Roswila's Dream & Poetry Realm

SEE ALSO: TRYING TO HOLD A BOX OF LIGHT (photos, realistic to abstract)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

HAIKU: Response to One Deep Breath Prompt of 6/18/07

[Photo: Sunflower Variety,]

her sunflower poem
their big brown eyes
in a dream

This week's prompt at One Deep Breath is to write about "(wild)flowers." A friend had emailed me a marvelous new poem of hers about sunflowers, which I dreamt about that night. This haiku can also be considered what I'm now terming a dreamku. (To read about writing dreamku, you can check out the previous three posts here -- it's a lengthy article, so I had to split in into three parts. :-D)

You can visit One Deep Breath (link in first paragraph) to enjoy others' intriguing variety of responses to this week's "(wild)flowers" prompt.

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‘til next time, keep dreaming,


[aka: Patricia Kelly]

****If you wish to copy or use any of my writing or poems, please email me for permission (under “View my complete profile”)****My other blogs ROSWILA’S TAROT GALLERY & JOURNAL and ROSWILA’S TAIGA TAROT.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

A DREAMKU PRIMER (Part 3 of 3): Writing Haiku-Like Poems About Your Night Dreams

[Image: dreamku notebook cover collage by Roswila]

A DREAMKU PRIMER (Part 3 of 3):
Writing Haiku-Like Poems About Your Night Dreams


How to Write Dreamku

(See previous two posts for Introduction & Part One: Writing Dreamku as Dream Work, and Part Two: Elements of the Haiku Form Used in Dreamku)

These “how to’s” are listed in the approximate order you might use them.

(1) READ HAIKU AND WHATEVER DREAMKU YOU CAN FIND: to absorb what these forms are about. (See sidebar for haiku links and search this blog for “dreamku.”)

(2) ONE DREAM MOMENT PER DREAMKU: Keep your focus narrowed to one moment per dreamku. Once in a great while I’ve found it possible to write a dreamku about an entire long dream, but generally speaking, trying to do so only produced a forced and extremely busy dreamku. Select one moment of the dream you find particularly impactful, intriguing, amusing, or puzzling, or even repellant. I’ve also just closed my eyes, wiggled my forefinger around above my dream notes page, then plunked it down, and written about the moment I wound up pointing to. Whatever gets you writing about the dream! You can always write subsequent dreamku on other moments of that same dream.

(3) “JUMP RIGHT IN, THE WATER’S FINE”: no pre-thinking or analysis; just start organizing words describing the dream moment you’ve picked into the dreamku form. The rest (i.e. what to highlight, how best to describe what, what to drop or add, order of lines, spontaneous insight into the dream, etc.) will flow from that process. Occasionally, I feel drawn to write a dreamku on a moment from an old dream I’ve already analyzed at great length. That can be an intriguing process, too. A few times it has revealed new ways to understand the dream moment or even the full dream.

(4 ) “NO DUMPING ALLOWED”: Don’t toss out a dreamku that doesn’t seem to be working. I’ve found that with dreamku they often benefit from steeping for a while, even more so than other sorts of poems I write. E.g., I’ll enter a questionable dreamku in my little notebook and weeks, even months later I will suddenly see what it needs to work. And even if it never works as a dreamku, you have it as part of the source dream’s record.

(5) INTENSITY PERMITTED: There is a long established “haiku spirit” that is understated and inviting, that makes the expression of emotional intensity in haiku quite a challenge, to say the least, but also helps create that wonderful unforced and frequently very subtle haiku sensibility. I do not think emotional intensity should be avoided altogether in haiku and especially not in dreamku, as emotions can so often be an integral part, even the heart of dream moments. That said, I have found that it is not easy to do within dreamku. Intense words and emotions do tend to overwhelm both the haiku and the dreamku form, to come across as overblown even when most sincerely stated. However, don’t be afraid to try expressing intense emotion, but do carefully read over your intensely emotional dreamku for their possible impact. It may mean you will need to dial back the emotion a bit in order to make it more workable within the dreamku form. So that the form can effectively carry what the dream moment is offering. Of all the aspects of the developing dreamku form, this is the one I wrestle with most. In fact, I can imagine that folk who are knowledgeable about haiku wince when they read some of my more intense dreamku. Though I do think I am gradually learning how to be emotionally expressive in a dreamku in a way that does not sink the poem, nor dilute or do injustice to the dream moment itself. Here’s a dreamku of mine about intense emotion:

grief numbs
she dances on the rocks to
reduce them to sand

In an early version I used the word “grind” instead of “reduce.” I liked the echo of the “gr” in grief, but felt the word “grind” itself made the dreamku too harsh, too heavy. That in effect it ground the dreamku down along with the rocks.

(6) DROPPING FROM AND ADDING TO THE DREAM MOMENT: Don’t hesitate to drop parts of the dream moment as you write the dreamku or, conversely, to be descriptive about the dream moment in a way the dream may not have been as long as it “rings true.” When we start to write a dreamku we are usually entering an intuitive (even sometimes dream-like) frame of mine, and whatever deletions or additions suggest themselves will almost certainly be quite appropriate. Also I believe a dreamku need not be a literal transcript of the dream moment to be true to the dream. Arguably, any experience that is not the actual moment as it is being experienced is memory and, therefore, subject to change in our minds. But even so, stay as close as possible to that dream moment, and know that it may still require tweaking for its life to shine through. Generally speaking, dream moments seem to require paring down in dreamku writing, far more often than amplification.

(7) DATE AND RECORD ALL DREAMKU: in a journal. I keep my dreamku in a different notebook from my dream journal, but you will determine what arrangement works best for you. I do strongly recommend, though, that you date your dreamku the same date as the source dream, no matter when you actually write the dreamku. I’ve found I occasionally want to read the entire dream from which a dreamku came and that way I can find it in my dream journal.

(8) EXPERIMENT: Don’t be afraid to experiment with the dreamku form. But do first become familiar with it’s parameters by writing in it for a while. When you do experiment, try not to go so far afield that the dreamku has no roots in the basic haiku form. I’ve tried writing a few dreamku series – based on one full dream or a series of dreams – in which there is a progression or some sort of link from one dreamku to the next. I also usually write each dreamku in a series so that it could stand alone. (In fact, some of my series consist of “singletons” that I only put together under a title later when I saw that they related to each other.) Below is a series that also illustrates how I’ve tried working with emotional intensity. The overall feel of the series is emotionally dark (dreamku two and five are more explicitly so, and the rest implicitly).

(based on dreams of 12/21/06)

he admits to
inappropriate longings
time trip

bed-time story
the young girl threatens
to call the police

the famous man
signs his photo for the girl

I track the lost girl
by her noisy shoes
dark tunnel

the girl rounds on me
with a knife in each hand
listen closely!

Here’s another very experimental series in which I work with repetition, and with having each dreamku depend on the previous – as opposed to being able to stand alone. These departures from my own ideas of what the dreamku form is about were prompted by the content of the dreams. Also, the last dreamku in the series has a definite point to it, which I mostly try to avoid. But it was one of those dream moments that spoke its point – I “heard” the words – and it pulled the previous dream moments together, so I decided to quote it.

(from dreams in March & early April 2007)

lesson one
her troubled son
is now in my lap

lesson two
his friend's illness
swamps me

lesson three
we don't have to follow
along in these lines

lesson four
she wears sparkly hose
on her huge legs

lesson five
my friend casually drinks
diamond dust

lesson six
they collage the inside
of a glass vase

lesson seven
dying, living
it's all art


The “pointed” dreamku that ends the above series is a good place to close. If I believe that I can hold on to anything in life it is to the understanding that we create our responses to the present moment. That said, I invite you to create some dreamku and share them. Sharing can be very affirming, encouraging, and inspiring in any sort of writing effort, but especially when you are working in a form new to you. It can also be intriguing to hear of others’ associations to your dreamku. In several instances, the similarities between my dreamku moments and an email friend’s were delightful surprises. One friend said that she had learned something new about her dreamku just by choosing some to share with me by email. You can always email me your dreamku, comments, or questions (click on “View My Complete Profile” in sidebar), or post them in a comment here or under the DAILY DREAMKU. I will be delighted to respond.

Click here for an important update to this three part primer.

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Resources: DREAMS: The International Association for the Study of Dreams. HAIKU: The Isn'ts of Haiku. DREAMKU: See DAILY DREAMKU at top of blog homepage, and search this blog for "dreamku" (there is a post every month of the entire month's daily dreamku).

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

A DREAMKU PRIMER (Part 2 of 3): Writing Haiku-Like Poems About Your Night Dreams

[Image: dreamku notebook cover collage by Roswila]

A DREAMKU PRIMER (Part 2 of 3):
Writing Haiku-Like Poems About Your Night Dreams


Elements of the Haiku Form Used in Dreamku
(See previous post for the Introduction & Part One: Writing Dreamku as Dream Work)

A friend once said that she was quite puzzled by most of my dreamku, since they are so different from regular haiku. I understand her puzzlement, in that they are not fully haiku. However, what any of my dreamku asks is for the reader to take on the dream moment as if it were her own. To see what it feels like, or what thoughts it generates. That is, a dreamku offers a moment to try on, to get inside of. And that, to my mind, is no different ultimately from what a regular haiku invites us to do.

What I say below about the Japanese haiku form is most of what I have learned over the years. I hasten to add that I am always learning about the subtleties of haiku and that I am only addressing here the haiku elements I try to honor in dreamku (i.e., those that seem to work with night dreams). These aspects of haiku are listed in approximate descending order of importance.

(1) TO BE OR NOT TO BE 3 LINES OF 5/7/5 SYLLABLES: I infrequently write dreamku in the commonly known three lines of 5/7/5 syllables. Japanese is polysyllabic, therefore, there are fewer words in a Japanese haiku of 17 syllables, than in a 17 syllable English haiku. To approximate the "feel" of a classic Japanese haiku in English, then, fewer syllables are required. However, if you have not written haiku or dreamku before, writing for a while in 3 lines of 5/7/5 syllables can be an excellent exercise to absorb the shape and feel of the form. One friend writes wonderful dreamku exclusively in this style. It is ultimately a matter of personal preference whether one sticks to the 5/7/5 convention or modifies it. But please, no matter how many lines or syllables you use, remember that words like "the" and "a" are needed in haiku or dreamku. I.e., don’t drop them out for the sake of saving a syllable. A sample dreamku of mine in 12 syllables:

crowded subway
fear makes the tiger

Some modern haiku are one line of nine or so syllables. I am quite drawn to one line haiku or dreamku. They echo haiku written in Japanese ideograms, only those are in single vertical lines. Here’s a one line dreamku:

exposed....her green-skinned wicked witch

However, when writing dreamku, I always feel guided by three lines of 5/7/5, rarely exceeding that syllable count (per line, and total) and almost always writing in three lines. I believe this is because it gives me a mental net in which to initially catch the often illusive or intractable dream moment. But maybe it’s just a simple matter of long habit from the very early years when I was first trying to write haiku. :-)

(2) COMPARE AND/OR CONTRAST: There is a comparison or contrast between two things in a haiku or dreakmu, or one thing comes out of or results from the other. One of my dreamku that illustrates contrast:

a terrace of
dried grape vines
your bright smile

This one shows one element resulting from the other:

baby owls
hatch behind the couch
what to feed them

When I first wrote haiku about dreams, I tried contrasting or comparing the dream to my waking from it. This proved to be mostly very limiting and quite awkward, but it does work occasionally, as in this dreamku:

white flowered
dream tree
waking to spring rain

(3) NOT A COMPLETE SENTENCE: A haiku or dreamku is not one complete sentence broken into three lines. It’s usually (though not always) one two line sentence, preceded or capped by a sentence fragment. Sometimes it’s three sentences or fragments, or two fragments and one sentence or, as mentioned above, only one line. In the case of one line haiku or dreamku, they still do not consist of one complete sentence. One line haiku or dreamku have two sections which can run together or be separated by blank spaces, dashes, or ellipses – e.g. the above one line dreamku under (1) . But neither haiku nor dreamku are ever one complete sentence. (Though the translations of some haiku into English do read that way.)

(4) SEASON WORD: or "kigo" – the word indicating the season in which a haiku is set. I do not always use a season word in regular haiku, and extremely rarely in dreamku. It can be rather awkward and artificial, I find, to include a kigo in a dreamku. To my understanding, what a kigo brings to a haiku is a broader context or connectedness. In the case of a dreamku, the word "dream," or the awareness that the poem is about a dream since it’s a dreamku, accomplishes that same purpose. I think I even read somewhere that the word "dream" could be considered a kigo. The dreamku above under aspect (2) is one of the few I’ve written that references a season (technically, "spring" is a "ki" – season name – but it serves the same purpose as a kigo). But maybe you’ll be more successful in using kigo in dreamku than I have been. :-)

(5) "BE HERE NOW": Write in the present tense. Being in the present moment is traditional in haiku and is often good in any sort of poetry, but especially with dreamku. We tend to be suggestible creatures (even those of us who like to think we aren’t :-D), so when we write or read something in the present tense we begin to experience it, to bring more of ourselves to it, which can only add to the effectiveness of our writing and to our enjoyment of the poem.

(6) "I" AND "ME" ARE WELCOME: in haiku or dreamku. There’s a belief by some that self is not appropriately expressed in haiku. That the "I" or "me" should not be apparent in the poem. This "zen" approach does contribute to a great deal of wonderful haiku. However, it’s not the only way haiku is written, and it is definitely not the only way I work with dreamku. Here’s a recent dreamku of mine in which I use "I":

I sing shyly
it might as well be spring
attentive heart

In our discussion of this issue of "I/Me" in haiku, a friend revised this to read:

shy singing
it might as well be spring
attentive heart

His version illustrates how not using "I/Me" effects a haiku or dreamku. It "universalizes" the poem, leaving more room for the reader to relate to it. It also allows the reader to focus on what is happening and not on who is doing it. (I really like his version, by the way. As I said to him, I wish I could claim it as my own and as a haiku.) I agree with the point he then made that dreamku need to use "I/Me" more frequently than haiku, as who is the doer often needs to be clearer. This is quite true in my experience since dreamku tend to be surreal or have unusual or impossible juxtapositions. Therefore, there’s a smaller common base between writer and reader than in haiku, so that less can be inferred or assumed by a reader. Though the source dream for my above dreamku was only minimally surreal, it was not clear whose or even what heart was attentive, simply that there was heart attention. Therefore, using "I" creates a clearer separation between the specific singer and the unknown heart. In short, "I/Me" can often be more necessary in dreamku than in haiku, as dreamku tend to require more specificity in order to carry the dream moment.

(7) SHOW, DON’T TELL: Leave things unsaid in both haiku and dreamku, i.e., evoke or suggest. Set the scene and let the reader experience it for herself and come to her own conclusions. Though I generally try not to, I do write dreamku that have teaching orientations or points that may be rather apparent. (Some dream moments are so clearly "teachers.") But in my more "pointed" dreamku I still do my best to leave wiggle room for the reader. Put another way, dreamku are best when they don’t nail a scene down with meaning, but open it up to exploration. One easy trap – that I fall into, again and again – is to write one line that explains or makes the point of the rest of the haiku or dreamku. Trust your reader. You (and I) don’t have to lay it out for them completely. And they may even go fascinating places with it you (and I) did not expect. A dreamku of mine that suggests:

dream shard
children dig
for what’s been buried

It’s this "show, don’t tell" aspect of both haiku and dreamku that makes expression (as opposed to evocation or suggestion) of emotion a challenge. Emotions are responses to a situation and especially when overtly described are a "telling." But emotions are also often the heart of a dream moment. Therefore, I find that in writing dreamku I’m consistently taking on that challenge of emotional expressiveness.

(8) "IT ONLY TAKES A MOMENT": per haiku or dreamku. Haiku and dreamku rarely tell entire stories, though sometimes one can be deduced from the "showing, not telling." Haiku and dreamku are almost always about where we stand on the shifting sands between the past and future: the present moment. In dreamku, that means it’s about one moment within a full dream. It is hard for me to describe how I determine what one moment is in a dream. One guideline is "less is more." Another, if you find you have too many words to fit the form and can’t reasonably whittle them down, you may be trying to write about too big a piece of the dream. On the other hand, less in dreamku can be inferred or assumed by a reader since dreams are often surreal or have unusual or impossible juxtapositions. Therefore, the dreamku may need to include more from the dream than you might initially intend in order to evoke that dream moment for a reader. I suggest you just start writing dreamku and you will develop a sense of what one moment consists of within any particular dream. The folk I know who are currently writing dreamku have been able to do this, apparently rather readily. (Please note that I say here and elsewhere "evoke" the moment for a reader, not "make it clear." Dreamku are not so much open to being clearly understood, as to being experienced and associated to, much like their source dreams and haiku.)

(9) NOT ONLY NATURE, NOR SO SERIOUS: Neither haiku nor dreamku are written exclusively about nature, especially dreamku. Nor is either form humorless or inhospitable to whimsy. Here’s a silly dreamku of mine. I laughed even in the dream, for all the pricking of the thorns:

I finally fly
but get caught up in thorn trees
ouch! ouch-ouch!

(10) NO SIMILES: in haiku or dreamku, though metaphors can and do occur in haiku and dreamku. However, I don’t write a metaphor in a haiku or dreamku willfully as I do in a regular poem, as it will tend to sink that little paper boat like a stone. Yet when they occur naturally for me (i.e. without malice of forethought :-D), they can be effective (and affective). A sample dreamku of mine:

a dark shadow
invades the soldier’s skull
the war at home

(11) PLAY WITH WORDS: There’s a strong tradition of word play in Japanese haiku, and it is very welcome in dreamku (e.g. puns). Here’s one of mine in which I play with "infest" and "investment." The neologism just floated into my mind and, as it did, gave me an insight into the dream.

rust colored bugs crawl
from the phone recharger base

(12) CAPITALIZATION; PUNCTUATION; GERUNDS; ALLITERATION, ETC.: Usually there’s no capitalization in haiku or dreamku and as little punctuation as possible (i.e., only what is necessary to the comprehension or rhythm of the dreamku). I do occasionally use a question mark or exclamation point, for instance, if without it the emphasis needed just does not come across. As to gerunds (verbs that end in "ing" and operate as nouns): they are fine to use if they are needed for the sense or flow of the dreamku and don’t crowd it. Alliteration can overwhelm or stall the flow of haiku or dreamku, so be watchful for it and how it effects a dreamku; the same for assonance and rhymes. Also be aware of the rhythm of the lines; that it supports the dreamku, rather than undermining or overshadowing it. Generally speaking, the usual poetic writing devices tend not to work in haiku or dreamku.

(13) NO TITLES: except when two or more haiku or dreamku are meant to be read together.

For PART THREE: HOW TO WRITE DREAMKU, click here. (See also "Resources" below for relevant links, as well as the sidebar.)

Click here for an important update to this three part primer.

* * * *

Resources: DREAMS: The International Association for the Study of Dreams. HAIKU: The Isn'ts of Haiku. DREAMKU: See DAILY DREAMKU at top of blog homepage, and search this blog for "dreamku" (there is a post every month of the entire month's daily dreamku).

‘til next time, keep dreaming,


[aka: Patricia Kelly]

****If you wish to copy or use any of my writing or poems, please email me for permission (under “View my complete profile”)****My other blogs ROSWILA’S TAROT GALLERY & JOURNAL and ROSWILA’S TAIGA TAROT.

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