Unless stated otherwise, all poetry on Swimming in Lines of Haiku is Copyright Kirsten Cliff and may not be reprinted in any form without written permission from the author. kirsten(DOT)cliff(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Processing the Journey through Poetry

I am thoroughly enjoying the creative work that I'm doing these days. Long may this deep slow flow of self expression continue. The haiku, tanka and haiga that I'm writing and collaging is the type that sits with me for days: themes, words and images, marinating in my mind and mind's eye, being sketched in my journal, sparked off by photos and found objects, and the raw emotion still within me from my recent journey through leukaemia.

I never thought that I'd write about my cancer/chemo/hospital plight. I felt that poetry and memoirs about cancer had been done so many times already, and anyway, I wasn't inspired to write about what I was going through at the time. During my many weeks in hospital, over a 4-5 month period, it was also very difficult for me to write: I couldn't concentrate, or was too exhausted, or in too much pain... You get the idea. As a result, only one small journal entry and less than a handful of haiku and tanka were written.

Now, in the 10 weeks since I've been home (in remission, but still in active treatment), I've finally found the space to process my intense experience, and what other way would I do that than through poetry and hands-on art. Somehow, I've begun working towards a collection of haiku and tanka, which will all become haiga. And I'm doing it for me.

This is not about which publication I can get my work accepted into, or what my peers will make of my efforts. It's all about me. I feel this creative work is what I need to do to heal my heart and soul. I've even come up with the saying, "My art is my heart", because that's what producing this type of medium means to me.

I don't know what will become of this collection: maybe it will be published, in whole or in part, some day, maybe it will be exhibited some where. I don't know. And if ever I feel anxiety brewing I remind myself that I'm doing this creative work because it's what I need right now, not about what may become of it in the years ahead.

I've written five haiku and five tanka that I'm really happy with (and a few others that aren't so strong) and have so far made four from this into haiga. It's such an exciting process! It's something that I'd love to bring to my teaching some day: running day-long workshops where students (of any age) learn about haiku or tanka in the morning, and write some of their own, then make one poem into a haiga in the afternoon. What the hell - let's just make it a whole weekend workshop! I love being immersed in haiku and it's related forms, and am so happy that my faithful old haiku is there for me once again.


  1. What you're doing is wonderful! I love how you continue to come up with new haiga and how happy it makes you. It's really good too, I become increasingly impressed with each new piece you show me. You're the best!

  2. Thanks so much, Cameron :) Your encouragment is an important part of the mix. Plus it was you that first supplied me with most of the craft items, so now I'm like a kid in a candy store! (or possibly you in a candy store ;-)