Household Haiku

July 15, 2012

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A personal observation, a concrete seasonal reference, a pivot word or turning point that introduces an insight/shock of awareness, and all in only three lines of text totaling 17 syllables: These are the traditional components of the classical Japanese poetic form known as haiku

I try to write a haiku every day. I recommend it! I call my poems “household haiku” or “homestead haiku” because they record everyday occurrences as I go about my day.
 

What does writing haiku have to do with healthy, frugal living?

Cheap therapy! 

I started writing haiku a few years ago, when I began developing haiku-writing workshops to help adults improve their writing. I suspected that regular haiku practice could help people write more succinctly and express more in fewer words.

I didn’t expect that maintaining a regular haiku practice would also deepen my powers of observation and concentration, boost my emotional resiliency, help me navigate life’s rough patches, and expand my self-awareness. But it has.

In the spirit of classical tradition, I don’t labor over my haiku. I create them spontaneously and swiftly, using ordinary concrete words to record a moment of concrete experience. 

I don’t worry about making them "good," either. Whatever emerges is good enough for my purposes.

My all-time favorite "household haiku," from the beloved classical Japanese poet, Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), echoes my own relationship to housework.

Don't worry, spiders,
I keep house
casually.

Robert Hass translation

This July day was spectacular and sparkling here in central New Hampshire. Here’s the haiku I wrote to mark the day:

summer’s bright magic
calls me out to play—alas!
the dirty laundry
 

A random few from my homestead haiku collection

the way that white cat
savors spring's first quackgrass—
we're all weed-hungry

I plant beans and chard.
the fields around my garden
sow dandelions.

a colorful crowd
delirious with sunshine
zinnias arrive

shared a strawberry
with a slug. Gulp! wanted fruit,
not raw escargot

last strawberry lurks
under mulch; small, misshapen
no less delicious

big chunks of firewood—
no warmth from them without this
handful of splinters

don't worry turkeys!
those hunters have their minds on
venison today

all the cost, the work!
holiday buffet tonight—
but now, the blizzard

that man walking by—
I can tell by his perfume
he stays warm with wood

up wind-scoured hillside
on my snowshoes: what a rush!
surfing wild, white seas

incessant snowfall
shovelers bent like willows
hoping we don’t snap

waking up in dark,
dark driving home; I'd really
like to hibernate

January thaw:
snowbanks melt, disgorge their loads:
fall campaign posters

they’ve arrived: cluster flies,
lady beetles, seed bugs—
winter guests, Welcome!

this fall cover crop—
oats and peas—looks sparse to me:
for toads, a jungle

You don’t have to be a writer or an aspiring writer, or even a poetry-lover to reap the benefits of writing haiku. Give it a try! Then summon the courage to share them here.

Learn more
 


Margaret Boyles lives in a wood-heated house in central New Hampshire. She grows vegetables, eats weeds, keeps chickens, swims in a backyard pond in summer, snowshoes in the surrounding woods in winter, and commutes by bike whenever possible.

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