Online internet courses by Call of the Page

Are you interested in a Call of the Page course? We run courses on haiku; tanka; tanka stories/prose; haibun; shahai; and other genres.

Please email Karen or Alan at our joint email address:
We will let you know more about these courses.

Call of the Page (Alan & Karen)

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Taking out the important in haiku

photograph©Alan Summers 2018

Taking out the important in haiku...

Haiku combines many of the attributes I like most, that of brevity and concise language, whilst still containing a full and actual experience within the constraints that haiku demands.  The applied application of thoughtfully placed words in a particular order within the lines can create a reverberation far beyond what should be expected. It’s a challenge for the writer to be tested so that they maintain freshness despite the apparent rigidity of this type of poetry.

Interestingly J.D. Salinger (author of Catcher in the Rye) created a number of haiku, and one haiku in particular became the catalyst for a famous character for a series of short stories, that of Seymour Glass. Although this particular verse contains more words than many contemporary haiku in English it still avoids over-telling.  The temptation of adding the hustle and bustle incidents that make up a flight are not needed in the physical text that we see:

The little girl on the plane
Who turned her doll’s head around
To look at me.

And yet I can feel all the other activities going on within the interior of a passenger aircraft, without it being spelt out: After all we are often our own witnesses by default to common experiences.  From distillation to the very opposite: I wonder how many haiku, once exploded, so we see their inner compartments, its invisible text made visible, could become, or have become short stories, and even novels, because they contain the information in “non-visible” sections of the poem?

What also hooks me is that a reader can become the ending in a haiku by their very own distinctive set of experiences in life, and by the manner which they individually chose to interpret, or re-interpret the incident/author experience within the haiku. Some haiku writers are comfortable or confident with handing control over to the reader, for those six seconds, as co-poets, or co-pilots on their own flight into the poem. It’s why I’ve often discovered that haiku is a great ambassador for longer poetry, as confidence is gained, and fears are diminished, as we unlock poetry via the haiku way.

Perhaps the strongest feature of haiku, and how it operates, almost as a word version of a gyroscope, is the technique of pairing images together.  Sometimes these two images are in close relationship, and sometimes there is apparently no immediate and logical connection. When images are pitted together, almost pitted against each other, the reader has an opportunity to create an experience all of their own making, with the haiku as a catalyst.  I find that fascinating, that a poet could enjoy a reader taking another journey through the poem creating something individual to, and for, the reader.

The main thing about haiku is that you can and perhaps should trust the reader enough not to explain everything.  Implication is economic, it’s a good device and approach to make the poem, as it allows me as the reader to become a joint creative force whilst I’m reading someone’s work.  It’s such a generous act of complicity from the original author and artist.

So why does implication succeed over explication/exposition for me?  It’s not to say that we dispense with explication as the process of “unfolding" the poem via reader power isn’t about losing the bath water, or the baby, but rather to pull it back to its barest components. We can avoid a full ‘reveal’ by the poet, and that is a gift for a reader such as myself:  After all I am quite capable as a human who has interfaced with many aspects of the world both as child and as adult.  I can create or recreate the final poem to become my own end result, as if the first poem was an earlier draft and I become the next draft version, in effect, in a long chain of reader after reader.

In some types of poetry we can be undecided between the baby and the deep blue bath water — about what we leave in and what we decide to take out, and what exactly is “the important” in our work, and what the reader should be made to see.  What we mustn’t forget is that the reader is a creative force in their own right, and if we laid everything out, supplied all the answers to the crossword, there would be no journey for the reader as well as the writer.   As writers we have to challenge ourselves, and whoever else on that journey is also hopefully enabled to see and immersively participate, to jointly create, and even internally rewrite the poem’s core of message in their own mind’s eye.  A haiku poem is so brief it cannot explain over and over with multiple images and explanations, and it is this very shortcoming that makes haiku perhaps unique amongst all poems both short and long(er).

Often a certain haiku can say more by refraining to say too much, and avoiding all the peripheral detail that could clutter up a clean transitory experience.   After all if the world we inhabit had few spaces, or openings, only mostly solid objects and obstructions, such as a massive brick wall or series of walls, how could we make our way through?  So haiku creates a space, an aperture, in-between its pair of images/sections so that I, we, can walk, run, or leap, as if there are stepping stones in a pond, or a river crossing.

wet prints
the sun takes the dog

Alan Summers

close up of photograph©Alan Summers 2018

Haiku is a box of tricks: You don’t need to use the whole container all at once, just conjure up what feels necessary and appropriate for the particular verse you are working into a haiku. These poems can work by contradictions, for example, by leaving out what you feel is the most important fact, or observation.  You can often create more meaning, more expanse, for a reader to roam and hunter/gatherer their (own) interpretations.   Haiku are not poems studded and shot through by nail guns, and the only obstacle in a haiku could be by an author who does not wish the reader to be a fellow creative.   Haiku is a poem of avoiding explanations and instructions that can make the reader into the mechanic; the engineer; the scientist; the detective; the botanist; social commentator; the magician; and even the visionary.

Below is an award winning haiku that started out its life as a six line poem, packed with detail, yet still unsatisfying to me where despite its endless details, it never said enough.   After a laborious six months of multiple versions the poem moved down to four lines, and then I decided to start work on it as a potential haiku.   Eventually I laid the draft haiku (the proto-haiku) to rest, quite literally inside a physical cabinet drawer, for a further six months.  Later, when I decided I needed just one more haiku to make a group haiku submission to a competition, I brought it back out, knowing I would have a completely fresh viewpoint, as if I was a reader and not the author.  The three line poem was stripped down, and I was surprised that it spoke to me far more than any of my previous and longer versions.  I decided to risk leaving it as it was:

dusk at the golf club
part of a marker pole
a tawny frogmouth

Alan Summers

I was comfortable that it would not win the competition which was to be judged by the formidably talented Australian haiku pioneer Janice Bostok, that at least I had a decent poem.  To my surprise it was picked for first prize, and Janice Bostok had this to say (excerpt):

“The marker pole is important to both.  It is the link between them. It guides the human and the frogmouth uses it as a perch from which to watch for prey. This haiku performs in the way in which a well-crafted haiku should – by leading the reader’s mind far beyond the words on the page.”

I had left out everything I had originally considered as important and vital, and thanks to Janice Bostok I now realised that we do not always need to gild the lily.

So what should the original author leave out for the reader, rather than leave in?  That’s both the conundrum and not opening, or attempting to put something back into Pandora’s box:  Leave it to the reader to undo, with just enough information as a spanner to loosen the poem up enough to squeeze through.


J. D. Salinger (January 1, 1919 – January 27, 2010) published Seymour: An Introduction originally in The New Yorker in May 1959.

wet prints haiku
Publication Credit:   hedgerow: a journal of small poems (Issue 1, 2014)

Janice M. Bostok (9 April 1942 - 4 September 2011)

tawny frogmouth haiku award credit: 
1st Prize, Fellowship of Australian Writers, Queensland, Haiku Competition, June 1995

Gilding the lily:
Shakespeare is often misquoted or attributed to the saying of gilding the lily, here’s the correct quote: 

“To gild refined gold, to paint the lily, / To throw a perfume on the violet, / To smooth the ice, or add another hue / Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light / To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish, / Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.”

That quotation, though, strikes us as a perfect example of gilding the lily. The Oxford English Dictionary has this definition: “to paint (or to gild) the lily: to embellish excessively, to add ornament where none is needed.” 

Publication credits:
Anthology: Atoms of Haiku Vol. 3 (2018)
ephemerae vol. 1 issue (2018)

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Workshop: Alan Summers 'Foraging for Haiku!' - ginko (haiku writing walk)

We had a great group of people, the room we were given was delightful, and at first I wondered if we'd fit everyone in that kept entering. We did okay! Wonderfully looked after by the festival people, and a special thanks to Tony who made sure we had anything we wanted.

After a quick introduction, as we knew two hours would speed by, we set out on a short leisurely walk to Coate Water. It was a stunning sight to reach the lake, it had something about it of the Lake District in Cumbria, and I also expected vikings to appear as it had a touch of the fjords too. Well worth a visit in itself!

Except for one participant no one else had regularly written contemporary haiku. Everyone came back with fieldnotes and poems in progress. I was astonished how so many haiku were created, and innovative ones. If only I was a haiku editor, I would have snapped up so many on the spot. 

A big thank you to both the Poetry Swindon Festival organisers, and one of their staff was in our group too, in between running the cafe, and to every single one of the group. 

I was both stunned, delighted, and close to tearful over one unexpectedly powerful four line verse with found speech that I would have snapped up on the spot too. 

No time to rest after Sunday, a one-to-one haibun class the following in our Chippenham home, the first one, just before major refurbishment!

Alan Summers

ducks©Alan Summers 2018

Alan Summers and Karen Hoy will be at the Poetry Swindon Festival 2018 event!

Foraging for Haiku with Alan Summers 
Sunday 7th October 1-3 pm 


In this indoor/outdoor event, haiku expert Alan Summers will guide you on a "haiku writing walk" or ginko. 

The notes collected will form the basis of your own haiku poems for workshopping back at the Museum. 

We will start with Alan reading a number of his haiku, and deconstructing these shortest of poems to show how each originated with his observations of life and the environment. 

We'll then all go on a haiku walk, known as a ginko in Japan, and make our own observations and field notes as raw ingredients for our own haiku. 

A relaxed workshop follows, where Alan, alongside Karen, will lead you through editing and splicing your notes to create an original, resonant haiku of your own.

If you wonder what myself, and Karen, look like, and what a ginko is, check ten minutes into the video, where this walk, back in 2015 was set in Bradford on Avon:

BOOKING for the Swindon Ginko!:
Go to Eventbrite to get your tickets!

Here's a series of screenshots for the festival payment process if you haven't used this system before:

Click onto   Tickets   which is top right (see screenshot photo below):

Then scroll down until you find my workshop details (screenshot photo below):

Or go straight to the individual workshop list and other info:

Click where it says 0 and a downward arrow to give you this:

Once you have selected the number of tickets you want to buy you'll see the green box saying

Click onto Checkout...

And this page will come up, and you have your various choices of payment from credit card to PayPal etc...

Swindon is in the South West of England, nestled into Wiltshire:

About Alan (on the left):

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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Through the invisible holes in reality is where poetry makes its way for us.

Not to Scale! by Alan Summers 2018
Through the invisible holes in reality is where poetry makes its way for us.

“When power corrupts, poetry cleanses,” 
John F. Kennedy said this when looking at the poet Robert Frost and his role in life.

I wonder if poetry is a curious and private combination of a refuge from the media dominated promotion of the ills in life; and a way for anyone and everyone to claim their own voice, either by adopting certain artists, or even creating your own art.

Adrienne Rich wrote:
“It is through [the] invisible holes in reality that poetry makes its way,” 
and haiku, despite its smallness, has been adopted by more people than perhaps any other art-form. But all art matters, even if we don’t like it, it’s someone’s voice being heard despite the filtering out of the type of news that matters in an everyday kind of way.

Does it matter if we cannot understand everything in art all at once? Much of the art that was not understood, or even liked in its time, has often found its way into the hearts of more and more people over the decades.

When we look for a voice, and find it is not always represented well, both in the media, the business world (although they often ‘borrow’ from art to sell their message and products), and in politics. 

political election
my application to be
a) human

Alan Summers

Anthology credit: naad anunaad: an anthology of contemporary international haiku 
ed. Shloka Shankar, Sanjuktaa Asopa, Kala Ramesh (India, 2016)

Sometimes we don’t know if we are being slowly diminished or not, which is why I often appreciate the biographical approach to haiku.

Haiku (plural spelling too) can be triggered by just the smallest of things in a day, but set the record by which we might remember a few more “other moments” too.

As a writing challenge set by Kathy Munro about our sense of place I wrote this haiku:

Atlas Mountains
the snow-capped peaks
in every sunrise

Alan Summers
A Sense of Place: MOUNTAIN – sight ed. KJ Munro (August 2018, The Haiku Foundation)

Early in 2018 myself and Karen went on a simple budget/package holiday to Morocco. What we didn’t expect was a view, a whole vista it seemed, of the legendary Atlas Mountains from our tiny room balcony. Every day from sun up to sun down I would pop out onto the little balcony, or even just glance through the room windows. Although it was Winter in Marrakech (Morocco) it was still a surprise to see snow in the distance, as some of us automatically think of anywhere in Africa being hot.

The view was an incredible and humbling gift, as much as the package offers were great, and instantly brings back a multitude of memories. No institution, be it the media, politics, or big business can give that, just the mountains, and my haiku poem, and my voice.

The poem can be read both simply, and in other ways, and directly experiencing that week of a spectacular part of the hotel room into a single tiny three line verse. 

In our complicated lives, whether we invite those complications or not, I find a few seconds refuge in observing local wildlife. It could be the sparrows that nest in our roof, or the visits by jackdaws, robins, or representatives of the titmice family. Sometimes going back to nature can enrich us, and perhaps reset us...

baby robins
the world is reset
for a moment

Alan Summers
Publication credit: Presence issue #61 (2018)

the big warm ...
as if clouds cuddled
baby sparrows

Publication credit: Mainichi Shimbun (July, 2018)

banditry of titmice 
the long-tails fleeting 
through the air 

“banditry” is a collective noun for titmice 

Anthology credit: EarthRise Rolling Haiku Collaboration 2018: Year of the Bird  
pub. The Haiku Foundation

backroom banter... 
house sparrows solving 
our world’s problems 

Alan Summers

Anthology credit: EarthRise Rolling Haiku Collaboration 2018: Year of the Bird  
pub. The Haiku Foundation

the scent of rain
birdsong stretches
as far as Mars

Alan Summers

Anthology credits:
  • Yamadera Basho Memorial Museum Selected Haiku Collection (Japan 2017)
  • A-Z List of Children’s Poets 2018 ed. Liz Brownlee

For those in the U.K. not too far from us we are planning a special ginko (haiku and walk) event. If you’d like to be added to our mailing list (we don’t email too much) then you can sign up to our Newsletter:

from Alan & Karen

Friday, July 27, 2018

Newsletter feature and online haiku, tanka, haibun courses 2018 and into the New Year of 2019 including Skype one to ones that are becoming popular


We are, we are!
The Spectrum of Haiku and Senryu is going to be an interesting exploration of how and where and why and when we write, and how both of these genres can impact on each other in a good way:

Newsletter & other things!

Karen is working behind the scenes of the Call of the Page website, on a lot of exciting features. If you'd like to be notified when something exciting has just appeared, we've now added a newsletter feature for you to sign up, if you so desire!

jackdaws©Alan Summers 2018
Newsletter sign up:

Skype plus courses!

We will also be running tanka and haibun courses and making announcements of other events too. For one to one Skype calls proving more and more popular, you can contact us for more information too. 

Look forward to hearing from you!

To hear back from Karen, email:

About Alan & Karen:

Forthcoming Haiku Courses

click onto

photograph July 2018 bright sunlight bouncing off a mute swan, River Avon, Chippenham©Alan Summers

We currently have the following haiku courses scheduled:

- The Spectrum of Haiku and Senryu starting Thursday September 6th 2018:

There are some difficult questions in the universe. 

One of them is sometimes "Is this poem a haiku or a senryu?" 

Despite clear intended differences in the form it can sometimes seem impossible to nail down.

The answer perhaps is that there is a spectrum of haiku and senryu. In this course we'll attempt to write intentionally at "both ends of the spectrum", and at points along it, with an awareness of where we are between the genres.

Participants receive introductory materials at the start of the course, and are asked to submit two poems (a haiku and a senryu) in three sessions over two months (total six poems). 

Detailed feedback will be given by the tutor on the poem itself, and on the extent to which it presents as either a haiku or a senryu.
The course operates by email, with participants reading Alan's commentary on each others' poems as well as their own in a group learning process.

Full Cost: £95 (approximately US$121)

Early Bird Rate: £85 (approximately US$109) if booking by Thursday August 30th 2018.

Apart from the cost savings of booking early, please note, our class sizes are small and often fill out a day or so before the early bird rate closes. Thank you!

The Paypal button is on the web page:

Forthcoming courses:
- Introducing... Haiku!, starting Thursday January 3rd 2019.
- The Sound of Haiku, starting Thursday January 10th 2019.
Booking for these courses opens shortly!

For details on how to enrol and book a place, and for the Paypal button:

We will also be running tanka and haibun courses and making announcements of other events too.

For one to one Skype calls proving more and more popular, you can contact us for more information too. 

Look forward to hearing from you!

To hear back from Karen, email:

About Alan & Karen: