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New to Haiku: Advice for Beginners – M. Shane Pruett

New to Haiku is pleased to interview M. Shane Pruett. An internationally award-winning haiku poet, Shane recently joined the team at Poetry Pea Journal as a haibun editor. Thanks for sharing your haiku journey with us, Shane!

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, Shane! How did you come to learn about haiku?

I really can’t remember. It started on a lark when I was a post-doc at a Florida biological station, where I urged the interns to write 5-7-5 nature haiku as part of their daily summaries. After moving to Oregon, I started my twitter account (@HaikuMyBrew) with the intention of writing bad haiku about the insane diversity of beers here. Haiku writers started to appear in my feed, and I realized how flawed were my attempts. I followed real haiku poets, started learning the “rules” of English language haiku, and soon was writing and publishing “real” haiku.

What are some of the fun ways that you have used or experienced haiku?

Noted above. I challenged my interns to include haiku in their daily summaries. Most weren’t even close to good haiku, but many were great little micro poems in their own right.

What are your favorite haiku that you have written? Can you share a story behind one of them?

Lately I’ve been experimenting with one-line haiku a lot more while working to build a cache of bird/travel related haiku for a possible book someday. I took a 3-day Christmas trip in about 2007 from Missouri to Duluth, MN during a big invasion of owls from further north, hoping to see a few northern species I’d never seen. Seeing 35 great gray owls in a day has stuck with me, and my favorite poem drawn from that trip was recently published in Whiptail:

the constant great gray cold of winter owl

You are a self-described “bird nerd.” How does your background in avian ecology influence your poetry?

Well, I think as with many naturalist types I’ve had a lot of opportunity seeing nature or the nature of things. I know that sometimes I try for a poem that is “too biological,” that is, too deep in the weeds of my knowledge of, say, a specific species’ behavior. and I have to remind myself to make it relatable and back off of the deep knowledge. It’s been part of the fun of trying to marry my love of nature and my experience to this new(ish) venture.

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

I’ve joined Patricia McGuire at Poetry Pea Journal as one of the haibun editors. I’m not a haibun expert, but her faith in me is a real boost and is helping me to dig more intentionally into the form and better understand the various expressions that can work. I love writing haibun as a “moment out of my life” to tell micro stories and this project is really helping me in my own writer’s journey.

I’ve got a couple of interesting collaborations going that I’m really excited about. It has been amazing and gratifying when other “real” writers have asked me to collaborate. I hope those projects are as fruitful as I think they can be.

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

Read a lot. There’s so much available online, but get a journal subscription or two if you can. Get involved with the community and ask others to give you feedback once you have an idea of what makes a traditional English language haiku. Don’t take critical feedback personally. We all have to start somewhere and feedback is how we improve.

A birder and naturalist, Shane has been writing for decades, occasionally surprising himself with something good. He publishes in various journals and has received awards in The First Yugen International Haiku Contest and the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Haiku Contest. He lives in Oregon with his partner and their combined family of kids, a stinky chihuahua, and a standoffishly needy cat. He finds inspiration in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, loves the birds, spiders, and profusion of green growth. He would love to start a Salem haiku group!

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 4 Comments

  1. Thanks Julie for keeping this weekly visit going. It is one of my first Monday morning reads. Thanks Shane for sharing your haiku journey with us.

    1. Hi Peggy: Thank you so much for your comment! Unfortunately, I had to drop back to two posts a month this year for New to Haiku, but I love the interviews too. It’s been such a nice way to meet other haiku poets.

  2. Many thanks Julie and Shane for the fascinating interview. Shane’s love of nature and haiku sounds like the perfect combination.

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