Haiku Poetry Challenge 2021- What I learned writing 365 Poems in a year
Haiku #99 of 2021 by Blythe C. Stephens (inspired by Emerson)
Poet as sayer
beauty, report back
My Passion for Poetry
I love poetry! I enjoy reading it, writing it, sharing it, using it for teaching and inspiring choreography. What do you use poetry for? Who are your favorite authors?
Ever since I was a child, rhyme and rhythm have come to me, and I’ve read and written verses on and off since then. My parents read me Edward Lear’s Nonsense Poems, such as “The Owl and the Pussy Cat,” I bought collections of poetry as an angsty teen at ballet conservatory, and I made it through romantic dramas and big life changes in college and beyond in part through poetry, writing it, reading it, going to slams.
My MFA thesis was a collaboration of dance and poetry, including choreography to some of Shakespeare’s sonnets, such as this one titled “Like Waves,” and with live slam poetry.
Participating in The Artist’s Way (2019 or 2020?), I confirmed that my inner Artist Child loves to read and write poems and these activities support me personally, spiritually and creatively. While I took part in NaNoWriMo 2019, poems and songs became a part of the novella/libretto I worked on.
National Poetry Month 2020 Poems & Resources
Then, every day during National Poetry Month (April) 2020 I shared a blog with favorite poems by other authors as well as my own work. I created a video to share some of my favorite resources for teachers, parents, and lovers of poetic verse:
I have included favorite seasonal poems in videos and live classes in yoga and dance and shared some in my Luscious Life YouTube Playlist and in 2021, one of my creative challenges was to write a Haiku each day.
Daily Haiku Writing Challenge 2021
April was National Poetry Month in the US, and although I’m living in Germany, I decided to read and reflect on the poems I wrote during my own personal Haiku writing challenge last year. Inspired by an article about a pair of friends who wrote and sent each other a Haiku poem each day, I toyed with the idea of creating such a tiny poem daily in 2021. Then, I just started doing it, scribbling haiku and fragments onto post-it notes and in my journal.
During the year of Haiku writing, I shared my work weekly on my personal blog, and I’ve included links each to the individual blogs below.
Building a Poetry-writing Habit
Although I wrote one Haiku for each day last year, and mostly the poem-writing was a daily habit and occupation of my spare moments, I didn’t necessarily finish one poem each day.
Some days, multiple sources of inspiration would pull me and I was awash with ideas, words, and counting syllables on my fingers constantly. Other days I had more peripheral, vague impressions or just continued to formulate existing ideas. I did have the occasional lapse of a few days in my poetic writing, at which point I would play catch-up to get back on track toward my personal challenge goal. I even have a poem about it:
Haiku #64 of 2021 by Blythe C. Stephens
Just one more poem
and then I’ll be all caught up
ebbs and flows be damned
And there’s also a poem about writing under a deadline, #231:
Just a quick poem
fast fast time pressure say it
I think these moments encapsulate from the experience of trying to develop a regular creative writing practice nicely 🙂
Creative Process over Product
All of these Haiku poems that I wrote in 2021 are works-in-progress. None have been workshopped with other poets nor have I received feedback on them from any source since writing them, so please be gentle in your own criticism if you do choose to read my amateur work.
Of course creating such a body of work on a daily deadline on the side of a full life, some of the poems turned out crap. Thankfully I expected that and it was more about the process than some sort of quality product. It’s delightful that there are some poems I quite like, that I feel truly encapsulate the feeling or idea, the moment in time that I was searching for words for.
More than anything, I sought the creative experience of daily short-form creative writing, just building a consistent poetic practice, trying to describe a time and place, people and things I appreciate, value, am curious about, or wonder at. The creative process generated insights for me personally, and I feel I improved as a writer and poet through this structure.
One of my Haiku was about the need to try and fail in order to improve:
Haiku #33 by Blythe C. Stephens (inspired by Pat Flynn)
You have to be the
disaster before you can
become the master
Poetic Themes and State of Mind
I am in the process of indexing the 365 Haiku by topic/theme and selecting favorites to further develop and possibly share through other venues. Its a lot to reflect on, and likely I will have other thoughts to share about the process and product eventually.
It was delightful to go about in a poetic state of mind all the time, searching for turns of phrase, wordsmithing, playing with rhyme and rhythm, being open to influences around me everywhere and listening to what the universe presented. The process was one of distilling down to kernels the thoughts on a variety of topics of interest and experiences.
Exploring different poetic structures is a fascinating study, and I decided to focus on Haiku for a full year to get significant experience working with them through seasons of change.
In reviewing the poems, it’s interesting to see that few major themes are emerging, with a lot of them being about important people in my life such as family members, friends, lovers, even a few strangers. The natural world, weather, and seasons were a biggie, as well as animals, pets and wild, travel and adventure, politics and current events, spiritual and philosophical ideas I was chewing on, Tarot, Yoga, my identity, lots and lots of prayers and gratitude celebrations, declarations, questions, and some sad expressions of grief. Also food, family, and some about food AND Family, reading, the process of inspiration and creating in writing as well as dance.
Each day’s poem is a little morsel, and all together they tell a laser-spare tale of the year. All of the Haiku helped build my identity as a poet, my body of work, and my understanding of the Haiku form, such as it is in English (and a few in German). The conciseness, elegant simplicity, and brevity appealed to my philosophical side and to my need for something manageable enough to make it a daily habit for a year!
Writing about Poetry & Creativity
Long day of writing
working to publish weekly
sharing what I’ve learned
Love that I even had a poem about writing blogs, podcasts, videos and other content!
Philosophy, Teaching, Coaching, Dance & Life
Some of my favorite Haiku of the year were musings on my Philosophy, Identity, Spirit, Teaching, Coaching, Dance & Life and insights from my reading and teachers. I’m sharing a selections of these below:
the universe flows through me
#45 (inspired by a Sufi prayer)
Let your mystery
dawn in me, an ecstasy
making the most out of life
loving conversation within
and with others
Knapsack on my back
eyes peeled, ears perked, rambling
long distances bound
Do we embody
the breath, or is it that the
breath embodies us?
traipse the earth in free pursuit
of all that they may
How quickly can you
let everything which lies right
behind you go
one thing at a time
and also take time to do
nothing in silence
Balancing is not
a state of static stillness:
If whatever you
want appeared before our eyes
what would it look like?
What you love, do it
make yourself happy making
others happy too
#181 (inspired by Pema Chodron)
Found it all right here:
the greatest possible wealth,
A bliss catalyst
I prance through life with a frisk
bringing others with
You’re never too old
or “out-of-shape” to begin (or return)
learning how to dance!
#332 Inspired by Real Happiness
No matter what comes
capable to learn new ways
of being with it
It can be scary,
yes, but I love a new start,
a fresh adventure!
Weekly Haiku Blogs 2021
Part of my accountability and record-keeping was publishing a blog weekly with my latest poems and here are the 52 blogs I posted:
Journaling, Art, & Meditation
Recently I listened to an MBOm podcast episode where yoga therapist Joy Ravelli shared the JAM acronym which stands for Journaling, Art, and Meditation, and those elements are all important to my personal practice and what I recommend to clients and students as well.
I journal in a variety of ways, have a daily meditation ritual, and create art rampantly through dance, writing (poetry, prose, fiction, nonfiction, blogs…), music, crafting and other means. I find physical/experiential/embodied practices to be an important component as well, whether yoga, dance, or various sport and martial art forms.
Dance Through Your Difficulties
I will apply each of these approaches with powerful coaching tools and embodiment practices in my free upcoming 5-Day Dance Through Any Difficulty Coaching Challenge, which I’m offering during International Coaching Week May 16-22. In just minutes a day, you can dance with me through whatever obstacle you may be facing right now, and you will be well-equipped to navigate all future breakdowns and difficulties to the joyful multipassionate life you dream of leading.
Through daily emails, video lessons, a live Q&A on Instagram, and links to more free resources, I’ll guide you through the tools and distinctions, exercises, simple habits, and designing clear actions that will provide a powerful boost to any project or area of your life.
Questions for Reflection
- What do your reflective/journaling, meditative, and artistic practices involve currently?
- Which area(s) could use a boost to create the life you want and solve the problems you currently face?
- What tiny habit would you enjoy picking up?
- What do you want to create?
Keep your eyes peeled and ears perked for future sharing about poems, poetry, writing, creativity, and education! Please share your favorite poets, poems, and writing by yourself or others.
Let’s connect by email or on Instagram @ablythecoach, I would love to hear your perspective!
Blythe Stephens, MFA, Bliss Catalyst
she/her or they/them
Creator of A Blythe Coach: dance through your difficulties and
take leaps of faith into a joyful, fulfilling life