Preserving your Haiku
Every writer needs a system of organizing their poems and stories. The smallness of haiku makes a workable arrangement even more imperative. Nothing is more frustrating than to know you wrote a certain haiku about a specific event and now be unable to recall the verse exactly or even find where it was written down. It is even more frustrating to work on a haiku in your head, get it perfectly right and then by neglecting to write it down, have it lost forever. Like dreams, haiku have a way of vanishing; especially those thought of in the dark of night.
So the first rule of haiku is to always have paper and pencil close at hand. For some of us, this means a pouch hangs from the mattress with pen, flashlight and assorted papers. Clothes with pockets should be equipped with at least a folded sheet of paper and the stub of a pencil. Many persons devise tiny notebooks – stapled sheets of left-over paper into a covered booklet that best fits your pocket, or you can make a science of finding the perfect companion for your haiku.
When out on walks consider whether to take a pencil (the lead can break in your pocket) or a pen (which can suddenly go dry or leak into a stain). I have had all possibilities happen and have ended up writing down a haiku with a bit of charcoal from a beach fire on a piece of driftwood or, writing the haiku on smooth rocks, and photographing them (because the camera was working and the pen was not). I have also sharpened broken pencils on rough rock and written haiku on my arm in ink when there was no paper.
Usually the process of rewriting and the completely realistic danger of the little pocket notebook going through the laundry, forces writers to also keep a more permanent record of their haiku.
Some people use index cards with one haiku per card. In this way all the versions of one haiku can be saved on a card or they can be separated out onto individual cards. These cards need a system of numbering and of organization by subject or time so you can find the one haiku you are looking for later.
You can organize your poems by the five seasons, divided by mention of the season or its attributes; celestial – all the haiku about skies, weather, stars, planets; terrestrial –references to parts of the landscape; livelihood – human activities common to a certain season including holiday activities; animals – ones associated with a certain season; and plants - that reflect the season. Within these categories one can arrange the subjects alphabetically.
Some persons copy their haiku into books in the chronological order as they are written, giving each one a number and the date. Thus if you remember writing that great haiku last August at the beach, you only need to flip back to August’s cache of haiku. Some persons use ready-made journals to make a small book of their haiku written on a trip or around a special event.
The use of computers is an excellent way of organizing haiku. It is possible to create a database so you can search for the haiku by subject, first word or date. Lacking those skills, one can always type up the haiku in series, title them and save them under various descriptive headings. Typing up haiku on a computer while using the copy and paste features makes it easy to revise while keeping the original version and still experimenting with new words from the thesaurus. Just don’t get carried away by big words.
For those who are into journaling, nothing adds spice to the recounting of the day’s activities like the haiku adding insight in the middle of the page. This is an excellent method of also detailing in prose the background to the haiku material. You never know when you will begin to write haibun and need all of this information you might have otherwise forgotten.
This talk about organizing your haiku cannot be complete without mentioning the ultimate way of organizing haiku – making your own book of haiku.
A Dictionary of Haiku Classified by Season Words with Traditional and Modern Methods by Jane Reichhold can show you how a saijiki is made. You can find the book online at:
Haiku World : An International Poetry Almanac by William J. Higginson, Kodansha, 1997 is available at Amazon.com
Gabi Greves has her online Kigo database at: