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New to Haiku: Advice for Beginners–Joanne Morcom

Today at New to Haiku, let’s welcome Joanne Morcom. The author of five short-form poetry collections, Joanne has won awards for her haiku and tanka. Her work has been translated into many languages, including Arabic, Japanese, German and Russian. Thanks for sharing your haiku journey with us, Joanne!

In Advice for Beginners posts, we ask established haiku poets to share a bit about themselves so that you can meet them and learn more about their writing journeys. We, too, wanted to learn what advice they would give to beginning haiku poets. You can read posts from previous Advice for Beginners interviewees here.

Welcome to New to Haiku, Joanne! How did you come to learn about haiku?

I remember reading haiku in school and liking them because they’re short and to the point. After studying them, I realized that just because they’re short they’re not simple. They’re actually quite complex, which makes them even more intriguing. At that point I tried writing my own haiku. I’ve been writing my own for years, although I still feel like a beginner every time I start the process. I’m honestly not sure when the process ends. In the words of the poet Paul Valery, a poem is never finished, only abandoned.

How do you approach reading haiku?

Usually, I’ll sit down in a quiet place and read several poems. Then I’ll re-read the ones that especially appeal to me, for a variety of reasons. I might read them aloud and then add them to my favorites list, for future reference.

What is a favorite haiku that you have written? Can you share the story behind it?

the old corral
corrals
a snow drift

While driving on a country road one day, I spotted a broken-down corral in a snowy field. I actually felt sympathy for the corral, which inspired me to write the haiku. Later I submitted it to The Haiku Hundred English Haiku Event in 1992, and I was pleased to have it accepted. The anthology sold more than 10,000 copies, making it the biggest selling book of English language haiku in the United Kingdom. I was honored to have it included!

What do you like about writing science-fiction haiku (scifaiku)? How is it different from traditional haiku?

I like writing scifaiku because it explores science, science fiction, fantasy and horror themes. I can let my imagination run wild! It’s different from traditional haiku in the sense that it’s usually not based on the poet’s real-life experiences. For more information about scifaiku, read Tom Brinck’s treatise on the subject, The SciFaiku Manifesto.

What haiku-related project are you currently working on that brings you joy? What do you like about it?

I’m preparing to lead a haiku workshop at the annual When Words Collide Literary Festival in Calgary, Alberta. I’ll also have a table at the festival where I’ll be selling my poetry collections. I look forward to introducing attendees to the amazing world of haiku.

What advice do you have for poets putting together their first collection of haiku?

Read other poetry collections and if possible, contact the authors for advice. Consider having a theme that makes for a cohesive collection, such as a particular time of year, state of mind, etc. Prior to publication, edit the work yourself or engage a professional editor.

For those just starting out, what other advice would you give them?

I would suggest reading a lot of haiku, perhaps in the way that I read them. Try writing your own and then submit them to publications. Don’t be discouraged by rejections. I’ve had haiku rejected by one publication and accepted by another, sometimes just by changing a couple of words, or the order in which the words appear. When you find an editor who accepts your work, keep submitting to that editor.

It’s also helpful to join a haiku community, either locally or remotely. Be prepared to receive feedback on your work and to give feedback on other people’s work. Sharing is caring!

Joanne Morcom lives in Calgary, Alberta where the summers are brief yet beautiful, just like a haiku. She has published several haiku collections and is a member of Haiku Canada and Tanka Canada. Her poetry and book reviews appear in Haiku Canada Review and GUSTS: Contemporary Tanka. Some of her poems have been translated into other languages, such as Romanian, in Enchanted Garden Haiku Journal.

We’d love to hear from you in the comments. The Haiku Foundation reminds you that participation in our offerings assumes respectful and appropriate behavior from all parties. Please see our Code of Conduct policy for more information.

Julie Bloss Kelsey is the current Secretary of The Haiku Foundation. She started writing haiku in 2009, after discovering science fiction haiku (scifaiku). She lives in Maryland with her husband and kids. Julie's first print poetry collection, Grasping the Fading Light: A Journey Through PTSD, won the 2021 Women’s International Haiku Contest from Sable Books. Her ebook of poetry, The Call of Wildflowers, is available for free online through Moth Orchid Press (formerly Title IX Press). Her most recent collection, After Curfew, is available from Cuttlefish Books. Connect with her on Instagram @julieblosskelsey.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Thank so much as a haiku novice the haiku foundation continues to provide technique and form but the amazing possibilities within haikus expression thanks as always blessing reign 😊

  2. The Haiku Hundred (Iron Press) was one of the first haiku anthologies I bought when I came back to England, after staying in Australia for five years. It was very pocket sized back then, and so I could carry it around with me.

    Regarding: “What advice do you have for poets putting together their first collection of haiku?”
    I agree, and dialogue amongst poets can be a wonderful thing. I help and support, through Call of the Page, a lot of people bring about their first collections. It’s an exciting experience! 🙂

    The authors always bring a strong group of poems, and once I get under the skin of what can come out, it’s pure magic, and a joint enterprise during correspondence, until the author finally cracks the final version, and a theme or even more than one theme, that ends on a cohesive note.

    Alan

  3. Thank you to Joanne Morcom for the gently encouraging words for those of us habitual, but unpublished, for the most part, poets. A small collection is on my horizon, I hope.

    1. Dear SaraJane Munshower,

      I am sure you will bring a collection around, be it a pamphlet/chapbook of under 70 haikai verses, or a collection of 70+. 🙂

      I like the idea that a collection will contain some, or even many, previously unseen work, or unpublished work.

      My journal often has pieces that have been posted on social media in the past, but no longer seen, plus a few pieces that have even been rejected, that I take as they are, or with a minor tweaking. It’s always exhilarating to be supportive in this interaction!

      Alan

      1. Thank you for your encouraging replies. I self-published a poetry book with a haiku section 30 years ago with a Very BEGINNER mind. I continued down that road, just doing the 5-7-5 format until moving to the Seattle area and just recently became part of the Puget Sound Haiku
        Community. What a rich inclusive world of ideas and friendship. Soo much to learn in this big wonderful world!

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