Global Haiku Tradition
Millikin University, Spring 2003

Stacey Orr

Stacey's Haiku



Peggy Lyles & John Stevenson

When deciding on which authors to compare for this assignment, I wanted two that could capture almost the same moment, but present it in a different way from the other. John Stevenson has a way with words. He has the ability to immerse his reader into the scenes that he has depicted for them. Each haiku is written with such a vividness and clarity, which allows the reader to become part of his experience. You, as the reader feel his emotions, see his visions, and live his experiences over and over again, just as if they were your own. You feel comfortable in experiencing these moments along with the author because of his chosen subject matter and writing style. The words of John Stevenson are simply a reflection of an ordinary moment, conveyed in the simplest terms.

Peggy Lyles has somewhat of a different approach to writing haiku than the one mentioned above. Ms. Lyles seems to write traditional haiku with an innovative twist. She prefers to focus on the senses, such as sight, taste, smell, touch, or sound, while also presenting a seasonal element in most of her writings. She, too, has a clarity and vividness about her writing. Every time I read it, I become part of her moment and her world. Although not in the simplest terms, she conveys a simple moment. She removes herself from her experience, and allows readers to imagine it for themselves. These two authors are nothing less than admirable haiku writers.

my son asks
what a tree costs

Stevenson, Some of the Silence, p.48

traffic jam
my small son asks
who made God

Lyles, To Hear the Rain, p.57

These two haiku portray a very similar idea. Within the first haiku, by Stevenson, I picture a father and his son out on a walk in the park. This is a very casual and relaxing walk where the two are spending quality time together. During the walk, the child is admiring the trees, and he wants to know how much one costs. This could be an awkward situation for some parents, just for the simple fact that you aren’t prepared to answer, or aware of the answer, to this type of question. Although this is an awkward type of question, it is presented in a light way. The clarity of Stevenson’s emotions is apparent through this haiku. I see him dealing with this situation maybe with a little humor. This haiku is not one that shows an everyday experience for Stevenson, but I believe it does show the simple terms that he uses to capture a moment.

The style of Peggy Lyles is somewhat different than that of Stevenson. Within her haiku, I picture a mother and her small son in their car in the heart of a heavy traffic jam. The mother is a little irritated, and at her maximum point of frustration, he proposes a question. He asks her who made God. This too can be an awkward question for a parent to answer. I believe that after this question, she feels not only trapped in the traffic jam, but also trapped by this question. Although this is different from her normal style of removing herself from the haiku, I think it still works well for her. You feel trapped just like the mother, but you also feel the curiosity of the small child. The reader is totally immersed within emotion and words of Peggy Lyles.

cold Saturday—
drawn back into bed
by my own warmth

Stevenson, Haiku Anthology, p.204

snowed in
the wedding-ring quilt
lumpy with children

Lyles, To Hear the Rain, p.64

These two haiku, I believe, are the most similar of the three sets. Within each haiku, the reader feels a comfort and warmth, and they are both good experiences to put into words. The first haiku by Stevenson is my favorite because I relate to it so well. I picture myself trying to get up for class during the winter months. I always hit the snooze button about three times before I get up. I just dread the cold, and my warm bed seems like a much better place to be than outside fighting the cold. I think this haiku paints such a vivid picture for its reader, and this simple experience brings apparent emotions to life.

The next haiku focuses on what the writings of Peggy Lyles are all about. Her style portrays a seasonal element with a touch of the senses. Within the first line, Peggy sets the scene. You picture the snow and ice all around you. Next, she plays with your senses. You see the children huddled under this huge quilt. You feel the comfort and warmth of the blanket and others around you. And you hear the laughter of the small children. This haiku is my favorite written by Ms. Lyles. She is able to take this special moment and bring it to life while adding to it with her senses and seasonal elements. This style she uses makes her writings special and unique.

May morning
reading my meditations
the page brightens

Stevenson, Some of the Silence, p.5

cheek on her hand
. . . the pages
turn themselves

Lyles, To Hear the Rain, p.27

This last set of haiku conveys their idea in a different way. The haiku by Stevenson hits the heart of his style of writing. This normal experience is presented in the simplest terms. I picture a man sitting outside on a spring morning because he has decided to enjoy both his reading material and the weather at the same time. During his time of reflection, he has finally realized something that has never been apparent to him before. Ideas are now becoming clear. This haiku has a humorous play on words. I see the bright sun of the spring day, and then later you see the pages become brighter as the ideas have been discovered. Stevenson sometimes chooses to write with a humorous twist, and I think this aspect to writing collaborates well with his personality.

Within this haiku by Peggy Lyles, I picture a girl sitting at her desk reading. She is so engrossed in the book that the pages and the time seem to pass very quickly. It is almost as if she is not even turning them herself. This haiku focuses on the idea of removing the author from the haiku. By doing this, Peggy has allowed more readers to relate to the experience and enjoy what she has written. She almost adapts to the style that Stevenson loves to write. She has taken a simple, everyday moment, and portrayed it with clarity. I feel as though I am sucked into this haiku, and that I am the one she is writing about.

Although the styles of these two authors are very different, they seem to be able to capture the same moments. Their different styles are what make them unique. John Stevenson has his everyday experiences given to the reader in a vivid clarity. Peggy Lyles enjoys her senses and seasonal elements. With each unique style, these authors are able to reach different audiences, and for this reason, I admire them both as haiku authors.

Works Cited

Lyles, Peggy. To Hear the Rain. Brooks Books. 2002, 27, 57, 64.

Stevenson, John. Some of the Silence. Red Moon Press. 1999, 5, 48.

Van Den Heuvel, Cor. The Haiku Anthology. W. W. Norton & Company. 2000, 204.

—Stacey Orr

©2003 Randy Brooks, Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois || all rights reserved for original authors