I’m so excited about The Haiku Moment, a workshop I’ve created and am teaching at this year’s Woodstock Bookfest. While preparing for the event, I kept thinking about how to share not just the knowledge of what comprises haiku—the 17 syllables, the three lines—but the feeling that makes a poem a wonderful haiku. The poet, Marie Howe, describes it well here in the New York Times Poet’s Picks piece. I was thrilled that my poem was chosen in 2014, and, while I wasn’t thinking about this piece when I created the workshop, Howe’s description fits perfectly with my hopes for the day.
Marie Howe, the state poet of New York, reflects on writing haiku and The Times’s Haiku Challenge, which asked readers to submit a 17-syllable poem about New York City.
A traditional haiku was attentive to time and place and most often referred to a season of the year. It was rooted in observations of the natural world and demanded an accuracy that refused romantic clichés. The language might be simple, the images taken from common life, but the insistence on time and place was crucial.
Many of the poems received did not find their inspiration in nature — most did not hold some implicit Buddhist insight about nature — elements essential to the traditional haiku form. These are New York City haiku. But the best of the poems we received had a quality of the right now-ness of actual experience — a moment that happens! And happens again as we encounter it in reading. The freshness and wit of the images held more than we could say. Yes, we thought, New York is like that. Like what? Like that. Yes. That.
— Marie Howe, the state poet of New York
On the 6 to Spring
two cops help a tourist whose
map is upside down
— Frances Richey, 63, Manhattan
If the “F” comes now,
I could get there, right on time.
But I’m still in bed.
— Jill Helene, 34, Manhattan
Riding through the park
no daffodils blooming yet
— but unbuttoned coats.
— Sharon Rousseau, 50, Manhattan
But, without saying a word,
stranger swipes me in.
— Janet Gottlieb, 59, Brooklyn
I hear them fighting
Through the thin wall between us —
but I don’t take sides.
— Nurit Israeli, 71, Manhattan
On the roof, standing,
flying his kite in the sky
the street disappears.
— Eugene Dunscomb, 83, Southbury, Conn.