Conversation 18: To Gush or Not To Gush…

THE DAILY HAIKU themes have often created deep emotional outpourings, including from myself, that feel liberating and from the way members engage, supportive and nurturing.  Directly evocative themes of grief, depression, love, family… have all provided such opportunities to reach out, share personal memories and emotions. But crucially it is the group within this particular social media setting that seems to offer a confessional ‘safe space’, allowing people to share often deeply painful or hidden feelings that might have surfaced initially from the thematic prompt but also through the example of others sharing their feelings. Sharing feelings can also foster deeper connections and friendships, exposing our frailities is a leveller.The brevity of haiku also seems to help this process and ability to gush, but within an edited format by choosing the nuggets of an emotion to share or for some, including myself, beginning to address emotions in a more open and organised way. This editing process can feel very cathartic.

This all feels like a really good thing as well as often providing an entry point into writing that focuses on expressing oneself without stressing at that point too much on craft. A first novel is frequently one that relies on autobiographical details and known emotions, a Künstlerroman that shows an artist’s growth.  T S Eliot’s concept of the objective correlative would disapprove of such gushing and highlights this in his essay ‘Hamlet and his Problems’ describing the play as being an ‘artistic failure’ where emotion out manoeuvres crafting of that emotion compared to Macbeth – hence my blog title ‘to gush or not to gush’.  Of course I disagree with my own title, nothing should be either or, I am an advocate of widening our approaches, being open and flexible, using rules, discarding rules, playing with words, learning more about haiku…  Eliot champions subtlety to provoke audiences to feel what Hamlet does through images, actions, chain of events and characters (objective correlatives)  ‘which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked’ [1] as opposed to merely describing emotions.  Show don’t tell – a more prosaic slogan here.

But raw emotion has its place, as does a more crafted evocation of emotion.  Motivation comes into it, what do we want to express and why? For Yvens a young immigrant learning to write English the most important thing for him about writing is to ‘say it with your HEART’. [2] Motivation is as important to understand from the writer’s point of view as it is from the reader and listener, so that judgemental assumptions are avoided and a more careful approach is fostered that appreciates our differences.  Sometimes we want, even need, to get something off our chest, to release a feeling and to share this feeling through haiku then see what comes out within the constraints of the form and go with it. We may also want to speak from the heart, be more autobiography than novel, clearly our bestseller lists let us know that real life stories are popular and relatable. But we may want to use our personal feelings and experiences to spark a haiku, to take the seeds of an emotion and evoke something new from it, detach it from the personal, add a dollop of creativity and imagination, change the script, pretend, dress up, lie… In my creative practitioner work it is always a revelation to those who are just starting to explore their writing that they can make it up, they can change facts that they might want to use from their lives; for some reason when we first start to write we are drawn to wanting to be true to what we feel, this is compelling. So whilst expressing our true feelings can be liberating, cathartic and nurturing, playing with the truth, exploring new ideas, changing our writing patterns and writing comfort zones might just be the adventure we are seeking next.

We all have different motivations to write a haiku, this may also change from day to day, one day I gush, another I resist, but at the heart is a desire to be open, learn from others, listen to others and enjoy reading the amazing haiku that spring from our daily themes, prompts and threads.


[1] ‘Hamlet and his problems’ T S Eliot, 1919


[2] ‘Writing with my Heart is Better than Writing with My Brain’, Yvens, 2020 The Immigrant Learning Center

16 Comments on “Conversation 18: To Gush or Not To Gush…”

  1. We have both a heart and a brain. The objectivity of Eliot’s Four Quartets thrills as much as the soul of Keats’ Nightingale and we glory in both – along with the harsh reflection on vanity in Shelley’s Ozymandias and….. but I won’t go on. One simple lesson is that when a writer uses “I” or “we” or “you,” the reader is invited in – but in different ways. Even Eliot, in his most heartwarming (or least heart-freezing) poem, opens with the simple invitation: “let us go then, you and I”. Wonderful. But I mustn’t gush….

    1. Yes Keith I think the invitation is key and creating a space which feels not only safe but somewhere you can be you no matter what mood you are in where writing can be intuitive, raw, crafted but mostly as Tish comments free.

  2. Yes, very interesting article and I agree completely… intense emotions can work in the restrained form of haiku, perhaps even better because of the restraint.
    Thank you.

    1. I think there is much to explore with this idea of restraint sometimes creating more freedom to express oneself, I do sense it is the ease that we can do this, it is short, it isn’t an essay, no bibliographies, not too much of our time, something we can fit in. The accessibility is something I think is key and having been very negative about social media in the past for obvious reasons, I think if the right conditions are created it can be a very fruitful, nurturing and spontaneous space. Sometimes it feels like opening my heart to a friendly stranger on a train.

  3. Lovely to discuss – gush or not to.. withhold or release and all have a time and place, but widowland has a tricky tap (faucet to friends in the US) and leaks when the hell it wants lol. Not just grief – hurt at racism, oppression or other painful sh*t. If I’m writing / performing and tricky tap shows up – I just let her flow in the ‘flow’ – edits are a good thing too 🙂 Resistance, ( to the gush ) an emotion / the need for / or the word within, is something I’m constantly freeing myself from. I need freedom and choice, allowing all, in a life / life experience, where much was disallowed.

    1. Thank you for sharing these insights Tish I love your comment ‘I just let her flow in the ‘flow’ and ‘I need freedom and choice, allowing all…’ A huge part of my incentive to set up THE DAILY HAIKU was to create something that could be accessible, inclusive and engaging, somehow the short form of haiku and the ability to use other media (art, music, photography, video…) seems to help this process together with an invitational tone.

  4. i’m a gusher. i’m an open-book most of the time, but i also enjoy using my imagination and the inspiration of others to open up channels I didn’t know were there for me to explore. it’s endless … haiku … it’s a gentle tap on the shoulder and sometimes i can ignore it or i can allow the muse to pop in and take me as far down the rabbit-hole as i can go. HA! although, i must say, in the beginning, i was counting in my sleep and would wake-up with a haiku ready to be written down! these are always welcome surprises. the use of themes may be common for haiku groups but having come into this process “cold & green”, i find them to almost always find a way to entice me to explore aa thought i had no clue was in me. it helps enrich the palette for sure. i’m just beginning this journey, and i truly appreciate all TDH family brings in creativity and support. i see daily how talented this group is and i appreciate being accepted. thanks, Amanda! for not making this a closed group. i learn so much everyday from all of you! keep those channels open!

    1. I think we can all learn from keeping those channels open. Thank you Connie for your energy and creativity. I feel like this is a place we all learn from each other. I have always wanted the TDH to be for everyone, no matter whether you are an experienced writer or not. I am very keen on seeing writing in a holistic sense and something that is not dictated by knowledge and a pen – it is at its heart about expression.

  5. I felt drawn to TDH even though at that time I hated haiku. I have discovered it is a great way of concentrating the mind and sometimes I gush, and sometimes I hope I control it more.
    I suppose it depends on your life experiences too and haiku draws me back time and again to certain subjects, like grief, love, and pain. I am finding writing haiku very therapeutic and healing and it is the return to certain subjects that do it for me.
    I have a tendency to write from the heart but I do like to engage my brain too.
    I feel that TDH is a safe place for me to express myself and I have received some of the lovliest comments on my work I have ever received.
    I love reading others work and quite often I think,”Oh I wish I had written that!” but I am happy with my work, I am unique and authentic and glad to be so.
    I don’t think new members should be afraid of jumping in and if you want feedback ask for it, TDH has lots of experts in it’s midst.
    Finally, a big thank you must go to you, Amanda for setting up TDH. I think it is wonderful the only rule you made was to write in the 5/7/5 format and then you tell us we can break the rule. I think that is one of the reasons TDH is so successful.

  6. “The sounding cataract haunted me like a passion.” Gush can be shaped without losing any of its power – water rushing through narrow spaces will, in fact, accelerate in power and momentum and this is how I am finding much of the writing in TDH. An interesting and thought-provoking article – thank you, I much enjoyed it and all the references made. Loving gardens as I do, however, I am finding TDH much like William Robinson’s garden – full of natural simplicity “the flowers speaking to the heart”. In TDH the flowers of the human heart just set each other off in their wonderfully different ways. Some are shaped and others free-fall.
    Objective correlatives? Hmm. Objectives ARE relative!! A group of white narcissus is doing something quite different to an ivy-clad wall but how telling they both are, and how well they set each other off! Oh, I didn’t mean to talk about gardens …

    1. Yes the diversity of THE DAILY HAIKU garden is very welcome, more paths to explore, trees to climb or shelter beneath and flowers to smell and watch grow. Love the ‘flowers speaking to the heart’.

  7. I have never been very willing to share my inner in a social media, not even around me, but there is something that makes this group different: art, respect, generosity, some great artists, lots of learners…
    And yes, all that comes from heart oozes with warm.
    Let’s continue haikuing!

  8. Sometimes a sip of water will do. Sometimes a raging thirst needs a couple of glasses of water. Whether to gush or not gush is, for me, guided by my variety of human needs at a variety of times.

    Sometimes a light imaginary frippery is enough. Sometimes a cold hard look at objective reality is required. At others, the peak of the emotion in the heart at a particular time is the driving force behind some words. Hopes in the face of adversity require imagination beyond the weight of the moment, even against all the evidence that hope is pointless is sometimes the pressing need. Nonsense in order to provoke smiles or laughter with no regard to realities personal or political might be the order of the day/hour/moment.

    We have so many levels to each of us, from hard rationality to instinctive animal drives and so many interlacing of these two extremes creating a moveable measure of who we are, what we feel, how open we feel up yo being, how much we might wish to behave according to some ideal self…that it seems damagingly reductive to our creative possibilities to ever fully subscribe to any individual approach to it. Over time each of us may develop certain dominant ways of doing things or recurring ideas that show up in many forms. But that would be part of the development of what is the writer in what they write. And they can choose to journey down the technique pathways of any other creative mind, but to subscribe fully to any particular way of creating or arranging our creativity is to say this is it, I am done, there is nothing left to learn, this is the way, there is no other.

    To a degree, we all write as part of a process of making sense ourselves/our world/the world/our place or lack of it in our own minds amd how that may contrast with how other people see us.

    T.S Eliot himself not only clearly participates in that process in his work, ultimately the process became the principle purpose of his work. He very much did his own thing, his own way (sometimes to the detriment of engagement with it for younger people yet to have read all the poems and other writing he alluded to in his works in a manner that makes him essentially as much of a poetry magpie as Tarantino is a cinematic one). To reach a conclusion that there is one way to do things puts a fence around creative possibility and precludes trial and error as a path to new discovery.

    The only real answer I can give to ‘to gush or not to gush?’ is ‘It depends’

    Now, having gushed, do we rewrite to make it more ‘poety’ or share things unvarnished and ungarnished? That is often a matter of personal taste or choosing what is most appropriate for the point being made or to take into account whether something is being written for the moment or taking a stab at posterity. And before sharing we are obviously free to gush uncontrollably if we wish and then the degree to which we turn transform what we gush may depend on whether we seek to make a point or a reputation

  9. Wise words and insights Will, I totally agree it depends but feel also that having the right space to allow feelings to be expressed is really important. Choice is also very important and for me always a level of accessibility and welcome, that invites all to take part.

  10. Told that I wear my heart on my sleeve, I have a tendency to “tell it like it is” when I’m “live” with a person. Here at THE DAILY HAIKU it feels like a safe place to “gush” and share personal experiences in nature and in life.

    lips turn up in smiles
    shoulders rise with the laughter

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