Observing and Responding: Haikus

I’ve just started teaching a high school creative writing class, something I very much enjoy. One of the first things we’re doing is looking at condensed poetry forms in an attempt to understand meter, rhythm, and the importance of choosing words carefully. I took my students into the blinding cold and had them simply observe, for ten minutes, the physical world around them and write a haiku about it. It was pretty cute to see them all staring intently and earnestly at trees and bushes; I was so much inspired by it that I penned my own (nontraditional) haiku:

Leaves shiver

Students exhale thin clouds

into the frigid air.

 

I love the way haikus teach the writer to focus on the briefest, most microcosmic fraction of a moment. I love that they demand of the writer an economy of words, because every word counts for so much.

Writing Lessons

I’ve been horribly absent these past few months because I got caught up in teaching mode; I ┬ájust wrapped up my last day of teaching English and Creative Writing classes, which coincided with the seniors’ last day. I wanted to leave them with something to think about as they start to imagine the shapes the rest of their lives are going to take. I was daunted by the task of saying something that wouldn’t sound trite or hollow.

So I told them what I wish someone would have told me:

As you get older, you’ll find that it’s easy to get lost. Lost in love, lost in work, lost in life’s dramas and complications. It’s easy to lose your sense of who you are and who you want to be. Which is why it’s important to make yourself stop: stop and reflect on what matters to you, on the things you never want to let yourself forget. Writing is a beautiful way to do that. So today I want you to write your future self a letter. Tell yourself what matters to you now, and what you want to make sure you never lose sight of.

It was a nice class, and a really nice moment. They all put different “open me” dates on their envelopes, and it was interesting to see what dates they picked. The first week of college. The last week of college. Their 25th birthday. I found myself fervently hoping that they hold onto their letters, and that whoever they turn out to be is an even better version of themselves than they can currently imagine.