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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday: Welcome to Paideia Teacher and Haiku Poet Becca McCauley




Greetings, Poetry Friday-ers! A special treat today. We often feature the fine work of young haiku poets at The Paideia School in Atlanta, Ga., under the guidance of Language Arts teacher and seasoned haiku poet Tom Painting. Today, we welcome one of Tom's colleagues, someone who has embraced haiku as something much more than "a nature poem written in 5-7-5."

That was initially the way Becca McCauley taught haiku, but when she learned there was more to it, she embraced the opportunity to learn and even to write some herself. In fact, Tom recently initiated a monthly haiku "contest" for Paideia students, staff and parents called HaiC (Haiku Challenge), and she has been recognized each of the first three months.

“One of the greatest challenges the haiku community faces is getting informed and inspiring educators on board,” Tom says. "Becca is an inspiration to her 5/6 graders. All 32 of her students write and enter the contest."

We asked Becca a few questions about her exploration of haiku, but first - let's enjoy a handful of her poems.


silent moon
the scarecrow’s shadow stretches
on a barren field


pulsing through
the warm, damp night
cicada symphony


tiny shadows
skitter across the lake
the moon's reflection shattered


pink flamingos
littering the lawn
my fiftieth


parking lot
under the full moon,
a newborn's head emerges



Poems©Becca McCauley. All rights reserved.


Now, a few questions for Becca....


How has your understanding of haiku changed over the last year or so?

[Tom] has definitely honed my understanding, especially the idea of it being conversational in tone, and the importance of including, rather than excluding articles, along with the emphasis on showing rather than telling.

What do you most enjoy about reading and or writing haiku?

I love playing with words, both meanings and sounds, and I just love words in general. I probably enjoy writing haiku more than reading it, but I love hearing the kids' haiku, and I really enjoy ones that surprise me. I am very impressed by some of their contributions.

How does writing haiku benefit your students?

Again, playing with words and vocabulary and sounds is just a great thing to do. It's creative, it's accessible, and it is not too intimidating. Experimenting with synonyms is also both fun and beneficial. We actually do not do all that much with the haiku -- I would like to carve out a bit more time here and there for them to share with each other. I love being able to see another side of a kid -- and the twists and turns of how they are thinking and feeling.

What is the biggest challenge to either you or your students in writing haiku?

Fitting in the time to talk about it -- we are doing so much already....

To sum up with one of our favorite questions for haiku poets: Why haiku?

I have really been enjoying working with haiku this year because life is incredibly busy and hectic. It is very relaxing to mull over words, and it can be done in the odd moments here and there. I have to do this series of stretches and back exercises every morning, and it can be tedious, though it is definitely essential. There is one stretch which does not involve counting or much mental focus, and I often find myself in those moments pondering the next haiku topic, searching for images in my mind that might inspire me, and starting to manipulate words and phrases that might fit together to bring the images to life. Haiku is short enough to capture in some of the small moments that I have available. Also, each word really matters, and I enjoy that idea greatly.

Becca also likens haiku to photography.

I love photography, and sometimes haiku fits it with those mental snapshots, even though they are still in slight motion because they are breathing.

This world is so fast paced, and I think it is really healthy for both me and the kids to have to slow down and and focus on a single moment.

I love to see the kids' humor when it comes out in their haiku as well as their poetic side. The twist, the "aha" moment, allows for that, another reason I enjoy the twist. I also love trying myself to figure out how to arrange the lines to best set up a scene to make an aha possible.


Many thanks to Tom and Becca for this inside peek into how a teacher has embraced haiku, for herself and for her lucky students!

For more inspiring poets and poems this week, be sure to check out the poetic cornucopia over at The Miss Rumphius Effect, where the ever-delightful Tricia has the Roundup.

Pssst.... PS - HUGE thanks to our amazing Jama for featuring me and everything you'd ever want to know about artsyletters Monday at Jama's Alphabet Soup Thanks to so many of you for stopping by!
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