Hi, I’m Jenny Shepherd. I’m in my early 60s, and have been writing poetry since I was about 12. I won the junior section of the Kent & Sussex Poetry Society competition, when I was 17, but I sometimes feel it has been downhill ever since! I was introduced to haiku in my mid-teens by my father, a professor of English at a university in Taiwan, and they have been my favourite verse form ever since. I more or less stopped writing poetry for about 20 years, during my first marriage, but the night it ended in horrifying circumstances, I wrote a haiku, and didn’t stop writing. I shared a selection of those haiku in a book published by my poetry group in 2010.
How do you approach writing haiku? (chance to offer some insights into your writing process, whether you include visual and other material?
Until I joined The Daily Haiku, I waited for something to inspire me, so might go for weeks without writing anything. It was almost always something I saw, which struck me as quirky, interesting or sad. I am a keen photographer, and I do feel there is a big link between photography and haiku, as both tend to “capture a moment”. I sometimes combine the two in a haiga, which originally consisted of an ink brush painting, haiku and calligraphy. I usually write a very rough, first draft, then “polish” it, until it fits the haiku format. Sometimes, miraculously, it is right first time…
What do you enjoy about being a member of The Daily Haiku group?
There are probably three aspects:
Firstly, it’s really exciting and interesting to see how I respond to the daily themes (and the other themes, like the Weekly, Renga and Haiga). One of the things that made me postpone joining The Daily Haiku group in the spring, was my belief that I couldn’t “write to order”. However, I have surprised myself at how easy I have found it to do, though, occasionally, I have struggled, and found the daily theme uninspiring, and have posted poems that I was less than happy with. On the other hand, I have also managed to turn that lack of inspiration into a poem a few times…
Secondly, it’s fascinating to read other people’s poems on the daily themes, and to see how differently or how similarly we approach them. It’s also wonderful to see how many talented poets there are all over the planet!
Thirdly, until this year, I almost never became Facebook friends with people I didn’t know in real life, and had only very occasionally accepted requests from friends of friends, or relatives. However, I did become friends with one person from another group, and as I found I was getting to know, and be known by, many people in this group, I felt completely happy to become friends on my normal account, with many TDH members. I honestly believe I have made some real “friends for life” here, and certainly hope to meet some of them face-to-face in years to come…
Do you have any comments on the wellbeing aspect of being part of a creative writing group?
Whilst the creative aspect of the group will probably always be the main reason for staying here, I do feel the mental health benefits are hugely important. It seems we can be honest and vulnerable here, and be supported by everyone else. I am a member of several other groups, and this is, by a mile, the kindest and least abusive group I have experience of. On the incredibly rare occasions that people are unpleasant, I feel confident that we can ask Amanda to intervene, to prevent further escalation. I am lucky I do not live alone, but I can imagine how I would have found this group a total lifeline, if I did…
Do pick out two of your favourite haiku that you have written?
This is still the one I am most proud of, that I’ve written for TDH (and it also illustrates how sometimes, when there is more than one theme, I end up combining them).
Here Lies One
The skipping stone sinks.
The spreading rings fade to silk.
The water forgets.
14 August 2020
Daily Haiku themes: Ripples and Death
This was probably my most distressing, but I felt it was important, and it seemed to strike a chord with many members…
She died before she
was born. I brought her ashes
home in the pushchair.
24 August 2020
Daily Haiku Theme: Grief.
I find it interesting that sometimes the theme fits so perfectly with an old haiku, that I feel I just need to share it.
Changing the Sheets
Now that the last thing
which smelled of you has gone, for
ever has begun.
15 April 2007
Daily Haiku theme: Change.
Or it fits with an old poem, that I then rewrite:
On the way to Town,
a forest of trees for sale
outside the station.
On the way home, the
forecourt cleared. The scent of pines
haunts the freezing air.
Written 27 December 2009. Rewritten 24 December 2020.
Daily Haiku Themes: Spectral or Trees.
I’d like to end by saying, that being part of this group has literally changed my life, for which I can never thank Amanda enough, for inviting me so many months ago, and to all the other members, who give me joy, every single day…