Scheduled to “teach” a Haiku Poetry Workshop at the Asian Pacific Heritage Celebration at the Foster City Library, I prepped the room by taping haiku poems by Basho, Shiki and Shosan on the walls. Imagine my jolt when I walked into the room and saw children and adults. I was expecting an adult only audience. I took a deep breath and said, “I’m going to direct the next hour to the children, so adults, I hope you’ll be able to rise to their level.” Laughter.
It was the children who responded, disregarding the age differences in the room. They turned into artists and described each of the images created by the poems on the wall. ”Isn’t it amazing?” I asked, “that you are able to get such clear images in your head through three lines of words, 17 syllables. “
We wrote a group haiku so they would experience the mental process of writing a haiku.
The image was the most important, not the 17 syllables. Let’s get the image down first.
The lst draft had the following syllables 4-6-4. We returned to the draft and edited until we had the 5-7-5. We agreed to go for the 5-7-5 form.
The children gave the lst two lines and one adult male added the 3rd.
His line read: Sound of a truck.
A youngster added, “How about changing truck to “engine.” And so the discussion began between children and adults.
I quoted Basho’s “Learn of the pine from the pine.” Everyone wrote one or more haiku.
They understood Basho…capturing the ah-ness of the moment without metaphorical language. They understood the preservation of a haiku moment by using words without personification. They understood how we learn of the pine from the pine.
When I left, a 9 year old boy was sitting alone, working on his 3rd haiku. An adult, whose eyes had shone like the children, plan to form a haiku group.
The workshop supported my stance on writing and reading. Why do we attach age or grade level to reading? One never hears of a 20 year old reader. Yet, we say, he is reading at the 4th grade level. Why do we attach age to literature? Why do we call them children’s books? Do we speak of a book for 30 year olds? I’m often asked about the age level of my Wordsworth books. I merely say, “I’ve signed these books for unborn children to adults.”
In that room, there was no age.
( The latest study speaks of our congressmen and women conversing at the 10th grade level. Tenth graders, ask for an apology for this insult.)