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The summer holidays are almost here! For this week's Home School, we want to celebrate the season by inviting you to write your own summer haiku poem inspired by artworks on the Art UK website as in the following example:

The barrier lifts
to free sun-dazzled drivers.
The attendant smiles.

A. J. and Mates, Car Park Attendants

A. J. and Mates, Car Park Attendants 2001

John Michael Whiskerd (b.1932)

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

The haiku is a short Japanese poetic form which often depicts nature and the changing seasons. In seventeenth-century Japan, they were often written by artist-poets (most famously Matsuo Bashō) who would incorporate them into haiga paintings.

In their English variant, haikus tend to be composed of three lines with the following syllabic structure:

Five syll-a-bles first,
then sev-en syll-a-bles next,
then a fin-al five.

You'll often find English haikus with fewer syllables per line, but in most cases, the middle will be the longest.

The haiku form is popular with those attempting to write poetry for the first time because:

  • it is a short form so is quick to read, write and share

  • rhyme clichés are easily avoided as no rhyming is required

  • it encourages writers to focus on something visual and concrete (like an artwork!), which is always a good starting point for writing poetry, rather than getting caught up in abstract thought

In my own writing practice, I have often used haiku in collaborative art projects, such as the following weaving created by fibre artist Frieda Strachan which features a summer haiku in North East Scots (Doric):

Weaving with a haiku in Doric

Weaving with a haiku in Doric

textile by Frieda Strachan, poem by Shane Strachan. English translation: 'Summer is here / with a white sheet of sea-mist / to blanket us.'

Their three-line length has also made them particularly popular with land artists and sculptors:

Haiku

Haiku

2015, two wooden pillars with a poem impressed into them by Jon Plunkett (b.1975) and Patricia Ace (b.1969)

Have a go at creating your own summer-inspired haiku by searching the artworks on the site with a keyword such as 'summer' or something that reminds you of this season, i.e. 'ice cream', 'beach' or 'sunglasses'.

For instance, here are a couple of examples of haikus I've written in response to artworks that appeared under a 'summer' search:

Kites on a Summer Sunday

Kites on a Summer Sunday

Doris Maugham (d.1983)

Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, mima

Tethered to my grip,
the kite tries to free itself
from earth's hold on me.

Human Sundial

Human Sundial

Philip Townsend (b.1947)

High Force Hotel, High Force, County Durham

Hear my shadow tick
as the summer night stretches
its dark silhouette.

Share your own summer haiku with us on Twitter or Instagram by tagging @artukdotorg with the hashtag #ArtUKHomeSchool

Here are some examples from Twitter:

If you're aged between 15 to 18 and feel inspired to write more about art, you can take part in our Write on Art competition, an annual prize for young art writers we run in conjunction with the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. Rose Aidin of Art History Link-Up also shared some tips and advice on how to approach the competition. The 2020 deadline is Friday 31st July 2020 and winners will receive fantastic cash prizes.

Shane Strachan, Learning and Engagement Officer (Scotland and Northern England) at Art UK