To Be Twenty . . .

Selected Haiku

Sarah Lutz

Global Haiku Tradition
Millikin University, Spring 2001


Mark Grizzard
On Sarah Lutz's Haiku

Two Haibun
by Sarah Lutz

A Rengay
by Sarah & her roommate

Coming into this class, I had only been exposed to the commonly high school taught standard, "5-7-5" definition of haiku. I had been previously unimpressed with what haiku embodied, and I signed up for the class only to fulfill my "Studies in Poetry" requirement. However, after the first reading assignment in George Swede’s collection, my eyes were opened and I found myself finishing his entire book, rather than simply the assigned pages.

Written in its true form, haiku astounded and inspired me. While I struggled to enjoy many of the Japanese writers, as I felt that their poems were somehow "diluted" in the translation process, I fully enjoyed the poetry of Masajo Suzuki, and particularly connected with the poetry of Alexis Rotella and George Swede. Our class’ study of their poetry, and my individual study of Rotella’s work, aided in bringing my understanding of haiku to a new level.

While I was still moderately worried about my own creative haiku abilities, I was encouraged to try, as I discovered the poems did not have to be solely focused on "rainbows" and "maple leaves" (although they are, of course, valid haiku choices if one would feel so moved). I was pleased to find that the rigid 5-7-5 syllable guidelines had been a myth, and that even though haiku poems use the least amount of words possible to illustrate a moment, there is actually remarkable freedom in not being required to give a detailed description of the moment.

My favorite aspect of haiku is its faith in the reader and the reader’s ability to bring valuable experience into the poetry to complete, and then interpret the moment. Often in class we would have several different readings of one poem, all of them capturing a new and valid interpretation of the haiku, and this variety inspired me as a writer and as a reader.

My own poetry, while most definitely still in its formative stages of ability level, attempts to capture those aspects of haiku that I most enjoy as a reader. The majority of my poems focus on every day activities, and while at times nature is present in the haiku, it is never forced in for the sake of "haiku integrity." I have tried to find and write about moments that are both personally expressive and remain universally applicable. I believe one of the highest compliments I could ever receive would be for someone to tell me that they "could really see themselves in my haiku."

Throughout our class time, I have felt that haiku has moved me to think about different scenarios or moments in new ways. A haiku should bring something of the familiar and add to readers’ understanding of that moment with its perspective and/or commentary. I have enjoyed my study of haiku this past semester, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be made aware of the creative freedom haiku allows.

—Sarah Lutz

his sweatshirt
three sizes too big ~
a perfect fit

the morning after ~
with only a teddy bear

pajama clad,
sitting Indian style
women become girls again



they’re his friends ~
the chair is uncomfortable
my smile is forced

unsure of who he is,
he lets alcohol



polite conversation –
eyes scanning the room
for someone better

watching a movie —
aiming an M+M
at the Chatterbox




By Sarah Lutz and Angela Hunt

crud on the counter           SJL
dirty dishes in the sink
dishrag still in the drawer

homework forgotten,           AMH
we dance across the linoleum

my missing laundry            SJL
looks suspiciously
like her new sweater

piling into the car,            AMH
we bring more laughter
than luggage

her boyfriend cancels again –            SJL
we order Chinese

much needed advice –           AMH
she knows me better
than I know myself

©2001 Randy Brooks, Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois || all rights reserved for original authors