The Haiku Shuffle

In late 2017, the Canberra-based Haiku @ The Oaks writing group was discussing various ways to present haiku in a live situation. Inspired by the ideas from this meeting, I applied a variation of these thoughts to writing a haiku style poem – a form I now like to call the haiku shuffle.

Back in 2017, the Haiku @ The Oaks members: Jan Dobb, Glenys Ferguson, Kathy Kituai, Hazel Hall, Marietta McGregor and myself were meeting over coffee with our ex-officio member, Sheila Sondik from Washington State, USA.

Sheila and Marietta had recently attended the Haiku North America conference where there had been discussion of alternative ways to read haiku in a live situation. Apart from simply reading each haiku in sequence, it is common for a poet to read each haiku twice, thereby providing more opportunity for audience members to absorb the images. One fresh alternative discussed was to:

Read line A (pause)

Read lines A and B (pause)

Read lines A, B and C

Other ideas included repeating a haiku later in the presentation or, where there were multiple presenters, having separate people read, in turn:

Line A

Line B

Line C

The full haiku

With these thoughts as a starting point, I began to consider ways of structuring a poem using haiku. The repetition of a haiku later in the piece proved to be an effective technique. However, breaking up the haiku into its individual lines needed to be used with care as it often seemed too disruptive. What did work well was to break the haiku at its natural cutting point, thereby allowing the lines of the haiku to be reworked without losing the meaning of the components. Reordering the phrase and fragment of the haiku was another helpful way of enabling the reader to spend more time with each image.

Using these techniques, I was able to write a poem that comprised haiku, but with the lines of individual haiku shuffled, and with the haiku themselves shuffled through the poem. My first haiku shuffle was published in Modern Haiku, Vol 49.2, 2018:

 

Love Poem

 

he tells her a story

 

second honeymoon

he tells her a story

she hasn’t heard

 

steady rain

 

her cotton skirt

falls softly to the ground

 

fragments of conversation

drift inside

 

jacaranda

fragments of conversation

drift inside

 

the point of a periwinkle

 

the point of a periwinkle touching you

 

her cotton skirt

falls softly to the ground

steady rain

 

only her perfume

on the pillow

 

waking late

only her perfume

on the pillow

 

she reads his poem

then folds the page

 

butterfly at rest

 

Clearly, a haiku shuffle does not employ the link and shift technique of a traditional haiku sequence. Rather, it has the freedom and flexibility of a contemporary poem. A poem that derives its impact from the immediacy and strength of its haiku images. I am keen to write more poems in this form. You might like to try your hand at something similar.

(The individual haiku in Love Poem were previously published in Blithe Spirit, Modern Haiku, Paper Wasp and Presence.)