Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Carpe Diem's "Haiku Writing Techniques" #4, Surprise

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

autumn wind
trying to keep myself
under my hat

© John Stevenson

Why do I start this episode of our Haiku Writing Techniques with this haiku? I will try to explain that, but I don't know if I will succeed in that goal.
Maybe this episode had to be our first Haiku Writing Techniques episode, because this week it's all about one of the basic writing techniques of haiku, the surprise, that one moment as long as the sound of a pebble thrown into water. That moment we have to catch in three lines, three lines which have to tell the whole story of that one moment, that surprise. That one moment is the essence of haiku. It's an impression caught in three lines and (mostly) seventeen syllables.

Picture this (sorry The Golden Girls are here again :-) ): A walk through the forest on a summer day. Birds are praising their Creator with their fragile voices. A warm breeze caresses the leaves, bringing them to a higher level of consciousness. Their rustling makes you relaxed and one with nature. Far away sounds of traffic making your experience even better. Then you walk onto a bright sunny spot in the heart of the forest, a plain spot of grass mixed with all kinds of colorful (field) flowers and there in the middle of that spot, you find a crystal clear pool with the most beautiful colored water-lilies. As you walk closer to the crystal clear pool you see a pair of deer. "Wow", you think. "What a surprise". 

This episode is about "surprise" and that's what I felt as I read the haiku above. The surprise of "trying to keep myself under my hat" instead of "I lose my hat" for example.
Ok ... back to our little story. What is the surprise? Is it that crystal clear pool, the blooming water-lilies, the song of the birds or is it that pair of deer?
I think that every one of us will have another surprisingly beautiful experience, but how to catch it? Haiku is not just a "snapshot", it has to be a sketch of the experience, an impression of the experience. The haiku is more a kind of resonance of the experience.

Credits: Claude Monet, Impression, soliel levant

As I discovered haiku in the late eighties I read "the bible" of haiku in The Netherlands "Haiku, a young moon" by J. van Tooren. In that book the author compares haiku with Impressionism. (Impressionism is a 19th-century art movement that originated with a group of Paris-based artists. Their independent exhibitions brought them to prominence during the 1870s and 1880s, in spite of harsh opposition from the conventional art community in France. The name of the style derives from the title of a Claude Monet work, Impression, soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise), which provoked the critic Louis Leroy to coin the term in a satirical review published in the Parisian newspaper Le Charivari.)

Our task for this CD Haiku Writing Techniques is to catch the "surprise" in the little story I told, try to sketch the impression, be the painter (with words) of the scene. Not an easy task I think, but I am looking forward to all of your wonderful haiku, all of the impressions ....

This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until January 30th at noon (CET). I will (try to) publish our new episode, Zooni, later on. For now ... have fun!


  1. Kristjaan I love the correlation you make to Impressionism. I had just put down my pencil moments before reading this new lesson - thank you for the challenge in creative expression.

  2. A lovely post ... I really enjoyed the reference to Impressionism ... it clarifies the haiku concept so much for me!

  3. Just a quick note to say how useful I think the "Techniques" prompts have been. I don't know about everyone else, but I've certainly found myself considering different approaches in light of the topics you've discussed. Thanks, Chèvrefeuille!

    1. You're welcome. Several other Carpe Diem Haiku Family-members have said that too. It's not easy by the way to write those episodes because English isn't my maiden language, but I think that everyone understands my way of writing in English. I am happy that I can help you all to explore and evolve haiku writing through these Haiku Writing Techniques.
      Thanks again for your nice words Sue.

  4. Truly enjoyed this reference of haiku being "un impression d'un moment"

  5. Really a great concept, needing much practice