It’s ironic that the coldest part of my life thus far fell during the summer I was writing 100 Warm Days of Haiku, but that’s the way life works sometimes, I suppose. At any rate, this cool fall morning I woke up and realized I felt warm again. I can’t tell you why. Again, I suppose it’s just the way life and the heart work.
It’s hard to put into words exactly what happened yesterday. It was a day full of emotions. A long-anticipated day, actually. In more ways than one.
Yesterday I achieved a dream. I am now the Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate. I applied for the position in 2020 but the award was held off due to covid. As it turned out, that was a blessing for me. It allowed me to become more serious about my poetry. It allowed me to accept that I am a poet.
Understand that I do not have a Masters of Fine Arts. I am not a teacher of poetry. Up until 2020 I’d only ever dabbled in poetry. Since then, poetry has become a way of life for me. When a line of poetry flashes into my mind, I follow it. Once upon a time I might have brushed it off. Sometimes these lines become poems.
I’ve always written poetry by feel. Sometimes it rhymes, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I use literary devices like alliteration, sometimes I don’t. The rhythm is almost always instinctive. I’ll go back and rework it until it feels right, but I can’t always tell you why.
My one absolute belief is that poetry comes from the heart. It’s part of me. It’s nonfiction. I write plenty of fiction, so I definitely know the difference. My poetry (at least the poems that work), and all the poetry I’ve ever related to, is nonfiction, a part of my soul that I put out there for the world to accept or reject.
As Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate, I’m hoping to spread the word about poetry and its value as an art form. I will do this with pride because I am a poet. I will do this with humility because I am part of a community with so much to say to the world. And I will do it with love because that is what I want to feel coming back to me.
Grief does weird things to your psyche, but if you’re a writer, it can destroy creativity. That’s because writing fiction is just dreaming. And dreaming, at least about good stuff, is hard when you’re grieving.
Due to recent upheaval in my personal life, I haven’t written fiction in several months. I was grieving and I couldn’t concentrate on anything but that grief. Dreams seemed like a thing of the distant past. Life sucked and it seemed like it always would.
But grief passes. Or lightens, at least. For me, that happened recently. It followed close on the heels of both acceptance and the conscious decision to let go. It didn’t happen instantly. In fact, I hit rock bottom before I was able to let go of the great rock of grief that was dragging me down.
And this week, I started dreaming again. My future is still foggy and uncertain, but steps are being made and they’re all going up. Fortunately, I’m strong and I know I’ll get to the top. I’ll make it there. Eventually. Even if I sometimes have to pause on the way or even take a step back.
In the meantime, dreaming and writing are a definite step forward for me.
Earlier this week, I finished formatting 100 Warm Days of Haiku. Ordinarily, this is where I would begin asking friends and fellow writers to look at it for me. Read and critique the poems, be sure the order makes sense. Look at the pictures and tell me if any of them need to be changed at all.
But the more I thought about what this book is, the more I realized that was not something I needed or wanted to do. This book is different. This book is true.
I have always wondered why poetry is classified as nonfiction, but after writing this book, I realize that has always been true. Poetry captures what is going on in the soul of its writer in a way that cannot be denied.
My 100 haiku were written and illustrated over the course of a four month period stretching from April 1 to July 31, 2021. To put it bluntly, this time period involvedogreat deal of change and upheaval for me personally, and that upheaval is reflected in this collection. There is anger, sorrow, beauty, love, loss and loneliness in this book. And there is also hope.
To give you an idea, here’s the description from the back of the book:
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but is it worth seventeen syllables? Poet Michelle Garren Flye explores the ancient form of Japanese poetry during three months of spring and summer. The book follows the author on a journey of change and transformation that she didn’t expect when she undertook the task, using the spare format of the haiku and her colorful illustrations to express emotions and desires that emerge from the chrysalis of her heart.
As I got closer to the end of the book, I tried to figure out how I would end it. I have never yet ended a book on a sour note. I’m not a tragic writer, and in spite of emotional upheaval, I am not a tragic person. I won’t spoil it, but I am so very proud of the final illustration, I thought I might share that with you:
For more information, you can find 100 Days of Haiku on Amazon.
I’m so close to being done with 100 Warm Days of Haiku! It will be my longest poetry book yet. And my most unique book of any genre. I’m excited to share it, and I hope you’ll be excited, too. It’s a book meant for looking at as much as reading. Even UnSong didn’t really manage that.
So I guess the very reasonable question would be why am I publishing a book that’s as much to look at as to read? I’m an author, not an artist, a poet, not a painter.
Short answer? I like to challenge myself. I like to be more. Long answer? This has been a complicated year in which I came to know a lot of interesting things about myself. I mean, none of us has had an easy year, right? Pandemic, home schooling, isolation, mask-wearing…it’s all a bit much. Add any other complications into the mix and you’ve got the makings of a good, old-fashioned nervous breakdown. And who didn’t have other complications?
My answer for the complications in my life was to dig deeper to find more. I found a lot. And 100 Warm Days of Haiku is my way of sharing it with you. So stay tuned for more information.
I completed 100 Warm Days of Haiku on July 31, 2021. It wasn’t what I started it out to be. If you remember, back in April, I started out full of hope and happiness. I wanted to write something cheerful to bring hope and happiness to the world in a time of darkness.
Well, best laid plans may never be realized. This summer has been a dark, cold one for me. The darkest and coldest I have ever experienced. Some would say I am lucky that this is so. I probably am. I am well and alive. The people I love are well and alive. And yet.
So my beautiful book is not what I wanted it to be. It became a sort of journal of my grief and loss. Haiku is not an easy form. Easy enough to write the correct number of syllables, not so easy to make them have meaning. I believe my life experience this summer gave an unexpected depth to the simple 17-syllable format of each poem.
And there is hope there, too. I am an irrepressible, inveterate, persistent optimist, so of course there is hope. A tiny blossom perhaps, but hope nonetheless, blooming in the weeds of lonely sorrow.
And now I am off to the editing and formatting stages of bookmaking. I’m hoping to have this one out by the beginning to middle of September. But I have my work cut out for me.
You know that old adage about not making plans? My summer has been that adage over and over again. I’m living it. Starting on June 1, 2021, my life took a hard turn toward…something. I’m not quite certain what, but it definitely isn’t what I had planned for my summer. (Long walks on the beach, family time, maybe even a vacation for a change.)
Nevertheless, plans for my first full-color book of haiku are still progressing. I’m in the 80s now. And while my warm days have often felt cold, I’m finding plenty of inspiration in what life has chosen to throw my way.
So that’s something.
Today I started thinking about covers. I came up with this one. It seems to suit the book, which will have a definite feel of both beauty and loss. I’m hoping to end it on a positive note, however. Because I’m a positive person and it will take more than this…whatever it is…to keep me down.
Summer. Warm days lazing by the pool, long walks on the beach, spending lots of time with friends and having fun.
If you’re having that kind of summer, I really envy you.
On the bright side, I am making progress on 100 Warm Days of Haiku. I am up to the 70s now in spite of life’s many interruptions. Thank God haiku is only 17 syllables long as that seems to be about the length of time I have to write now.
So don’t give up on me. I’ll regain my equilibrium eventually and hopefully venture back into romance or children’s books or maybe just a longer poem. But for the moment, I shall soldier on with my haiku.