Haiku Death March(?)

      4 Comments on Haiku Death March(?)

I’ve begun an experiment to see if I can write one new haiku every day.

It is now day ten.

So far, so good!

I don’t know how it will be 20 days from now, or 50, or 200, though. Will the quality of the poems decline? Will the effort I put into them take away from my other writing? Will a fun experiment turn into a death march?

So far, I’ve only experienced a good effect: the feeling of scarcity I’ve always had about my own work is slowly beginning to lift.

I haven’t actually written all that many poems or stories in my 30+ years of writing, and have always thought of them as non-renewable resources that I have to use carefully. I might consider submitting a certain piece to a litmag, for example, but then I’ll think, “No, this is better saved for the day when it can be more useful. Say, if I ever publish a book. Then a story or poem appearing in a magazine can serve double duty. The author credit can also steer people to the book.”

I know: it’s crazy! However, it derives from a genuine feeling, borne out by 30 years of experience, that I just don’t produce new work very quickly.

I’m like the Widow of Zarephath, whom the prophet Elijah visited one day asking for a meal. There was drought and famine in the land at the time, and she had very little flour and oil left, just enough to prepare one more meal for herself and her son so they could “eat it and die.” However, Elijah told her to go ahead the make the meal — and then give it to him! He assured her that enough flour and oil would be left for her and her son afterward, and that, moreover, they would not run out until the day the rains returned.

And verily it came to pass.

As of today, I’ve written ten haiku in ten days. This is easily more poems than I’ve written in any ten day period in the past, but what will the next 20, 50, 200 days be like? Will they turn into a death march, or a journey to the Widow’s house?

It won’t be long before I’ve written as many haiku as poems in all the years leading up to this point. Shortly after that, they will have added up to more lines of writing, and then more words. At some point, the sheer weight of poetry in them will tip a mental scale, and I’ll find myself walking beneath an altered sky.

On that day, I think I’ll mix a little flour and oil together and bake myself a cake!

See also: 50 Haiku in 50 days