“How to Wait” Haiku for Stress
“We’re gonna write poetry,” I told a group of people recently. “Brace yourselves.”
That’s how it usually goes. I use the words, “write” and “poetry,” and people look at me like I’ve got a needle filled with Novocain and ready to use it.
We were in an Advent workshop, and we were discussing what it means to wait. We were also discussing (or maybe we were lamenting), how hard it is to wait, especially in this season of hustling and bustling when even words like “cozy,” “slow,” “still,” and “wait” have an urgency that chills like the frost on the tips of dying blades of grass.
I took out a pack of sticky notes and asked the group to tell me how waiting feels: “anxious,” “eager,” “impatient” were some of the words. I wrote them down. I asked them what waiting sounds like: “music on hold,” “footsteps,” “breathing,” “thumbs twiddling,” “the thud of a heartbeat.” I did this for each of the five senses and wrote what they told me. Then I brought up poetry again.
I told the soon-to-be poets about haiku; that it is the type of poetry that can be read in a breath — we inhale the poem, and we exhale the poem —thus slowing our breathing and calming us down. Haiku is the perfect type of poetry for this season because it’s a way to be present. Haiku is an opportunity to wait.
In her poetry-style memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacquelyn Woodson writes “How to Listen” haiku, so I thought I’d ask the group to write, “How to Wait” haiku. The trick? Don’t use the any form of the word “wait.”
“Take us somewhere,” I said. “Use what you feel, what you smell, what you see, what you can touch and what you can hear while you are waiting.”
And so they wrote about cookies baking in the oven, and they wrote about waiting for test results in a doctor’s office. They wrote about waiting to feel tiny fingers tapping their shoulders after hearing tiny feet pitter-patter across the wooden floor on a still-dark morning. They wrote about the sturdiness they feel sitting at their desk, and the weakness they feel too, finding a way to continue or complete a project.
“This is nothing profound,” they told me before they read. “I don’t think this is any good,” they said.
I smiled, knowing there is only one response for a person holding a poem ready to be released:
Try It: Haiku for Stress
This week write “How to Wait” haiku. If you want to brainstorm first, jot down some words that come to mind when you think of how waiting feels, what it looks like, what it sounds like, etc.
Here are some examples I attempted:
she’s learned to play the French
Horn isolated. Listen –
the first post-covid show.
Blessed are, blessed –
the grieving, the lost, the silent.
Peace be within you
I wait for a poem
while a boy outside slides down the
sun’s shadow on his skateboard
Browse more poetry prompts
I have been a fan of Callie Feyen’s writing for quite some time but I finished this book in almost one sitting. If you have ever been in 8th grade, fallen in love, had a best friend, or loved reading, you will love this book. As the mother of an 8th grader, my other genuine hope is that my son will one day have a teacher as gifted as Callie.