The technique of comparison

The technique of comparison sounds so easy. I read how Betty Drevniok in her hand written pamphlet Aware – a haiku primer  (1) describes it, she says “think of two sides of the coin an image on one side – an image on the other side”. Fantastic I thought, this sounds like it’s going to be a doddle. Then I continued to read. These images “belong to the same moment” are “affected by the same moment” but affected differently. Put together “they show an unsuspected unity of attunement.” Yes I know, what was I thinking, nothing about haiku, if you want to write successfully, is simple.

Maybe the technique can be explained in a less frightening way which won’t dissuade people such as myself, from having a go. Perhaps you could say the skill with comparison is to express two juxtaposed images that are not “obviously similar or connected” in order “to show how alike they are in unexpected ways, or how they are connected.” (2)

To express something and yet not say it so that our reader is not told but they come to our discovery themselves.

Let’s look at a couple of examples: the first comes from Jane Reichhold. (3)

a spring nap
downstream cherry trees
in bud

Reading it in isolation without her notes I just wasn’t getting it. But this is what she said “buds on a tree can be compared to flowers taking a nap.” So obvious, possibly if I’d read it a few more times I would have come to this conclusion myself.

And now an example from Ferris Gilli (2) which I just adore

cloudless sky
fresh lemons gleam
in a blue bowl

Here you have two images, the cloudless sky and the lemons in the blue bowl. If you were just saying this haiku as a sentence it would be something like; this sky is just like those lemons in the blue bowl. Why? Let’s think about it. A cloudless sky is blue with a brilliant shining yellow sun and the second image, of the lemons in the blue bowl, is, if you like, a reflection of the sky the gleaming lemons taking the place of the shining sun. Both these images are both of the same moment and they do have a unity, don’t you think?

A little afterthought. Sometimes connections are not immediately apparent to you. Yet when the poet wrote it it meant something to them, they made a connection. Sometimes we are too quick to give up the search for the a-ha moment or the unifying idea in a haiku. As a group let’s not be those people, let’s give each other’s haiku a good chance to be understood. I know it’s not going to happen every time but at least we can give it a try.

Now it’s time to embarrass myself with my latest effort.

spring breeze
she wags her finger
at the youth

This was inspired by a recent trip on a tram. It’s not unusual here, in Zürich,  for little old ladies travelling the on the tram to chastise teenagers when they do something wrong. If it was me with my Anglo Saxon cultural bias I would say something to the offending youth, but here it seems that a wagging finger is more often deployed than vocal chords.

So, it is spring here, at least for a little while, but the reason I used spring breeze was that a spring breeze is chilly without being totally cold and it seemed to me that this finger wagging at the youth on the train was a gentle way of admonishing him which fits with my notion of the spring breeze being cool without being freezing and harsh. Is it making sense to you?

Let’s head off to Brisbane, Australia and visit with Giddy again. Giddy is running her own haiku group. She tells me it’s going well. If you live in Brisbane, and would like to know more about Giddy’s group then get in touch. Send me an email and I’ll forward it, or you’ll find her on Twitter  @GiddyNS

Now for a treat, Giddy’s haiku:

alights on my hand
only a second

Does it get to you thinking about the brevity of life? How long does the butterfly live? Apparently the average lifespan of butterflies is about a month, it’s not long is it?

When you think about a butterfly alighting on you, does it give you a real sense of joy?

Thinking about it for a bit longer, I thought, there is a lightness about the butterfly but it carries a serious message, Life is short use it well and bring some joy into the world. I think this haiku about a butterfly sharing a second of its short life with Giddy, me and now you, did it’s job, it brought me joy.

One of the great things I find about haiku is that you can convey so much in a few words.

Here’s a couple of questions for you:

  • When you write your haiku do you find they convey a meaning to other people that you had never thought of?
  • If this is the case, are you interested and delighted by what people read into your work, or affronted that they did not see what you saw?

Please let me know it’s a subject that interests me a lot.

My thanks as always to Giddy for bringing a little bit of her life into ours.

A quick reminder that I am seeking submissions of haiku on the topic of women, you don’t have to be one to write it, or perspectives are welcome. I would need to have them by July 20th. You’ll find my contact details on

Thanks for being with me this week. Next week we’re going to Hull in the United Kingdom by plane! Very exciting.

See you then and keep writing.

Thanks for listening to the podcast. You will find the links you need on the Poetrypea website, if there’s something missing just contact me and I’ll send you what you need. Ciao

  3. Jane Reichhold Writing and enjoying Haiku. A hands on guide.
Week 30: Lemons and Butterflies

BMC logoBuy me a coffee