I’m Vivien Eliades, born Vivien Powell on Christmas Day 1950 in Leicestershire in the front bedroom of my maternal grandmother’s terraced house. She was my rock during my early childhood, and taught me a great deal about the joys of life and to have gratitude for what we have – she was adopted and turned her sad story into a wondrous tale to entertain us. Dad was a refugee from Nazi Germany; he gave me my love of art, music, nature and the great outdoors; the confidence to be different and stand up against injustice.
It was my mother who passed on her love of poetry and literature – she would often recite from memory poems and passages from Shakespeare; two particularly good English teachers in Hinckley and Wembley also inspired me. I now live partly in Brighton, UK and partly in rural Cyprus, where we’ve been stuck in lockdown for several months – a great place to be stuck!
My longest-standing friend from primary school, Penny O’Neill, invited to The Daily Haiku back in March 2020. She lives in Cornwall so was one of the first to join. I’ve been writing poetry and short stories for many years and started writing haiku nearly 20 years ago, inspired by my Zen Buddhist practice. More recently I attended a haiku workshop and have been writing haiku on and off since then, until I joined TDH – now I’m writing them almost daily and sometimes more than once a day.
I tend to write about what’s happening here and now from my own observation, and sometimes that is helped by the daily theme and at others, it just comes from what is. The natural world most inspires me and also memories of loved ones. Occasionally someone else’s haiku will trigger a thought or a memory and a haiku is born from that. For instance, someone wrote about tinnitus on the ‘noise’ theme, and that reminded me of when I first got my hearing aids and I heard birdsong for the first time in ages, so I wrote about that:
When I first wore my
hearing aids, someone had
switched on the sparrows
The words often just make themselves up and I make sure they’re arranged in a way that sounds right, with the ‘correct’ number of syllables (although I don’t always stick to the 5-7-5 rule). Other times, I get an idea and write a few words, then wait for the rest to follow. Something may spring to mind when I’m in bed and I have to write it down before I forget it. My haiku notebook is always by my side and I have a haiku folder in the notes on my tablet and phone.
My style is not very ‘poetic’ and the words I use can seem quite mundane, but I always strive to express the essence of the idea in as few words as possible. I’m often surprised by what comes up during a renga on a Friday or Wednesday – the collective mind seems to generate creativity.
Sometimes I do use photographs, preferably my own, particularly if the image inspires the words and the haiku would have less meaning without it. I also sometimes use humour, which seems quite common amongst the TDH diehards! I love being a member of this wonderful group. Everyone is very supportive and caring; I feel as if I’ve really got to know some of the members who are now good friends, even though we’ve never met. It was very helpful during the first lockdown, to put into words how I was feeling and what was happening around me, mostly in our springtime garden in Brighton.
As the pandemic continues, TDH has become the first thing I go to in the morning – that feeling of connection is so special. I’d like to offer a deep bow of appreciation to Amanda for setting up this group and managing it so well.
One of my favourite haiku is about my dear sister, whose husband died at the end of September and I flew back to the UK from Cyprus to be with her and help organise everything. The daily theme was ‘Fold’.
She stands, ironing
Pressing out creases, hiding
her grief in neat folds
This next one illustrates my use of humour – all the characters are no longer with us:
Gran, lavender; Mum,
l’Air du Temps; Auntie, cologne;
Dad, dried runner’s sweat.
Another, on a similar theme (‘fragrance’):
Fragrance of lemon
blossom wafts, balmy night air
I think my all-time favourite haiku so far is about my lovely Dad, who died on 31 December 1995. It certainly went down well with everyone at TDH:
My lovely father
died twenty-five years ago
We still go for walks