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New to Haiku: Advice for Beginners – Mike Rehling, Part 2

This week, New to Haiku completes our interview with Mike Rehling, co-editor and founder of Failed Haiku. Thanks for sharing your haiku journey with us, Mike. You can read the first part of this interview here.

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.

For haiku poets just starting out, what advice would you give?

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Trying to write the perfect poem will tire you out. Study, get into a group of experienced poets if you can, and get on the Internet and find the work of well-published poets on the web where you can read for free. The Haiku Foundation has digital books, lots of ebooks, and copies of online and print journals. Without leaving your home you can find the guidance and inspiration you will need to lock onto your style and approach to the form. Read the works of others, but look into yourself for your poetic voice.

How do you approach reading haiku?

I don’t. Open yourself up to the world around you and let the haiku find you. I have a forty-year meditation practice that lets me relax and just let nature and human nature bounce off the poem and into me. I read thousands of the poems of others every month as an editor and avid reader. Two of my favorite magazines are Acorn and Mayfly. Both of them have just poetry and Mayfly has just 15 poems and Acorn about 55. They are small and fit in my pocket. I can pull them out in a waiting room or while hiking in the woods alone. I read each issue many times and start to feel the poems as if they were coming from inside me. It is, after all, is said and done the ‘poems of others’ that will teach and inspire you the most. All the great Japanese Masters read widely the poems of their students. Basho loved his own students’ work sometimes more than his own. You meet a lot of great poets in the pages of Mayfly and Acorn. 

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

Some people might say I never stop experimenting with my work. I don’t feel constrained by any traditional styles. I write with no punctuation in my haibun, create phonetically interesting poems, but most of all I like reading my poems aloud to other poets. That is when you learn what works and what doesn’t in your poems. When you look up and see the faces you will know when you have communicated fully, confused them, or just plan angered and frustrated them. Poetry readings are one of the best parts of being a poet for me. Just plain fun!

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

Ok, you will laugh out loud when I say this, but a poem that I don’t believe was ever published is the one I like the best. It requires no story to explain it, it is just a simple moment in my life. The topic is used often in haiku, some would say it is trite, but the moment I wrote it always comes back to me when I read it. I may put it in a book someday but this is the first time anyone but me has seen it I bet.

the moon
lingers to enjoy it too…
spring sunrise

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

 I am doing about two dozen video interviews with some of my favorite poets/editors. These are all poets I love personally for their work as well as their spirit and commitment to the form of haiku. What is not to like about that? I am smiling as I tell you about it.

Mike is a quiet vegan haiku poet living in the north woods of Michigan.

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 3 Comments

  1. Thanks, Mike and Julie for this interaction.

    Great advice and I have been seeing youtube videos of Mike interviewing and being interviewed—really enjoyed them all and there is so much to learn from him. I will need to keep going back to them.

    This haiku of Mike resonates with me, in the early morning when the moon and rising sun have a rendezvous and I wrote a haiku about it too!

    This line will stay with me, “Open yourself up to the world around you and let the haiku find you”.

    Thanks and regards,

  2. Hello Mike,
    I’m happy to have found “Advice for Beginners” this morning! Thanks Julie for making it easy to link to Part 1 first.
    It’s always a pleasure hearing from you, Mike Rehling. Have to tell you I’m the proud owner of two Peter Pauper Press books (also my first finds). Realized recently these books are the reason why I still have an urge to write my poems in four lines.
    Also, I love your favorite poem! Early spring, while the trees are bare, the moon appears at my west window and I can watch it slowly set as the sky lightens with the rising sun.
    Thank you!!

  3. Thank you, Mike,
    and Thank you, Julie.

    All the more wonderful for being unexpected. I was checking into HF in prep for the annual, global haiku collaboration, Earthrise, and was pleasantly pre-empted by part 2 of Mr. Rehling’s refreshing interview. Afterwards, I read part 1, to further engage with the joy of sharing in the hearty
    & healthy dedication to the spontaneity & discipline of Haiku aesthetic.

    I believe that is why, before arriving to the head by way of the tail,

    Mike, I was prompted to respond to your

    “the moon
    lingers to enjoy it too…
    spring sunrise”

    with less personified & season-restricted, and more minimal studies to share :

    the moon
    in sunrise

    in sunrise

    the moon, too

    I often read a haiku or micro-poem, and I am prompted to respond to it in haiku from my voice. Sometimes close to the source of inspiration; other times at a distance. But always in appreciation and gratitude for the encouragement to
    connect with the familiarity – the family –

    A human need
    like speaking in the same tongue
    of haiku.

    speaking haiku
    with you,
    you & you

    Michael (MV)

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