Choice Haiku ~ Guest, Bernard Gieske, US




Haiku Techniques


Do you compose desk haiku, writing haiku from an idea or simply throwing words and images together in your imagination?  I must confess that I am one of these. I wish I could wander in the woods, plow through the fields, camp out in the night, roll with the waves in other words commune with nature and discover, with pen and paper ready, "haiku moments".  Oh!, to experience firsthand moments of enlightenment. Alas, these days I must be content to view nature through my home, TV, car, book, and memory windows.  True, I sometimes am able to recall meaningful events earlier in my life when I was more exposed; however, I wasn't that observant, didn't know about haiku, and sooner or later, maybe already, I have exhausted all of these occasions.  Blessed are those who can still experience Mother Nature and all of her creatures with an observant eye.

So what can we desk haiku poets do?  Thanks to Jane Reichhold and her haiku techniques, there are tools that we can use. You will find all of these online at this link:

Jane lists and explains 22 different techniques with examples that can be used in composing haiku.  Here are some of those techniques with examples from the September / October Sketchbook "cemetery" Haiku Thread.  By the way, these techniques can help even if you are not a desk haiku poet.  If you only read haiku, these might help you see more of what you might be missing.     

There's the COMPARISON technique: two some things that together evoke one special event, or something with similar aspects clearly imaged. 

the cortege moves
a long black snake

# 04. Sandra Martyres, IN

 In her haiku Sandra not only compares the cortege to a black snake but her use of “long” also gives emphasis to how slowly the cortege is moving. We see both the snake and the cortege engaged in the same movement.

silent prayers...
mother’s gravestone
covered in moss

# 01. Sergio A. Ortiz, US

In his haiku Sergio makes a comparison between the silent prayers and the moss. The moss blankets the gravestone keeping away all sounds and noises.

Sad graves,
lonely among many, there
in a deserted village!

# 151. Smajil Durmišević, BA

old cemetery—
the wind whistles among
loose stony teeth

# 84. Djurdja Vukelic-Rozic, CR

Another technique is CONTRAST. This involves two images which provide contrast.

in the graveyard
birds are clamorous
graves are silent

# 10. Radhey Shiam, IN

Radhey provides contrast between the clamorous birds and the silent graves. The sense of sound is not the only contrast involved. We are also aware of the birds, full of life, and graves, filled with death.    

saints and sinners
death makes not a difference
same cemetery

# 56. Sandra Martyres, IN

Even though there is a definite contrast between saints and sinners in Sandra’s haiku, looking over the cemetery we see no difference. Death does not discriminate, nor does this cemetery. 

at the cemetery—
from birth to death
only a breath and sigh

# 125. Vera Primorac, CR

church graveyard
a cloud of crows hover
over stone angels

# 89. Chen-ou Liu, CA

beyond the grave...
looking for answers
to today's questions

# 109. Keith A. Simmonds, TT

march against violence
cherubs view
the orchid blossom

# 31. Sergio A. Ortiz, US

shadow of
a fruit-laden tree—
teenager’s tomb

# 114. P K Padhy, IN

A third technique is ASSOCIATION: different things relating or coming together.

broken tombstones—
picking blackberries
sunburnt children

# 06. Marg Beverland, NZ

The key word here is “broken” which gives us the idea that this cemetery has been forgotten, thus all kinds of things grow up in or near it like blackberry bushes. Marg might have been one of these sunburnt children and now associates that time she was picking blackberries with the cemetery. Her addition of “sunburnt” is interesting because it provides a contrast between the color of ripe blackberries and the children’s sunburnt skin. In a haiku more than one technique can be involved.     

 gravestones the scent of wilting flowers

# 157. Rhiannon Bond, NZ

The next technique is the RIDDLE, a very old technique. The ‘trick’ is to state the riddle in puzzling terms which prevent the reader from figuring out the answer. The bigger surprise the answer, the better the haiku; nevertheless, the answer needs to make sense and be realistic.

Surprisingly I found quite a few riddles in the "cemetery" thread.

a designated land
of soulless bodies

# 55. Munia Khan, BD

This riddle might have been too easy to guess since we knew the theme of the thread.  What other answer would be possible?

 Here is a haiku that is definitely a riddle, but we are left without the answer. 

 sounds of crockery
in the graveyard
the watchman puzzled

# 72. Radhey Shiam, IN

...So we share the puzzlement of the watchman.

a reminder
“Life Doesn’t Pay”

# 08. Munia Khan BD

from afar
a glow in the cemetry
a ghost's party?

# 36. Sandra Martyres, IN

...We immediately wonder what the glow could be. Did you guess the answer?

 a cruel invitation
to the other side

# 39. Munia Khan, BD

This riddle also would have been much harder to guess if we had read it someplace else or it could be a good example of the Leap Linkage technique explained below.   

SENSE-SWITCHING is another old-time favorite of the Japanese haiku masters.

 the wind howls
willow leaves cover
two new graves

# 05. Karen O'Leary, US

Karen's haiku is a good example of the sense-switching technique. We hear the wind howling and then we switch to seeing the leaves covering the new graves. But there is much more to this haiku. There are two new graves which describes a heavier burden of sadness for the viewers. How heavy a burden this is is conveyed by the wind not just blowing but howling. There are a lot of leaves, enough to cover two graves. These graves are “new” which means the grieving is still very fresh. 

 I brush aside leaves
to read their names…
cold granite

# 11. Cara Holman, US

Cara gives us another good example of the sense-switching technique. We watch her brushing aside the leaves and then, to our dismay, we feel the cold granite. Once again this last line exposes the depth of feeling (shock) that she has at this moment. 

There’s the technique of NARROWING FOCUS. It’s like using a camera and switching lenses three times, starting out with a wide-angle lens, switching to a normal lens, and then zooming in with a close-up view. In the following haiku, Cristina-Monica almost accomplishes this.  Almost I say, because she switches lenses only twice. If she could change it to include a wide-angle lens, it would fulfill all the requirements. 

tall fir in the graveyard—
a broken angel's wing

# 97. Cristina-Monica Moldoveanu, RO

Creating a METAPHOR can be another technique. Jane writes that using metaphors is not encouraged, but she cites Basho using it in his most famous “crow Ku” as support for doing so.  I am wondering whether Ljudmila’s haiku is a good example. 

a tombstone—
prestige without woe
and the mirror of might

# 24. Ljudmila Milena Mršić CR

Using the Metaphor technique is hard to explain. It involves using words which together evoke an unstated feeling or experience.  If the reader has never experienced this, it might be hard to appreciate this kind of haiku.

near the graves
sounds of shoes...
no one visible

# 74. Radhey Shiam, IN

Imagine yourself alone in a cemetery on a cloudy, moonless night and then hearing the sounds of shoes, but turning in all directions you discover no one. I don’t know about you, but I would be having shivers up and down my spine.

The SIMILE TECHNIQUE is a more common technique.  A simile uses the words “as” and “like” except usually omitted in a haiku, being considered unnecessary.  

the distance travelled—

# 154. Stella Pierides, DE

Stella likens a gravestone to the measuring of a life time.

war cemetery—
at every grave
a heavy stone

# 159. Bouwe Brouwer, NL

So many heavy stones, so much grief, is the equivalent of a war cemetery for Bouwe.

dead silence
a coffin pushed autumn
into a tomb

# 201. Malvina Mileta, CR

Death leaves us helpless.  There is no pushing it back. A tomb is like a whole season lost. Even silence is dead.  This is a remarkable haiku.   

The ABOVE AS BELOW TECHNIQUE ends up with a well-rounded thought involving the switching of the first and third lines.  If the haiku produces a complete thought even when the first and third lines are switched, then there is a connectedness or completeness achieved with this technique.  Cara’s haiku I think illustrates this best.

a river stone
still warm from my pocket
on their grave

# 75. Cara Holman, US

You will notice that switching the first and third lines not only produces the same thought but also results in a riddle. This is a good blend of two techniques once again. Even though the thought might be the same either way, there is a different set of feelings associated with each.  I find the riddle more exiting, but the way Cara has it reading covets deeper feelings and past memories. No doubt, that is what she wanted to convey. 

There are quite a few good examples of this next technique of the SKETCH or SHIKI’S SHAHSEI.  Shasei means sketch from life. The poet simply states what he sees. The trick is to do this is a way that doesn’t become boring.

an abandoned letter

# 02. Janak Sapkota, Nepal (NP)

In the strictest sense, I assume this technique involves only the sense of sight.  Including the other senses as well makes it more interesting but then it might be considered as the Sense Switching technique. It’s perfectly acceptable to use more than one technique. In this haiku Janak has us not only seeing the moving letter but hearing it calling for attention.  Just now, thinking about this, this might also be considered a Sabi, which I explain later. The letter is abandoned, not just forgotten, which is deliberate. This is a crematorium which adds the note of destruction. What is the story about what happened?

These next haiku involve mostly seeing, but even “heaviest” includes the sense of touch or/and feelings and contributes more meaning. 

heaviest rain
from the old crosses
flows rust

# 03. Vania Stefanova, BG

black veil
red eyes
she joins the mourners

# 34. Sandra Martyres, IN

his dog protects him
even in death
barking at his grave

# 58. Sandra Martyres, IN

black coats and strong arms
pall bearers
in uniform

# 80. Sandra Martyres, IN

autumn sunset
tombstones' shadows lower
down the hill

# 82. Djurdja Vukelic-Rozic, CR

There are two techniques that are twins: SABI (SAH-BEE) and WABI (WAH-BEE). There is a debate as to what each exactly means. They are twins depicting beauty, but each in its own way. Sabi depicts beauty in the sense of loneliness, solitude, but this might also mean being miserable, insignificant, pitiable, or include asymmetry or poverty.  Wabi depicts the kind of beauty that is a result of living simply. Both Sabi and Wabi are characterized by a certain deepness, austerity, poignancy.

I am thinking that Evica’s haiku might qualify as a Sabi.

a broken heart—
watering flowers on her son's tomb
with her tears

# 137. Evica Kraljic, CR

There are actually two ways of reading this. It could be an example of the technique of the Sketch.  We see a woman standing by her son’s tomb watering the flowers and crying.  To see this as a Sabi, we can read it as if the woman is crying so hard that her tears are watering the flowers.  Her sorrow must be very heavy, thus a broken heart, in order to produce so many tears. A very touching scene to behold.

It might be unexpectant to link a haiku with beauty when focusing on death and graves.  Beauty, though, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. So this next haiku I see as a Wabi.

cemetery at noon…
your shadow
beside mine

# 95. Vania Stefanova, BG

 Behold the  beauty of oneness!

I found a couple haiku that fall in the category, THE IMPROBABLE WORLD technique. In poetry all things are possible, so we should not be surprised to find something happening which just can’t be true.

rally of tombstones
to defend death—
a cemetery

# 51. Munia Khan, BD

you, my friend—
let the dream of eternity
spread your arms

# 135. Evica Kraljic, CR

song colour of love
drains the corpse
funeral service

# 146. Karin Anderson, AU

These next haiku exemplify the techniques of CLOSE LINKAGE and LEAP LINKAGE. These might also have the hint of association, contrast, and/or comparison.  A close linkage is easier to see. The connection is small and maybe a well-known one. The leap linkage technique is a more distant leap/connection.  Depending how far a leap this is, there is the danger that the reader might not see the connection and it might be known only to the poet.  Here are some examples.  You can decide which technique is being used.   

side by side
their names, in stone…

# 73. Cara Holman, US

a lone silence
pacing over the cemetery—
tear in the eye

# 25. Evica Kraljic, CR

barefoot she runs
to her boyfriend’s grave
pine needles

# 26. Karin Anderson, AU

poppies bloom
among the rows of crosses
a fleeting cloud

# 16. Chen-ou Liu, CA

candle's flame
mirrored in the tombstone
mitigated pain

# 128. Ljudmila Milena Mršić CR

For Sale sign
on a cemetery plot
winter wind

# 104. Chen-ou Liu, CA

a bronze soldier
under the setting sun
angel of death

# 12. Agop Kevorkian, AM (Armenia)

beside Buddha’s picture…
field of bones

# 33. Sergio A. Ortiz, US

mother's tomb
covered with the snow

# 143. Zeljko Spoljar, CR

a lamb
on a headstone...
April clouds

# 163. Michele L. Harvey, US

Violets cluster—
no name on the cross
full of muscle

# 196. Maria Tirenescu, RO

HUMOR is another technique and might not be expected in a "cemetery" Haiku Thread. This next haiku could be considered using the sketch technique, but I can also see some humor. This might also be a case of association. 

at his headstone
the wife waters the grass
with his favorite beer

# 182. Kathy Nguyen, US

This haiku of John’s makes for a good ending. Sunset occurs at the end of the day; death, at the end of life. We can feel a certain endearment and longing conveyed by the tracing fingers and the waiting. Sunset is also a transition with the promise of the sun rising and beginning a new day. Death is a transition and the beginning of a new existence. So prayers, remembering, faith, longing, hope all make sense and keep the future real for us.

with her finger
she traces his engraved name—
waiting for sunset

# 216. John Daleiden, US









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