Haiku Workshops

The following are selected workshops and presentations that I can provide relating to haiku poetry, for both in-person or online appearances. Most of these options include a PowerPoint presentation and handouts. I've divided them into three categories: introductory and advanced workshops (mostly generative), and other presentations (nongenerative). See photos of one of my “Haiku in the Woods” workshops and nature walks, and more photos from a haiku workshop at Padilla Bay Nature Center (showing mostly another guide leading a nature walk to augment the haiku workshop). See also A Sample Haiku Lesson Plan and Notes on Teaching Haiku.

Teaching my “Haiku in the Woods” workshop in April of 2012 at Beaver Lake Lodge in Sammamish, Washington.

Introductory Workshops and Presentations

“Haiku Targets” — What do you shoot for when you write haiku? This class explores the targets to aim for, and why 5-7-5 is not necessarily one of them—learn why 5-7-5 is a sort of urban myth for writing haiku in English, and why other techniques (not “rules”) such as season words and a two-part structure are better targets to aim for in writing these brief poems of personal experience. Includes writing exercises and sharing/feedback.


“The Joy of Haiku” — An overview of haiku poetry, with English-language examples, a short history of Japanese haiku and its major practitioners, and the various techniques used to write literary haiku. Includes writing exercises and a sharing/feedback session. Can be tailored to be informational or generative, with discussion.

 

“Come to Your Senses: An Introduction to Haiku” — Same as the above, but with the additional focus of writing haiku based on the five senses, with engaging worksheets on exploring one’s senses in haiku (mostly for schoolchildren). Optional writing exercises and sharing/feedback.

 

“The Nature of Haiku” — An exploration of haiku poetry in English with an emphasis on the seasonal and nature-focused aspects of this poetry, covering such techniques as kigo (season words), kireji (cutting words or a two-part juxtapositional structure), and shasei (primarily objective sensory imagery). Includes writing exercises and a sharing/feedback session.

 

“Haiku ChecklistAfter you write your haiku, what questions can you ask of your poems to help improve them? This presentation covers ten questions to consider, and a few quotations about writing craft for discussion. Based on my “Haiku Checklist” recommendations.

 

“How Do You Write Haiku?” — A tour of various ways to write haiku, including from direct personal experience, vicarious experience, memory, writing prompts, and other methods, including a discussion of the pros and cons of each approach. Includes writing exercises and sharing/feedback. See my “How Do You Write Haiku?” essay.


“Count the Syllables” — An exploration of syllabic marvels in the English language and what we can learn from its great variety in writing haiku in English. Even native English speakers sometimes misunderstand syllables. And yes, haiku need not be 5-7-5 in English, and generally should not be. This presentation explores why.

 

“Discovering Haiku” — Short presentation and facilitated discussion on how to discover haiku, and to help others discover this rewarding poetry and its many benefits. Includes writing exercises covering topics that may be deliberately unfamiliar to you as a way of using haiku to help you discover your world and your emotions and thoughts in response to it.


“Haiku Myths and Realities” — Really, that’s a haiku? Find out why what you were taught in school is sometimes far removed from the literary practice of haiku in both North America and in Japan. If not a pun or joke, then what? If not 5-7-5, then what? And why? This workshop may stir some controversy, but will get you thinking about fresh and more effective ways to write haiku poetry. Includes writing exercises and sharing/feedback.

 

“Is That a Real Haiku or Did You Write It Yourself?” — Same content as above, but targeted towards teens or young adults. Optional writing exercises and sharing/feedback.

 

“Haiku: It’s Bigger Than You Think” — An alternate title to the “Haiku Myths and Realities” presentation above. Or a title of “Haiku: It’s Smaller Than You Think” could also be accurate.


 Advanced Workshops and Presentations (generative)

“Take a Walk on the Haiku Side” — Join Michael Dylan Welch for a directed haiku-writing amble (known as a “ginkō” in Japanese) through a natural location near you. We’ll enjoy “forest bathing” together (if there’s a forest) while paying attention to our five senses, writing and sharing poems and discussing the experience together as a stepping stone to developing a regular haiku practice.


“Haiku on Steroids” — An advanced generative workshop that explores rule-breaking, taboo topics, and other creative and energizing approaches to writing and appreciating haiku. What did Bashō mean by “Learn the rules and then forget them”? What do you have to learn, and how do you forget?


“Editing Haiku” — A practical symposium that explores options and approaches to consider when revising your own haiku or haiku by others. Includes a discussion of topics such as a poetry rating scale, pros and cons of discussion groups and other feedback, craft vs. art, revision tips, haiku checklists, the right tone of mind for giving and receiving criticism, editing individual poems vs. sets of poems for books, and more. Includes group discussion topics, recommended websites, and handouts. This presentation can also be adapted to cover the editing of other sorts of poetry, not just haiku.


“Making the Cut: The Art of Juxtaposition in Haiku and Beyond” — Watch any two juxtaposed scenes in a movie and you immediately “get” what’s implied, like the leap that happens when you see an oncoming train and then cut to a hospital bed. Movies got this technique from haiku poetry a hundred years ago. We’ll explore juxtaposition in haiku and the unexpected effects you can generate from grammatical and imagistic leaps in poetry and prose. We’ll write together, then break into groups to try out fresh juxtapositions to see if they make the cut.


“A Moment’s Notice: How Long Is a Haiku Moment?” — A key aspect of haiku is the so-called “haiku moment.” But what is it, and how long is it? And does the haiku moment occur at the moment of inspiration, or does it occur in the poem itself? Or in the reader as he or she feels the same experience on reading the poem? This workshop, with optional writing exercises and sharing/feedback, explores these questions for the nonbeginner haiku poet.


“An Introduction to Rengay” — In 1992 I cowrote (with inventor Garry Gay) the very first rengay poem, and also proposed the three-person variant. This brief form of collaborative writing combines chief aspects of the renga/renku and haiku traditions into a six-verse thematic composition. This generative workshop presents examples and variations, and then divides the class into pairs or groups to write rengay together, which can be shared and discussed at the end. See my Rengay website and especially the Rengay Essays page.

 

“Renkurama” — An energetic, directed writing session where each participant contributes collaborative verses in the renku tradition—but with whatever rules he or she wants, and with everyone madly writing and sharing at once. Also includes examples and an overview of the history of renku poetry (also known as renga).

 

“The Song of Haibun: Prose with a Haiku Twist” — Flash fiction has an antecedent that’s centuries old in Japan. Learn about this old but modern form of creative expression that combines lyrical prose with haiku. This class covers a definition of haibun, essential haibun techniques (such as linking and leaping), links for learning more, and haibun writing prompts for generative exercises.

 

“Taking It to the Streets: Urban Haiku Workshop” — Haiku is often thought of as a poetry of the seasons and nature. But what if you live in an urban area? This workshop takes haiku to the streets to explore urban topics, and how you can still find nature even in a ghetto.


Other Advanced Workshops and Presentations

“Even in Kyoto” — We need more place names in haiku! This PowerPoint presentation celebrates Bashō’s iconic haiku, “even in Kyoto / hearing the cuckoo / I long for Kyoto.” Features numerous parodies and allusions to the poem as examples of utamakura or place names in haiku and explores how this poem has inspired many others. This presentation also touches on the Welsh word hireath, a sweet sort of homesickness, and the Roman concept of genius loci, or the pervading spirit of place. Also includes an invitation to try writing your own “even in Kyoto” variations, with optional sharing and discussion.


Our Endless and Proper Work: Learning Attention from Mary Oliver — Mary Oliver’s “Instructions for living a life” were to pay attention, be astonished, and tell about it. This inspirational talk for writers of all experience levels covers her key poems that emphasize attention, cultivating our astonishment and ability to tell about life’s wonders through poetry, fiction, and other personal expression, with an added benefit in their application to haiku.

 

“Haiku and the Art of Forest Bathing” — An inspirational eco-focused exploration of how forests and woods can help us write better haiku, and improve our health and well-being. Forest bathing is the art of taking a “soak” in the woods. And with haiku, we can be more alert and pay more attention to the woods—and the world—around us. PowerPoint presentation includes numerous woods-walking haiku by various poets and tranquil photographs of trees and forests. This is more of a presentation and not intended as a generative writing workshop. This presentation is based on my essay, “Haiku and the Art of Forest Bathing.” See my “Haiku in the Woods” workshop and nature walk photos.


A Dying Art: Death Haiku in Japanese and EnglishImagine having the presence of mind to write a haiku just before you expected to die. That’s the Japanese tradition of jisei, or death poems. These poems were most often haiku and tanka, and they’ve been written for centuries in Japan, and for many decades in English. This detailed PowerPoint presentation explores dozens of examples in both Japanese and English, often with photographs, and also explores related poems such as zekku (one’s last haiku before dying unexpectedly) and death awareness poems.


Harold Henderson’s Grammar HaikuIn 1943, the cofounder of the Haiku Society of America published Handbook of Japanese Grammar, a still-in-print textbook that included numerous examples of haiku, used to explain nuances of the Japanese language. This PowerPoint presentation explores all of book’s haiku translations, some of which later appeared, often in different versions, in the author’s Introduction to Haiku in 1958 and Haiku in English in 1965. This presentation is based on my essay, “Harold Henderson’s Grammar Haiku.


“Haiku Lessons from A Book of Tea — A PowerPoint presentation connecting the aesthetics of tea and haiku poetry. In 1906, Kakuzo Okakura published A Book of Tea, a treatise on Japanese aesthetics exploring the art of tea service. This presentation presents twenty-one aesthetic observations found in the book and applies them to the art and craft of writing haiku. While focusing on haiku written in English, this paper explores numerous aesthetic choices necessary for writing haiku, and addresses questions that haiku writers ponder, such as whether haiku should focus just on the beautiful, balancing limitation and liberation, the role of modern technology as subject matter for an ancient and traditional art form, the problem of formula, and how to create an engaging vacuum in haiku by leaving something out. The presentation emphasizes attention and interpenetration as sources of haiku inspiration, the value of personal perspective as an extension of poetic voice, distinguishing between observation and inference, the mundane as transcendent, asymmetry, humility, implication, veracity, and community. The presentation is framed by a description of visits to Kyoto’s Ginkaku-ji Temple, and the role of Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1435–1490) in shaping the traditional aesthetics of Japan.


“How to Haiga” — Visual presentation of various pieces of artwork in the haiga and photo-haiga tradition by Michael Dylan Welch with various artists, with an overview of the aesthetics of linking poem to image in creative ways.


“Touching the Moon: Twenty-Four Shikishi” — A PowerPoint show of 24 classic 20th-century haiku by Japanese masters, on “shikishi” or square display cards, presented to the Haiku Society of America in 1978 to celebrate the organization’s 10th anniversary, with my new translations, done with Emiko Miyashita, to celebrate the society’s 50th anniversary in 2018. Also available for display are museum-quality replicas of these twenty-four art pieces. See essay and translations.


“The Weather-Beaten Jizō: Shikoku Pilgrimage Haiku by Shūji Niwano” — PowerPoint presentation of haiku, photographs, and observations along Japan’s famous Shikoku pilgrimage route to 88 sacred temples. The poems can all be seen as jisei, or death haiku, especially when one learns what happened to the author shortly after his pilgrimage. This presentation offers an immersion into Japanese culture. See essay and translations.


“Your Haiku Archives: The American Haiku Archives at the California State Library” — PowerPoint introduction to the American Haiku Archives, including its formation, history, and how to use it. Also features poems and photographs of all American Haiku Archives honorary curators since the the collection’s foundation in 1996.


“Haiku Joy: Celebrating Francine Porad” — PowerPoint presentation celebrating the haiku and painting of Francine Porad, founder of the Haiku Northwest organization, and past president of the Haiku Society of America, covering all of her many haiku and related poetry books with sample poems from each book.


“Going Nowhere: Learning Haiku from Pico Iyer” — PowerPoint presentation with selected haiku by various authors on the power of staying at home and appreciating the ordinary in our daily lives. Draws on Iyer’s The Art of Stillness book and applies his thoughts to the writing of haiku. See an online presentation for the King County Library System on YouTube (without the PowerPoint). See my “Going Nowhere” essay.


“Fuyoh Observations: The Nature and Scale of Haiku in Japan” — Did you know that some haiku journals published in Japan contain 10,000 haiku—every month? This presentation surveys the differences between how haiku is practiced by Japanese and American haiku poets and groups, and the lessons Westerners can learn from Japan. A presentation for the more advanced student of haiku poetry.

 

“Senryu: All It’s Cracked Up to Be” — Senryu is haiku’s kissin’ cousin, a similar genre of poetry that pokes you in the ribs with its human instead of seasonal observation. This presentation focuses on this often humourous or satirical alternative to haiku. Also includes a discussion of American Sentences, a form created by Allen Ginsberg partly based on haiku that you can use to record everyday personal moments, but with freer expectations.


“An Introduction to Déjà-ku” — Haiku are so short and the experiences they focus on are deliberately so common and everyday that it’s easy to write haiku that are similar to other haiku. But sometimes you do it on purpose. This presentation explores the major types of déjà-ku (a term I coined), including plagiarism, cryptomnesia (remembering someone else’s work rather than writing it yourself), excess similarity, allusion, parody, homage, and simply sharing the same topic (as with season words). It can be disconcerting to discover a poem similar to one of your own—this presentation digs into the emotional reactions we are likely to have as a result. See the Déjà-ku section of my Essays page.

 

“Déjà-ku: Nothing to Fear” — Many haiku poets have written a poem only to wonder if it might be too similar to something someone else has already written, paralyzing us into discarding our haiku. This presentation explores the varieties of what I call déjà-ku, or haiku that bring to mind other poems in both good and bad ways, ranging from shared season words to plagiarism. We can celebrate some kinds of déjà-ku, but be wary of others. Together we’ll develop a practical framework for considering our emotional responses and courses of action when we write such poems—or encounter similar poems written by others.

 

“What Is Haibun?” — An introduction to the combination of chiefly autobiographical prose with haiku poetry, with examples to read and discuss, plus writing exercises and an optional sharing/feedback session.


“Haiku Books for Children” — A survey of recommended books for children, designed for the benefit of librarians, teachers, and parents. Includes the display and discussion of many dozens of books of or about haiku for children of various ages, including board books, picture books, chapter books, and informational/resource books. Can also include the most recommended books about haiku for adults.


“NaHaiWriMo” — Brief PowerPoint presentation about National Haiku Writing Month in the popular Pecha Kucha tradition (20 slides for 20 seconds each, under three minutes in total, introducing a topic). Presentation also available in a longer form. I started NaHaiWriMo in 2010, and it has a very active Facebook page that promotes daily haiku writing and sharing worldwide.


“Ten Years at Seabeck” — PowerPoint presentation celebrating ten years of annual Haiku Northwest retreats at Seabeck, Washington, with photographs, summaries, statistics, and anecdotes of the much-loved Seabeck Haiku Getaway that I direct.


“Becoming the Leaf: A Haiku by E. E. Cummings” — Detailed PowerPoint presentation focusing on the poem “l(a” by E. E. Cummings, the influence of haiku on its creation, and its haiku characteristics.


“Doing it Right: Two Season Words in Haiku” — Haiku poets are routinely cautioned to have no more than one season word (kigo) in each of their haiku. But in Japanese haiku, having two season words is an accepted challenge for advanced poets, even if such occurrences are uncommon. Sometimes a word is not functioning as a season word, or its seasonality is superseded by another word in the poem, where both words are essential to the poem's meaning. Can your haiku sometimes have two season words? Yes, but only if you’re doing it right. This presentation offers many examples for consideration.

 

“On the Art of Writing Haiku” — A stimulating pairing of twenty haiku by Michael Dylan Welch with inspirational quotations on the art of writing. This presentation invites extensive discussion on the quotations and how we can learn from them in improving our own haiku.


Appreciations

Selected comments from my “How to Haiku” workshop via Zoom for the North American Japanese Garden Association on 23 June 2021:

A response to my Haiku on Steroids workshop, given via Zoom on 8 October 2022:

Other Appreciations