I’m very excited to introduce our featured guest it’s Kate Alsbury from the USA. I’ll be reading her haiku and letting you know a little bit about her.

Meanwhile I want to say little bit about keywords in English language Haiku I spoke about Kigo or seasonal words in episode 13, I want to do a follow-up on what could be described as an alternative to seasonal words, i.e. keywords. If you haven’t listened to episode 13, it might be an idea to just go back and listen to it before you go on and listen to this one.

Jim Kacian “In Due Season,” Acorn Journal of Contemporary Haiku, Supplement #1 (2000).

“Kigo make it possible for poems to open outward, to call upon the broadest possible range of human experience within the context where this experience is encountered. Haiku as it has developed is inconceivable without the existence of a formal system of kigo to brace it up.”

He goes on to say “Since haiku aspires to international status, the element which permits them to open must not be limited to the truths and observations of a single culture, but must be amenable to a more universal inclusiveness. Further, it must remain open-ended, to permit growth from subsequent input from other cultures and experiences”

If I’m understanding this rightly he is suggesting that we should be more open-minded about our seasonal words, not rely on the Japanese lists. Which made me ask the question of myself again, do we need, as haiku writers, prescribed seasonal words as documented in saijiki or can we use words (keywords) which invoke the season, the time about which a haiku is written?

His vision of a keyword was a word that opened up the Haiku, that worked in the same way as a seasonal word, indeed seasonal words may even be a subset of keywords.

He used the Haiku by Nikola Nilic to illustrate the point:

river divides the forest
into two nights

In which moonlight is the key word. It might evoke the season to some people, but there is actually no clear season mentioned, and yet it has the feel of haiku.

Michael Dylan Welch in his article “Up with seasonal words” quoted William Higginson from Haiku World, in which he says,“Blinding oneself to the actual phenomena of a given place and time because of some loyalty to the saijiki will only interfere with both creating poems and appreciation of the phenomena themselves.” Which I think also commends the idea of keywords rather than slavish devotion to seasonal words.

My conclusion? At the moment I’m going to go with Higginson and not use seasonal words, for the sake of it and try to use keywords to try and open up the haiku. You can read my progress in the following weeks, if there is any! It’s not easy!

How was my week of haiku?

I had a bad week, not quite writers block, but something very close to it. I was having problems with phrases and fragments. I was finding it relatively easy to come up with the phrases but I’ve lost all confidence in creating fragments. What I tried to do was write through it, in the hope that eventually I’ll come out the other side.

You can read all my work for the week on the poetrypea website, but I think this was my favourite of them. I was in town yesterday, Sunday. Sitting in a restaurant having lunch I watched a young boy and his mum. He was having great fun slipping and sliding on a patch of ice on the street. His mum was there, and at the same time not there (on the phone), and I wrote this:

a patch of ice
on the city street—

I spent a lot of time in the city last week and one day I was walking along the cobbled streets of the old town, which normally I love but it was cold, really cold, the sky was grey, the cobbles were grey, most of the houses had taken on a grey colour in the shade and I just thought this:


It made me think of Cor van den Heuvel’s haiku “tundra”. And I thought if he can do it, so can I.

And so started the next batch of reading on the topic of one line, or even one word haiku. Next week I shall tell you all about what I read and whether “grey” works as Haiku. In the meantime if you have any thoughts on the poem “tundra”, get in touch and let me know. I’ve read and re read that Haiku so many times, but I think I may have got it now

Featured guest, Kate Alsbury.

Kate is a writer and editor and a lover of the great outdoors, all of which she has managed to combine by starting Jalmurra, an online journal with a focus on nature, science, art, and the environment She started it, to support her partly crowdfunded project that works to save forests and farmland from development. She has found that there aren’t that many places to share writing and art relating to these topics. So if you know of any more get in touch with Kate and let her know.

At the moment, Jalmurra are accepting submissions of poetry, art, fiction, essays, and anything else that relates to nature or science.

Kate is working hard with Jalmurra and is hoping to bring a few changes to the look of it soon and offer a book of poetry, as a free gift when you donate.

She has a newsletter that you can sign up for and a Twitter account @land_alliance

If you’d like to help raise awareness for the project, you can sign up by sending your name and email address to save.the.tierra@gmail.com. Put “Join Team” in subject line. You can also fill out this form

So with all that going on in her life, why does Kate write a haiku? She says “I like the challenge of saying something in as few words as possible, and Japanese art has always interested me.” Of course, the connection with nature, is an important factor.

This is her fabulous Haiku

snowfall —
following our footprints

You may be surprised that I chose this Haiku. As you know snow is not my favourite thing because I live in an area where it can linger on for too long. It’s snowing heavily outside my wndow now! However I still appreciate the beauty of it particularly as Kate has expressed it.

This is an element of living with snow that I enjoy. As I walk around the countryside here in Zürich prints in the snow fascinate me. There are so many footprints, animal prints, bird prints, human prints and it fascinates me to see the combinations of prints that go together and the patterns that they make in the snow.

I found this haiku most romantic and I can just see myself and whoever I’m walking with, cold and looking forward to a hot chocolate, following our footsteps home in the low sun of a winter afternoon.

Thanks Kate that was absolutely beautiful.

That’s it for this week. Thank you so much for coming along my Haiku journey with me again.

Keep writing and remember I love to have your submissions. I have two slots available in April at the moment, so perhaps you, or your Haiku friends, could write me a haiku that tells me a little bit about April where you live.That would be fantastic!

Take care and I look forward to chatting to you next Monday.

Recommended reading

Week 15: The Haiku Pea Podcast featuring Kate Alsbury

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