The Haiku Book of Days Project

by Kim Pearson on June 25, 2014

For nearly twenty years, one of my writing disciplines has been to write one haiku poem per day. I write them whether I feel like it or not, mostly in the mornings while looking out my office window. The view outside is always and never the same, reflecting the inward view of my own psyche.

Haiku is an ancient Japanese poetry-art form. I have not been formally trained in haiku, and my practice adheres to only one of the many haiku structures: three unrhymed lines of five, seven and five syllables. Structure can liberate us from chaos and anarchy, in which the creative spirit becomes unreachable, but too much structure can restrict, limit and stifle our creativity. We are free to discover what proportions work for each of us. This simple framework works for me.

Twenty years ago I did not know that this haiku practice would change my life, but it did. At the time I worked for the marketing department of a large technology company, and tried to pacify my lifelong dreams of being a “real” writer by writing “on the side.” One evening while on a business trip and staying in a nondescript hotel, I was reading a book about writing I had brought from home. I have since forgotten the author and title of this book; the only thing I remember was that the author suggested would-be writers might try to write just one thing per day, no matter how small. Even a three-line haiku would be enough, the author said, to prove you were a real writer, a real artist.

“I can do that,” I thought. Even though I was a single mom with a demanding job, surely I could manage seventeen measly syllables each day. So I determined I would try. I wanted to fulfill the dream I’d had since childhood. I wanted to lay claim to that powerful statement, I am an artist.

It worked – boy did it work. Five years after I began writing my one haiku a day I left my corporate job and became a full-time freelance writer, writing not only haiku, but many books of fiction and non-fiction, blogs and articles – both for me and for others as a ghostwriter. And despite my – and my family and friends’ – fears of poverty, it is what I am still doing today.

But until recently I thought of my haiku practice as “just for me” and had no plans to put my haiku out into the world, although sometimes I shared one on my blog. The conventional wisdom is that poetry does not sell, so what would be the point? Then I began to wonder if my children would find my disorganized haiku files after I was gone, and maybe they’d like to preserve them as a family keepsake. Perhaps I should make it a little easier for them.

Most writers want to be remembered (we’re all Shakespeare-wannabes) so this seductive idea took root in my mind. And maybe the conventional wisdom was wrong. Even if it wasn’t, even if my haiku did not sell, so what? The reason I wrote haiku was not for money or admiration. It was because I am an artist and this art form is beautiful.

That brings me to this new project, the Haiku Books of Days. When you write one haiku a day for twenty years you end up with a lot of haiku – like over seven thousand of them. Of course not all of them are good haiku – some are pretty bad. (However, many are excellent.) But what was I going to do with seven thousand haiku?

The Haiku Book of Days is the answer. I reviewed my seven thousand haiku and winnowed out the bad ones, then the mediocre ones, then the almost-really-good ones (that was hard), and ended up with more than 2500 haiku that I thought were my best. Now, these haiku are not always upbeat or inspirational. Some are full of sadness and grief, some are angry. Some are funny. Some are just puzzled by the contradictions of life.

As I sorted the haiku, I took note of the broad themes that recurred often, and eventually came up with seven. Therefore the Haiku Book of Days series consists of seven books, each book containing 366 haiku, one for each day of the year (including February 29) organized into eight seasons. Each book’s haiku reflects a different theme. The books are:

• A Haiku Book of Days, for Gardeners, Tree-Huggers, and Other Nature Lovers
• A Haiku Book of Days, for Philosophers, Scientists, and Other Ponderers
• A Haiku Book of Days, for Writers, Painters, Musicians, and Other Artists
• A Haiku Book of Days, for Students of Animals, Birds, Insects, and Other Teachers
• A Haiku Book of Days, for Spiritual Seekers, Dreamers, and Other Lovers of Magic and Mystery
• A Haiku Book of Days, for Historians, Storytellers, and Other Guardians of Truth
• A Haiku Book of Days, for the Happily Disorganized and Others of Jumbled Mind

My vision for this series is that readers can read just one of the books, or all of them, or some of them, in any order. They can read one haiku a day, or a bunch of them whenever they want. They can even read them on an app from their ipad or smartphone! However they are read, I hope readers enjoy and ponder them.

My hope is that these books might inspire others to write their own haiku. I know from my own experience how powerful a haiku practice can be. I also hope aspiring haiku-writers will visit my blog, www.primary-sources.com/blog – especially on Fridays, since that is the day I dedicate the blog to haiku, asking my readers to play a game of Haiku Friday with me.

In the seventeen syllables of one of my daily haiku:

come when you are called
on the sidelines of your life
nothing will happen

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