How I Learned to Create Haiku

In November 1999 I decided to attend a weekend retreat with Angeles Arrien in the Santa Cruz mountains. The topic as I remember was “Love and Relationships”.

Before one of our many breaks, Angeles taught us about Haiku poems. She said they had three lines, the first is five syllables, the second is seven syllables, and the third is five syllables. She said there is at least one element from nature in the poem. With that simple explanation, she gave us an assignment to write Haiku poems during our break.

As I left for the break I thought “Oh well, I never have been good at poetry, but I’ll do my best to do the assignment.” I took a walk around the complex, enjoying the trees and stopping occasionally to enjoy the smell and color of the little wild flowers. I found a lovely spot overlooking a canyon, where I could sit on this lovely wooden bench swing. As I sat swinging, I began to write in my journal. I wrote at least five Haiku poems. I marveled at how easy they began to flow after I finished the first one.

I felt good when I returned to the workshop, thinking I had at least done the assignment. Angeles asked us to share our poems. I listened to the poems written by other participants, and then found the courage to read a couple of mine.

Here are a few of the poems I remember writing that day:

Enjoy the silence,
The grove of deep rooted trees,
Sentinels of peace.

Trust is like crystal.
Once shattered by emotions,
Hard to repair it.

We open to love,
as water flows across rocks,
without resistance.

Spirit moves in me,
Like a snake through the tall grass,
Slow unseen power.

I was surprised and pleased that people responded well to my poems. I thought “perhaps I’m more creative than I’ve given myself credit for.” When I returned home after the retreat, I was inspired to continue writing Haiku poems. I created a page so that I could post them on my website.

I printed some of my poems and shared them with a friend. She brought out a book and talked to me about the ‘right‘ way to compose Haiku poems. I noticed my reaction, at first angry and then defensive. I thought, “perhaps my poems are not exactly what the book or people say they should be. However, I like them, and I hear comments from people who say they enjoy them. So, I’m going to continue writing despite my friend’s comments.” I also received a couple of email messages that my poems were not true Haikus. So I added a note at the top of my web page: “Are these true Haiku? Or simply my best effort to share special moments?”

It seems to me that creativity can be very fragile. When we create a poem, or draw a picture, or write a story, we can become quite attached to it, and defensive if someone criticizes our work. It is very easy to discourage a person. It takes skill to encourage and support someone, while helping them to improve the quality of their efforts.

As a teacher, I have noticed this, and want to learn how to comment and guide without discouraging anyone from continuing to make efforts to grow and improve. I always appreciate when my friends and teachers do this for me.

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