Haiku Comics as Diary Comics

Haiku #38

Those who have been following me for some years know that I started making comics through daily diary entries that I could slip in during my busy days as a freelance illustrator and full-time parent to a then small child. My life hasn’t gotten any less busy, but over the years, and especially since making a full-length book, my work has shifted and is in a period of transition to longer, more detailed stories. I used to dash off a one page diary comic in an hour or so, but now I can’t seem to do anything less than 10 pages–and it can take weeks to get it done! For example, I have been at work on a longer comic story for the last month and have no idea when it will actually be completed. It’s slow work that I can’t always get to and it is a practice in itself for my impatient and self-critical brain to stick with it and let it have its time.  Even so, I still crave the daily practice of completing something light and doable. This is where the haiku comic has become a real treat. Its one to two panel format makes it a brief and doable way to record something in my day. The haiku form of 3 lines of 17 syllables also gives it a naturally contained space. Haiku is also supposed to be about observation and should echo something of the environment or season you are in. All these rules are actually what sets my mind free to write and create these small batches of time. I can’t go anywhere in a haiku, but I can go somewhere small and specific–it works.

Haiku #17.jpegWriting haiku has become a practice in observation–often taking the place of mindless surfing the internet at night or when I think I want some autonomy or feel anxious (and let’s face it, there is A LOT to feel anxious about these days–and the internet is not helping). It’s so small that I can sit there and just observe–what is here? What tells me it’s springtime or summertime? What tells me it’s night time? How can I put an observation down in 3 lines of 5 syllables, 7 syllables, and ending in another 5?

I write a lot of haiku, but only draw a few.  Not everything I write “works,” even though making them does work for my brain. Sometimes something will delight me and then I’ll draw it. I’m in the process of scanning in a backlog of these. I’ve completed about 40 of a planned 50. It’s becoming a brief diary experiment that I am enjoying so much. I plan on making it into a little book and I’ll be so excited to share it with you.

Haiku #24.jpeg

If you’ve been wanting to start a diary comic, but feel like you don’t know where to start a haiku comic might be a good place to begin. Start small and complete something. The work always shows you how to do it.

MLK Haiku

Haiku #3

Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, jr. They killed the man, but they could not kill the dream. The struggle for equality and justice continues.

Happy National Poetry Month

Haiku #1

This morning’s haiku comic.

As longtime readers know, I love National Poetry Month. I literally look forward to it every April–when I can use it as an excuse to read nothing but poetry. This month is no different–although I also want to spend it reading and listening to poets in interviews and essays and pondering poetry. I feel like poets and cartoonists have a lot in common. Poets and cartoonist both try to do a lot with very little. Both work in rhythm and timing. Financially both art forms are totally impractical when it comes to making a living and yet we devote ourselves totally to it. I learn so much about what to tell and how to tell it in comics from poetry.

Like every winter, my time is in short supply due to snow days and family needs. Today is no different thanks to a late snow storm. I have a big comic I am working on, but won’t get to it because I won’t have time.  This is when poetry is especially helpful–I can steal away and sneak a poem or two as time as needed. Recently, browsing a used bookstore, I stumbled upon James Wright’s book of haiku and have been starting my days reading and writing haiku of my own. It fits easily into very brief periods of time. I always have plans to make my haiku into comics, but I didn’t until this morning. I managed to fit it in when my son was eating breakfast.  Now he sits on the floor reading Tubby comics as I type this, behind him a large window of snow. Another day when I’ll have to be creative in order to make things work. Another perfect day for poetry.