by Adelaide B. Shaw

In college, the teacher of my art appreciation class,, encouraged us students to be observant, to use all our senses, to find beauty in both the spectacular and the mundane. This became a habit, and I sometimes found myself wanting to express my feelings about what I saw and experienced. My attempts were only worthy of the trash basket. The rhymed poetry read like bad greeting cards; the free verse was too long and rambling and plagued with clichés.

In 1969 I discovered the Peter Pauper Press series of haiku books. They were my introduction to haiku, and, after reading them, I knew this was a form I wanted to try. So much was conveyed in so few words. The brief introductions in each volume did not tell me enough about haiku, and I searched for more comprehensive books. Books by Harold Henderson, William Higginson, and R.H. Blyth became my teachers.

I sent my first batch of haiku to Haiku Highlights in early 1970. Michael McClintock, who was assistant editor, accepted one with a slight edit.

white petals
falling into the river
catch the floating moon

Michael eliminated the word “frailly” from line 1. Petals, by their nature, are frail. I was
telling too much . Today, I would even eliminate “floating” in line 3.

Many of my early haiku kept to the 5/7/5 format that was popular then, and thought by some to be the only form. With more practice, more reading of haiku and subsequent submissions and rejections, I wrote shorter haiku. More poets were realizing that haiku written in Japanese adhered to 17 sounds, not syllables, and that English language haiku should have fewer syllables. This freed up my haiku. No longer feeling it necessary to add a word to create 17 syllables, I let the haiku form naturally using 4/5/4; 3/5/3; 4/6/4; or any variety of combinations, including 5/7/5 if it felt natural.

The haiku I write, unlike the poetry I had tried to write years earlier, have many differences:


river walk-
the scent of lilacs
and fresh tar

Kernels, Summer 2013

Conciseness and objectivity with no subjective adjectives and no repeated thoughts:

late winter cold–
long underwear
frayed at the cuffs

Daily Haiku, December 7, 2009

Experiences that are my own; an instant experience, not something that could be repeated tomorrow or next week:

a ripe plum–
the skin slips off
with the first bite

Notes from the Gean, Sept.. 2010

The experience is written as if it is happening now, even though it could be a memory.

hawthorns in bloom
her crayon trees
all the same shape

Notes from the Gean, March 2011

As English language haiku have evolved so has my writing of it. I use a kigo in most, but not always; some are all season.

empty beach
crossing the hot sand
a gull’s shadow

Simply Haiku, summer 2011

abandoned school–
the voices of the wind
through broken windows

South by Southeast, summer 2008

And, a few of my haiku are what Susumu Takiguchi, the founder of The World Haiku Club, calls vanguard haiku.

new jar of cayenne–
the years it took me
to get here

A Hundred Gourds, Sept. 2013

After forty-eight years of composing haiku I am still searching for that perfect gem, the one that shows the reader what I am feeling without telling him; the one that gives the reader a feeling of “Yes, I understand. I’ve seen that or felt that;” the one that resonates and is remembered.