“A good haiku is like a finger pointing at the moon; once you’ve seen it, you no longer need the finger.”
Ever wonder about haiku, where it came from and what it really is? Come on out to this week’s Culture Club on Thursday April 18 for happy hour (5:30–9 p.m.) and a gallery conversation (6– 7 p.m.). Listen to some classic and modern haiku, find out what haiku really are, and have some fun trying your hand writing a few of your own, based on the woodblocks and ivories in the new exhibition, “Japan is the Key…”: Collecting Prints and Ivories, 1900-1920. This stunning show is not to be missed for longtime fans as well as newcomers to the world of the Japanese art.
Don’t think you can write haiku? Here’s a writing prompt we’ll be using to evoke your inner haiku master:
- Write two lines about something beautiful in nature, using the prints or ivories in the show to give you ideas. Don’t worry about counting syllables yet.
- Write a third line that is a complete surprise, that is about something completely different from the first two lines.
- Look at the three lines together. Does the combination of these two seemingly unrelated parts suggest any surprising relationships? Does it give you any interesting ideas?
- Finally, tidy the poem up—see if there is anything you can emphasize, by adding or subtracting from the poem, to heighten the effect. If you wish, try to put it in a three-line, 5–7–5 format or, better still, simply three lines of short–long–short.
See, easy peasy… and if you think that you might need another prompt to get the haiku juices flowing, the evening’s happy hour should supply all that’s desired.
Guest Author: Don Wentworth is a Pittsburgh poet whose focus is on the revelatory nature of brief, haiku-like moments. His book, Past All Traps, was shortlisted for the Haiku Foundation’s 2011 Touchstone Distinguished Books Award.