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Writing exercise: Haiku of You, Celebrating Yourself

Creative writing exercises based on the theme of Celebration
Language: English
Genre: Inspiration

Last updated: 06 April 2021

Though it may feel slightly alien at the moment, celebration is still a powerful force in our day to day lives. Whether it's congratulating ourselves on that perfect cup of tea we just brewed, basking in the joy of a memory we'll never forget or reflecting on that special person that makes life that little bit sweeter: celebration allows us to embrace the moment and take stock of what’s important in our lives.

Warm up exercise: mind map

'Haiku has a special meaning and function for everyone. It can be a form of therapy. It can be a way to tap into one's psyche. And it can do these things because it is short, because the rules are simple, because it can focus on the moment.' – Dr Haruo Shriane, Shincho Professor of Japanese Literature and Culture, Columbia University

As well as being a traditional Japanese poetic form, haiku are used to examine the world. As they only consist of three short lines, a mind map can be a helpful tool to brainstorm some words.In the centre of your page, write the word 'celebration'. Then, draw lines from this central theme, and think about other words that relate to your personal experience of celebration. This can be a milestone in your life so far or a small personal achievement you are proud of. Think about school, your job, relationships, or hobbies. If nothing springs to mind, think about your day-to-day routine. Did you try a new recipe? Make that scary telephone call? Sort the recycling? All of these moments are cause for personal celebration.

Brainstorm: Celebration

'The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.' – Oprah Winfrey

Now you have words relating to celebration, try and break these down even further into thoughts and feelings. Engage your senses: what can you remember seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching at the time? Create a list and try identifying a word for each sense. Haiku usually contain powerful imagery. Look back at your mind map of words and list of senses, and think how you can combine these to create a visual poem.Nature also plays an important role in haiku. Is there season or weather relating to your moment of celebration?

Start writing

The traditional haiku form follows certain rules: a poem of three lines, totalling 17 syllables. The first line is 5 syllables, the second line is 7 syllables, and the third line is 5 syllables like the first. However, because syllables are different in Japanese and English, the modern haiku does not need to follow these strict rules but should still be three lines long.A haiku does not have to rhyme, and it can include repetition of words or sounds. You can also play with punctuation – it can be used, or not. It might be useful to think of a snapshot of a moment. Like a photograph, Haiku captures a precise point in time and space. Often the first two lines paint a picture, and the last line is used to flip the perspective, shift the tone of the poem, or change the understanding of what that moment might be about. But, as you can see from the Haiku below, you can do whatever you like.

Inspiration

Nightfall,
Too dark to read the page
Too cold.
– Jack Kerouac

A little boy sings
on a terrace, eyes aglow.
Ridge spills upward.
– Robert Yehling

Dead of winter
making stock
rom the bones
– Jayne Miller

chunnaic mi bhuam
farsaingeachd tràigh Losgaintir
sìnte eadarainn
– Alison Laing

EFTER MATSUO BASHO.
The puddock lowps, an
the still quate o this auld puil
jist bursts wi a plowp.
– Ian McFadyen

Divorce finalized -
a monarch floats
among falling leaves
– Aubrie Cox

As if mending
socks, I repair my mind
and live on
– Yoshino Yoshiko

Sewing in the lamplight
I teach spelling to my child -
autumn rain
– Sugita Hisajo

Share your story

As part of our annual writing project – Your Stories – we’re asking people all over Scotland to submit true stories inspired by this year’s theme, Celebration.

If you've used one of our prompts, we'd love to read what you've written! Send us your story by Friday 11 June.

Share your story