for a moment of joy or moments no one pays for, i give myself a ‘jornal’. this makes me rich. try it.

how not to haiku or haiku submitted with temerity…

…to the late Peggy Willis Lyles, the editor I was assigned to send my haiku to at Heron’s Nest. I believe this belongs to that first batch in late 2007. I had just won an honorable mention that year in the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Invitational, a month after I migrated to Vancouver, which gave me the boldness to send these truly absolutely non-haiku I now realize.

Peggy had replied ever so kindly to my submissions–three more followed; the last one she received on her first hospitalization preceding her fatal illness, and still she responded from her hospital bed as always encouragingly (posted here ‘September twilight’ 09/07/2010 and at the haikuworld website with my tribute to her).

I’ve strived to learn from my rejection notes since then. It’s amazing how crystal clear they read as bad when they come back like wilted blooms or sagging starved horsemen. Some specifics Peggy had noted: “use of language should be natural”, “image should not be twisted (unnatural or made-up) but clear (natural in its flow)”.

Other editors of other haiku journals would send back a ‘robot’ mail or just simply not let you know; I later learned that with thousands of haiku descending on them like an avalanche (I read once about an editor receiving 250 haiku about a visit to Hawaii and not a single one worked), I began to feel less ignored in a personal way. I had long contracted haiku and it has turned into a ‘chronic malady’ so much so that I’m still writing and bugging editors.

Of these haiku that demonstrate how not to haiku (you would know), I’ve turned two of them quite successfully into free verse. Haiku#1 became “Suppositions” (free verse, posted 12/20/2010 for One Shot Wed ) and #5 as “Revenant” (sequence-like published in The Cortland Review Issue 39, May 2008 with a podcast ).

turtles tipping on rocks
dip legs in pool—
summer note

ah, spring—
squirrel digging shoots
chews on

on black soil
clumps of snowdrops—
shorter nights

old oak tree
leafing so soon? but sparrows
twig each

duck pair at lagoon
V-patterns on the water—
on the sky


January 23, 2011 - Posted by | haiku, poetry | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Interesting. I don’t write haiku…have never tried, so although I don’t get it, I enjoy it. Why are these bad? Any examples of some you like best? thanks.

    Comment by kolembo | January 23, 2011 | Reply

    • I’m sorry about my first reply to you comment! I could have meant it for someone else. And it was midnight when I was browsing through my mails that I could have been half-dozing by the time I wrote it. I apologize for the barrage of information I suppose you weren’t really interested in.

      But I’m glad you enjoy haiku. And you did click on my page and read this post. Why are these bad? Because they are not really haiku or they can’t pass for inclusion in a haiku journal–they don’t have what editors look for or expect to find. What are these? I’d rather you try to find what the masters have written about it–visit haiku sites and for starters, look for Michael Dylan Welch. You’ll then know what’s wrong with these haiku. I also have my favorite sites like red dragonfly and haikudoodle on my blogroll that you may want to click on.

      Meanwhile, please continue reading haiku! As you do, you’ll begin to like it more and more. Your enjoyment of it might even tickle your interest to try your hand in it.

      Thanks again for your comment!

      Comment by alee9 | January 24, 2011 | Reply

  2. I keep hearing so many wonderful stories about Peggy that I’m very sad I never got to know her before she died. Thanks for sharing another, as well as these lovely haiku.

    Comment by Melissa Allen | January 23, 2011 | Reply

    • Yes, even only through the mails we exchanged, Peggy touched me with so much warmth. It’s a spirit that I feel I’ll carry with me for a long long time. Thank you for liking my haiku! What she said of these and for the others that came back with her notes and samples of what might work was, “…not what we’re looking for…for now”. I’d read the issue and I’d understand what she meant and tried again.

      Comment by alee9 | January 24, 2011 | Reply

  3. Alegria, thank you for posting this and for your comments on Peggy’s insights and responses to you. It’s difficult to put yourself “out there” and so wonderful when an editor takes the time and effort to respond in a less than mechanical way. I’ve been reading many of Peggy’s haiku recently–there’s a memorial section in the current issue of Roadrunner, which you can view on their website, and her talent and unique way of seeing the world comes through clearly. Recommended reading!

    Best, Margaret

    Comment by Margaret Dornaus | January 25, 2011 | Reply

    • Thanks for this info on Peggy at Roadrunner, Margaret!

      By the way, I found the first few of my submitted haiku that engaged her Unfortunately, I couldn’t find her comments!

      Indeed, it would really be helpful if editors find a bit of time to tell you even if only in two or three words what’s working or why not in one or two of your submitted haiku. But it’s really too much to expect because hundreds are sent to them.

      What helps though is what Melissa, Wrick, you and I have been doing–nurturing, sustaining each other. I believe, we’ve covered quite a ground because of it, especially Melissa’s haikuverse! I hope we keep each other in a hand-clasp.

      Thanks again, mi hermana!

      Comment by alee9 | January 26, 2011 | Reply

  4. You’re making me think about Haiku! Congratulations! Your blog serves it purpose well. 🙂

    Comment by alisonamazed | February 4, 2011 | Reply

    • It’s great to hear you’re beginning to think about it! I invite you to take the plunge. Awaiting you is an exciting ‘haikuverse’ as my friend Melissa Allen (red dragonfly) calls it. Once in it, you won’t ever want to stay away. Thanks for coming back, Alison!

      Comment by alee9 | February 4, 2011 | Reply

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