Pfister art inspires spontaneous haiku writing

12 Aug, 2013

by Molly Snyder

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I am finally writing about a wonderful evening.

On Friday, July 26, I participated in my first Gallery Night at the Pfister. My vintage Royal typewriter and I plunked down in Pfister artist-in-resident Stephanie Barenz’s studio and offered up free, spontaneous haiku on any subject to anyone passing through.

The haiku is a short Japanese poem that typically has exactly 17 syllables in three phrases of 5, 7 and 5.

Because Stephanie’s art is, in part, influenced by Asian culture, I thought this would be a fitting form of expression for the night’s live writing.

Prior to the event, my partner made a sign-up sheet. When he originally created it, I thought it would be wonderful but unlikely there would be such a demand for haiku that I would need a sign-up sheet.

But, it turns out, I needed a sign-up sheet.

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I wrote 24 on-the-spot haiku in about three hours on a vast array of subjects, including motherhood, Gordon Lightfoot, dreams, heartbreak, the protest singers arrested in Madison, quitting and one for a father to read aloud at his son’s engagement party the next day.

I also wrote one for the Pfister. Here it is:

Lavish yet down home
Luxury meets history
Lions, soft pillows

I have written poetry since I was a very young child, but I had never written on demand nor sent something out into the world without another copy of it, never to be seen again.

But it felt really good to unleash fresh words into the world. It was like letting go of a helium balloon and watching it float away until it’s eventually out of sight and then wondering of its fate and where it will land.

I love writing poetry, but the older I get, the more I identify with being a storyteller rather than a poet. Gallery Night was no exception. In the end, I found myself deeply moved by the stories that were shared with me in between writing haiku.

One man told me his grandmother had the same typewriter I did and when she was 93, she asked for a new ribbon for it so she could document her life story.

The man said he tried to convince her to use a laptop, but she refused. So his wife found the ribbon online, and his grandmother cranked out a 400-page memoir that was later copied and distributed to family members.

Shortly after, his grandmother passed away. Her final movement were her fingers “air typing.”

I will never forget this story.

The man then asked me to write a haiku for his wife, who he described as “the love of his life” and the one who scoured the Internet to find the right ribbon for his grandma’s typer.

My ribbon is a little dry and, consequently, I really had to type with force to make a dark enough impression on the white paper. The next day, I had blisters on my fingertips.

It was a good kind of pain.

 

(Send me an email and I will write you a haiku, too.)

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  • http://Website Victoria Cox

    You have captured the feeling of well-written haiku with this lovely story: simple images that capture feelings and renew our sensibilities.

About the author

Molly Snyder

Molly Snyder has lived in Milwaukee her entire life. She started keeping a diary when she was four and published her first poem at age 10 called “The Unicorn” in the now-defunct Shorewood Herald. Today, she writes less about mythical creatures and more about Milwaukee people and places. She is a senior writer at OnMilwaukee.com, where she has worked for the last 12 years. Telling people’s stories is her passion.

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