June 26: 2-10: The Technique of Mixing It Up

(See this post for an explanation of what’s going on here.)


“What I mean here is mixing up the action so the reader does not know if nature is doing the acting or if a human is doing it.  … Very often when I use a gerund in a haiku I am basically saying, ‘I am. . .’ making an action but leaving unsaid the ‘I am.’ … It is a good way to combine humanity’s action with nature in a way that minimizes the impact of the author but allows an interaction between humanity and nature.

end of winter

covering the first row

of lettuce seeds

– Jane Reichhold, Haiku Techniques



Three yellow birds
riffing on an old song
in the garden

Up the hill,
the iPod strapped to my arm,
playing it cool

Everything I know
seething in my mind
the dream begins

The fire next door
burning marshmallows
the boys trade equations

Bearing the pain —
the tree laid low with snow —
ready to snap

The empty porch
waiting for the UPS guy
to leap up the stairs

Hunting for a home —
the birds perched on the roof —
pausing to consider

Dancing to James Brown
the ants we can’t get rid of
track our steps

Yellow light —
hesitating as we approach —
hoping to move forward


Okay, I basically could have gone on with these forever, but I have about a million other things to do so I forced myself to stop. But I will be writing more. The ambiguity really appeals to me. You may have noticed that I am interpreting “nature” in Jane’s explanation as meaning “all inanimate objects” (so iPods and yellow lights are fair game).

I also was playing around with using actual punctuation and capitalization, which will probably get me thrown out of the Proper Haiku Writers’ Society. I apologize if I have horrified anyone, but I have been wanting to do this for a long time and only hesitated out of cowardice, not wanting to buck the trend and alienate the Powers That Be. But that’s kind of silly.

It’s fine with me if other haiku writers don’t want to punctuate or capitalize, but I think the arguments about that being the Only Way to write haiku are seriously overblown. I don’t really have time to write a treatise about this today, but suffice it to say that I think writers in English should be able to use all the tools that written English offers to convey their meaning and give aid and comfort to the reader. That being said, I tried very hard not to let the punctuation here erase the ambiguity or favor one interpretation of the haiku over another. And who knows, maybe I’ll go back to the minimalist look myself. I just really need to experiment with this to see how it works for me.

4 thoughts on “June 26: 2-10: The Technique of Mixing It Up

  1. I agree that the lack of punctuation and capitalization may be kind of a fashion thing but since I’d previously been a major punctuator, I’m experimenting with not using it! I still use dashes to enforce a pause sometimes but I find that too much punctuation forces only one take. I have no strong feelings about capitalizing so I’m just going without for now. I don’t think the punctuation in your haikus is too controlling or specific at all.

    Oh, and I really dig the three yellow birds verse.

    aloha (that was for Wrick)

  2. bwahahahaha. aloha MLA & Steve. – cool on trying things out. yeah, i agree with Steve on the 3 Yellow bird haiku. that ku sets up the ambiguity really well. it snags the reader. i like that.

    yeah – at one time i started each line with a capital (poetry was like that). i got away from punctuation, but still use it occasionally. that’s fine by me. if a ku works, it works. that’s the way i see it. once in a while i’ll use the sensura/censura (~) to signal the hard pause. hey. experiment.

    as far as i can see you make a great point about all the tools in the english system. may be even on the keyboard… ˙˚µ ≤√ç ´„Œ´‰ˇÁ fl‡°··›‹ € ⁄`…just wondering if any of that stuff shows up here. proper haiku writers?.. must be a purist thing.

    patient geckos ~
    watching the wild life
    in a √ stand line

  3. “mixing it up” is, as you indicate, a technique with great potential. Unfortunately, many editors resist it, stubbornly refusing to recognize the expressiveness that the built-in ambiguity affords.

    By the way, thanks for reminding me of what a great resource Jane’s book is. I’ve read it through a couple of times and referred to it often, but I haven’t been turning to it lately.

  4. I still have not decided whether I like these better with or without punctuation, but I guess that’s what experimentation is all about. And since it’s my blog I don’t have to worry about what any editors but me think. 🙂 (Really, Bill? There are editors who don’t like ambiguity in haiku? I kind of thought that was half the point of haiku. I think I’m starting to realize more and more that the stuff I like about haiku is very rarely the stuff everyone else likes about it. Which is pretty much the case with my taste about everything else, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.)

    Cool that everyone likes the 3 yellow birds verse the best, I do myself. Looking at some of these they should be probably be burned, but I’ll leave them here to reflect the historical record, don’t want to be too Orwellian.

    And Wrick — now I absolutely must experiment with Keyboard Haiku. Coming soon to a blog near you …

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