Several posts ago, my topic of the week was on the literary form of haibun. Typically, a haibun piece consists of a prose narrative followed by a haiku that illuminates some aspect of the prose in a subtle, but meaningful way. I am still quite the novice at this form, however, I felt that I knew enough to submit a work of my own to a journal called, Haibun Today.
A few weeks later I was contacted by the publication’s general editor, Ray Rasmussen. He felt the prose portion of my submission was strong, but the haiku needed work. A lot of work. Under his patient guidance, I was able to revise the piece, and it was ultimately accepted for publication in the upcoming December 2017 edition.
This post isn’t about me patting myself on the back. Well, it is a little bit because it means a lot to have my work appear in a journal that I hold dear to my heart. But besides that, this post is meant to reinforce a theme I touched on two months ago. It was titled, “On Rejection.”
In that post, I emphasized how valuable an editor’s constructive criticism can be for a writer. It’s rare when an editor takes the time to do this for an unsolicited submission. Seize the opportunity when it happens. Chances are you’re going to learn something about the craft of writing.
And that’s exactly what happened to me. I learned something about writing haiku – and I can apply that lesson to every facet of my writing. Haiku forces a writer to focus a concept into a literary laser beam. A lot has to happen in seventeen syllables or less, and if it’s done well, the reader’s brain will vaporize from the impact your haiku just made. There is a ton of helpful articles out there on the subject – Ray Rasmussen gave me this link to get me started, and I highly recommend it to you: http://www.haiku.org.uk/two-image.htm
I’m not claiming to be a haiku expert, but I am claiming that studying the haiku form can help a writer eliminate a lot of the mental clutter that tends to bog them down. When you’re writing in English, you can express a concept in a multitude of ways. A given word could have dozens of synonyms that ever so slightly change the tone of a phrase or sentence. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the possibilities.
Reading and writing haiku for a half hour or so seems to prime my brain to think more concisely. My mind feels more focused and agile, and my writing session is noticeably more productive. If I was independently wealthy, I’d commission a team of cognitive scientists to figure out why this happens to me. But, unless I hit the Mega Millions, you’re just gonna have to take my word for it. And see if it works for you. It certainly won’t hurt.
I’ll leave you with a haiku I finished a few nights ago. Keep writing, keep revising, and be kind.
lazy shadows spill
from the still trees