In his paean to Claire Everett’s ‘editors’ choice’ haiku in the September 2018 issue of The Heron’s Nest, esteemed American haiku poet John Stevenson makes special reference to Claire’s use of the word ‘skedaddles’ and states that he’s not seen it in a haiku before. It certainly can’t be common, and I can’t definitively claim to be the first person to have used it in a haiku, but my haiku below was published, somewhat incongruously, in the Haiku Society of America 2009 members’ anthology, A Travel-Worn Satchel, and subsequently collected in The Lammas Lands, 2015:

white skies
a hare skedaddles
over Wealden clay

It’s a haiku for which I retain a certain fondness, as much as anything for the memory of the place where it was written, somewhere near Sevenoaks, in deepest Kent, on a rather odd work residential course.

By contrast though, what, for me, makes Claire’s use of ‘skedaddles’ so compelling, and much more effective than mine, isn’t its use per se, but the fact that she uses it transitively, in the sense of ‘chivvies’. I’ve only ever heard it used intransitively, so Claires’s usage is refreshing and, to my eyes and ears, innovative – but I daresay it could just be evidence of the North/South divide.

John interprets the meaning of the word as ‘scatters’, but I see it more in the opposite way, of the sheepdog doing its utmost to round up the lambs. Either way, the word, and its intrinsic onomatopoeia, conjures a dynamic which flows seamlessly and mellifluously from the vigorous fresh-air movement of the opening line. It’s a terrific haiku and I’m glad that John and his fellow editors recognised its beauty.

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