For Contestants in National Haiku Writing Month, Focus Is Kind of Important

SOMERVILLE, Mass.  Jayne Eisenstadt will be the first to admit that she’s not the world’s hardest-working writer.  “I took an independent study because I get freaked out by the deadlines in creative writing classes,” she says as looks off into the distance, searching for inspiration.  And how did she do, this reporter asks.  “I guess I’m too independent for independent study,” she says with her lips twisted into a little moue of chagrin.

But Eisenstadt made a New Year’s resolution that she was going to change her laggard ways, and began to search for a writing competition that wouldn’t tax her tender literary constitution.  “A month to write a novel is way too short,” she says, referring to the NaNoWriMo, the contest in which budding authors write a novel in a month.  “I thought I could handle a write-a-short-story-in-a-month contest, but I froze just as I was about to click on the ‘Enter’ button.”

poetess

After scouring various free listings of open calls, she was about to give up when a friend told her about “NaHaWriMo,” a contest that only requires contestants to crank out a single haiku in a month, albeit February, the shortest month on the calendar.  “Now that, I thought, was more my speed,” she says, referring to the seventeen syllable Japanese poetry form that is like writing with training wheels for blocked, buzzed or busy budding poets.

But as February reached its three-quarters mark Jayne found herself only half-way through her haiku, which she describes as a “work in progress that’s not progressing much.  Tell me how you like it so far,” she says, as she shifts gears to elevated tone commonly used by poetry slam contestants:

I think of you all
the time. Do haikus have to
rhyme?

She grins sheepishly, but Steve Alfrond, another blocked writer who signed up to be her “writing buddy” in the contest, gives her a little “tough love” of the sort that her less engaged friends can’t provide her.  “I think you should try harder,” he says, looking into her eyes but maintaining a cool, professional distance.

poetess1

Jayne, who is known in writer’s groups she’s quit or been kicked out of as overly sensitive to criticism, responds defensively.  “Let’s hear what you’ve written before you dump on me,” she huffs.

“Okay,” Steve says a bit warily, since he’s notorious among his friends as the “author of seven unfinished novels.”

Moon out my window
on the snow. Where does it go
during the day?

It’s Jayne’s turn to smile as she counts the syllables in the last line on the fingers of one hand.  “You came up one short, dubohead,” she says with a superior air.  “You only have four.”

Steve looks down at his pad, rests his chin on his pencil, then scratches out the question mark and re-writes the last line to read

during the day, huh?

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8 thoughts on “For Contestants in National Haiku Writing Month, Focus Is Kind of Important

  1. Hmmm. I realize you’re having fun here — and this report is hilarious. But a few facts are off! NaHaiWriMo (not NaHaWriMo) isn’t a contest, since you’re not competing with anyone. And it’s not correct that it asks for just ONE haiku in the entire month. Rather, it asks you to write at least one haiku PER DAY for the entire month. The point is to make it a daily writing practice (no fair writing all the poems at the end of the month). And no, you don’t have to count syllables for haiku in English. That’s a widespread urban myth — the logo for NaHaiWriMo is “5-7-5” with a red slash through it. To find out more, visit http://www.nahaiwrimo.com and click the logo image. Meanwhile, if regular haiku isn’t your thing, try some of the variations at http://www.graceguts.com/essays/ku-ku. But if you find yourself addicted to haiku, you may need Haikuholics Anonymous. Fortunately, there’s help at http://www.graceguts.com/essays/haikuholics-anonymous.

      1. I figured you’d understand my reference to “report” as understanding the fun you were having. Sorry I didn’t put “report” in quotation marks . . .

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