Troy’s Book Club: Haiku Diem, the best of year one

As many folks (who know me) know, I’ve been writing haikus for quite a while now. Today, matter of fact, was Day 2777. I write haikus maybe 4-5x/week and have been writing them since 2oo2. Here’s the first one:

day 1  (11-9-02)

the sky goes slate grey

what weather comes for this night?

leaves leave the trees quick.

As I’ve slowly advanced my “project”, I’ve come to realize how many other people enjoy this compact format. It’s been much fun seeing how other people interpret the haiku form. Traditionally speaking, haikus are supposed to be about observations of “real” things – no metaphors and “me” statements – just good, detailed observations and insights into the world. The rule people are most familiar with is the syllable count. Haiku is supposed to be composed of three lines, containing 5 syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the second, and 5 lines in the third line. In my efforts, I try to follow the basic rules, but I do sometimes lapse into “me” haikus. Sometimes the thoughts just fit right. Anyhow, this post is not about me and haiku, but about Freeman Ng and haiku.

Freeman Ng has undertaken a similar project to me, but  in doing so has demonstrated greater discipline and a unique voice in his syllabic journey which he calls “Haiku Diem“. He has also shown a greater willingness to put himself “out there” by self-publishing a book of haiku from his first year’s efforts (he is now over two years into his efforts). Freeman came across my blog and asked if I would give his book a look-see. I said “yes,” he sent the book, and then it sat on my desk for a month or so. I have gotten to the book now though, and am glad for having finally cracked its cover.

For his book, Freeman has partnered with a number of artists and combined his words with their images. Sometimes it is successful, sometimes the methods compete too much with each other. I think I would have preferred a more subtle approach to the art, so that there would be a more apparent “hierarchy” in the presentation. In my opinion, the strongest pages were with Kathryn Briggs. (the other artists are Kerry Dennehy, Ardith Goodwin, and Susan Taylor Brown)

Freeman, in some weeks, made a sort of “multi-stanza” approach to his haikus. He has written a base haiku, and then the following day, taken the last line of the previous day’s haiku as the new day’s first line, and then followed that method for a few days. It’s a neat creative exercise and has produced some nice results.

Here are a few of Freeman’s haikus that I most enjoyed:

Day 43

looked up to learn what

squawked and flapped off, caught only

the still swaying branch

– – –

Day 11

dug out building site

offers a rare urban treat:

the smell of raw earth

– – –

Day 296

dreamed touch of a hand

against my cheek that woke me

was the morning sun

– – –

Again, it was very swell of Freeman to offer me this chance to see his book. I know how much I’ve valued my own haiku efforts, and how they’ve inclined me towards seeing my world with more-fresh eyes. Haiku has changed how I engage with the world and it’s been interesting seeing how this has come through Freeman’s observations too. Cheers to you Freeman – here’s to many more syllables, observations, and fully-felt moments for both of us!

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