Welcome to episode 12 of the Haiku Chronicle Podcast. I’m Patricia, your host and trainee Haiku writer. I wonder, do you ever graduate from this state?

It’s the first Podcast of the International Haiku Writing month. And as I said in episode 10 there’s lots going on in the Haiku world to encourage us to get on and write. Have a look at the submissions menu on the poetrypea website and it will give you some info on a few things that are going on. 

Today I am featuring a piece from  Giddy Nielsen Sweep our first Australian guest! I am so happy to have wonderful Haiku submissions from around the world. If you would like to join in please  look at the website and submit from there.

Giddy brought up something I wanted to discuss. The syllable count in contemporary English language Haiku. This is something that I would like to talk about briefly.

Giddy says that English language Haiku is an evolving art. As you know from my podcast this caused me much consternation at the beginning of my studies. I had been instructed that Haiku was a three line poem  in the form of 5/7/5 syllables. However, what I have been reading is that the English syllable is somewhat different from the Japanese “onji, shortened to on”, which are actually sound symbols on which the format was based. So making a direct comparison from the Japanese to the English doesn’t really work.

This seems quite logical to me and therefore, my aim now is to exercise some control over my words, concentrate more on brevity. I realise as I look over my, admittedly small, portfolio of work that my first attempts were often overblown and padded out as I struggled to get enough syllables to form the Haiku. That is not the point of the art is it?

So this last week,  there was a bit of snow around but the weather in general has been much more pleasant, almost warm and the work I have been doing is based around little bits of beauty that I have witnessed on the walks I have been taking around my home. I try and get out for an hour a day, it’s relaxing and good exercise too!

You can read the pieces on the website and I will add some pictures to illustrate the places that inspire me, but that will get done over time.

I want to concentrate on one piece that I wrote this week. I say wrote but it is still a work in progress. There is a story that goes with it.

My parents are Irish. Both grew up on farms and although I grew up in South London, holidays were spent on my mother’s farm with my Granny. I have many memories of wandering around the farm as my Granny’s shadow. Imagine a little girl in her rain coat and wellington boots, squelching through the mud with a stooped little woman and a sheep dog, driving the cows to milking.

That was years ago. Now I find myself living in the farmlands outside the city of Zürich in Switzerland. One of the farms I pass has a rather large St Bernard dog. When I first started my wanderings this dog would be sitting on the porch of the farmhouse and when he’d see me coming he would start barking like the most ferocious beast and then when I got to the farm he would bound down to the road, still barking as if he was going to rip my body limb from limb and frighten the living daylights out of me. After a few of these occurrences I decided to be brave, get down to his level and talk to him, the next time I passed he let me pet him and then we became friends.

His owner I didn’t see until last year and when I did, I swear my heart stopped for a few seconds. I saw the two of them in one of the top fields,  driving their cows to the milking shed. His owner was a stooped little woman, with grey hair and my Granny’s apron on. I admit it brought tears to my eyes.

I hadn’t seen them for some time. So long in fact that in my imagination she had died and then the dog had passed too, of a broken heart, or visa versa.  Well this week, as I walked toward the woods, who did I see?

plodding together

a woman and her dog

the end of days

that was my first draft. They were both alive and my doggie friend was very pleased to see me too! The little old lady was very surprised that her dog had such a welcome for me, especially as I was speaking English to him. She had no idea her dog was bi lingual.

But to return to the Haiku. I was not happy with it. Lines 1 and 2 not so bad, they could be tidied up, but line 3, such a cliché! I turned to one of my favourite forums for help:  My Haiku Pond Academy on Facebook 

and they came up with a number of options all of which were great and I really appreciate the time and thought that went into them, but the two that resonated the most with what I was trying to say were from Garry Wilson and Mike Duffy.

This was Garry’s

alone together

woman and her dog …

the same old path

and Mike’s

pull on the leash

a little weaker each day-

a woman and her dog

Thanks to both of you. I love both versions. Now I need to get down to writing my own version. If you have any thoughts, please feel free to contact me. All thoughts are gratefully accepted.

Next I wanted to give you a quick heads up about submissions. I am still taking submissions on an on-going basis. But also, The Heron’s Nest are accepting submissions until the 15th March for the June issue. You’ll find a link on the poetrypea website on the submissions drop down menu.


My guest today is Giddy Nielsen Sweep our first Australian guest!I find her quite inspirational. I hope you will too.

Giddy started writing Haiku some time after 2010 and over the course of a few years completed four courses on line with the late haijin, Alvin T Ethingtion of California.

Thanks to a friend she  discovered Ai Li’s beautiful Cherita poems, and this Malaysian style has added to her repertoire.

Giddy and her husband, now retired, live near Brisbane, Australia. A Registered nurse, Giddy loved her job in the care and management of well babies, and only retired due to advancing MS. Though totally disabled now, she still manages to write, assisted by her devoted husband and full time carer, Peter. Giddy intends to continue writing as long as her health allows.

She says of herself “I am a delinquent haiku writer, sometimes a little rebellious, and have been roundly admonished for it! Despite that, I must take issue with you over your desire to use alliteration. Brevity is the first rule I would say, but an avoidance of language enhancements as far as possible is also most important.”

Am I going to argue my case? Not yet. I have read that alliteration was very much approved in the traditional Japanese Haiku, but I am getting the impression that they are not so welcome in contemporary English Haiku. 

Giddy has given some thought to the use of the seasonal word.  She says, “To my mind, depending on what the subject is of course, a seasonal word is irrelevant in many cases. As a result, a lot of haiku written today are really senryu.” In this I certainly agree with Giddy. I find myself writing more senryu, or maybe just realising that is what I’m doing.

Giddy continues, “Recently I discovered Australia has its own seasonal word list. I haven’t researched yet to find out if Britain and America have specific ones for them, but I guess they must do.” If anyone knows, can they contact me and let me know?

What does Giddy recommend to improve your Haiku writing?

  • Joining writing groups. She is a member of Fan Story fanstory.com which has helped her with her writing
  • Reading: she recommends The Haiku Handbook by William Higginson with Penny Harter

Giddy also has her own poetry website, go and have a read. All the links will be on the show notes for today.

Despite her disabilities she is very active:

She is publishing a memoir about growing up on a farm in the Australian bush. and preparing a book of photo haiku with her photographer friend, Dawn Toomey

So here is her Haiku straight from her childhood.

smoke billies

protect us from sandflies 

country school

Simple and lovely. Thanks Giddy. I hope I can feature you again soon.

If you would like to be our Guest of the week, please contact me through the website: poetrypea.com it ’s always great to hear from you.

Next week our guest Haiku is coming from Ramlawt Ram  law t in India, a country that has really taken English Language Haiku to its heart.

That’s it for today. I have to go and start work on my other podcast The Career Ace. Tips for job seekers. This time my topic is positive discrimination in the workplace. If you have thoughts you can go to the website and contact me.  But for now, thanks for listening to the Haiku Chronicle. I’ll be back next week, keep writing!

Week 12: The Haiku Pea Podcast- A walk in the countryside

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