Linda Papanicolaou

NaHaiWriMo daily writing prompter for April 2012 and October 2021

1. How did you get started with haiku?

I became interested in haiku a little before 2000, through art teaching. I taught one of my fifth-grade art classes a leaf-printing project. One of the optional extensions offered by the lesson plan was to have the students write a haiku about their leaf prints. The leaf prints were lovely but the writing part of the assignment was a disaster and I realized I’d have to learn more about haiku if I ever did that lesson again. I began systematically browsing the web, learning what haiku was and wasn’t, and learning the names of the poets whose work I admired. I joined the World Haiku Club’s beginner’s group on Yahoo, then led by an’ya. From there I gravitated to the WHChaikumultimedia group, which was devoted to haiga. For a while I assumed that was as far as I would venture in the online haiku community, but I met Michael Dylan Welch when he joined our group to conduct an exercise using his “tulip festival / the colours of all the cars / in the parking lot” haiku. He persuaded me to attend the 2005 Haiku North America conference in Port Townsend, Washington. I came home and joined my local haiku clubs, the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society and the Haiku Poets of Northern California. What keeps me going? The satisfaction of writing, and the many other writers and artists I’ve met. At the beginning, I did not fully understand when one senior poet said that haiku is a way of life. I do now.

2. Tell us more about yourself.

Since 1994 I have been living in the Bay Area of California, but I grew up around the United States: Maryland, Utah, and New York. I studied art in college, and art history in graduate school, and worked for a while at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Moving to California, I dusted off an old art education and have recently ended a twenty-year career in teaching art in elementary and middle school. For sixteen years I edited Haigaonline, but with retirement I decided to cease publication of that too, so I’m temporarily without a website or blog of my own. I’ve spent the months since then making art (ceramics, artist’s books, and inkbrush painting), and writing.

3. What does NaHaiWriMo mean to you?

For several years I was only able to participate in NaHaiWriMo during February, but since retiring I’ve become a regular every month. If you’ve read anything about how teachers have experienced the pandemic, you’ll know how crushing it is to prepare classes and provide instruction—it’s an every-waking-hour seven-days-a-week job. As I went suddenly from that to total freedom, haiku became what gave structure to my days. Reading the next prompt the night before, brainstorming, drafting, and crafting a haiku, posting it and reading everyone else’s responses has become what anchors me.

4. What one piece of advice would you offer to those who are new to writing haiku?

My one piece of advice is three resources that I still rely on:

  • Back in my WHChaikumultimedia days, I was introduced to a wonderful exercise in observation, created by Tim Russell. Tim died in September of 2021is recently deceased and his website is no longer online, but the exercise may be found on Gabi Greve’s blog (scroll down to comment dated November 14, 2006), “This is only an exercise,” Tim instructed. “In one week, a single week, just seven days, you will have taught yourself more about haiku than it’s possible for anyone else to teach you.”

  • A Yuki Teikei Haiku Society publication, Zigzag of the Dragonfly: Writing the Haiku Way by Patricia J. Machmiller, also has some powerful beginner’s exercises.

  • Finally, the essays on Michael Dylan Welch’s Graceguts website. When I first came to haiku, there always seemed to be someone pronouncing rules for haiku. I called them the “mustn’ts and shouldn’ts,” and found guidance through the maze in Michael’s concept of “targets.”

5. Please share three of your favourite or best haiku.

morning solitude

on a rippling mountain stream

two fly fishermen

night

closes in again—

firefly

rusty park bench—

to the aether of the stars

my frosted breath