NaHaiWriMo x 2 . . .

Now that the February edition of National Haiku Writing Month–Michael Dylan Welch’s response to NaNovWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)–is winding to a close, I thought I might reflect on my experience with the phenomenon that brings an international community of haiku writers together to celebrate one of poetry’s shortest forms during the shortest month of the year.

This year, in addition to participating in writing daily haiku to prompts offered in English, I also decided to stretch myself by translating my haiku into French.  Thanks to Facebook’s NaHaiWriMo en français, as well as a Facebook group called Un Haiku par Jour, I was able to cobble together my poems in French as well as English.  Much to my delight, I discovered that some of my haiku actually worked in French as well as in English.

More importantly, this exercise gave me the opportunity to look more closely at how language works: how difficult it can be to translate from one tongue to another; how, on occasion, one language provides an opportunity for double entendre not present in the other; how internal rhyme, assonance and alliteration may present themselves to the poem in one language but be obscured in the other.  The list of revelations goes on, but I won’t bore you with what, I realize, might be exciting to me (a certifiable language nerd who, from time to time, grapples with the vagaries of literary translation) but not necessarily to anyone else.

Suffice it to say that the experience was fulfilling on many levels.  And I’d encourage anyone else who has an interest in writing haiku to take the time to explore these Facebook sites.  (NaHaWriMo continues with haiku prompts throughout the year.)  Particularly because they offer support, a sense of community, and joy in what often can be the most solitary of pastimes–writing.  The added benefit is that you get to read a wide variety of voices with their own unique takes and styles on subjects as varied as love, death, moonlight and madness . . . just to mention a few.

I previously posted my first day of haiku for NaHaWriMo here in both English and French, but I’d like to share a few more I wrote this month that I think were (for different reasons) fairly successful in both languages.  The first one, I am honored to report, will be included in moderator Jessica Tremblay’s review of NaHaiWriMo en français–slated to appear in the April issue of the French Haiku Journal Gong.  

mountain climbing . . .                  escalade . . .
I try to write                                 J’essaie écrire
in two languages                           en deux langues

arpeggio . . .                                   arpeggio . . .
blurring the lines                          brouillant les lignes
between                                         entre
black and white                            noir et blanc

 . . . and today’s haiku (my last in this month-long endeavor) which, thanks to Un Haiku par Jour compatriot Giordano Genghini, I also have an Italian version of:

eat-in kitchen
no way to separate
the head from the heart

manger dans la cuisine                  mangiare in cucina   
impossible de séparer                    impossibile separare
la tête du coeur                               la testa dal cuore             


About Margaret Dornaus

I’m a writer and a teacher, as well as a haiku-doodler. I live in a beautiful woodland setting, surrounded by native oak forests, that inspires me to record haiku snapshots of luna moths and our resident roadrunner, and even an occasional black bear as it hightails it across the top of my road, my mongrel dog barking at its heels as I watch with wonder. My work as a travel writer has appeared in publications from The Dallas Morning News to the Robb Report. You can find examples of my travel writing–as well as excerpts from a travel memoir I’m working on–at my other WordPress site, Travelin’ On. What more than that do you need to know? Only that I started this blog with an eye toward collaboration. Got a haiku? Send it my way. . . . I’m all about new visions & voices. Best, Margaret
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14 Responses to NaHaiWriMo x 2 . . .

  1. aloha Margaret. yes. translation. a wow incredible thing language is. it shapes our mind, which ever language we are in, and our mother language most of all.

    and of course this issue of mind-thinking in the language as well as translation has a lot to do with how English written haiku got off on that 5-7-5 issue when there are way more important things to consider and work on in haiku (as i see it).

    way cool that you took the opportunity of NaHaiWriMo to explore beyond the base of prompt words. i like that. which is also what i was thinking as well by combining etegami with NaHaiWriMo.

    now you have me wondering how many others used NaHaiWriMo as a springboard into additional exploration?? cool.

    way fun on your translation process.

    “mountain climbing” is a terrific ku (they all are). i just like that one extra.

    fun on into March. anything on the cooking stones for the month of March? i’ve been saying i want to get back into more paint and paper/canvas time this year and have been thinking March may be part of that.


    • Aloha, Wrick! And thank you for your thoughtful and generous comments . . . Yes, it was very interesting and quite a challenge to try to spread my wings by writing in both languages. Usually, a translator goes from another language into his/her native one, not the other way around. What I didn’t say in my post was that it also was very interesting to me to see the different aesthetic approach that came through in many of the native French writers’ work. That opened something up for me as well . . .

      As to March . . . would you like sometime to work on haiga together? Let me know . . .


      • working on haiga together would be fun. for me it would be easier to allow it to happen over time rather than to a deadline. meaning that we might respond within days or weeks. i think we’d probably find our own rhythm and sometimes when we have crunched time we’d be able to let it go a little long knowing we’d get to it when the time was right. i’m cool on that as long as we keep at it i think good things would happen.

        tell me what you have in mind??

  2. Scott Abeles says:

    I always enjoy seeing you and your poems, Margaret, wherever and whenever 🙂

  3. A great account, Margaret. I’m also writing a little piece at the minute for my blog which will describe my similar experiences. I must admit, I was delighted when I spotted you over on the French side! 🙂

    I love your mountain climbing haiku, because it echoed my trepidation at the thought of writing haiku in French for the first time – and what an enjoyable, enlightening and educational process it all was.

    PS We will be in Gong together!


    • Thank you, Marion . . . I very much enjoyed the experience and the camaraderie that resulted from it. I also found it so interesting to read the French poems and to see the stylistic differences in the Francophiles’ approach to haiku . . . plus I learned so many new words! So glad to have had you there “climbing the mountain” alongside me! I’ll look forward to your post!

      Best, Maggie

  4. Janet L. D. says:

    Kudos, M. Have enjoyed reading your post, incl your NaHaiWriMo haiku. V. impressive – and in French too no less!


  5. Adelaide says:

    Much to my surprise, I could understand the French version without resorting to the English. My French was never fluent and I haven’t had an opportunity to use it in over 30 years. Perhaps this is the way to get some of it back, by reading haiku in French.


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