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How We Haiku — Teaching Stories 6

Teaching and Learning Haiku in Community and Classroom: Stories, Challenges, Adventures

Do you teach haiku? In a classroom? An arts foundation? Community education? We want to hear about it. Want some new ideas? A place to vet an old idea before you try it “live”? Community support? How We Haiku — Teaching Stories is a monthly feature wherein we will share the many diverse and interesting ways your bring our favorite genre to your audience. Each month Brad Bennett and Jeannie Martin, co-chairs of The Haiku Foundation Education Committee, will host your stories of how you make haiku come alive for your students, and create an environment where educators can discuss the many challenges faced in bringing a fuller sense of haiku to a culture that knows little more than the stereotypes. Contact us to share your teaching stories, to ask your questions, and to find fellowship with your peers and the rest of the haiku community.

“We cannot teach a person directly, we can only facilitate his or her learning.”
— Carl Rogers

We welcome your comments (scroll down to the bottom of the page). And don’t forget about all the other fine education resources the Foundation has to offer.


This week’s column is Jeannie Martin’s summary of an interview with Michael Ketchek, conducted at the Haiku Circle, Northfield, MA, in June, 2016, in between his duties at our Book Barn, and in between rainstorms.

On Teaching Haiku


“Its a lot easier to teach haiku to people who have never written poetry rather than people who have written lots of traditional Western poetry. They try to write War and Peace in one line.”

Michael got into writing haiku after writing longer poetry. He wanted to write in a short form, remembered his third grade class on haiku, and took himself to the library. There he found The Haiku Handbook and a book of Basho’s poetry.

He started teaching kids and adults how to write haiku in the late 1990’s. He often teaches through using examples of haiku poems in order to show different approaches and concepts. This is especially true in working with complementary images, using juxtaposition, being in the present, and learning to show, not tell, in haiku.

He has people do a lot of writing and then critique. Always on what is right with the poem, as there is usually at least one good line. This is where you build. Ask the writer what inspired this haiku, how the writer got to the image, what they want the poem to portray. What brings the poem together.

Michael suggests that students of haiku should take ginko walks and be in the presence of nature.

“Say haiku to the wind. Be there.”

— Jeannie Martin

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