Being stuck at home in quarantine is hard! It’s easy to numb ourselves out on tv shows, but when you finish the sixteenth season of Grey’s Anatomy, you might long to use your brain for something else. Most of us are accustomed to social interactions, group learning environments, and play. I’ve started writing silly haikus to stimulate my brain and pay attention to the world around me. Yesterday, one of my college poetry students wrote, “Poetry and quarantine pair nicely.” I hope these writing prompts pair nicely and bring some joy to you and your loved ones’ quarantine days.
The Academy of American Poets offers this definition of a haiku on their website, “A traditional Japanese haiku is a three-line poem with seventeen syllables, written in a 5/7/5 syllable count. Often focusing on images from nature, haiku emphasizes simplicity, intensity, and directness of expression.” You can also visit this website for a short history of haiku, examples, and other resources of study.
Write Text Messages in Haiku Form
I have been writing Haikus frequently since being in quarantine. Two days ago, I challenged myself to text my partner only in haiku form. Here is an example of a Haiku I texted her:
Thanks for making me
this warm healing ginger tea
I think it’s helping
I suggest picking a friend or beloved who you text with frequently and inviting them to join you in texting in haiku form exclusively for one day.
Write Haikus on Your Walk/Roll
The world is waking up to Spring these days. Here in the Sonoran Desert, 100+ degree weather is on the horizon, but now is the perfect weather for time outside. I suggest you bring a notebook on your next walk/roll. Find a plant, flower, tree, cactus, or mud puddle that you enjoy looking at. Sit with it for 5 mins or so in silence. What does it look like? Is it interacting with other plants, insects or animals? Does it have a smell? What is surprising about it? After five minutes, record some notes about your observations. Then turn those notes into a haiku or two. Here’s an example of one I wrote on a recent hike:
Cracks in the brown earth
from when everything was dry
hold their shape in rain.
Write a Haiku Together
This is something you can do with other humans living in your home or long distance via any form of electronic communication that you prefer. First, decide on a topic together. For example: an animal, a family member who has a birthday coming up, a food everyone loves (or hates), a plant everyone loves (or hates). After you decide on your topic, chose a tone or emotion for your group poem. For example: joyful, forlorn, excited, silly. Next, without sharing your writing, each person choses a line to write—line 1 (5 syllables), line 2 (7 syllables), or line 3 (5 syllables). You can do this in multiples of 3 for a larger group. Have each person read their line aloud in a round. Sometimes these multiple-author haikus can be profound or sincere, and sometimes they end lead to giggle fits.
Kristen E. Nelson is a queer writer and performer, literary activist, LGBTQ+ activist, and community builder. She is the author of the length of this gap (Damaged Goods, August 2018) and two chapbooks: sometimes I gets lost and is grateful for noises in the dark (Dancing Girl, 2017) and Write Dad (Unthinkable Creatures, 2012). Kristen is the founder of Casa Libre en la Solana, a non-profit writing center in Tucson, Arizona, where she worked as the Executive Director for 14 years. Kristen has been a creative writing instructor since 2010 at Naropa University, UA Poetry Center, STEP College Prep Program, Pima Community College, and more.