Woolen Cap | Wind haiku poem example | 113008

A cold breeze cuts
through my woolen cap . . .
I can’t go home.

Ken Wagner on Haiku Habits

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Adriaan Dec 1, 2008 @ 11:18


    To make it more interesting you could either cut this up into two images, one of which will be the background to the one that has the focus, or you could add a background image to this one. I think the first possibility has the lowest chance of succeeding. But maybe if you separate the ice from the rest and say one or two words more about it, it might work.

    If you choose to add an image, you could use all kinds of things for a background image, e.g. your bald skull. 😀

    If this would have been a haiku by Issa, the poet’s poverty would have been enough to make this a good poem. But even then it would still have read something like: “Winter approaching. / A cold breeze penetrates the gaps / in my woolen cap.” And my knowledge that Issa won’t be able to buy a new cap, and that the winter will get colder, would add to the poem.

    Try not to think you have enough material when you have only one image. Wait till you have two or preferably more, and then start juxtaposing; focussing, taking to the background; one image first, other image last, and vice versa; one short, other long, and vice versa (or both equally long); etc. Try to mix images that resonate well, or clash nicely.

  • Ken Wagner Dec 1, 2008 @ 19:09

    Great advice about multiple images and combinations. How about –

    Sharp ice breeze
    penetrates the gaps in my
    only woolen cap.

    I think “only” draws attention to the cap.


    Ice breeze cuts
    through my woolen cap –
    Home is far.

    I like both directions, for different reasons.

  • Adriaan Dec 2, 2008 @ 3:30

    The second direction looks more promising.

  • Ken Wagner Dec 2, 2008 @ 22:30

    Was –

    Sharp ice breeze
    penetrates the gaps in my
    woolen cap.

  • Adriaan Dec 3, 2008 @ 4:44

    Home is NOT far? I thought it was far…

    This one works too of course. Now it focusses on the warmth and comfort of home, mildly contrasted to your cold head during your short walk. So this one is about home and warmth, and the other one was (or would have been) focussing on loneliness and the cold.

    A focus on the feeling of being cold and lonely far from home would have made a more chilling haiku, I think. It would have brought out the contrast between the lonely cold and the warmth of home much better.

    It’s like the difference between you sticking one toe in, or you having to swim a mile in the cold water.

  • Ken Wagner Dec 3, 2008 @ 6:52

    You said I could make things up! Actually, home was not far away, but it was cold out and my walk was far from over, so it felt far.

    I thought the rhythm of “Home is far” too vague, and wanted to sharpen it a bit. “Home is not far” immediately popped up, and the rhythm felt right. Then the meaning felt right.

    Alternatives were:

    Home is still far
    Home is so far
    Home is too far
    Home is far off
    Home is not close

    What do you think?

  • Adriaan Dec 3, 2008 @ 8:02

    I’d go with “still”.

    Or a completely different sentence. There are many other ways to arrive at the same feeling.

  • Ken Wagner Dec 4, 2008 @ 21:35

    What about –

    A cold breeze
    penetrates my woolen cap,
    I can’t go home.

  • Adriaan Dec 5, 2008 @ 4:21

    Ouch! You can’t go home… That makes it really sharp. It almost sounds as if you don’t have a home. But as a haiku it’s quite good.

  • Ken Wagner Dec 5, 2008 @ 5:42

    This one is the most truthful, too. It is not that home is far or not far. I can’t go home – yet. The walk is not done. I also like the sound that “can’t” adds.

    Thanks for helping me with this.

    Was –
    A cold breeze
    penetrates my woolen cap.
    Home is not far.

  • Adriaan Dec 5, 2008 @ 7:47

    “The walk is not done,” I like that kind of priorities.

  • Kris Jan 7, 2009 @ 23:02

    Ken (& Adriaan)
    I like both the process you’re going through and the meaning a lot, but I’m not sure about “I can’t go home.”
    For one thing, it doesn’t have a resonant end-of-poem sound in English . . . don’t ask me to explain, that’s just a feeling.
    For the second, it throws me into wondering about plot . . WHY can’t you go home? No home? too far? pissed everyone off? 😉 So I totally forget about your woolen cap.
    Maybe that’s just me though. . . .

    If I wrote it I might make the “can’t go home” more explict:
    “Far from home” “I can’t go home yet” “Miles to go” “miles still to walk”
    Even steal from an old song: “500 miles from my home” (though come to think of it “miles to go” steals from Robert Frost a bit)

    Any of that work for you?



  • Ken Wagner Jan 8, 2009 @ 20:26

    All great suggestions, Kris.

    Personally, I like that the final line jolts the reader to a different place, even if it is gracelessly non-poetic. Once there, you “can’t go home.” The land is cold, and the wool won’t work with the wind. Or, as Adriaan would say, Ouch.

    With Eliot, “I should have been a pair of ragged claws / Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” I just don’t belong.

  • Kris Jan 8, 2009 @ 20:48

    Ken, one thing I’m coming to admire about you is how graciously you take comments and suggestions.
    You are right on both counts: the last line jolts the reader, & it’s non-poetic, which of course isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
    So now I have an insane urge to suggest you tinker with the middle line. For me, “penetrates” is slightly formal languge, but not formal or poetic _enough_ to add much special. Could you see going back to “cuts through”?
    I think that would make it stronger.
    thanks for listening!

  • Ken Wagner Jan 9, 2009 @ 15:26

    I like the suggestion, Kris. What about –

    A cold breeze cuts
    through my woolen cap,
    I can’t go home.

    I like the hard “c” sounds that run through it.

  • Kris Jan 9, 2009 @ 18:56


  • Ken Wagner Jan 9, 2009 @ 20:40

    Was –
    A cold breeze
    penetrates my woolen cap,
    I can’t go home.