My writing has benefited from my associations with other poets and I’m the first to recommend joining a poetry group to get past dark periods of the dreaded writer’s block.
For the past couple of years, I have been driving to the Borders Bookstore in Cerritos, California for the monthly meeting and kukai of the Southern California Haiku Study Group. We usually meet on the third Saturday of a given month (although this month the meeting will be on September 10th instead) and follow an established format that really works for me. We start off with a round of reading, where we all read samples of recent haiku we’ve written, followed by a discussion of that month’s kigo as it pertains to our location in Southern California. We follow Higginson’s divisions of kigo into the following categories:
The Sky and Heavens
The group brainstorms a list of the monthly kigo and then we take a writing break, writing drafts of haiku on index cards using the kigo we discussed. Gathering the index cards, we assign a reader and read through the set once, without identifying authors, reading each haiku twice. Then, we repeat the set of haiku, voting on those we like best, identifying authors of the ones which receive votes and discussing what we like about the haiku and what doesn’t work for us.
I always come away from these meetings refreshed with new ideas for poems tumbling out of my kigo notes.
A poet could create a kigo list in the backyard patio, but somehow I find the community gathering of poets to be very inspirational.
Online, I participate in several e-mail poetry discussion groups that reflect my varied poetic interests…for cinquains - CinquainPoets (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CinquainPoets/), for haiku – WHCWorkshop http://groups.yahoo.com/group/WHCworkshop/) and other World Haiku Club lists, Simply Haiku (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/simply_haiku/), Canadian Zen Haiku (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Canadian_Zen_Haiku_canadien/), and several others…for scifaiku – Scifaiku (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Scifaiku/), for genre poetry – SFPANet (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sfpanet) (unlike the others – this is not a workshop group) and WickedVerse (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/WickedVerse), for tanka (which I still haven’t mastered), the Tanka list (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Tanka/), etc. This is just the tip of the iceberg and the activity level fluctuates wildly on the lists but the point being that as a writer and poet, the communities formed by these e-mail lists help support and spark my own creativity.
These group activities have led into opportunities that I would have never experienced otherwise. For example, in May 2005, the CinquainPoets list created the 212 stanza cinquain sequence, “May Dazed”, which we published as a book at Lulu.Com:
We started with a single cinquain, written by Denis Garrison which ended with the two syllable line “blossoms”. I then wrote a cinquain which started with “blossoms” and ended with “kneeling”. Kate Steere followed my cinquain with a stanza which started with “kneeling” and ended with “petals”. This continued on for several weeks and 211 links and then Denis wrote the last cinquain stanza, which ended with the word, “dogwood”, the first word in his original leading cinquain.
The intensity of the list activity during this period was grueling – poets were posting madly even as other poets were composing links for the same word and beating them to it by the matter of minutes. It was not an experience that any of us was ready to immediately repeat yet I think we all benefited and enjoyed the creative burst it gave us all.
On other groups, I’ve participated in an international haiku tournament (incredibly intense but frustrating, although one of my favorite haiku:
the hermit crab tries on
the bottle cap
- Deborah P Kolodji
2nd Place – World Haiku Tournament
was written during this activity), written poems for group chapbooks, co-authored rengay and renku, found out about publication opportunities, and been inspired by the poems of my fellow poets.
These poetry communities have helped open the floodgates of my writing, my only regret is that there isn’t enough time to write it all down.