When I became Poet Laureate of Stony Plain, Alberta in February 2019, I was eager to acknowledge the town for its commitment to poetry and to the literary arts . . . and I wanted to start right away. I knew that whatever I decided to do would have to be small, because I have other projects to work on during my term as Poet Laureate. I also work a regular job occasionally (I am a substitute teacher), I sit on three different non-profit boards, and I have a husband and two young children who like to spend some time with me now and then!
I started to think about all the things that make Stony Plain unique – its home on Alberta’s prairies, its community, its history, its relationship with the railway (an interesting one!), but nothing was helping me to come up with a plan. Then, as I scrolled through Facebook, I came across a post about our annual Japanese Exchange Program with the town of Shikaoi. Stony Plain has been twinned with Shikaoi since 1985. For more than thirty years, each town has regularly sent high school students to experience life, language and culture in its sister town.
Thinking about Shikaoi got me thinking about haiku, a traditional Japanese poetic form. Few types of poems use so few words to explore so many different complexities of our world, including nature and the human condition. Haiku poetry can be as simple or as difficult as a person would like it to be. There are rules, yes, but many schools of thought argue that it is fair to be flexible with them in English. I haven’t decided where I stand on that issue yet; I plan to do lots more exploring as the two years progress. In the meantime, though, I decided to jump right in and not be afraid to make all the mistakes that I can as I go. That’s how we learn and grow, right? I have a poster in my office that says “Mistakes are proof that we are trying.” So, here I am, trying (and no doubt making some mistakes at) haiku!
I encourage you to join me on my journey . . . whenever the fancy takes you, please post a poem to Twitter, Instagram or Facebook with the following hashtag: #stonyplainhaiku
Don’t feel obliged to write a haiku every day, but if you’d like to, that would be terrific! It’s a great way to get your creative juices flowing – and I promise I’ll “like” every poem that I see with that hashtag!