Conversation 5: THE DAILY HAIKU INTERVIEWS: John Lanyon

I live in Oxfordshire and work as a gardener, linguist, musician, and writer. My poems have appeared online, in poetry magazines, in two anthologies I produced with three local writers (details at www.fourwordsmen.com ) and most recently in the anthology Places of Poetry. I won first prize in the Hesperus Books haiku competition in 2014.

Charles Causley said that it would be awful to wake up in the morning and feel you had to write a poem. I agree! I let the haiku find me. Going for a walk is a good start. Very often I’ll overhear someone say something which sparks a memory or an insight. I’m on the look-out for the hidden connections between things. There’s no getting away from it that it’s a magical, mystical process. There is no algorithm. For me, a haiku is a thing of two halves with some tension/ contrast between the two sections. I think it’s better to avoid humour, better to avoid the obvious, better to focus on simple things but interesting things can happen when you break the rules. I hope I make poems which resonate and keep on resonating.

The Daily Haiku is a supportive environment. Our work has more life when people read it. People are very encouraging and polite, but I think there’s more room for enquiry and explanation. 

There is no doubt in my mind that art is medicine. I believe that everyone is creative and that our lives are richer through creative expression. Art of any kind offers a deep connection between people who may not even know one another, and the strange thing is that the more personal we make our work the more universal its connection. This is because something inside us has the capacity to recognize deep truth.  This is deeply nourishing. There are so many forces which push us towards being consumers but for me being a creator is much more satisfying.

Her thick coat of grass
She left it off all winter
Like a strong-willed child.

I wrote this after seeing long grass blowing in the breeze on a hillside. It looked like cloth and brought back memories of trying to persuade my children to wear their coats in winter.

The wood’s grain
The waves of the sea
A new boat.

The lines in the grain of the wood reminded me of the waves of the sea. The wood and the sea meet when we construct a traditional wooden boat. This seems the most marvellous harmony. Boats have a kind of optimism and bravery where the tiny man-made boat takes on the massive forces of the sea.  

23 Comments on “Conversation 5: THE DAILY HAIKU INTERVIEWS: John Lanyon”

  1. Thank you, Connie. Don’t forget you can use the search function on the TDH to investigate writers whose work you’d like to read more of. It might be fun to invite hakuists to choose a selction of their haiku and present them together as a feature. Otherwise they just whizz by. May the muses be with you.

    1. ha! i’m on board with doing the ‘selection haiku thing. let me know how to do it and when. it’s been a learning process being in a group. i finally realized the ‘pictures of a few of the TDH group in announcements also included everybody else and that i could go there to look up each person’s haiku. it’s a rabbit-hole, but i love it! i thought some of mine were lost, but it seems they are all there. thank you and may the muses continue to be with us all!!

      1. I think it would be fine to choose a selection of the favourite haiku that you’ve created, say 6 – 10, and publish them as a group on the TDH or your personal FB page. You could have a theme or a miscellany.

  2. Love the ethos of letting the haiku find you here John. Yesterday I saw this in action with my daughters, out on a walk, as we headed for home in the gloming or dimly light as they would say in Cornwall, Storm Bella rolling in, we could only just find our footings. The girls started to construct a haiku inspired by the experience and without any prompting from me, I guess haiku has become part of the whole family. I loved the way they swapped ideas together about the dark, shifting ground, new perspectives, impermanence… this is what they came up with.

    senses become numb
    as the the ground turns into shapes
    step print remaining

    I completely agree that art is medicine and feel very strongly that creativity should be highly valued and recognised, rediscovered and nurtured, incorporated into all that we are as a society.

    Love the haiku that you chose to showcase here, the way the earth is personified in winter as a strong willed child, it is cinematic, emotive and displays an acuteness of observation married with deep emotional understanding. The second haiku also marries a sharp sensory touch with an ability to locate the reader within a mind and landscape of epic proportions from the touchstone of wood to waves to sea. There is a pleasing and meditative balance to both haiku that can be enjoyed over and over again, rather like a favourite song.

  3. Thank you, Amanda. Hooray for you and your daughters letting art emerge naturally from your experience of walking, weather and landscape. I feel we already know all the answers we need deep inside us. A really useful question, I find, is to ask yourself what is calling you today and then if possible follow the call and see where it leads.

    Thank you also for your sensitive interpretations of my haiku. When someone takes the time to really look and really feel it means a lot.

    1. Every time I see grass in a field now John I think of a strong willed child leaving their coat off, you have embedded that image in me forever. It’s so beautiful. It reminds me of course of Walt Whitman. I feel there is a whole philosophy waiting to be written up around the theme of ‘letting the haiku find you’ – a metaphor for a life lived in harmony with oneself and the world around you, very Rousseau.

      1. Amanda, I think the way we approach writing is for most people heavily conditioned by their experiences of writing at school. I think it’s important to realise that when we write as adults the experience and the potential are different. It’s not homework.There is no word count, no one sitting in judgement, no requirement to produce something at all, no punishment if it does not meet expectationsThere is no pressure. If we can find a place of freedom to write from, I think our writing becomes truly our own. We stop trying to please someone. We relax. Our senses sharpen and all the mysteries of The World come a little bit closer.

  4. Hi John,
    My pleasure to read such an interesting “conversation”.
    I’m an English-language-lover, who does not master the language, but enjoyed a lot being involved in it.
    Additionally, I am a new haikú-writer. Well, not a writer and neither a haikú creator, honestly… You just can proof it reading any of my “haikús”. But I love writing and reading and this opportunity, The Daily Haikú, was a great discovery, indeed.
    About yor writing, I find it clear, fresh and pedagogic.
    Not to repeat what it has been already said, two sentences caught my eye:
    “Our work has more life when people read it.” and “This is because something inside us has the capacity to recognize deep truth.” I totally agree with you.
    Thanks a lot for sharing your experiences.

  5. Thank you for your words John and for the comments from Amanda and Connie too. My conscious relationship with words in the form of Haiku is pretty new. I am enjoying the simplicity and depth of connection in so few words. What are you thoughts on the 5 7 5 structure please? Many thanks, Rebecca

  6. What a great interview, John Lanyon. I like the idea of allowing the haiku to organically grow from a walk. I like that you ask yourself questions and agree the answers to all our questions are to be found within.

    I am a questioner too. I am also a writer as well as a poet so I love the idea of writing to themes.

    Thank you, John for letting us get to know you a little better in this interview.

  7. Dear Eoghan, Amita, Bittor, Rebecca and Carolyn,
    Thank you so much for your kind comments.
    Rebecca, you ask about the 5-7-5 structure. I think it’s the least important aspect of haiku. The most important thing for me is that feeling that someone has really tuned in to the sensuality of The World, has discovered something and is trying to pass it on. I prefer not to sacrifice magic for arithmetic. Poetry for me is completely intuitive. Deep down we know what is working and what isn’t. May the magic find you all.

    1. Thank you John, it is refreshing to hear spacious advice, listening rather than forcing. A much needed art form in many ways.

  8. What a lovely conversation, John. I absolutely agree that the haiku find us rather than us finding them. Though quite often i find old haiku written ages ago (or do they find me?) and i remould them, usually into something smaller. Agree that the 5-7-5 structure isn’t obligatory, that it can even be an obstacle — there are more important aspects of discipline to haiku, for instance your ‘ thing of two halves with some tension/ contrast between the two sections’, which chimes perfectly with Jane Reichhold’s ‘phrase and fragment’ . And yes, this is a lovely, inclusive group!

  9. Jane Reichhold was a venerable and venerated haiku writer (died 2016) — lots and lots about her and examples of her work online. The piece that first inspired me was her essay on fragment and phrase theory, which you can find at https://www.ahapoetry.com/h_t_fragment.html or https://www.thehaikufoundation.org/omeka/items/show/781 . She wrote a basic introductory book called Bare Bones Haiku, and various other essays here and there, as well as her own haiku. There’s an annual memorial competition named for her.

    And i just happened (as y’do) on this large grab-bag of writings about haiku and related forms: http://www.graceguts.com/further-reading.

  10. Good to know you better, John. I’m quite humbled by all these published poets! The idea of the words finding you resonates with me.

  11. Catching up with interviews I hadn’t read…but running out of steam for comments. So I’ll just say that I love your work John and I will look out for it in the wider ‘Poetry world’ … in the unpretentious, graceful and apt section of course. 🤗

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