For the last couple of weeks, a single peony has held my attention. I’ve watched it as the bud strained to open, then been amazed by the flower’s sudden unfurling. I was almost late for work one morning as I tried to photograph a raindrop on one of the petals. And then I was saddened as it shed its petals under the weight of rain. It’s a strange experience to try and give your attention to just one thing, when daily life is constantly tugging you in other directions. As for the haiku I’ve written about it (below), well, I’m not sure they come anywhere close to my actual experience of the peony, but I’ve been trying to explore what the form can do and be a little looser in my interpretations. Reading Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years (ed. Kacian, J., Rowland, P & Burns, A., Norton, 2016, 2013) has expanded my understanding of what’s possible within these short poems. It’s a great book, full of little surprises, and it has an enlightening overview of haiku in English by Jim Kacian at the end, which I can thoroughly recommend to anyone who is interested in the development of the form. So, in the spirit of sharing, here are the poems, with accompanying photographs.
peony ver 2

spent peony
peony cloudburst

7 thoughts on “peonycloudburst

  1. There are very few anthologies I’d describe as essential, but that’s certainly one of them. And your own haiku really show the benefit of sustained attention. Haiku writing is such a difficult and rewarding practice, I’m finding.


    • I’m finding them difficult, but in a satisfying way! Sometimes I feel guilty about the very small word count.’Taxing’ is probably the right word for the process. Lots are not worth even typing up, but I’m enjoying the way they force me to look closer at things. What other anthologies do you recommend?
      Julie X


      • Anthologies of modern haiku in English? Haiku 21 by Scott Metz and Lee Gurga is pretty essential, as are the online archives of Roadrunner/R’r journal. My introduction to Japanese experimental haiku was, sadly, NOT at university where I majored in comparative literature with a focus on Japanese and Chinese back in the late 80s. (And all these decades later, there are still very very few book-length translations of any haijin more recent than Shiki.) That had to wait until 2009, when the online Australian journal Cordite put out a haiku feature edited by David Lanoue and Keiji Minato. The navigation isn’t the best, but start here and follow the Next Post links:


      • (The confusing bit about the navigation in that Cordite issue, I’ve just reminded myself, is that some of the posts are broken up into pages, which were a big-deal feature in WordPress at the time.)


    • Hi Dave,
      Thanks so much for these recommendations and links. I’ve just started reading Richard Wright’s haiku, and I’ll certainly try to get hold of Haiku 21. Even though haiku are very short poems, there’s such a wide variety of forms/ styles/ content that it’s both exciting and daunting!
      Julie X


    • Thanks Pam – it’s definitely work in progress, but I’m totally hooked on these short poems.
      Hope you’re well – maybe see you at a writing workshop over the summer (virtual or otherwise).
      Julie X


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