Sunday, May 20, 2012

Haiku: Nature is Our Playground

(© Copyright Rich Daley and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence)

Many of us learned haiku poetry in elementary school because its three-line form reinforces the concept of syllables. Of course, this is pure mechanics. True haiku is usually about a season in nature and is written in the present tense. When you read a haiku, whatever you read about is happening now. Haiku often contains opposing ideas, giving this short poetic form a complexity not immediately evident.

The ancient poetic form began in Japan in the 1600's. The master Basho is still read and highly regarded today.

An example of Basho's haiku:

old pond . . .
a frog leaps in
water’s sound

Frog in garden pond in Davington, Faversham (pam fray) / CC BY-SA 2.0

Here's an example by Issa:

A red morning sky,
For you, snail;
Are you glad about it?

Snail on flowers by Jon Sullivan

Writing haiku well demands that the poet observe quietly and be mindful of all his or her senses.

This by no means reaches the master level, but is my own example:

luscious lilacs burst
into big purple bouquets
spreading scented spring

(copyright 2012, Jane Heitman Healy)

Author Bob Raczka and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds recognized haiku as a poetry form that boys can enjoy. Here is Raczka's introduction to their book Guyku:

The book features each season's outdoor activities, such as kite flying, rock skipping, listening to crickets, and looking at constellations, in haiku form. It's a fun book for all ages of boys AND girls. However, since some girls felt excluded because of the title, this author-illustrator team is at work on a version for girls.

A fun international haiku site for kids is Children's Haiku Garden. You can read haiku written by children around the world and submit your own (if you're a child).

Outside Japan, most haiku is written in English. There's even a Haiku Society of America!

What did you notice about nature today? Can you turn your observations into a haiku? Please share your observations and creativity in the comments. If you need some inspiration, see Round of the Seasons in Japan blog for beautiful pictures of that country and its gardens.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

To E-Read, or Not To E-Read

(photo by Rin Zebram├Ądchen, Creative Commons 2.0,

Is that the question? I am one of those people who likes books. Having favorite books around me is like being surrounded by friends. However, books do not equal reading. Like many of you, I read all the time--newspapers in print and online, magazines in print and online, and books, until recently, in print only.

(photo by April Younglove, Creative Commons 2.0,

Friends and coworkers got e-readers as gifts. I did not covet them but saw them as convenient gizmos. Besides, the array of choices is overwhelming, and as soon as you buy one, a newer, better model is released. How can you keep up?

This is the 21st Century, though, and we are well into it. Recently, I ran into a great deal and took the e-reader plunge. My local library offers downloadable books, so I'm off and reading. What I discovered is that author, blogger, librarian, and Cengage executive Stephen Abram is right. I credit him with coining the phrase "format agnostic," meaning that the format in which we read doesn't matter, as long as we can read. He was writing about this at least as far back as 2004.

With my first ebook, the story captured me, and I was as hooked in that format as I would have been in traditional print. When I finished that book, I looked online for reviews to see if other readers had similar reactions to the book. I learned then about an advantage to ereading that I hadn't considered--no back jacket flap to give away key plot points! Several reviewers had been disappointed because their print covers gave away too much in advance.

I see the main advantage of an ereader as its ability to hold many books, making it a good choice for travel, as opposed to lugging several print volumes. On the down side, print books never need to be recharged or turned off during flight take off and landing.

How about you? Are you reading print and e? Are you format agnostic, enjoying a good story however it appears?

(photo by Morten Oddvik, Creative Commons 2.0,