NaHaiWriMo, Week 4: On Being Weird

22    editing an elephant gray seems too vague
23    encoding fairy tales </eastofthesunwestofthemoon>
24    ovulation trying to locate the scent of apple
25    menstruation sinking lower in the waves
26    political protest a deathwatch beetle in the drum circle
27    the mouse in the kitchen does he also hear the owl
28    particles streaming from the sun we wait on this rock to receive them


Whew. I made it.

I don’t know why this felt so hard. I’ve been writing haiku every day for ten months now. And, you know, sharing them with the reading public. I think it was just that I was trying to do something really different from what I usually do — trying to be weird and experimental, just kind of throw stuff against the wall and see what stuck.

And even though I told myself that this would be freeing and relaxing, I was surprised to find that I actually found it very stressful to try to come up with something Original and Interesting every day that I wasn’t incredibly embarrassed to let you guys see. Well, a lot of it I actually was incredibly embarrassed to let you guys see. This week may have started out the weirdest of all and then by the fifth day I was getting freaked out enough that I actually followed a couple of Michael Dylan Welch’s (excellent) NaHaiWriMo daily writing prompts, which until then I’d pretty much ignored in the spirit of experimental individualism. I just couldn’t take the pressure of marching to such a different drummer any more.

I thought sometimes this month of the title of the physicist Richard Feynman’s autobiography: “Why Do You Care What Other People Think?” This is a question his wife challenged him with when he was very young. Mostly Feynman didn’t care a lot what other people thought, which is part of what made him so brilliant. (The other part was that he was, you know, brilliant.)

So why do I care? I mean … no one scolded me for being too experimental this month, at least not out loud; people said nice things about the haiku they liked and politely kept their mouths shut about the ones that they didn’t. No one is ever mean to me on this blog. My readership didn’t go down, people didn’t unsubscribe. I still felt stupid and incompetent a lot of the time. Apparently I am way more insecure than I thought I was.

This worries me a little, because it must mean that most of the time I am trying to write haiku that I think other people will approve of. Of course this isn’t entirely bad, the point of writing is supposed to be communication after all, so if no one understands or likes what you’re writing … well, you can either carry on in the same vein hoping that future generations will be more enlightened, or you can seriously consider the possibility that there’s something wrong with your writing. But if you’re spending so much time worrying about what other people think that you never actually figure out what you think yourself, that’s a problem too.

Also, I think I freaked out a little at how good everyone else’s NaHaiWriMo stuff seemed to me. A lot of people seemed to take this exercise really seriously and put their best foot forward and come up with superlative work that really blew me away … and then there’s me, sitting in the corner tossing my word spaghetti at the wall, with a slightly village-idiot expression on my face.

Anyway. (She said defensively.) Just so you know, I wrote a lot of other haiku this month that are a lot more, you know, normal. You’ll probably be seeing a fair number of them in the next couple of months. So don’t unsubscribe! The worst is over … and I will be discussing my inferiority complex with my imaginary therapist, so don’t worry about me.

27 thoughts on “NaHaiWriMo, Week 4: On Being Weird

  1. Don’t forget that even though NaHaiWriMo has ended, there’s still the March haiku writing prompts! 😉

    Michael Dylan Welch asked me to continue with the daily writing prompts into March.

    March 1st theme is: HARE

    Either the animal itself, or the mythology, folklore, festivals, old and new religions that use the hare etc…

    If you are Welsh or have Welsh blood in you, today is St David’s Day, so you can use that as a theme, or an instant kigo. 😉

    I also think March 2nd writing prompt will suit you very much, so check that out on Facebook around midnight GMT. 😉

    March Writing Prompts for daily haiku are on the NaHaiWriMo page:

    Enjoy! 😉


    • Well Alan, (heaving a sigh of relief) I’m actually moving on to another haiku project now (which I’ll write about in a few days) so instead of writing about hares and St. David I think I’ll just quote Keats on the subject of hares and St. Agnes. This will be much more rewarding for all involved. 🙂

      ST. AGNES’ Eve—Ah, bitter chill it was!
      The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
      The hare limp’d trembling through the frozen grass,
      And silent was the flock in woolly fold…

      — John Keats (who by the time he was my age had been dead for sixteen years), channeling Basho

  2. NOTweird week 4, Melissa, i for 1 enjoyed your going astray into what might have been sometimes super immediacy & isn’t that haiku . . . so it’s stuff to stand alongside of any of the other week’s worth. i particularly like 24-28!

  3. “it must mean that most of the time I am trying to write haiku that I think other people will approve of”

    Based on following your blog for awhile now, I don’t believe this. I think your problem is writing on command. I’ve tried off and on but could never do it. “Write a poem with a horse, an egg, and an ocean wave in it.” Why? And writing x number a month? That takes me back to school daze—scribbling and counting the words. Awful! No, your haiku, your daily practice, done to honor the moments as they come, in the form they come—it’s terrific. Your so-called “experimental” stuff has many of those wonderful moments too. Like #27 above; and 16 & 21 from week 3; and 8 & 13 from week 2; and 2, 3, 4 & 6 from week 1. Wow! Even amidst the “assigned writing” the stuff bearing “the handprint of necessity” flourishes. I envy that.

    • Well, considering that this was an entirely voluntary exercise that no one was forcing or even urging me to participate in, I don’t think I can consider it “writing on command.” As I said, I made a commitment to myself to write haiku every day ten months ago, so what I was doing this month was really just me deciding on my own that I wanted to try writing more experimental haiku at least once a day for a month.

      I actually write somewhere in the neighborhood of five to twenty haiku or tanka most days (most of them egregiously bad, that’s how many I have to write to come up with a halfway decent one every once in a while) so throwing in an extra one that was a little weird wasn’t that much of an issue in terms of the writing burden. It really was my feelings of self-consciousness about exposing these more experimental efforts to public view that troubled me the most, not the actual writing of them.

      My haiku writing practice is in fact not very much about honoring the moments as they come, it’s more about slogging through acres of words and associations and scattered thoughts and trying to make something of them that is coherent and meaningful and heartfelt. If I try to write about a “haiku moment” (whatever that is) the resulting poem is almost always awful. I need the filters of time and memory and imagination to create something more artistically successful. I guess I’m not very Zen but it works for me.

      And Michael’s prompts were just suggestions, no one had to follow them to participate in NaHaiWriMo, and the two I did follow were because they actually meant something to me personally. “Drums” were meaningful because I’d been attending all these political protests where drum circles were a major feature, and I’d been trying to write poetry about the protests and coming up short, so it actually felt wonderfully inspiring to see that word and think “Oh yes! That would be a great way to write about what’s going on!” And “owls” … I love owls and can write a basically infinite number of haiku about them so that was a no-brainer (and see, you liked that one!).

      I’m glad you liked so many of these, Joseph, I admire your taste in most things so that’s definitely an affirmation for me. 🙂

  4. I’d say that Melissa’s new haiku from the daily exercises are fantastic and refreshing.

    I’d also say that Melissa stretched herself in her writing to find, and retain, another style to complement her other haiku styles. That’s a success in my book. 😉

    A lot of people have fast-tracked themselves in writing better haiku by the daily haiku exercises. Because haiku is a community based activity, and not a writer in isolation practice, it’s really useful for fast communications between both seasoned and newcomer writers of haiku.

    I hope some more people embrace the March prompts as well. 😉

    all my best,


    • Yeah, I agree, Alan … it surprised me in a way how many people did follow Michael’s writing prompts (I’m not usually a big one for following prompts myself or indeed for doing anything else that anyone suggests I should do no matter how sensible or helpful 🙂 ), but I had to admit that the results were amazing. It was fantastic to see the variety of haiku that were possible on a single theme, and so many so extremely successful. I think maybe people get trapped in ruts with their haiku, and with their daily routines in general, and having a prompt that forced them to think about something a little different than usual every day helped get their imaginations unstuck. And yes, having everyone writing on the same subject did create a lot of camaraderie and maybe even a modicum of healthy competition. 🙂 If the prompts had been more specific I don’t think they would have been as useful, but being single words they were quite open-ended.

  5. bwahahahahaa. your work is crap. it stinks like cabbage left too long in the garbage. where’s your ostrich head? bury it.

    there. now you never have to worry about whether or not someone is going to say disparaging words about your ku-ing. … hmmmm… may be that should be queen-ing. you are clearly ku royalty and i cant keep up. …guess i’ll just have to eat cake. wait, i dont even have cake. sheesh.

    you’re too funny sometimes Melissa. …i still like the way you think ~ even if i’m left eating dust. bwahahahahaha. . . yeah, i rarely find it easy to do it the way i’m supposed to do anything. even NaHaiWriMo.

    when the dust settles i’ll just get on my mule. me. i mean… the whiskey poet. you know. wait. where do i sign up for an imaginary therapist again?

    i particularly like #23 and #27

    #22 is way too prejudice concerning gray. gray can be the stalwart force that sends color soaring. …not to mention rich within itself. okay. i like #22 as well. even if it does mess around with gray in way unfair ways.


    hare of the dog
    it’s morning already
    i scratch at fleas

    • I feel so much better now, Wrick. You should stop by and throw rotten tomatoes at me more often, it’s quite freeing. 🙂 But you shouldn’t follow up the tomatoes with excessive compliments, it goes to my head (kind of like whiskey) and then I have to go lie down and can’t concentrate on writing haiku.

      I have nothing against gray but editors do frequently have these inexplicable and unjustifiable prejudices (and any editors who are reading this, of course I don’t mean you! Don’t be ridiculous!).

      I thought of using “hare” that way but I was afraid I would make Alan tear his hare out. Yeah…see…I should really go lie down now.

      • ha. one rotten tomato. hmmmm… how’d it get rotten? why wouldnt i eat it before it got rotten? sheesh. i dunno about this rotten tomato stuff.. compliments? … okay. good. rotten tomatos it is. i can see you cannot possibly get enough sleep by the sheer number of ku and other weighty writings you do.

        whew. good to know that gray has a chance. half a rotten tomato.

        yeah, only i’d dare raise a hare issue like that. well. just to break the spell you know.

        have you written your ku today? and do you know where they are?

        a rotten tomato
        for one red dragonfly

        hey. btw. i like your red dragonfly avatar/icon cool. hmmmm… another thought/idea i may have to explore. have fun. with and in between ku of course. aloha.

        • The avatar is actually from an embroidery-pattern site. 🙂 It’s my Twitter avatar too. It took me a ridiculous amount of time to find a suitable graphic on the Internet, even with my inadequate drawing skills I probably could have created one in less time. I’m not going out looking again. (Although I have to admit I have spent some time lately looking at dragonfly tattoo patterns on the Internet. Not for any particular reason, of course. Just because. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

          I am about to go transcribe onto the computer the six pages of haiku and tanka I wrote in my notebook in bed last night around 2:00. So that’s where they are right now. I will probably have to hold my nose while I transcribe them, the success rate of poetry written in my sleep is not any higher than the success rate of those written while I’m fully awake.

  6. I liked your commentary on writing haiku, Melissa. We all have these dark thoughts at 3 am. Who will read this? Who am I writing for? Why? My most troublesome thoughts are about telling my golf buddies that I am trying to write good haiku. There are no good ends to this conversation. My golf friends just will not understand.

    Anyway, it is good to express these thoughts and noodle on who approves haiku. It is something we need to write for whatever reason. It is a journey, we are on it, and it will bring us forward.

    Always enjoy your thoughts after the haiku.


    • Oh, Sully, I am having the most wonderful images of you out on the golf course in your golf clothes trying to explain kigo and juxtaposition to a bunch of people who all in my mind look exactly like my father, an avid golfer who if he had lived to see me writing haiku (he died a few months before I started) would undoubtedly have been utterly baffled by it. Possibly disgusted.

      I myself like to say that I have two different kinds of friends: the ones I’ve actually met and the ones who are interested in haiku. 🙂 They are not completely separate groups of people but close enough. Most of my real-life friends just tactfully refrain from mentioning my odd, vaguely disreputable haiku-writing habit. I think they’re all still convinced I spend most of my time counting syllables on my fingers. (Which is ridiculous. I count syllables in my head. Counting on fingers is for the weak.)

      So no, I don’t write haiku for them. I write it for you. 🙂 I mean, you know … the indeterminate number of people who read this blog (I would love to know how many there are, more of them keep popping out of the woodwork every day, it feels kind of like the Monty Python skit where the house is infested with sheep who are living behind the walls and getting in through sheep-sized holes…). Plus me. I guess it’s not working too badly so far but I am congenitally hard on myself and completely impatient. “Why am I not writing haiku like Basho yet? What’s wrong with me? What kind of loser am I? Why, it’s been almost a year and I haven’t written a single work of genius!” Yeah, I need to get a grip.

  7. What fun to read this thread, Melissa! Thanks for provoking such a storm of comment. It’s amazing how we can beat ourselves up over what we write, isn’t it? We all know where you are coming from!

    Something that was a meditation piece in a yoga class is my favorite antidote to self-doubt. If you’ve heard of Martha Graham, the dancer, you might know this quote.

    “There is a vitality, a .life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action–and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.

    And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it.

    It is not your business to determine how good it is, how valuable it is, or how it compares with other’s expressions.

    It’s your business to keep it yours. To keep the channel open.

    You do not even have to believe in yourself, or in your works…

    You have to keep an open mind–and be aware directly to the urges that motivate you.”

    I love the bit about it not being my business to compare to other’s expressions. With so many wonderful, gaspingly insightful poems in the world, it makes it hard, but one can only drool and live in hope…and keep writing!

    Meanwhile, thanks for sharing your poems with us (my fave today is #27). You rock!

    • Wonderful quote, Jill, thanks. Such a hard balance to achieve, to stay true to yourself and your vision and yet also humbly open to receiving direction and inspiration from wiser and more experienced people …

      Thanks for the kind words about #27, that seems to be the crowd favorite this time around. 🙂 Must not be just me that loves owls …

    • I wish! 🙂 I don’t think I really have the slightest idea what I’m doing, just some of the spaghetti seems to stick better than others but I don’t really know why. 🙂

  8. Hey, I love experimental stuff.

    Sometimes I make myself write poem-like objects and finish them and put them up just to break through the stasis that is so easy to fall into.

  9. I’m sooo late, here! But my vote for all but especially for

    #25–your use of waves creates a fitting image of how a woman feels kind of ‘seasick’ emotionally during her ‘period’
    #26–a powerful combination of ‘protest, deathwatch, beetle, drum circle’–because to me, all protests are a kind of deathwatch. I like the beetle in there because it’s so unexpected, it’s also tiny, almost invisible under the feet of demonstrators. Caught in the maelstrom, imprisoned in the drum circle, I imagine it paralyzed in its deathwatch. Weird-er thought?
    #27–the mouse and the owl: could the cat be wondering about this? I love it!
    #28–‘we wait on this rock’–that’s what earthlings do all the time– for ‘particles’ but usually not from the sun (which they do all the time, those UV rays) but from other such colliding bodies ruled by such patriarchs like Jorel, father of S-man, to be more than what we are. Hence, your putting the sun in makes your haiku a bulb. We do get powerful energy sources from the sun, but does it also throw particles to make good haiku? I’d love to wait for those, too!

    You’re ‘editing the gray elephant’ into pink, right? When ovulating, don’t women follow a sour-ish scent? It’s getting more weird with me hopping in! But it’s fun, you make haiku, fun, Melissa!

    And again, a huge thanks for that!!!

    • Thanks, Alegria. You have some interesting insights into these that I didn’t think of when I was writing them (sometimes I wonder what I do think about when I write, if anything 🙂 ). I’m glad you like the deathwatch beetle because that is actually one of my favorites even though no one else seems to be too enthused about it. And I actually have about a dozen ku each about ovulation and menstruation, I should rewrite them or write more because there is definitely not enough haiku written on those subjects.

      I love owls and hate mice so I guess I have mixed feelings on that one. And hmm…pink elephant…hadn’t thought about that. I had a vague notion of orange, maybe. 🙂

      And you have a WAY better idea of what I was doing with those particles than I did…I was just kind of floundering around trying to do … something … with particles and that was the best I could do at short notice. 🙂

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