Throwing our rocks from the Irish Sea into the North Sea after 200 miles.

“What are the syllables in a haiku,” Peter asked me, somewhere on the walk between Keld and Reeth.  I gave him a fairly lengthy reply, explaining that the 5-7-5 syllable scheme is decidedly Western, as traditional Japanese haiku have 17 on, in the 5-7-5 pattern, but on and syllables are not the same.  (What exactly an on is can be hard to explain.  Wikipedia says it’s a mora and then tries to explain that.)  Traditionally there is a seasonal reference in a haiku, and most critically there is a cutting word, or juxtaposed images, a turn, of some sort, often between the second and third lines.

Several miles later Peter said, “Okay, I have one.”  And he recited a haiku he’d written in his head as he walked.

Dry boots, full bellies
Bad weather route to a pub
Bog only to knee. — Peter

So then I wrote one and recited it to him, and we both recited ours to everyone else, probably backed up at another kissing gate (only one person can go through at a time) or a stile up to an almost impossibly narrow gap in the top half of one of the many, many, many 5 foot stone walls, clamped off by a small, springy wooden gate (only one person can go through at a time).

Up and down the line of the 8 of us walking, we started counting out syllables in our heads or with our fingers or our footfalls, then reciting the haikus we came up with. At one point David said, “We’re writing hike-u’s (and spelled it out). Get it?” We chuckled. When we stopped for lunch at a tea room (the pub wasn’t serving food, and we needed food more than pints), I wrote down what everyone had come up with. Here are a couple more (and more to come).

Boggy boots hosed clean
Hair-dryer miracle dry
Next day happy feet. — Anne

Homemade giant fish fingers
With salad and chips 8.50
Walkers welcome. — Betsy


About Grace Mattern

Grace Mattern is a poet, writer, mother, grandmother, partner, friend, family member, gardener, triathlete, hiker and for 30 years was the Executive Director of the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She resigned her position at the Coalition on June 15, 2011 in order to concentrate on her writing, while continuing to engage in the movement to end violence against women as a consultant and advisor. Her chapbook Fever of Unknown Origin was published in 2001 and her full-length poetry book The Truth About Death was published in 2012.
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