Haiku to Honour Two Towns

When I became Poet Laureate of Stony Plain, Alberta in February 2019, I was eager to acknowledge the town for its commitment to poetry and to the literary arts . . . and I wanted to start right away. I knew that whatever I decided to do would have to be small, because I have other projects to work on during my term as Poet Laureate. I also work a regular job occasionally (I am a substitute teacher), I sit on three different non-profit boards, and I have a husband and two young children who like to spend some time with me now and then!

I started to think about all the things that make Stony Plain unique – its home on Alberta’s prairies, its community, its history, its relationship with the railway (an interesting one!), but nothing was helping me to come up with a plan. Then, as I scrolled through Facebook, I came across a post about our annual Japanese Exchange Program with the town of Shikaoi. Stony Plain has been twinned with Shikaoi since 1985. For more than thirty years, each town has regularly sent high school students to experience life, language and culture in its sister town.

Thinking about Shikaoi got me thinking about haiku, a traditional Japanese poetic form. Few types of poems use so few words to explore so many different complexities of our world, including nature and the human condition. Haiku poetry can be as simple or as difficult as a person would like it to be. There are rules, yes, but many schools of thought argue that it is fair to be flexible with them in English. I haven’t decided where I stand on that issue yet; I plan to do lots more exploring as the two years progress. In the meantime, though, I decided to jump right in and not be afraid to make all the mistakes that I can as I go. That’s how we learn and grow, right? I have a poster in my office that says “Mistakes are proof that we are trying.” So, here I am, trying (and no doubt making some mistakes at) haiku!

I encourage you to join me on my journey . . . whenever the fancy takes you, please post a poem to Twitter, Instagram or Facebook with the following hashtag: #stonyplainhaiku

Don’t feel obliged to write a haiku every day, but if you’d like to, that would be terrific! It’s a great way to get your creative juices flowing – and I promise I’ll “like” every poem that I see with that hashtag!


Haiku-A-Day: Part 1

“Haiku tends to focus on the immediate present, upon a mindful moment that captures the essence of meaningful living.”


In January, I discovered “National Haiku Writing Month” (www.nahaiwrimo.com), which encourages poets from around the world to commit to writing at least one haiku poem every day for the month of February.

The NaHaiWriMo Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/NaHaiWriMo) and Twitter account (https://twitter.com/NaHaiWriMo) provide poets with a forum for sharing the results of their endeavours.

I decided to give it a go, and the result (so far) has been a huge sense of enlightenment!

I knew – or thought I knew – the basics of Haiku (17 syllables – 5 each for the first and third lines, 7 for the second line), but it turns out that there is actually A LOT more to Haiku than just that! In fact, the syllable count is far from being a hard and fast rule, and certainly does not define the structure of Haiku, contrary to what I thought I knew about the form. Perhaps even more important is the juxtaposition of images that creates a subtle expansion of meaning (accomplished in Japanese through a “cutting word” that serves to grammatically separate a haiku into two distinct parts). Also, in traditional Japanese Haiku, the time of year is signified through a “season word,” so those particular versions of the form are heavily dependent upon nature.

In English, a great many liberties have been and are being taken with Haiku. This flexibility has made Haiku very accessible to a wide range of writers and poets; however, as I have discovered over the past couple of weeks, it could take a lifetime to master the intricacies that create truly beautiful Haiku poems. After embarking upon a journey of discovery into this (underrated?) form, I am now certain it is worth the effort . . .

Haiku tends to focus on the immediate present, upon a mindful moment that captures the essence of meaningful living. A moment that could otherwise slip by unnoticed is effectively trapped and bottled by the poet. The mindful reader opens the lid and releases the thought (and its associated feelings) back into the world, leaving both reader and world changed by the transmission of that moment.

So far, this month, I have stuck to my commitment and written a Haiku each day. I have shared them on Twitter (https://twitter.com/lisamulrooney) and on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/NaHaiWriMo), but I thought I should share them here, gathered all together (like a little Haiku bouquet).


snowswirl day 1

whisps of white moisture
swirl on the icy breeze
refusing to settle


train day 2

tracks rumble in time
to a hypnotic beat:
sleep, train, sleep


horses day 3.jpg

so close that you inhale
my breath’s condensation –
two worlds colliding


spurned day 4.jpg

The chill air restrains,
after the burning torment
of a spurned advance.


baby day 5

she hums in her sleep
and the last letter drifts
to oblivion


grave day 6

a wrinkled hand
rests gently on a headstone
waiting patiently


embers day 7

Embers from the fire
fly like moths to the moon;
the stars are dancing.


aurora day 8

the wind holds secrets
we only hear at night;
aurora lights


prison day 9

Watch yourself watch
yourself, a bird’s-eye-view.
The clock is ticking.


trees day 10

The sun’s dying light
trickles into the shadows.
Dangerous thoughts pool.


snowflakes day 11

Perfection inhaled.
A child’s honest laughter
tastes like snowflakes.


toddler day 12.jpg

Galloping horses –
toddlers, tantrums and time.
Oh, to reign them in!


dog day 13

steady rise and fall
curled into a safety knot –
dog on a pillow


seagull day 14

seagulls squabble
over scraps and trash –
the sated take flight

If you have never written a Haiku, or you haven’t in a while, I challenge you to try it out. There are tons of great resources available online to help you in your journey, but I definitely recommend that you start here: http://www.nahaiwrimo.com

Happy Writing, Lisa