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Haiku poems!

May 11, 2012

I asked my students to write Haiku poems yesterday. It is a rewarding exercise as they get to express themselves, but it is also a useful exercise when introducing rhythm and meter in poetry. And if nothing else, they learn what a syllable is. Some of them get it straight away, whereas others have more difficulty with hearing the rhythms in language. I have asked them to keep to a strict 5-7-5 scheme, where the numbers refer to the number of syllables in each line. Here’s a sample of yesterday’s production:

Haikus can be fun
But they can be confusing
Refrigerator

A bit of tongue-in-cheek there… the deliberate randomness of words pokes fun at poetry that doesn’t make sense (neither does this poem). I take it that “Haikus” in this context represents poetry at large, but note that confusion or lack of meaning does not exclude enjoyment – or indeed that others might find meaning in it. Who decides what a poem really means – the poet or the reader?

Here are some other Haikus:

A tired body
Affected by the storms of life
The last apple falls

Tired and longing
The end of winter and snow
Student’s month of May

The blood in your eyes
see the pain hidden in your pride
Scars that remain left.

There is a beautiful ambiguity in that last line: the word “left” can mean to stay behind but also to leave. The two last words (“remain left”) are at the same synonyms and a dichotomy: they are opposites, yet they are the same. The lack of clarity in how to read the line gives it tremendous tension. This Haiku is what I would call a very fortunate accident…

The rain falls sadly
Most important is to smile
The dreams are shining

A glowing star fades
The wind sounds troubled today
Feel your heart beating

Notice the rhythm in “troubled today”, not unlike a heartbeat, which the last line draws attention to. It is like you are encouraged to feel the poem beating inside of you when you read it. Rhythm is often overlooked in poetry when we read for ourselves, but it often helps to read things out loud, or to hear the poem spoken by someone else.

The sun looking out.
Expressions growing sterner –
Will I fail or pass?

A bright, white landscape.
White crystals dancing lightly –
Landing on your chin.

Music to my ears.
One can see Norwegian flags.
What a perfect day!

Bumblebees are here.
Wake up from three months of sleep!
Can you hear our voice?

A very cheerful and warm image that most readers will associate with summer, warmth, relaxation, coziness: the furry little bumblebee. The poem takes the voice of the bumblebee in the last line – can you hear our voice? The question provokes an answer, and as a reader you accept and say yes. They speak as a unit, and you certainly can imagine the low baritone buzzing of this charming insect. The poem becomes what they say, so it’s like you can hear both the words and the buzzing at the same time. A very nice effect.

People coming home.
Soon there will be time for fun.
The grass is greener!

A classroom so cold.
The tension is rising high.
Finals are nearing.

Water droplets falling,
The sun should be shining bright.
Why do you mock me?

When you look at me.
Like the sunflowers at home,
You make me feel safe.

Waiting for flowers
The summer is almost here
So close but so far

School can be funny,
but sometimes boring as well,
when it’s summer time

Dead leaves fall and fall,
like brown waves around my feet,
autumn has appeared

In class once again,
though the sun no longer shines,
memories warm us

Freezing in classroom,
all is dark as sleep takes me,
and I gently snore

It is very cold,
I no longer want ice cream,
only tea for me

The wind gently moans,
and sharply bites without teeth,
where has Summer gone?

The teacher teaching
Pupils waiting for the clock
It strikes “we’re free”

The bitter winter
Turning soft as the pupils;
They run out to play

Beginning of warmth,
The spring is finally here.
Let us get wasted.

Like the flower petals
In the cold months of winter.
In class we sit, trapped.

An interesting poem because of the allusion to Ezra Pound’s famous “In a Station of the Metro”, whether it is put there consciously or not: the word “petals” clearly rings that bell for me, at least. The mood is pretty gloomy, and this poem has a similar theme of life’s transience and how short-lived beauty is. A harsh interpretation would be to say that school kills the life and spirit of students, and traps potential rather than nurturing it. Still, the seasonal aspect represented by the words “months” and “winter” suggests that summer will come again, and there is longing and hope there too. Being trapped is not necessarily the end.

 

The soul shifts colors.
Like the leaves falling from trees.
The tree of life grows.

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From → Student work

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