Global Haiku Tradition
Millikin University, Spring 2003

Miranda Baker

Betty Drevniok

Miranda Baker

Miranda's Haiku



The Life and Haiku of Betty Drevniok

Does haiku about everyday life experiences entice you to read haiku? If you have answered yes, I recommend the haiku of Betty Drevniok. Drevniok was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1917. After high school, Betty attended Washington University School of Fine Arts as well as St. Louis School of Nursing (Haiku Canada). After she graduated with her nursing degree in 1948, Betty moved to Canada where she worked as a nurse. In 1977, Betty Drevniok, George Swede, and Eric Amann founded the Haiku Society of Canada, which is presently known as Haiku Canada. Drevniok served as secretary for two years and as president for three years. As president, Betty was able to arrange the first haiku international meeting in Toronto in 1980 (Haiku Canada). Throughout her life, Drevniok wrote many haiku as well as books such as Impressions of Rural Ontario, Focus on a Shadow, Aware: A Haiku Primer, and Thoughts of Spring. After her life ended in March 1997, Haiku Canada started the Betty Drevniok Award 2002 in her memory (Haiku Canada).

I became interested in Drevniok’s haiku after reading several of her haiku in The Haiku Anthology. Her haiku appeals to me because they are about everyday life experiences and they are simple yet complex. They are simple because she uses a minimum amount of words and complex because they always seem to have a deeper meaning.

snow at dusk
our pot of tea
steeps slowly darker

The Haiku Anthology, 34

When I read this haiku for the first time, I thought it was simple because as the snow is falling outside, the tea on the stove gets warmer and darker. However, after I read this haiku several times, I am able to see its complexity because I believe it is a little narrative. I imagine that two old friends are sitting in a kitchen on a cold, snowy night. Through the small kitchen window, they are able to see the snow falling outside as they await their cup of tea, and as they get deeper and deeper into conversation the darker and darker the tea becomes.
Also, I like Drevniok’s work because she likes to appeal to her readers senses whether it be touch, smell, taste, hear, or sight. Sometimes she uses more than one sense in a haiku.

autumn night:
following the flashlight beam
through rain

Thoughts of Spring

First, the haiku uses vision as a sense. Because the haiku takes place in autumn, I imagine that it is a cool night with a light drizzle. As the person walks in a forest, wet leaves on the ground stick to his shoe. However, neither the rain nor the wet leaves stops him from following the flashlight beam that he sees in the distance. Then, Drevniok appeals to our sense of smell because I am smell the rain. In addition, she uses sound because you are able to hear the rain bouncing off the fall leaves. What I like most about this haiku is that I can see the man walking in the rain at this present moment.

In Drevniok’s book, Aware: A Haiku Primer, she wrote that the best haiku is created from actual experiences that are happening at this moment. As people are writing haiku, they should be alone in order to allow the universe to touch them and at the same time allow themselves to become aware of nature and reality. Drevniok says, “Be aware of things around you. Let those things reach out and touch you as in the Japanese phrases ‘mono no aware,’ the touchingness of things and the touchingness of the world, of life, ‘yo no aware’ (Drevniok, Aware 5).” As people become aware of their surroundings, they should become one with nature, where they are, and as who they are. With this approach in mind, most of Drevniok’s haiku is from the oneness technique of Zen. Another approach that Drevniok takes in her haiku is that she uses minimal emotion, if any. Drevniok likes the minimum / maximum approach which is when authors write a minimum amount of words that expresses the maximum experience in order for readers to share the same exact moment (Drevniok, Aware 18). Within this minimal amount of words, the authors should not force their emotion on their readers. A haiku is written so that the reader, too, may experience the moment because the haiku “belongs to the writer and reader equally but differently (Drevniok, Aware 19).”

Drevniok wants her readers to be able to feel their own emotions by using their imagination.
After I looked at several books of Drevniok’s, I was able to select many of my favorite haiku that illustrate Drevniok’s oneness technique of Zen and how she does not impose her readers with her emotions.

a drift of snow
in the picnic table’s shadow
first day of spring

Thoughts of Spring

I like this haiku because of its irony. It is the first day of spring but not all of the snow has melted because the picnic table is blocking the sun’s heat from melting the drift of snow. Drevniok allows me to imagine that a family is enjoying their first day of spring by having a picnic in the park. Also, I like this haiku because I am able to use my imagination so that I can form my own emotions. When the family arrives at the park, they cannot believe that some of the snow is still on the ground. However, the snow does not ruin their picnic. They continue to celebrate the first day of spring because they know that it will not be long until the snow will be completely gone.

starry night
on TV an old movie
in black and white

Thoughts of Spring

I choose to write about this haiku because I enjoy the contrast of black and white. Drevniok sets up this haiku so that her readers imagine a dark sky that is filled with bright white stars. However, the same black and white contrast is experienced inside as well. I imagine that a man is sitting in is living room watching TV with no lights on in the house. The only light is coming from the TV but it is not giving off much light because the movie is in black and white. In addition, I believe the oneness technique used in this haiku because nature and the man are connected by sharing the same environments.

my footprints on sand
another wave
another wave

Thoughts of Spring

This haiku is a perfect example of oneness because the person becomes connected by nature as her foot sinks into the sand. Also, she becomes one with the water as it rushes over the top of her feet. The way Drevniok spaced the haiku, allows her readers to see the movement of the waves going back and forth onto the sand. Because no emotion was used, I was able to imagine that a woman was on a midnight stroll along the beach. She has been stressed out lately and she finds herself at peace when she is near the ocean because it reminds her of when her parents would bring her to the ocean when she was a little girl.

only embers remain . . .
drift across the full moon

Thoughts of Spring

I like this haiku because Drevniok makes her readers feel that they are one with nature. I imagine this haiku is written about a camping trip. Every time I have gone camping, I feel very connected to nature by sleeping on the ground, making campfires, and taking hikes. This haiku takes place early in the morning because the full moon is still out and shining. The man came out of his tent because he could not sleep. As he walks around his campsite, he realizes that his campsite is not as bright as it usually is. After looking around he realizes that it is dark because embers only remain in the campfire and clouds are drifting across the moon. I believe that Drevniok’s use of spacing is very useful because it allows readers to imagine how clouds drift across the moon, unevenly and slowly.

Betty Drevniok’s haiku are simple everyday experiences, but they usually have a complex meaning. She does not like to impose her readers with emotions because she wants them to be able to relate to the moment through their own imaginations. Finally, Drevniok likes to use the oneness technique of Zen by appealing to her readers’ senses. In order to write a good haiku, Drevniok believes that people should be alone with nature. Being alone with nature allows people to be touched by the universe, and allows them to become aware of reality.

Works Cited

Drevniok, Betty. Aware – A Haiku Primer. Bellingham, WA: Portals Publications, 1981.

Drevniok, Betty. Thoughts of spring. Point Claire, Quebec: King’s Road Press, 1993.

Haiku Canada. Annual Contest - The Betty Drevniok Award 2002. 17 April 2003

Heuvel, Cor van den. The Haiku Anthology. New York, New York, W. W. Norton & Co., 1999

—Miranda Baker

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