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POETRY CHALLENGEHAIKUAs well as fulfilling their defining structural criteria, haiku must display a down- to-earth elegance, eliciting a mixture of recognition and surprise in the reader. Theyshow us something we’ve seen before but persuade us that we’ve never seen it from this particular perspective. This has to be handled with immense clarity.The first of the submitted haiku I’ve chosen presents three ways of looking at the humble onion: one per line, culminating in the surprising paradox ofthe emotional final line. Haiku have no truck with metaphor and simile, but here ‘storehouse’ and ‘Buddha’ are subtle natural variations on the ‘contented onion’ idea. Evocative, layered (like an onion) and memorable.In Carolyn Lochhead’s haiku, daily life is also the focus. The description of preparations for going outside in winter startin an epic vein then take the narrative somewhere unexpected with the wry humour in the last line. The capitalised first letters aren’t really needed but are used consistently, which is important in any poem, haiku or otherwise.All the rules can be broken,if it serves the haiku’s purpose. Haiku don’t usually have titles, but Jane Murray Bird’s title ‘Partial eclipse with a colander’ provides both context and a playful tone. To fulfil the syllable count, ‘are’ is included at the end of line 2, but its omission would have kept the line unit crisper. And because the rules have already been toppled by the title, this deviation would become part of this haiku’s natural integrity.Similarly with this final example by Sarah Tait, which dispenses with the layout and syllable count altogether to create a powerfully austere single-line image of a boat on the shore, calling to mind so many possible human disappointments. It beautifully expresses the basic haiku principles of ‘less is more’ and the link between human and non-human worlds. ❐Haiku: three clearly independent lines of extreme economy, usually 5, 7, 5 mora (syllables), conveying a sense of setting, presence, close observation and insightLINDA FRANCE has published seven poetry collections with Bloodaxe, Smokestack and Arc, including The Gentleness of the Very Tall (a Poetry Book Society Recommendation).She also edited the ground-breaking anthology Sixty Women Poets (Bloodaxe 1993) and won the 2013 National Poetry Competition. Her latest collection is Reading the Flowers (Arc) – visit her blog the rules can be broken, if it serves the haiku’s purposecontented onionwinter storehouse of goodness Buddha of hot tearsFIONA THEOKRITOFF lives in Nottinghamshire and writes mainly poetry. Her first pamphlet, Undertow, came out in 2013. Her work has appeared in the Interpreter’s House and Under the Radar. Aftera career in children’s publishing, she became a homeopath.The world awaits usWe search for gloves, hats, coats, bags Adventure starts smallCAROLYN LOCHHEAD’s creative non-fiction has appeared in Oh Comely, Hippocampus and The Magazine and in anthologies from the Scottish Book Trust. She won the University of Glasgow’s first narrative non-fiction contest (2013) and works in public affairs for a Scottish mental health charity. This is her first attempt at haiku.Partial eclipse with colanderDraining potatoes,a hundred tiny suns are eaten by the moon.JANE MURRAY BIRD lives in Edinburgh and studied creative writing with the Open University, while home- educating her sons. Her poetry has appeared in Magma and Freak Circus magazines.keel to the big sky ‘Free Spirit’ beachedSARAH TAIT is a poet, beach-walker, haiku fan, and nurse. Her poems have appeared in the Obsessed With Pipework, anthology The Chronicles of Eve (Paper Swans), and Envoi, as well as haiku and tanka in Blithe Spirit and Presence.NEXT TIME► Concrete poem: a poem that uses its shape on the page to convey its meaning as well as its words (but the words still must be good poetry). The poem may form the shape of its subject, but may also be more abstract in its typographical approach. Examples include Anne Rouse’s Starlings. More detailed guidance is provided in the mslexia Minis e-book, Poetic Forms, by Linda France, which can be downloaded from category/poetic-forms/mslexia Mar/Apr/May 2017 41

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