X is for April Haiku Review

I cannot believe that April is almost over and I’ve spent another month writing haikus (and daily blogs). Again, so many of these haikus defy explanation—I will try to give some insight into as many as I can. Some, though, just pop into my head fully formed. Others I get pieces of and have to then work out the remaining syllables. Occasionally, I will sit down with a topic in mind—generally these poems turn out to be the ones that sound the most forced, the least authentic.

So, as promised, here’s a haiku that begins with the letter X (which is the letter for today’s blog):

X—a crooked cross,
Sideways marks the spot, and, drawn,
Erases me gone

X can stand for so many things—ex, as in former. A place to stand. A place to dig. A spot. A signature. X’d out, as in erased.

My heart’s flame burns white-
hot blue tongues arise, dancing,
Seek your oxygen

Poetry sparked and
Ignited passionate fire–
Stark truth doused that flame

This one came directly out of Jake Ballard’s mouth on Scandal one night a couple of weeks ago, after Olivia tricked him into sleeping with her so she could get her hands on his phone. I just wrote it so that it lined up 5-7-5:

Tell me you felt it
Too. Tell me I’m not crazy.
Tell me you were there

The Little Woman and I were born under the same sign—we’re both Geminis, so when I read my horoscope in the morning, I’m reading hers as well:

Every day I
Read my horoscope and yours–
Astral projection

This year I seem to have a huge amount of pent up energy that I keep trying to expend through running and writing and now, school. So I wrote these:

I’ll sleep when I die–
Til I’m exhausted, weary.
Sounds good in theory

Wet sneakers pound through
puddles, toes shriveling, cold.
Insidious rain.

I woke up on Easter morning and this came to me, fully formed. It is one of my favorites:

Whatever tomb has
You trapped–Push away that stone,
Step into the light

I woke up another morning just wanting to write a haiku in Latin. I’ve never even studied Latin, but there it was, this desire I think to break out of the limits of the language I know, the desire for more meaning, maybe. I had to resort to Google, and it’s not exactly the right amount of syllables, but good enough:

Verba volant
Cor ad cor loquitur
Clavis aurea

(spoken words fly away
heart speaks to heart
golden key)

I struggle often with what to write, what parts of my story, my life belong to me and what parts of my story belong to others. I’ve written blogs that have upset people in my life—these haiku deal with finding that line, that balance between speaking my truth and revealing someone else’s:

Truths stuck on my tongue
Peeled off, now forced to drain through
The nib of my pen

I beg forgiveness
again for speaking my truth—
Is my story mine?

The scales tip toward
truth, and compassion falters–
Elusive balance

How does the writer
tell her story, pen her truth?
Dull the sharp edges?

Truth wants to vibrate
up and out in minor chords.
A sharp dissonance

Warrior woman
Draws her word sword, aware it’s
Double-edged, dang’rous

More on writing—this first one seems pretty self-explanatory. Here’s a whole series of haiku on writing into silence. Sometimes all I want from my writing is a reaction, feedback, someone on the other end to acknowledge my words. I don’t need cheers and accolades always (though occasionally that sort of feedback is awesome), but it’s difficult to write into silence, day in and day out. I don’t care for it much. My frustration seems pretty clear here:

Some days the words must
be pried piecemeal from dry earth
dusted off, washed clean

Looking for Divine
but finding only silence–
The great unlearning.

I have to escape
great silences, vast chasms
echoing within.

I can’t keep birthing
Words into silence. These are
Boisterous children

I’m pushing my words
Into silence and meeting
Resistance. Friction.

Your silence echoes
Through my canyons of desire–
Freshly gouged and deep

My words like wafers–
communion offered, received,
Ingested. Some Truth.

My sentences, like
Wine. Drink from the blood rivers.
exanguination

These paragraphs, my
soul. Transubstantiation.
Sacrifice. Rebirth.

These poems take a little liberty with the haiku form:

(Sorry–)
I just meant to tug
that one thread, not to make the
whole thing unravel

(Can we–)
Mend this ragged edge
Knitting word bones together–
Follow this thread home?

Please do not invite 
me in and then abandon
me at the threshold

What lives behind the 
sets we construct, the masks we
wear? Step off the stage.

Mudslide

Nature knows no bounds—
Follows her own path toward
wreckage, renewal

Oso Strong. Forty-
three gongs of the bell between
Amazing Grace and Taps
.

This last one also came to me one morning, after I woke up from a vivid dream and starting writing about how someone so far in my past could occupy any space in my head while I was sleeping. It didn’t seem fair. This is the haiku I ended up writing, not quite where I started, but it turned out to be a favorite:

See this hotel in
My heart? Revolving door for
Itinerant guests

 

My Drug and My Vice

Feedback hits my veins
Smack for my ego, mainlined
I close my eyes, sigh

I wrote this haiku over the weekend, fueled as I was then by a steady stream of positive feedback for my writing and after a really great response to the Whatcom Writes reading on Sunday. But like any good addict knows, that euphoric feeling fades fast without a continual infusion.

I managed to ride the wave for most of the week, getting by on a steady stream of Facebook likes and occasional comments, but on Friday I hit bottom.  Two months ago I sent out some queries to a handful of agents and within days one agent requested I send sample chapters of my memoir. This is it, I thought. I’m golden. I worked feverishly for a week to put some high polish on a few of the better chapters and sent them off into the ether. I tried hard to stay in the moment but really, who among us writers doesn’t live at least part of the time on that fantasy book tour? On the bestseller list in our own heads? I’m a legend, if only in my own little monkey mind.

Things came crashing back to earth for me on Friday when the agent got back to me with a kind and generous email indicating that perhaps my pages aren’t quite ready for primetime. Honestly, I can’t say that I wasn’t expecting this—I know the odds. We all do, when we sit down and dare to think we have a hope of seeing our words in print. The statistics are depressing, but still, we dream.

This crash, this bursting of my ego and the view from down here at the bottom set me to thinking about how fortunate we are now, though, as writers. We have an audience if we want one. We don’t have to toil in obscurity—relative obscurity, maybe, but not completely. We have communities that welcome our imperfect work, places where we can get our hits and fixes, venues even if they are of our own making.

I started wondering, though. What was it like as a writer to wait months and months for feedback on a piece of writing? Or to not get any at all? Imagine—writing something, spending a few hours, or weeks, months, years, on a piece and then just . . . doing what with it, exactly? Sending it to an agent or publisher and then waiting for a single letter to come by post. No instant gratification. No thumbs up or down within minutes. I suppose after a week or so trips to the mailbox might become something like obsessively checking Facebook within a few minutes of posting a particularly witty comment or status update. The worn path to the mailbox might have been a little like the iPhone-shaped silhouette on my back pocket—there because I want easy access to my inbox, the ability to quickly check my blog stats. My self-esteem rises and falls with the number of hits I get.

All of which leads me to ponder just how healthy it is, this continual trickle of sporadic feedback and my incessant need to check in on it. On the one hand, when the stream dries up a bit, we can just post something new. On the other hand, why? What’s my motivation? To continue the high or to hone my craft? I’ve been reading about B.F. Skinner and the behaviorists, operant conditioning—the key to operant conditioning is the immediate reinforcement of a response. Suffice it to say, I’ve been thoroughly conditioned by variable reinforcement. I feel a bit like a used lab rat, and the unpredictable rewards are messing with my monkey mind.  One day there might be these beautiful little gifts waiting when I press that lever, other days there’s nothing. Does the nothing keep me from pressing the lever? No it does not. The nothing makes me press the lever even more—there must be some mistake! Where’s my feedback? My next hit? I need my fix!

So. I enroll in a mindfulness class. I employ hypnotherapy and guided imagery. I run. I run and run and run. They say the endorphins produce a natural high. It doesn’t really compare, but there are 30, 40, 50 minutes a day where I’m away from the lever at least. And I’m getting healthier as a side benefit. I’m not sure I want to give up the drug, the high, the next hit long term, but I’m trying to get better at living in the moment and focusing on writing just because.

Oh hell. No I’m not. If I were, I’d not be posting this damn blog.  Hit me baby. Just one more time.