Haiku Assignment #2

“The language of the poem is the language of particulars.”

                                                                                ~ Mary Oliver


In an online composition course, I used an assignment I called “Half a Dozen Haiku” in which I required students to write six haiku describing different parts of a single space (a kitchen, an apartment, a neighborhood, a city, etc.). Together, their poems would constitute a whole representation of the space. Here are some less than stellar examples I gave to my students as models

Living Room                                                                        Kitchen

                       Glass coffee tab                                               Stainless steel bowls, spoons,

Green houseplant vines curl around                Mold grows in old pasta  sauce

       Wrapping iron legs                                                  Kitchen sinks overflow


Frost sheets window glass

Eyes weighted with three hours’ sleep

The baby’s awake

The goal was to use the formal requirements of the haiku to help students practice deploying concrete words and sensory details in written descriptions. The assignment was not difficult, although some students still produced haiku that were rather abstract, tempting me to write comments like, “Help! I can’t see anything!”

In Hindsight

I wish I had made “Half a Dozen Haiku” a multimodal assignment requiring students to write their haiku, take high-quality photographs of those same spaces, and then reflect on the effect that the different media have on the message. Students would then compile their reflection, haiku, and images to create a chapbook in Adobe InDesign. That way students are developing not only their writing, but also their rhetorical awareness and knowledge of the affordances of a (potentially new) design program.