Online internet courses by Call of the Page

Are you interested in a Call of the Page course? We run courses on haiku (beginner and intermediate, and advanced). We also run workshops and courses on tanka; tanka stories/prose; haibun; shahai; and other genres.

Please email if you would like to know more about these and our other courses.

Call of the Page (Alan & Karen)

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Negative space in haiku: Writing Poetry: the haiku way request for examples

Dear Haiku Poets,

I'm looking for good examples of haiku utilising negative space aka whitespace/white space where the haiku is strong on implication, and the reader is invited to "join up the dots" as a fellow poet, not as a passive observer. 

This is for both an article in progress, and for my book Writing Poetry: the haiku way.

Often when we talk to each other we don't feel the need to spell everything out, and carrying that over into haiku poetry is an effective device. Alan Summers

"There is always the verbal equivalent of negative space in good haiku…"  Violette Rose-Jones

Here’s one from Jean Jorgensen from The Touch of a Moth: 35th Annual Haiku Canada Members' Anthology, page 115

he ties one hole
to another – fisherman
mending his nets

The Touch of a Moth: 35th Annual Haiku Canada Members' Anthology  The Touch of a Moth Edited by Claudia Coutu Radmore and Marco Fraticelli

Negative space needn't always be just the use of white space in breaking up the visible text.  It can be the way that a haiku uses its two parts to approach a subject by not directly mentioning it.

Haiku need not name the subject/topic directly. 

Stella Pierides has this to say about negative space in haiku:

My own favorite aspect of negative space is the 'hole' / empty space in the middle of the poem. Whatever form it takes, incl. punctuation and empty space(s), it gives the reader space through which to enter the poem and create meaning. You may be interested in Moore's and Hepworth's 'holes' in sculptures, also Fontana's 'holes', slashes' and 'gushes' in his paintings and sculpture (his Spatialism)

Although I think that all haiku utilizing a good enough cut would serve as examples, here are some of my haiku linked to themes of absence, cut, identity etc.

Stella Pierides

granny's cushion -
pulling the darkness out
pin by pin

Stella Pierides
In the Garden of Absence, Neusaess: Fruit Dove Press, 2012

between folding
and unfolding -
a dove

Stella Pierides
Publication credit: Bottle Rockets #26, February 2012

I would love to receive examples that show this aspect clearly and cleanly, making use of juxtaposition and/or disjunctive techniques, and 'the unwritten text' in parallel with the 'visible text' of the poem.

Also, the article in progress which has this current working title:

Travelling the thin white expanse #2:
The kindly elephant: 

Those other words in haiku inbetween written text

The article will cover aspects such as the leap in haiku, juxtaposition, disjunctive methods, and negative space.

So it's not so much the elephant in the room...

What do you consider an example of negative space in your own haiku?  

Haiku can be emailed to:

Leaving things out is as potent as negative space (whitespace/white space): 

Ganesha's moon
the cabbie’s last customer
smells of mint tea

Alan Summers

Publication Credits: 
brass bell: a haiku journal (November 2014); Miriam’s Well: Poetry, Land Art, and Beyond (Miriam Sagan's blog 2015

Forgotten rain
the wedding ring left
in a doll’s house

Alan Summers

Publication Credit: Asahi Shimbun (Japan, 2014)

Should everything be spelt out and dictated to a reader, or should we delight that a reader will throw themselves into the poem so much they add whatever they consider to be missing information between the two parts of the tiny haiku poem?

I'm a haiku writer who feels honoured if a reader adds their own life experiences to a poem of mine that only shows half a story.

Complementary to negative space is my white echoes and implication article: 

Haiku: The Art of Implication over Explication by Alan Summers


Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Rooster Moans and The Land of the Rising Haibun - The Crow Star - combining haiku, prose, prose poetry

Rooster Moans image.

Example of a haibun (prose with haiku)

The Crow Star

fading last note
a torresian crow calls out
a star-scarred sky

              so, so, so black    this black sky of stars more bright than I've ever seen
   some seem to shift and move    vibrate    to suggest something more
        last sighting on this travel of Jupiter above Venus

the southern cross
my woodsmoke embers
spiral upwards

quiet and dark    then a rustle reminds me of the Dreamtime Dingo
white and feral    imagination lends fear to a night that leers at me

          flickering with light
the shadows of horses

it's cold now 3a.m. brittle cutting cold
the moon's no longer full
this brutal simplicity of a night
deep as a raven’s compassion

a susurrus of moths
around fire that flickers on

a thinning trail
to the stars
woodsmoke & embers

an early hours crow
I invoke another prayer
to its god and mine

I see a lightening from dark to metal grey       a quickening between trees
that becomes a hurt violet   into brush strokes   into morning

red-rimmed sunrise
     the trees rekindle fire
 through a blur of blue

Haibun by Alan Summers (this version March 2014)

Versions published:

Paper Wasp, Queensland, 1997; Azami haiku journal, Osaka, Japan 1998; Blithe Spirit Vol. 14 No. 2  June 2004; Haiku Hike project, June 2006 (Haiku Hike (World Walks) part of Crossover UK’s 2006 ‘Renewability’ project (2006); Shamrock Haiku Journal, Irish Haiku Society, Spring 2006; Sketchbook, eJournal  for Eastern & Western Short Forms Nov. 2007; RWP online version September 2009; Land of the Rising Haibun: Setting Japanese Poetry Forms in Prose, 2014: 

Anthology Credits: 

Journeys 2015, An Anthology of International Haibun 
ed. Angelee Deodhar ISBN 978-1515359876

Shamrock Haiku Journal: 2007 - 2011 ed. Anatoly Kudryavitsky (December 2011 ISBN-10: 1470938308 ISBN-13: 978-1470938307

all images©Alan Summers 2006-2014
except for the Rooster Moans title image.

Land of the Rising Haibun: Setting Japanese Poetry Forms in Prose

Robert Lowell said "almost the whole problem of writing poetry is to bring it back to what you really feel, and that takes an awful lot of manoeuvring".

The joy of haibun and its sister form "tanka prose" - and perhaps the reason why they are catching the imagination of writers in English - is that they bring an extra opportunity to manoeuvre, juxtaposing the verse against the prose, creating new works that can even surprise ourselves.

Using excerpts, handouts, and examples of haibun, we will delve into the work of famous practitioners such as Matsuo Basho, and from outside Japan, poet/novelist Jack Kerouac and others.

The two prose/poetry forms we'll explore and write are:

Haibun: prose pieces in various styles from prose poetry to journalistic writing, travel writing, diary entries, long fiction through to flash fiction.  These prose narratives usually include one or more haiku inside the body of prose, or can start or conclude the body of prose.

Tanka Prose: a 21st Century narrative, with roots in previous centuries, combining short five-line tanka poems that carry over a thousand years of history behind them. Tanka, grounded in concrete images infused with intimacy, and emotion tempered with implication, suggestion, and nuance, leap in and out of linear narrative with lateral, and dynamic, reverie.

We will cover the history of these two genres as well as concentrate on how to make them 21st narratives both in the haiku and tanka tradition, but also modern short stories and/or memories/memoirs, and literary non-fiction.

Teaching artist Alan Summers resides in Bradford on Avon and is a Japan Times award-winning writer with a Masters Degree in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. He has studied and written haiku and other Japanese form poetry for twenty years.

He has won awards, been published internationally and translated into 15 languages. Alan helped his American team win Japan Times Best Renga of 2002. He’s a co-editor of five haiku anthologies: Parade of Life: Poems inspired by Japanese Prints; The Poetic Image - Haiku and Photography; Fifty-Seven Damn Good Haiku, Press Here; Four Virtual Haiku Poets; and c.2.2. Themes of Loss of Identity and/or Name. He has been General Secretary of the British Haiku Society and a Foundation Member of the Australian Haiku Society. Alan is currently editor with contemporary haiku magazine Bones, and is working on The Kigo Lab, a project to use the potential of Western haiku seasons for eco-critical writing.

Alan has a haiku pamphlet called The In-Between Season (2012), and a shortverse and contemporary haiku collection called Does Fish-God Know, (2012).

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