If anyone heard the sound of rusty cogs creaking into action in early February, it was my brain getting ready for this year’s National Haiku Writing Month. NaHaiWriMo (the haiku version of National Novel Writing Month) created by Michael Dylan Welch invites participants to produce a daily haiku in response to a given prompt.
This time round, however, things were a little different. I decided – rather foolishly, I thought, at the time – to sign up for the French version of the site as well. Since leaving uni, my use of the language has been limited to a job with TransManche Link, the former Channel Tunnel contracters. So, although I might remember the word for ‘shuttle train’, I have never used French in a creative capacity before.
Anyhow, I was delighted to discover that Margaret Dornaus, a haiku poet from Arkansas and whose work I greatly admire, had also embarked upon the same journey. In one of her haiku, she compared the task of writing in both languages to mountain climbing and that’s exactly what it felt like.
I scrutinised every word and phrase, looked up dictionaries and ran my work through online translators, before finally plucking up the courage to hit the enter key. Then it was a case of waiting to be laughed off the NaHaiWriMo en Français site. To my relief, nobody did. I must say I learned a lot from the franco-haijin and really enjoyed the experience. A big “merci” to Jessica Trembley who was site co-ordinator and to Vincent Hoarau and Roger Amande from sister site, Un Haiku Par Jour, who kept their promise to be gentle with this particular Irlandaise!
To start with, I tried to translate directly from English, which sometimes didn’t work because of nuances in one language. For example, in the haiku below from the prompt ‘pasta’, the word ‘steaming’ has connotations of being drunk, but not so in French.
together they rummage
for a corkscrew
The two below in response to the prompts ‘kitchen’ and ‘orange’ seemed to work okay as a direct translation, perhaps because of the simplicity of the images.
my daughter’s first attempt
at cake making
tempête de neige
les premiers efforts de ma fille
de faire un gâteau
the scent of orange
bas de Noël
un mélange de l’odeur d’orange
et de l’excitation
I discovered that when translating from English to French, the resulting haiku seemed to be very ‘wordy’ but I think that this is probably due to my lack of vocabulary. Reading more French haiku will no doubt help with this – so that’s my homework set out for me for next year!
It is was great to read through the haiku each day to discover how each writer had interpreted the same word – where one person responded to a particular prompt with a poignant poem, another poet produced a very witty haiku. For anyone interested in reading some haiku or trying the form for themselves, daily prompts are posted on NaHaiWriMo throughout the year and in French, on Un Haiku par Jour.
I was very excited when Jessica Tremblay, of Old Pond Comics, contacted me in April to ask if she could include one of my French haiku in an event report she was writing about NaHaiWriMo en Français. Naturally, I said, yes! It has appeared in the article in the April/June 2013 issue of The Gong Journal no.39 published by The French Haiku Association.
Margaret Dournas also had her ‘mountain climbing’ haiku published and we both got a mention in the article. 🙂 This was a first for me in a French journal.
Here is my haiku, followed by its English translation…
point du jour
le mât d’un voilier donne un petit coup
à la lune
the mast of a yacht
pokes the moon