Conversation 36: THE DAILY HAIKU INTERVIEWS: Jenny Shepherd

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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…
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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!

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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…

Alice

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.

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Changing the Sheets

Now that the last thing
which smelled of you has gone, for
ever has begun.

15 April 2007

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Daily Haiku theme: Change.

 

Or it fits with an old poem, that I then rewrite:

Christmas Spirits

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.

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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…

15 Comments on “Conversation 36: THE DAILY HAIKU INTERVIEWS: Jenny Shepherd”

  1. Jenny what a joy to read. I love reading your contributions.Thank you for mirroring so much about the value of daily Haiku with such a nurturing bunch of people. You are so right about the feeling of friendship in the TDH group, that is very true.

    1. Thank you, Bridie. I joined for the poetry, but am increasingly aware of how important the relationships with the other members are!

  2. I really enjoyed reading your conversation with Amanda, Jenny. You write from the heart, so it is easy for the reader to feel that he or she has got to know you, even if it is in a virtual world. You should also look into senryu, as I think you would enjoy this form as much as, if not more than haiku, as it focuses on human nature more than the natural world.

    All the best.

    marion

    1. Thank you, Marion. I feel I am pretty open in my poems and comments, so I did wonder if my interview wld be “old news”! I am now aware that a huge number of my poems are senryu, which I didn’t know about, when I started writing haiku so many years ago, but I think this group is flexible enough to allow both forms?! 😊

  3. It is such a heartfelt and warm interview Jenny. The break in your writing from your early years of inspiration is very traumatic and all the more so by being connected with an unhappy times. How indeed our emotional wellbeing affects our ability to be creative and write. The story of writing a haiku at a moment of release is very touching. I think writing groups are so important not least of course for the activity of creating work but for the connection, support and nurturing aspect. This has felt so important during the strange and challenging times we are living through. I love your haiku Jenny, your warmth, care and energy shines through in your creativity and engagement in the group. Christmas Spirits has such a filmic aspect to it and I am not surprised that you frequently enjoy creating haiga as your work is very visual and sensory. Huge thanks for your openness, you inspire us all to give a bit more of ourselves and trust our feelings.

    1. Thank you, Amita. Yes, having joined for the poetry, I have been delighted to have made so many new friends, which I certainly didn’t expect!

    1. Thank you, David. As I said above, I feel I already write so much about myself in my poems and comments, I doubted there was much new in it!

  4. I feel I’ve come to know you through your so personal haiku, your photos, comments and replies. These small conversations are golden threads of friendship . I imagine a time when we will greet each other , all us writers here, with gladness , a sense of the familiar. Create together , have fun

    1. Thank you, Judith. That’s lovely. Yes, I genuinely feel I have made friends for life here, and I certainly aim to arrange som sort of meet up, “when this is all over”, though it’s looking increasingly like 2022…

  5. What can I say? You were one of the very first people to welcome me into the group with open arms and a caring spirit. What you bring to TDH besides insightful haiku is your curiosity and willingness to engage with others and not afraid to ask questions. I appreciate you and thank you for your down to earth ways and your forever love for your “Bob”. We all need a “Bob” in our lives! I’m so happy I have one!! I think “Changing the Sheets” was such an eye-opener for me when I first got here and realized we could haiku as deep as we wanted to go. Enjoyed reading this. Looking forward to many more of your haiku!!

  6. Jenny what a lovely interview. I’ve so enjoyed getting to know you through your haiku over the past months and I agree, this group has become such a supportive lifeline. I feel like I’ve known you for years and hope we’ll be able to meet at some point. 🌺

  7. Sorry Jenny, I seem to have missed your interview but I am now catching up.
    It is lovely ‘to get to know you’ a little more in this interview. I have enjoyed your haiku as you put such emotion in them and I like that about you. I have also felt your vulnerability, angst and pain which I think takes a woman content in her own skin to show in haiku. Thank you for sharing Jenny and keep writing! ❤👩‍🦰🧡🦊💛🐝

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