Once Upon A Haiku

Many moons ago, I worked in the interior of British Columbia as a reporter and photographer for a small town weekly newspaper.

In the midst of rolling grasslands and vivid night skies, I took photos and wrote of local news featuring rodeos, the Chamber of Commerce, touring rock bands, checks presented by the Rotary Club, school board disputes and the City Council.

I remember one day, after contributing to a rare controversial story questioning the influence of developers on the town’s elected representatives, the mayor ran up to my office and without a word of explanation dropped off some choice subdivision plans never seen by anyone before. He was afraid of some accusation of corruption it seems, but our publisher had no inclination for me to pursue it. So I didn’t. That’s how it is in small towns.

Single most of the time then, on a Friday night I might go to one of the town’s numerous bars, drink a couple beers and listen to one bar band or another grinding out a Rolling Stones cover or shouting through a Johnny Cash song.

Otherwise I read, listened to music, walked a lot, and ran a little, and pecked away at a writing project or two.

For awhile I fancied that I wanted to write haiku. When you have a lot of time to yourself, and there’s plenty of nature around, the quietness — distant coyotes greeting twilight’s new stars, a river’s steady murmur, wind pushing the trees around — gives rise to a mood that is fertile for that form.

Haiku of course are originally short Japanese poems that have a set number of syllables per line in that language, but to me are best suited to a kind of free verse style in English without too much nitpicking about exact number of syllables. Japanese haiku are often linked to Zen and their most famous authors from that part of the world brought an intensity of perception to them that often came from prolonged meditation.

Here’s one I like by the famous Basho:

Hot bath water
No place to throw
Insects singing all around

Another of his well-known haiku, the following is considerably more conceptual than the norm, but still effective:

Summer grass
Great warriors
Remains of dreams

Of course, haiku drift like snow over the whole world now, attesting to the succinct attraction of the form.

I had come to figure that a good way to exercise one’s writing, and writerly perception, would be to write several haiku each day. More traditional teachers of writing have been known to suggest that their students write a Shakespearean sonnet each day, since a steady diet of iambic pentameter could not help but to lift one to remarkable lyrical heights.

But I much preferred the rough-hewn quality of the shorter verse, so for a while I endeavored to write quite a few. And while working on that small town newspaper, I took a holiday to a more remote area in northern B.C. where one of my brothers and some of his friends were homesteading at an abandoned railroad town on the other side of the Skeena River.

So here are a few of the results from that time. I found them, neatly typed, in an envelope the other day. They are a greeting from a younger self, far away yet right beside me. I feel like they’re not too bad.


clear night
full belly
cool half moon gleams


Out the door to stoke
the fire — bright marigolds


drifting, the slough
dragonfly buzzes my head
a fish flicks rings


walking paths in shorts,
long grass slips the legs —
berry on my tongue


awake in the small hours
the voices of many birds swell
dawn light enters the room

The following one is poignant for me since it speaks of the time just before my mother became unable to walk due to multiple sclerosis.


Walking near Lost Lagoon
Ma and I, we watch the water —
In the dark, white birds sail


Coming night
mountains — shapes
rising moon’s silhouettes


In fresh morning
by an old building
a mobile turns and turns


Two white hens, an axe
a stroke, the death cluck, again —
bodies here, heads there


sit, listen —
the quiet of mountains
a distant chainsaw


run on a wet road
spring sky, sweet wind sailing
suddenly to shout!


A short note about a great haiku blog:

Check out Slice for many insightful, amusing and tricky haiku…

Explore posts in the same categories: Awareness, Remembering, Writing

6 Comments on “Once Upon A Haiku”

  1. Rick Matz Says:

    Here’s a lot of information on haiku:


    In response to Basho’s famous haiku:

    The old pond,
    A frog jumps in:

    I wrote:

    Bassho’s frog went plop!
    and never heard from again.
    A snapping turtle

  2. fencer Says:

    Hi Rick,

    Thanks for the great link…

    And for the frog plop reply… Where’d that frog go!


  3. A pleasant read. Several speak to me – “a mobile turns and turns” is very visual and mesmerizing for me.” a fish flicks rings” is again very indolent and visual.
    I’ve been away a bit. It’s nice to read your posts again.

  4. fencer Says:

    Hi lookingforbeauty,

    Sorry it took a while for me to reply… computer on the fritz.

    Thanks for reading and liking a couple of the haiku.

    Hope all’s well and that you will be back blogging soon on your art site…


  5. Hi Fencer,
    I just posted my first since my journeys. Not stellar but I hope it will give background to writing that is to come. I’ve had a few setbacks since I’ve been home that have kept me away from my usual writing and painting schedules. It’s getting better – I’ve done a bit of painting and writing this week.
    I see you haven’t been writing much either. Nor Forestrat.
    I’ll keep checking. You two are in the top 5 of my fave reads on the blogs.

  6. fencer Says:

    Hi lookingforbeauty,

    Nice to hear from you, and looking at your blog, sounds like you had a great trip…

    My computer has been in and out of the shop, and that’s contributed to my lack of posts, but not entirely… not too inspired lately.

    Hope Forestrat gets back at it again soon, too.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: