper, and folded in to a charming notebook. Download examples of these, and fold your own haiku zine anthology here.
Sounds like fun, and having people with a bit more haiku experience along might well improve the calibre of the work produced. So if you’re in a walking mood — and it seems you are — think of spending some time writing haiku in the metrop before the great uncertainty becomes full blown. And don’t forget to tell us all about it!