The website of the historical fiction writer.

Winchester Writers’ Conference 2013 Stave 4

The final workshop I attended at the Conference was about haiku, a form of poetry from Japan. Chris White, a Committee Member of the British Haiku Society, gave an introduction to the  form, some of the best known Japanese writers (such as Basho, Buson, Issa and Shiki) and how it has been taken up in the West over the last hundred years with periodicals such as Frogpond and Blithe Spirit.

Some of the common misconceptions of haiku include the idea that it has to always fit to the 5-7-5 rule (five syllables for the first and third lines and seven syllables for the second. Although many competitions require this, it is not essential. Due to the nature of the languages, the 5-7-5 rule fits haiku written in Japanese better than English or German where it may not sound as natural. Another misconception is that all haiku have to be about nature. Although it is a popular subject, the poems should be more about natural processes and change.

The idea of haiku is to present an image that is not too abstract but clear and concrete. I like to think of it as a photograph of a poem as opposed to a story. Basho said 80% revelation is good. 50% is much better.

How did I get into haiku? My first writing course with the Open University had an exercise in the course handbook which suggested writing haiku as an exercise. It’s something I have tried to do every so often. Last year I was commended in the Haiku Competition at the Conference and this year I came second!

All in all, this conference was very good and I’ve got lots of good advice and met some very interesting people. If you’re getting into writing then this conference is well worth the investment.


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