Most people who have an interest in writing and access to the internet are aware that November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is simple: write 50,000 words in a month's time. Every year countless writers take up the challenge, but some may tell you that 50,000 words is about 49,991 words too many. In order to encourage literary haiku writing and awareness, in late 2010, Michael Dylan Welch conceived the idea of National Haiku Writing Month (NaHaiWriMo). Unlike NaNoWriMo, which has a set number of words to be written by the end of the month, NaHaiWriMo challenges its participants to write one haiku a day for the month of February.

While NaNoWriMo has its own website to host the event, Welch used the popular social network Facebook as HQ for NaHaiWriMo activities. What was initially intended to be a page for updates, information, and the occasional sharing would overflow with haiku starting February 1st and see no sign of ebbing even half a month after the end of the challenge. With over 300 "likes," the NaHaiWriMo page has become a place for poets to share and regularly flex their haiku muscles.

I hopped on the NaHaiWriMo bandwagon shortly after the creation of the Facebook page in October. We were still discussing through message boards how NaHaiWriMo was going to operate, whether participants should be challenged to just write 28 haiku or write once a day, or how poets were going to share work with one another. Ambiguities aside, I was just eager to participate in the upcoming challenge. Like a number of other poets, I took part in the first International Small Stone Writing Month in January as a warm up for February, and to help me settle into a daily writing habit. I honestly expected to only get two or three decent haiku out of the month, but what mattered more was the experience.

Then February came and a snow storm hit the majority of North America, which, I feel, helped set the tone and fostered the activity on Facebook for the rest of the month. Most of the snowed in participating poets, including myself, were content to stay indoors, generate, and share poems. Originally, I hadn't intended to post my own poems outside my personal blog, but I easily became caught up in the spirit of sharing that surged on Facebook. After all, what are haiku for if not for sharing? This encouraged me not only to write haiku every day, but to write good haiku — I wanted to be able to share haiku that I wasn't embarrassed to show my fellow writers. And if I couldn't write a good haiku on some days, I wanted to at least do my best to write something worth editing.

As a result, I didn't just write one, but multiple haiku a day. This, too, was fostered by the snow storm, when I had no excuse to do anything but curl up on the couch with my journal and write to my heart's content. I would do haiku sprints to see how many variations I could write within a certain time frame, which came in handy on days I honestly didn't feel like writing anything or didn't know what to write. It also made me revise poems that would have otherwise been discarded and never brought to their full potential. Those first two weeks were invigorating; I basked in haiku bliss and the rush of generating work I actually liked. Either due to my over-enthusiasm, or the growing demands of school, I began to feel a little winded by the third week. Nevertheless, I made it through, and although I posted 28 haiku, in total, I ended up writing probably three times that. Logging in to Facebook to see my newsfeed flooded with poems on a daily basis inspired me to keep writing.

While the main goal of challenges such as NaNoWriMo or NaHaiWriMo is to practice writing, participants also cherish the social interaction The haiku community is already close-knit and active on Facebook, but the NaHaiWriMo challenge brought everyone together as a group rather than private exchanges between individuals. Since the community's members are scattered across the globe, poets typically only get the chance to gather in large groups such as this once a year at most (or every other year for conferences such as Haiku North America). Through Facebook poets of all skill levels used NaHaiWriMo as a networking experience as well as writing experience.

When discussing the atmosphere with others, particularly fledgling poets, they all used words such as "nurturing," "supportive," "friendly," and even "educational." By following the discussion boards and prompts for discussion, they learned about craft and different styles and approaches to haiku. In short, the community became more publicly active on Facebook, and raised awareness, just as Welch hoped that it would. Wayne Chou, a friend of mine who has been writing haiku here and there for the last couple years but only now daring to venture out into the community commented, saying that the lively poets and their enthusiasm, "fostered a great arena for nurturing newbies like myself, and a great new venue for the art form to flourish and be shared" (Chou). Because of this environment and the welcoming nature of the poets, he felt encouraged to not only write better haiku, but to begin writing outside his comfort zone and explore the intricacies of haiku. Wayne was not the only one to feel as though he was pushing himself outside his comfort zone (in a good way).

volume IV, issue 1
March 2011




haiku | haiga | haibun

about this issue



haijinx IV:1 (March 2011)

Copyright © 2001-2011 Mark Brooks (haijinx). All rights reserved.

The copyrights of individual poems, articles, translations, and images belong to their individual authors. The editors do not necessarily endorse the opinions of authors, nor do they assume responsibility for factual errors, infringements of copyrights, or omissions in acknowledgements.

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