Conversation 88: THE DAILY HAIKU Interviews: Claire Ninham

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Hello! I’m writing this from my home in North Yorkshire. I was very flattered by Amanda’s invitation for this interview, as I’m a relative newbie to haiku and joined ‘The Daily Haiku’ group only two weeks ago! I’m a very private person, so talking about myself is always a challenge, but here goes…

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I began writing haiku by accident. I’m a visual artist, and last year, my partner suggested I study haiku as a means to simplify ideas, to help capture ‘the essence’ of my subject. I naturally tend towards descriptive detail in art and writing but strive for a more concise form of expression. I hadn’t attempted any form of creative writing since school but have always loved poetry. It was the inspiration for my illustration degree show. I found literal interpretation of text too restrictive; poetry provided scope for broader interpretation.

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Having now explored and tried my hand at haiku, I hope to create a body of work combining haiku and abstract painting – research into Haiga therefore required! I think both image and poem should be strong enough to stand alone but enhance each other when combined. Accompanying photographs or representational imagery with poetry can of course be successful but I personally prefer some ambiguity to evoke the reader’s own imagery. My next challenge!

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As a gardener and botanical artist, the natural world is my main inspiration. I take notes on my phone, keep a notebook by my bed and write on an iPad. I’m particularly motivated to write in the morning, with my first cup of tea, watching the birds in the garden…

 

morning yoga—

forward bends; a blackbird

takes a drink

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Late morning, I walk along the same stretch of canal but there is always something of note and moments to record…

 

speed walking

determined, across my path—

a snail

 

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My partner is very ill and can’t walk with me so occasionally, later, we drive up onto the moors. The landscape, skies, changing weather, hedgerows and wildlife inspire…

 

green desert—

from haw-laden fringe

fieldfares descend

 

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Despite beginning to write haiku last year, I stopped after a couple of months as I felt overstimulated. On top of my usual visual overload, I felt overwhelmed. I couldn’t sleep, waking up dreaming of haiku…

 

 

 

haiku insomnia—

waking every seventeen syllables

until dawn

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However, early spring this year, with life bursting, I tried again. I reread some traditional haiku, a handbook and Jack Kerouac’s ‘Book of Haikus’. Then, failing to find out much about contemporary haiku writing, joined TDH. In just a fortnight, I was again ‘hooked on haiku’!

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I’m so glad to have discovered the group. I was warmly welcomed and my fears of posting and ‘putting myself out there’ quickly dissipated. I have received generous encouragement and advice. The group is abundant in humour, knowledge and intelligence. The multiple themes and prompts provide inspiration and focus. I particularly enjoy reading the diverse range of members’ interpretations of a given theme.

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Creativity is often a lonely pursuit, so being part of a writing group is a wonderful way to share ideas and chat. I’m already getting to know a few friendly people! I’m also glad to find out more about haiku rules. Like art, I think it is good to learn them so they can be broken with awareness! Western poetry is quite different from eastern. I love wordplay, alliteration and assonance but realise these are often unnecessary and too ‘flowery’. I notice that personification and anthropomorphism are widely embraced within TDH, so I hope to further explore the general consensus on this and other dos and don’ts of contemporary haiku.

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Living with chronic illnesses, we have lead ‘lockdown lives’ for over a decade and our appreciation of nature and the small things in life never diminishes. Haiku provides a positive art form to express this, and TDH a lovely community to share.

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My favourite haiku from last year, as we now approach the same verdant time:

 

hawthorn—

the week in May, when

green is greener

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And to finish, my latest haiku, written yesterday…

 

clothes hang

beneath washed-out

cherry blossom

 

…as spring slowly fades into summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 Comments on “Conversation 88: THE DAILY HAIKU Interviews: Claire Ninham”

  1. What beautiful artwork and haiku Claire, really enjoyed my visual walk through your work today, returning and bending close to the hawthorn bursting with spring green in tune with the fieldfares. Love the keen distillation of thought and observation that unwinds in the reading, each moment savoured within each line, a perfect pause, break and shift towards each gentle concluding crescendo. Very musical too. I am so glad you are part of our growing and thriving community at THE DAILY HAIKU, the use of visual artwork and photography has always been something I wanted members to have a chance to explore alongside their writing. Haiga seems a very exciting place for you to explore further too. I think you make a wise observation about learning rules so they can be broken or not! One thing I have certainly discovered since setting up the group is that haiku is, for such a short genre, an endlessly fascinating one that is really worthy of exploring. Look forward to more of your work and engagement. Many thanks.

    1. Thank you, Amanda, for the opportunity to document my haiku journey so far. Your comments are very flattering and have given me confidence to continue. Since writing this I have already learnt more about haiku, specifically the main differences between it and senryu (thanks to Keith Evetts), which has been enlightening! I look forward to further participation in the group and investigation into Haiga.

  2. Claire, I’m astonished how quickly you’ve gone to the heart of haiku proper, instinctively knowing or feeling its subtleties and symbols. A joy to read and meditate upon your work.

    1. Keith, thank you for your compliments. They mean a lot as I love your brilliant poetry. As I said before, I look out for your posts every day. I enjoyed reading your interview here, a great insight into your creative process. I really appreciate your feedback and constructive criticism!

  3. I absolutely agree with Keith – you really are a natural, you have a ‘haiku soul’. I am in awe of your talent – both as an artist and a writer. I’m so glad you joined the group.

    1. Thank you so much Annie, I am very flattered. I look out for your posts every day, as they are in my opinion, among the best. I’ve really enjoyed our brief chats about poetry and plants.

  4. I really enjoyed this interview Claire…and feel enriched by reading about your haiku and art practice. Your positive attitude to chronic illness is inspiring too…I shall remember to look for those every day miracles. Thank you 🦋

    1. Thank you, Vivienne, it’s so kind of you to take the time to comment. I’m flattered you found my words inspiring. I don’t think we’ve ‘chatted’ in the group – I’ll look out for you!

    1. Kathrine, thank you very much for your compliments. Achieving simplicity with enough substance is a big challenge!

    1. I really like this phrase, which has not been written like this before:

      “haw-laden fringe”

      There’s a few too many superlatives in the newspaper article, but stepping aside from that, neat info on haws and hawthorns:
      https://www.independent.ie/regionals/sligochampion/lifestyle/hawthorn-bush-putting-on-spectacular-fruiting-display-30607518.html

      And I’d love to see more about fieldfares, and other named birds, so I am excited!

      Alan Summers
      editor-in-chief
      Blo͞o Outlier Journal
      https://bloooutlierjournal.blogspot.com

      1. Alan, thank you very much for taking the time to read this and for your positive feedback. It’s wonderful to hear from a professional in the haiku field!

        This is an interesting article. I note the immediate use of ‘laden’ and wasn’t aware of the differences between Common and Midland hawthorn. I did know that the hawthorn ‘berry’ is actually a ‘pome’, botanically structured like stone fruits, such as apples and plums – the common hawthorn species monogyna meaning ‘one stone’. I have written a haiku about hawthorn flowering after blackthorn.

        I’m glad you like ‘ haw-laden fringe’, it seemed the best way to describe what I saw. I’m currently writing a second fieldfare haiku but struggling to find the words to describe my vivid, visual experience.

        I’m reading your journal with great interest and hope to submit something for the next natural history issue!

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