On a grey September morning, I walked to Newhaven harbour with the P5 class from Edinburgh’s Victoria Primary School. The earlier rain had stopped, and the tide was out, beaching the small boats moored there. We walked out to the lighthouse at the harbour mouth, and looked upriver to the three Forth bridges, and north over to Fife. The walk was a preliminary to reading and writing haiku, and looking at the work of Yosa Buson (1716–1783), one of the great haiku poets of Japan who was also a painter. As with last summer’s workshop at Jedburgh Grammar School I wanted the pupils to think about combining visual and verbal elements in their work.
Back at school we read these haiku by Buson (all taken from Collected Haiku of Yosa Buson, trans. Merwin & Lento, 2013).
Half a day to myself
by the nettle tree
listening to the cicadas
Summer afternoon downpour
a flock of sparrows
hanging on the grass
There’s silver grass
I expect to find bush clover
not far away
We used some as models to write from. I retained their structure, and asked the pupils to fill them with their own content. We made some together, as I wrote down their suggestions, and then I asked them to write some on their own.
A couple of days later I did a second session. This time I asked them to choose one of their verses, and to present this on a postcard, together with a drawing of their choice. I showed them examples of other postcards which used text and image in different ways – sometimes as separate blocks, sometimes completely integrated.
I also asked them to made folding cards, again thinking about the relationship between their words and images (though we didn’t have time to explore this fully).
With thanks to the teachers Mrs Gorrie, Miss Blyth and Mrs Sim at Victoria Primary School, and to the GB Sasakawa Foundation for funding the work.