For the first “behind the scenes” post, I kindly invite you to read my step-by-step thinking process – firing up ’em neurons – when I was composing a haiku using the prompt phrase “Power of suggestion”.
Gentle readers, my greetings to you all!
Yes, I can already see you scratch your heads in confusion, telling yourselves “it sure ain’t look like a haiku to me”. And understandably so.
As I near the 200th haiku – in just one month’s time (July to be exact). Imagine that! – on this humble corner of mine, I decided to digress from my usual, well, not that usual nature haiku, and create a category dedicated to walking you – gentle readers – through some of the processes involved in haiku creation.
It just so happens that I’m in the process of writing a haiku right now.
Generally, I would draw my inspiration from whatever information in English I could lay my hands on. Interactions with human beings (yes, that’s a thing), books, podcasts, blogs, comments, the list goes on.
While listening to a “Stuff You Should Know” podcast, I heard the phrase : “Power of suggestion” and *click*. It clicked right there and then. It was a pretty solid and crisp click. I guess some commuters sitting in my vicinity heard it too. Those unnerving stares of theirs. It pays to wear sunglasses. Our brains work in truly mysterious ways indeed. However, the click itself didn’t mean that I got the whole picture yet. It’s more like having a blurry picture of something in my mind, although I can’t quite make it out for the time being, but the idea / twist is in the air.
While I was at it, I made sure I wrote the phrase down for fear of losing the blurry image somewhere during the day. I didn’t feel like coming up with a complete haiku while commuting either, what with sweltering weather and highly anxious passengers. CLICK! One dropped his smartphone. Nah, kidding.
Later in the evening when at home I felt like writing a haiku, the blurry image still taunting me, haunting me even. OK then, let’s get down to it, shall we?
At this point I usually decide whether I’ll go for either a serious or silly haiku. Serious as in cautionary tale, advice, motivation… you get the drift. Conversely, silly as in some ridiculous scene between him & her, ridiculous conclusions, skits, slapsticks… nothing is impossible, really. Not going to come up with a whole haiku taxonomy based on seriousness – silliness scale here, instead, asking myself a simple question “Silly or Serious Haiku?” would do nicely.
Back to my prompt phrase “Power of suggestion”. Right. I have a hard and long look at the blurry image, rotating it this and that in my mind. I scratch my beard. Scratch it some more. Silly it is. That something blurry tells me that’s a way to go.
Then I’ll try and war-game a silly skit / slapstick. Say, she tells him that he doesn’t need to go there. Just before I carry on, I know that I already have the second line, which is the prompt phrase “Power of suggestion” (6 syllables). I slap “Her” in front and it feels good. Or should I go with a serious one? Wargaming is still going on, mind you….
“You need a new job.” Her power of suggestion. How does she do it?
Hmm. The first line is off. Doesn’t pack the punch. Besides, it smacks of downright seriousness. It’s what first came to my mind, if nothing else. Good thing about that try is that I got my second and third lines. Pure sweetness! Scratching the first line completely. Oh well. Nose to the grindstone.
Based on the context of the rest of the haiku, obviously, she tells me something. She advises me to do, not to do something. I agree with something like ‘So I did.’ Yes, that’s it. “So I did.” fits nicely. The then blurry image is taking shape and doesn’t look so sketchy now, innit? Now I can play out different scenarios in my imagination within the confines of what I have so far for this haiku. Delimiting situational haiku boundaries, so to speak.
(She advises, suggests). So I did. Her power of suggestion. How does she do it?!
I have 2 spare syllables for her command / advice / suggestion.
Firing up even more neurons right this very minute. Steam coming out of my ears. Told you, not so great an idea to write haiku when commuting.
If I write
"Hug me.” So I did.
it could get way too over the top for some. And the twist would be savagely misinterpreted.
“Kiss me.” So I did.
is out of the question as well. The words “kiss” , “hug” don’t go well with “suggestion”. I have my standards, keeping my haiku squeaky clean, not least from lewd innuendos.
Fine. Back to the syllables. Only 2 to embrace. Even at this point I have a choice of going for either serious or silly haiku.
Voilà. Gotcha! Check this out! It’s the meaning I have been groping for:
“Buy this!” So I did. Her power of suggestion. How does she do it?!
Or is it?
Picture the following scenarios.
You go to a shop and a shop assistant tells you “Buy this!”; yes, with the exclamation mark intonation in her voice. Doesn’t sound right to my ear. Sounds more like an assault. Yet, if she says “Buy this.” in a normal voice, it is a possible situation to find yourself in.
Or, say, you are choosing what soda to buy and a female shop customer suggests you “Buy this!”. Or would “Buy this.” be more appropriate and realistic here?
What I love about haiku is that 17 syllables is a pretty limited space to operate with. Perfect fertile ground for your imagination, if used correctly. In my estimation, the best silly haiku are those that entail hidden, multiple interpretations.
With that being said, I would rather go with a dot after “Buy this”:
“Buy this.” So I did. Her power of suggestion. How does she do it?!
By writing “Her”, I imply it is a woman, girl who told me to buy this. She might be a wife, girlfriend, mom, girlfriend’s mom, shop assistant, female shop customer, telemarketing lady, or I might be reading an internet ad with a pretty girl pointing to some nice car, while having a bubble cloud “Buy this” over her head altogether. Possibilities are limitless, just as your imagination.
I made this haiku vague to interpret.
Phew, what a ride and a half! That’s how I do it. Well, almost.
That’s it for today, folks! If you find this “behind the scenes” post useful / entertaining / fill-in-the-blank-as-you-see-fit, be sure to leave a comment below. Your feedback would be greatly appreciated!
Until next “behind the scenes” post! In the meantime, I’ll try and flood you with haiku. The 200th haiku is so close, yet so far.
The piece originally appeared in the form of the reply to a Sumi’s comment on the “Epiphany of Sumi” blog. For the purposes of this article, the comment’s content has been substantially beefed up.