Collaborating on Haikus


The collaborative writing app that embodies “poetry in motion”


Could apps allow us to write collaboratively with people across the world? Edward Green ponders his experiences with an app that does just that.

I find creative collaboration wonderful. It’s a chance for those involved to create something together that they would not have been able to create on their own. What’s more, the results are fantastically unpredictable. In fact, I often find myself wondering, “Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could collaborate in this way with anyone, anywhere in the world?”

The good news is that there are some clever people out there who have solved this problem. These guys have recently released an iPhone app called ‘HaikuJAM’. The app provides a beautifully simple platform for people from all over the world to collaborate creatively together.

“Ok… but what are they creating?” I hear you ask. Why haikus of course!

In case you don’t know what haiku’s are, or “sort-of-remember-but-need-reminding”, allow me to explain. Haikus are 3-line, syllable based poems that originate from Japan. Usually the third and final line contain an interesting twist. For instance see the following haiku… about squirrels:

Oh look! A squirrel!

Balancing its acorn on,

The see-saw of life

What separates HaikuJAM from the traditional form of haiku is that three people are required to write each poem together, line by line by line. The first user chooses the theme of the haiku (be it the last episode of their favourite TV program, their first kiss or interplanetary domination) and writes the first line. The next person writes the second line, which can carry the theme in absolutely any direction. Finally, the third person comes along and finishes it off, usually providing an amusing or thought provoking twist. Each of the users are free to write absolutely anything they want- just as long as they conform to either 5 syllables (for lines 1 and 3) or 7 syllables (for line 2).

It may sound a bit complicated but it’s really not. Here is an example of a real haiku collaboration created through HaikuJAM:

Shubham chose the theme: “I think of you”

He then wrote the first line: “My days will begin” (5)

Dhru wrote the second line: “With determination, yet” (7)

And Chris created the third line: “By nightfall, tears stir” (5)

Now, I never really cared that much about haikus and I still don’t. But I love using this innovative app. The possibilities are truly endless and the content is truly the closest literal manifestation of “poetry in motion”.

Before the app was released, I attended the HaikuJAM Launch event at The Poetry Café in London’s Covent Garden. Around 60 people attended and over the course of the afternoon the normally quiet and unassuming venue transformed into a veritable Aladdin’s cave of haiku collaboration.

Rather than using smart phones, participants wrote haiku lines on postcards. These were then deposited in an exchange box for others to collect and contribute to. It provided a brilliant way to familiarise newcomers with the HaikuJAM method and get people’s creative juices flowing. Completed postcards were then pinned on a big board which, by the end of the day, was ‘JAM-packed’ (excuse the pun) with haiku collaborations.

I like the idea that in the near future many apps will encourage creative collaboration. A user could be sitting on a bus writing poetry, as strangers unknowingly look on. And one day those same strangers may join in too.


What kind of writing would you like to collaborate on? Join in the debate by tweeting me @createhubUK #CollaborativeHaikus

Author: admin

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