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How We Haiku — Teaching Stories 7

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 month Carlos Colón shares the boomerang effect he has with his first teacher of haiku.

Teaching Story


“Back around 1999, I was working as a performance poet at a downtown arts festival and encountered my former teacher, Mrs. Jamette Lance, who said she introduced me to haiku back in the seventh grade. I was surprised to be reminded of this, but I knew back in 1974, when I was in college and wrote what I thought were my first haiku, that I had some previous awareness of the genre. Mrs. Lance had been at the festival with a mutual friend, Phyllis Graham, who had been my career advisor after I graduated from LSU-Shreveport.

“Some fourteen years later, when I was working on the acknowledgments section for my Haiku Elvis book, I decided to mention Mrs. Lance, but I thought the name Jamette on my report card might have been wrong. Maybe her first name was Janette. I couldn’t find her phone number, and Phyllis passed away, so I walked into my old elementary school and was able to get her first name verified.

“What I didn’t know was Mrs. Lance had remarried in 2002 and was now Jamie McDonald. I also did not know that we had another mutual friend, Dennise Aiello. Dennise invited Jamie to a barbecue at her home in 2014, and Jamie asked Dennise about her background. Dennise told Jamie that she was interested in poetry, that her favorite form of poetry was haiku, and that she belonged to a local haiku group, which was organized by Carlos Colón. Jamie was surprised by this, and the two decided it was now their turn to surprise me at the next meeting of the Northwest Louisiana Haiku Society.

“There was a big surprise, but it occurred a bit earlier because Dennise informed me by e-mail who the surprise guest would be. Of course, I was delighted to be able to give an autographed copy of Haiku Elvis to the teacher who got me started on this narrow road. Jamie even joined our group!

“Back in 1996 in a “Beginner’s Mind” column in Woodnotes 30, I wrote of my earliest memories of haiku. Now I am able to tell the fuller story.”

— Carlos Colón


This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Thank you everyone for all your comments. We teach haiku through sharing our poems and our haiku sensibility in formal and nonformal learning environments as well as in everyday life. A way to inspire and be inspired. Here’s to all those haiku mentors and teachers our there.
    peace, beauty

  2. Dear Carlos, What a wonderful story. For me that teacher was my mother, Enola Borgh, who taught in the English Department at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. I was writing poems, and she suggested I learn a form. Then I discovered Modern Haiku in a Poet’s Market book. It was published from Madison then, edited by Bob Spiess – where I attended UW, and earned my teacher certification in special education.

    It’s interesting what is remembered over time. My mother quietly corrected my language in a way that was kind. During her last illness, when I read aloud to her and shared my hopes for poetry-work, she said, “That is worthy.” Amazing how few words can last, and continue to bless.

    The Teaching Stories blog is a good idea. Thank you to Brad Bennett and Jeannie Martin.


    1. Thank you, Ellen. Bob printed my first two published haiku in 1992. He even corrected a dangling modifier for me.

  3. Carlos is indeed an amazing teacher. He has been a mentor to me and so many others for so long you almost can’t wrap your mind around the fact that there was a time he wasn’t a pro. It is cool to see where it all began, the making of an artist. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Carlos is a great teacher and mentor for our haiku group. What a surprise to learn the history of a haiku connection between my friends Jamie and Carlos.

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