Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Writers helping writers

When I was little I wrote playlets and staged them--sort of. As a teenager I wrote poetry of pain. But my first published writing was haiku, and for that, I thank Lorraine Ellis Harr.

Ms. Harr was a haiku author and editor who promoted the Japanese artform, founding the Western World Haiku Society. She passed away March 3, 2006 at 93.

The first time I sent a submission to her Dragonfly Quarterly she sent back guidelines, which listed the "isn'ts" of haiku. It isn't a prose sentence divided in 5-7-5 syllables or padded with modifiers. It isn't an intellectual statement, a pretty picture, a moral judgment. But it is heightened awareness, Zen-like being in the moment.

Ms. Harr not only reached out to every submitter with this list, she wrote personal notes. She showed me how I had written "quickly the fog came" in Western-style, while in haiku it would be "a sudden fog."

I shall forever be grateful for her helping hand and the further understanding and love she gave me for haiku.

Here are a few haiku of mine she published in Dragonfly:

A gust of wind:

the recently beaded branch

--bare again.

Searing sun...

and now the parchment flaking

of the manzanita.

A sudden fog

covers the fading moon

--gray dawn.

And I was pleased to be a runner-up in one of her contests with this:

New Year's morning:

ice in the bucket...wedge of geese

breaking the silence.

Any writer can benefit from being in the moment, by putting into words a small slice of life. Did another writer help you see more clearly, reach out a helping hand in an unforgettable way?


Yat-Yee said...

Lovely: your haiku and tribute.

Unknown said...

It is clear to me
Writers speak familiar
easy to listen

Tess said...

Oooo, oooh, *raising hand annoyingly* I did playlets as a kid and then charged the neighborhood kids a penny entrance fee. One year I made something like fourty six cents and was SOOO proud!

sorry, that part of your post just brought those memeories flooding back. good times....good times....

and, lovely tribute and writing.

Stephanie Faris said...

I'm still trying to figure out this haiku thing but I think I understand it a little more now, thanks to this blog.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Yat-Yee and Suzanne: Thanks, my friends!

Tess: Ha! We started life out in similar fashion. I set up a makeshift in our basement and made the neighbors come and pay pennies, too. It was fun indeed.

Stephanie: I'm so pleased if I made it more understandable. I love reading translations of old masters, such as Basho, Buson and Issa. Sometimes they hit the universal chord so perfectly in three tiny lines.

Andrea Cremer said...

Hooray for Ms. Harr - and I love your haikus. Thanks so much for sharing!

Corey Schwartz said...

Yes, lovely, Tricia! But I'm confused... does the 5-7-5 count not matter so much then as long as the heightened awareness is there?

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Andrea: Hooray, indeed. I imagine she helped a whole generation of haiku poets.

Corey: The problem with 5-7-5 is if the writer tries to force the words to fit the count. It should be short-long-short and close to that count. Maybe I should put an addendum on the post if I wasn't clear (shame on me)

MG Higgins said...

I love haiku. Such rich images with so few words. Thank you for sharing yours; they're beautiful.

Donna said...

Your haiku are lovely, Tricia.

In response to your writers-helping-writers invitation, I treasure local Riverside (CA) writers Susan Straight (I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots) and Gayle Brandeis (The Book of Dead Birds. I was the first journalist to interview them, and they kindly answered all questions--those pertaining to my article and personal ones about my own writing. Knowing them as real people as well as published authors gives me hope. They keep writing, despite the market, and they encourage me to do the same. (I listed their first novels because they're my favorites. Not sure they're in print.)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Melissa: Thanks so much, and a fellow haiku fan! Oh, you could do some fine drawings to go with your haiku.

Donna: Thanks, too. I am amazed at how kind and helpful almost every writer I've met is. And you are so right--Susan and Gayle are superb writers and wonderfully helpful.

PJ Hoover said...

Why is there something so appealing about Haiku?

I've been helped over and over again by writers. Not one in particular, but the ongoing support is wonderful.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

PJ: What is appealing about haiku? For me, it is the brevity, as long as the exquisite moment is there. It's got to have punch. I can still smile or be haunted by haiku written centuries ago by the masters. That's how good they were.

Unknown said...

Your haiku are lovely, and this is a wonderful post, both in tribute and in bringing this artform closer to our hearts.

I love writing haiku, but I'm never sure if I get them right or not... ah well. It's fun to do them, anyway.