Little Lines: A Year of Haiku

Mark Keating

©Copyright Mark Keating ©2016

It is the moral right of the author to be associated with this work. All writing is the ownership of Mark Keating and should not be reproduced without specific permission and with proper attribution.

First edition 2016.

Typeset, Designed and Published by

The Dog Ate My Bookshop 2016

©Copyright The Dog Ate My Bookshop ©2016

For Leigh: the whole of my sky

Contents

  • Foreword
    • Reflection on the Haiku Form
  • Introduction to the Poems
    • The Challenge
    • The Journey
    • On Colour
    • Motifs
    • Firework Hail and Sweaty Windows
    • The poems and the poem sections
  • The Weekly Poems
  • All Those Emotive Times
  • The Experience of Events
  • Just A Point of View
  • These Things
  • Epilogue

Foreword

Little Lines

Hold still. Take deep breaths.
Let firework thoughts burst. Smear page.
Little lines of pleasure.

Reflection on the Haiku Form

I was introduced to writing Haiku while in college in the early 90s, and writing it that way I feel like some aged goat right now (surely I need my brandy and cigar), and it was an instant favourite poem form. The Haiku itself is a short Japanese poem. There is a quite traditional form that has approved lists of words for specific usage, and some more modern variants.

The early name for a haiku was a hokku, the shift in name is attributed to Masaoka Shiki, a nineteenth century Japanese writer. Traditional haiku are considered to be 'cutting'. They are centrally two images separated by a single word, in Japanese this is a 'kireji' which is literally a 'cutting word'. The chosen word would often signal the shift between the two opposed images making the haiku.

A haiku was traditionally 17 syllables. Western haiku format is a series of 5-7-5 syllables over three lines. The Japanese haiku is 17 syllables written as a single vertical line. Haiku were originally seasonal poems linked to phases of the year and using language appropriate to the season often drawn from an approved list. In modern times the form has shifted and less strict usage of 17 syllables and seasons is now the flavour, there are variants which use a 19 syllable pattern amongst others. However it is still common for there to be two juxtaposed ideals and modern fancy has that the haiku's two images must be commonly observed elements.

Some western writers use a haiku form of 17 words instead of syllables. This is drawn from the nature of the Japanese language which is a syllabic, as opposed to common Western languages like English which are morphemic. In Japanese a syllable is the whole word, each syllable being equal to a morpheme in languages like English. So haiku itself would be two words, not one. This is an uncommon style that I have rarely seen used.

On a personal level I often feel that I fail a little (or maybe a lot from some perspectives) in how I use the haiku form in regards to modern juxtaposed ideals cut by placement or punctuation. My haiku for the most part are based on my enjoyment of the strict 17 syllable usage and a fascination on using tone to imply colour, place and season. I have often tried to use juxtaposition of image in single terms such as the 'firework burst', and in word choices such as 'smear' being semantically opposite to the notion of parallel 'little lines' But I am not rigorous in following the opposed ideals.  

Introduction to the Poems

Full Words

No space, still speaking,
Need to create held within,
Coloured out with words.

The Challenge

During 2015 I undertook a few writing challenges. I had become a little disconnected to my passion for writing fiction, and lost some of the rewards it gave me. So I set myself tasks to see if there was still a real love there and not just some idyll of nostalgia.

One of the challenges was to write a page a day in a journal. I did not set the format or form other than that. It could be any type of prose, by the time the year was over it contained whole novel excerpts, plans, diary entries, rants, dreams, short stories and poems.

As part of my 'page a day challenge' was the requirement to write a haiku each week. These would be a snapshot of the year in a pure poetry form. At the start of writing them it was a secondary way of giving myself inspiration, it was also an exercise in a format I loved so would be more inspired to complete. I had no inkling into how many I would eventually write. I knew that it would be at least 52, and I had thought that would be enough of a challenge. But I underestimated my own enthusiasm for haiku and many more were written than one a week. The eventual count in the journals, not including the few I wrote elsewhere, was 121 haiku(s).

The Journey

The weekly haiku soon developed their own form. Mostly it seemed, in typical British fashion, that I was obsessed with weather. That is the malaise of my home, a common foe we can all share.

But it is more than just a cultural obsession in the poems. The weather fixes us in mood, in place and in time. The shifting of the seasons, and borrowing from traditional haiku form, was soon shown in temperament and colour, I felt the world reflected in the vibrancy of the skies.

So motifs quickly formed, with repeats and sustains. I shared elements or feelings from my own life journey in how I let the nature guide me.

This is so typically true when we are confronted in poems that depict the engorged fury of storms. The north of England (Wales, Scotland and to a slightly lesser extent the south, especially south-west) in 2015 would suffer badly from a season of storms that are not only held in the weekly haiku but shared in little songs of their own.

On Colour

Colour and haikus are classically entwined, but to me language itself has its own palette. I see words that way. Words build a picture to texture a world that we can glimpse inside our minds.

When Keats states in simple majesty, 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness' we are drawn into a picture. The skies are cool blue as a warm sun pulls its way towards the heavens. The grey rolling hills are shrouded in mist that can be mirrored in crystal drops of dew hanging from fruits that are scattered from trees and hedgerows. There is a riot of colour as ripeness abounds and is heightened by the mist, not shrouded. But that colour is muted as we are drawing towards the end of the growing year, so it is a mellow, pastel, scene and not the vibrancy of Spring. The mist is a backdrop to the reds, oranges, greens and golds of Autumn. I don't claim any semblance of the ability of my semi-namesake in my own choice of lexis and syntax. However I am, if honest, cast from the same mood. I drift between the romantic and the technical. The period of history I draw my inspiration from the most is the century where we have the Industrial Revolution; political revolutions of Enlightenment thinkers like Paine and Wollstonecraft; the physical revolutions in France and America; the rise of the industrial classes; the separation of religion and science; the rise of the novel; the fledgling start of the understanding of female emancipation in the West; and, of course, the Romantic movement in literature.

This is perhaps why the colour of my own language switches, sometimes chaotically, between the precise, the passionate and the profane. I am caught somewhat between the romantic and the mundane. I would not like to live in that century that brought so much, and to which I clearly relate, as I would not have had the advantages that brought me to this point. But it remains a period of which I am very fond and from which I pull three of my favourite poets in Coleridge, Keats and Blake.

Motifs

There are some repeated themes that come through when I read these poems. I am obsessed by light. I like the shapes, the distinctions but also the fragments and echoes that are made. I like the tantalising texture of shadows. Mostly though I love the colours of the sky. I treat the sky not as a vast expanse but the frame to my experiences. It is a metaphor and a guide to the oscillation of my feelings.

Then there are the flushes, blushes, sparkles and explosions all linked to the deep reds of passion that litter the poems almost as frequently as the many shades of grey and blue shown in azure and chrome so often the temper of the skies. Rich passions often abound so quickly to slip to gloom, slate and cobalt, as I let my teenage self manifest his little selfishness.

A last motif is more of a style I affect. I like alliterative poetry and the use of sound to lift an image. In this regard I will often slip an alliteration into a poem. In gentle mockery of my own fascination I even used it for a whole haiku. The poem itself is perhaps too contrived but I like the sound it makes. There is not just alliteration but the occasional assonance and rhyme. The metre is often observed but isn't as overridingly prominent; these aren't ballads or sonnets. But where possible I have tried to notice tempo, tense and pitch in how I feel the words should be heard.

Firework Hail and Sweaty Windows

There are two images in these poems that are not my own but we're so good that I placed them into Haiku. The first is 'Firework Hail'. While driving home one evening in a strong hail storm at night this description was used by Ben, my four year old son, to describe the image of hail racing towards the windscreen. Sweaty Windows was an image from Elliott, my three year old son, to describe the dew on the car windows one early Autumn morning, like 'firework hail' it became a central motif in a haiku of its own.

The poems and the poem sections

A last note should be made about the poems and the sections I have split the poetry into. The most obvious of the sections of these are the weekly poems who often have the simple title to reflect the week in which they were written. The non-weekly, bonus, poems have been split into several headings.

These headings broadly reflect the poems within, they are Emotive, Events, Points of View and Things. In many ways the emotive poems are where I feel my most contentious, amongst them you will find some of my personal favourites and some I feel lack a certain strength.

I have mixed feelings about placing some of the poems in this collection, it is as if they should have been left out and I could have presented those I felt the strongest. However the whole purpose in printing this work was to present a year of haiku to the world and in that way I feel that I would be cheating you and myself if I didn't present them all.

I have, of course, made some edits and revisions but I have not strayed far from the originals. In this manner I feel that what I am presenting here is close to the experience I had throughout the year and close to the essence and immediacy of the first drafts.

Please enjoy.

Mark Keating
February 2016

The Weekly Poems

Week 1

Blustery air calms,
awakes a dank grey silence,
calmed by swirling mists.

Week 2

Slate grey shapes, low wisps
blankets drab olive meadows,
drenching cowed livestock.

Week 3

White flakes smother lands,
rubber rounds crush all to ice,
blacken Winter's fury.  

Week 4

Frost white, clears your eyes,
feel the gaze deep Arctic Ice,
births me in its chill.

Week 5

Wind blows. Change to lead.
Spits in spats, breathes gustily.
Threatens more dismay.

Week 6

Baby blue awakens.
Shatters cold memories in
illusions of Spring.

Week 7

Our icy azure
on stretched horizons dreaming,
waits for warmer days.

Week 8

Cased within drizzle,
casts empty hearts to despair,
drawing out the days.

Week 9

Transparent hands push,
whip and twist, free to anger,
heard by what they toss.  

Week 10

Between shapes of light,
the skies push cyan to slate,
calm lost to swift storm

Week 11

Fierceness delays seasons.
Squalls of white, amidst the blue,
Buffets passive souls.

Week 12: 1

Steel stays firm above.
Trapped faces bow to Kismet.
Stripped joy below.

Week 12: 2

Winter's strong command
loses ground, daytime stretches,
small gains weakens cold.  

Week 13

Mood swings, shifting light,
simple joy in morning's blood,
promise of relief.

Week 14

Dawn forms in scarlet,
to match our rising passion,
Spring's declaration.

Week 15

World opens, light stains,
to bolster the clouds with hope,
A late Vernal call.  

Week 16

Easter announces
golden floods, through burst of green,
to temper silence.

Week 17

Lonely drops running.
Windows stained grey. Stranded clouds.
Moments trapped, forgotten.

Week 18

Zoetrope shapes escape
flash the world through chromed displays,
aged from frame to frame.  

Week 19

Unsteady firmament,
draped in bleached greys, revealing
cobalt occasions.

Week 20

Just blue, all of you,
then we dream of an oceans hue,
clouds kissed for the thrill.

Week 21: 1

Control, no request,
just assumptions, born from red
vision fit to burst.

Week 21: 2

Holding on to fear.
To hide beneath its shadow.
Spitting hateful venom.  

Week 22: 1

Grow warm and clear view.
Though cold daggers still pierce
gold, in shards of ice.

Week 22: 2

Switch quick, bright then dim.
Bird shells, pastels mix with chromes,
clouds whispering threats.

Week 23

Ice blush blue, pastels
scorches out a harmony
to sun’s blinding gaze.  

Week 24

Giants drenched in mist,
smokey fingers shape the land,
but climb to crown white.

Week 25

Morning calls to me,
lifted from dreary slumber
I chase the sunrise.

Week 26

The shifting scenes merge.
Distance blended memories
lose definition.  

Week 27: 1

Drunken summer storms.
Roaring wind and ruptured clouds,
chrome flashed angry pitch.

Week 27:2

Burning pastel blush.
Blue ice frames golden cyclops,
teasing idle clouds.  

Week 28: 1

Searing blues evolve.
Muggy greys heavy with dew.
Torment confuses.

Week 28: 2 - Budget

Emergency lies.
Hides an ideology,
to deepen misery.

Week 28: 3 - Greece

Playing a blame game.
Amidst tears, fears, and sorrow,
we punish relief.  

Week 29

No rest as moods swing,
searing calm to gusty frowns,
swirls a bleak palette.

Week 30

Idle streaks, beneath
iodine’s piercing chroma,
ultra-violet hue.

Week 31

Disquiet mirrors mood,
swings through distressed grey to clear
chills, shout in unison.  

Week 32

Monoped giants,
spin their limbs for any breeze.
Pale shells, seem serene.

Week 33

Summer high fading,
I stretch belief with wild moods,
matched with tortured slate.

Week 34

Lumbering hulks shake,
between lines dashed and even,
breached by black repairs.  

Week 35: 1 - Northern Powerhouse

Far-flung Northern towns.
Centres of obsolescence,
struggling to survive.

Week 35: 2 - Northern Powerhouse Revised

Red brick, lost before
sculptured lawns, glass and concrete.
Sanitised and stark.  

Week 36: 1 - Andalusia

Chalky gravel shades.
Deep yellow mountainsides that bask
in relentless glare.

Week 36: 2 - Rio Grandé

Sandy dragon forms.
Tumbled geography fights
and counts in ages

Week 36: 3 - Tessellations (Alhambra)

Observed forms. Rainbows
rigorous obedience.
Engineered beauty.  

Week 37

Failure to listen.
My reasoned arguments fail.
I still hear the price.

Week 38

Surrounding faces
cry scarlet terms, punctuate
the noise. Needs silence.

Week 39: Networking 1

Forced smiles hide the fear.
Faces shuffle in order.
Bored fascination.

Week 39: Networking 2

Either weak or strong,
hands shake, sip drinks, pleasantries.
In vast shades of beige. 

Week 40: eins Fulda

Red socks, cuckoo clocks,
pub sounds, new churches abound,
all, simply, German.

Week 40: zwei Fulda

Feels like Christmas town,
Medieval buildings drown,
in the clear sapphire.

Week 40: drei Fulda

Smiles, cool and sincere
concerns that I am happy.
Casual German warmth.  

Week 41

Mature green shifting,
kiss mists stained in morning tears,
bursts colours and Fall.

Week 42

Leaves brown, Autumn calls.
The chill morning frosty breath,
silent clear surrounds.

Week 43

Chill feeds failing greys.
Tearful skies, sweaty windows,*
greeting us each morn.

(* From Elliott aged 3)  

Week 44

Bilious shades spread
staining passions, drenched from words,
sorrow mixed with fear.

Week 45

Rainbow of metal.
Copper, brass, silver, gold, rust,
heralds coming death.

Week 46

Yellow pine blossoms
in dewy scents, lost summers,
machines tear heedless.  

Week 47

Lights disperse to globes.
Flavoured purple, orange, blue,
gas dictates the hue.

Week 48

Swirling brown. Crash of white.
Force feed hate from howling skies.
Heralds of the storm.

Week 49: 1

Blustered cheeks cover
weather maps strewn with yellow.
Raised stakes, low pressure.

Week 49: 2

Relentless downpour.
The kingdom of chromatics
holds on to the skies.  

Week 50

Yellow globe returns
scorches to blue again.
We welcome calm chill.

Week 51

Screams. Joyful dances.
Drowning the grey skies sorrow.
Fighting rain with cheer.

Week 52

Luminescent dreams.
Lose their lustre as year fades
to start again new.

All Those Emotive Times

Lack

Deprived ogre roars.
Pisses hate and screams for justice.
Silence blames pity.

Sad pun

Chilled blues, hidden black.
Complex situation to
show interest in time. 

Gradual Fail: 1

Sickness feeds decay.
Grows richer. Makes sweet aromas.
Colours growing death.

Gradual Fail: 2

No gentle sadness.
Anger froths, rages reddens,
bruises face with fear.

Gradual Fail: 3

Fuck this helplessness.
My lost thought grows a zombie,
trudges out this life.  

People

People hide to save
feelings they don't own, or share,
and claim they care.

Weaponised Silence

All we have is looks.
Tactical results of pain.
Words hurt. Silence kills.

The Waiting

Pressure binds my skin.
Shaking bones holding attuned
convicted emotions.  

Sorry, aged 4

Sorry. Pick the wound.
Draws blood. Sorry, once again.
Red flushed anger grows.

Homeland

No change. Just repeat.
Broken system. Lonely streets.
Homeland fades away.

Empty

Endless. The word hurts
when you cast it to accuse.
So I choose. We fight.  

Only (Emo 1)

There is only me.
I am sunk in seas of pain.
Sinking darkness fades.

Addict (Emo 2)

Bright falls. Narrow hearts
push black, sweet little drug,
vaccinate out hope.

Azure Days

Lazy azure days.
Lighten attire to reveal
limbs. Soak and colour.  

Tinnitus

Tensions tumble thoughts
through the thunder that threatens
thrones tremors timbre.

Decoration

Spring madness unfolds.
Rooms strip showing abuse scars.
So we swiftly dress.  

For My Lover (1)

Hold my breath. Stand still.
Wait for skies to spin my heart.
Heaven. Dream of you.

For my Lover (2)

A smile. The world stops.
Catches all I understand.
Builds it to dreams.

The Experience of Events

Theme Park 1

Hurried faces mingle.
Find the path, avoid the queue,
for fleeting victory.

Theme Park 2

Screams, laughter, sorrow.
A tangle that we carry
tainted by our thoughts.

Children’s Birthday

Riots of hair and flesh.
Spin, fall, roll, run, jump. Madness
dances of gibbons.  

Bonfire Night

Night skies burn with light
thrown casually at the gods
to toast a failure.

Storm Night: 1

Ceaseless angry rain.
Rushes to reach new pastures
urging to destroy.

Storm Night: 2

Drowned Streets, dressed lightly
with occasional faces.
Smiles mask fear's glances.  

Legoland Discovery

Scream and build. Tear apart.
Blocks with dots, called studs, abound.
Myriad colours. Click.

Season Storms: 01

First throes of winter
roars thunder, threatens blizzard,
drowned in the grey.

Season Storms: 02

Firework hail explodes*
in windscreen all lights lit bright,
streaks across the glass.

(* From Benjamin aged 5)  

Snow Flight: 01

Linen fields laid out
no two shapes alike. Eyeliner
hedges, black waters.

Snow Flight: 02

Your many shades of green
a monochrome negative,
sliced and undefined.

February Mists

The blur envelops.
Wrapping in smoky tendrils.
Spectres losing shape.

Just A Point of View

Advertising

Empty places call
typing us, ready for despatch.
Fiscal defined dreams.

Management

Assumed competence.
Boasts unfortunate guesses.
Heralds disaster.

Boarding

Frustrated mammals
fidget in blushed assembly
anxious to relax.  

Big Talk

Cognitive display.
An Exercise, contradict
denies competence.

Consumers

Drenched in confusion
we wrap ourselves in clutter.
Still we own nothing.  

Apes for God

Chimps chasing daydreams,
Crafting destructive idols.
Payment on demand.

Apes for God: Creation

We yearn for meaning.
Breathe life to a unknown plan.
To make sense of chance.

Apes for God: Conflict

Wars for the Love God.
Pledge hope. Charity destroys.
For blooded mercy.  

These Things

Mollusc

Opalescent lines
scatter colour across shells.
Blurred iridescence.

Blackpool

Jade peaks rush towards
sandy concrete promenade
Standstill gloomy skies.

Weather Screen

Impacted bubbles
adhere to clean expanse,
collect and race down.  

Driving

Powered beasts slice through
mists from above, bleached and heavy,
blanketing the world.

Driving: 2

Pastels pattern haze.
Sharp grey skies ditch their cargo,
outline sharp trapped souls.

Flotsam

Drenched drifters dancing,
smear slick streets, strangely silvered.
Deluge dalliance.  

!

Fuck, a fucking fuck.
Won't fuck to fuck your fuck, fucks.
Fucking give a fuck.

M62

We float on roads
suspended above bleak moors
that clouds flounder on.

Tired Duvet

Cyan coated nightmares.
Adorned with cerise garments,
smother pleasant dreams.  

Wrong Gear

Confidence slides by.
Face turns to panic, tyres spinning.
Caught in your failure.

Mist Machines

Slides grey across screens.
Frames the world yet hides the view.
Cells all look the same.

Misty Morning

Walking through fragments.
Light punctuated by gloom
obscuring the way.  

Scotland

Wrenched towards the sky,
rocky giants from frozen age.
Paint in dour granite.

Glencoe

Riots across heaven.
Grey pummels blue, billows white,
brash air, scorns with ice.

Woods

Tree fractured shadows
play a silent symphony
with fingers of light.  

Gum

Spat out. White blisters
mar pavements, just culture scars.
Burst bubonic black.

Epilogue

‘Way back in the mists of time…’ as the late, great, Douglas Adams would have it, I was a typesetter and designer for a local book publisher. One of my many tasks, it was a small company and everyone multitasked, was to set what is casually called ‘vanity books’.

Without wading too much into the merits or value to vanity publishing I can say that I set a lot of books. I saw a lot of average works, some truly great books and several awful. One of the issues was that the authors had little experience and the vanity presses try to cut costs, however that’s not to say that we all didn’t do our damnedest to make the books the best we could, just that limited process often means a reduced product.

The field of self-publishing at the time was much maligned, but how the world changed. In the modern publishing landscape self-publishing is seen as the divergent model for aspiring writers. With POD, ebooks, web publishing, micro-fiction and interactive books on mobile fighting for attention with the more traditional dead-tree productions.

This is the first book I have felt brave enough to release. It isn’t the only thing I could release but it was a challenge to myself. I decided that I would pursue three models of publication. A web-based, read online and donate if you wish model. An e-book at a donate as you wish model. A POD book for those who, like me, occasionally like to smell, taste, hear and touch their literature not just see.

If you bought a print copy of this book then I thank you deeply for that. If you chose to donate to my writing then I would also like to thank you deeply. If you are just reading it, don’t wish to donate or pay in any form, well I purposefully gave you that option as sometimes there should be few, if any, barriers or conditions to art.

A final note of thanks goes to Kathryn Leigh Keating. My wife, my friend, my writing-buddy and my patient editor who suggested the best changes (except for one tiny period that I ignored).

‘This is the End...’ Jim Morrison sings from my wardrobe, I hope you enjoyed.

Mark Keating
March 2016

You can donate to the author by going to http://www.paypal.me/MarkKeating. If you would like a physical copy tweet to @shadowcat_mdk and let him know.