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  • Writer's pictureOne Kayak

#41 落叶集 Haiku project with my friends

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

About two months ago, I started this small Haiku project, and casually asked about 20 friends. 14 of them eventually joined me.

We are all beginners in poetry. For some of us, this was the very first time hearing the word “Haiku”, not to mention writing one.

We are all non-English-native speakers (except two school children who are considered bilingual), but the decision was to try English as it can easily mimic a traditional Haiku, which contains a 5-7-5 rhythm with a mix of single-syllable and multiple-syllable words.

Despite all the challenges and nuances, everyone tried their best to leverage a second language to share day-to-day observations from this small yet big and amazing life, while expressing some of their deepest feelings, ranging from great joy to immense sorrow.

Some only wrote one, some wrote 20 plus, some wrote other types of poems in different languages, and some felt inspired to move on to something else.

In the end, no one would cling too much on the quality of each individual poem. (A steep learning curve is clearly shown from the first Haiku to the last one.)

Personally, the process of such a collaborative and communal effort has its own power, fun and inspiration. It brought us together.

I am deeply grateful for your presence in my life.

Attached here is the original project plan and invitation letter that I used to reach out to the folks.

After the letter, let me humbly present the 130+ Haikus written by 14 friends in the past two months.

[The Original Letter]

You are cordially invited to join the Project Fall Leaves with me.

Let's write and share Haiku together.

Inspired by Billy Collins' masterclass

How to start?

Get familiar with the form – you have two options:

Haiku: 3 lines with syllables 5, 7 and 5.

Tanka: 5 lines with syllables 5, 7, 5, 7 and 5.

Feel free to search the terms "Haiku" and "Tanka". You will find a bunch of examples written by both master poets and kindergartners.

Why stick to a form?

If we don't have any forms, it's very hard to find a place to start, especially for beginners. Of course we all improvise from time to time and get free-form, if we really feel a sentence or stanza is brilliant.

Why English Haiku?

English Haiku has its own tradition for over 100 years. Compared to Mandarin Chinese (where every character is single-syllable), English (with multiple-syllable words) can help us get the rhythm of Haiku fairly quickly. Anyone speak Japanese?

What if I never wrote poems before?

Treat it as a game or word puzzle. No pressure.

No need to be fancy or complex. No one will judge. Just use basic English and simple words from your daily life to talk about your life and feelings. We may all throw in some fancy words or sentences occasionally. Who knows?

How to discover the subjects to write about?

Anything! For now, let's start with free writing.

We may add in some more fun later by throwing in some games – e.g. set a theme, specify a subject, specify a rhyme or rhythm, write a riddle, if we are all up to it.

How to share and keep going?

Write directly in your chat box with me. Or use "notes" to type and paste in the chat box. There are also one or two mobile apps available to help you count syllables.

I will save all the Haikus in a shared doc for us. It will be fun to look back in a few months.

Let's start with daily or twice a week? How about test-run for a while. Don't worry, I will nudge you.

Got stuck? Check out a few tips from Billy -

1. Find a few Haikus and Tankas online, and start from mimicking.

2. Take a seat, take a breath, think about what I did yesterday, and write down whatever comes to mind. Don't write them down logically or chronically. Just follow the flow. E.g.

"I ate an avocado, I called my dad and he didn't pick up my phone, I didn't eat breakfast, I was tired, the leaves started falling, the sky was grey, the wildfire didn't stop..." Anything! Literally! Seriously, Anything!

3. Start with a bunch of first lines, and see which one you like the best to continue.

4. Best advice ever: don't sit there and decide to start writing a poem right now. Everyone could get stuck in front of a blank paper. Some ideas/words/sentences could hover in your mind every now and then, while you eat, walk around in house, work in the garden, drive, pick up your child from school. Try to capture them by note or voice memo. Later, when you sit down, you already have something to start working with.

Useful resources:

If you have an account at, Billy Collins' poetry course is awesome.

Free Coursera from CalArt "Sharpened Visions: A Poetry Workshop".


Do not overthink

Be playful! Let's start and have

some fun together

See you on the other side...

September 14th, 2021

[The Collection]

Project Fall Leaves Collection

Season I

September 14th to November 7th (daylight saving ends) 2021

By a group of friends: SS, XW, ZZ, MP, JL, CL, YX, MQ, AX, GY, CZ, JZ, YH, JP

Listed chronically

9/14 SS

Endless summer winds

Winding roses are still pink

Pink hydrangeas pruned


9/17 MQ

It was a great night

Wake up in drizzle morning



9/17 JL

White big peach in box

Yellow small orange in bag

Bye-bye! Long workday


9/18 MQ (from camping site)

The rain gets heavier

Lie down, listen to raindrops

Completely relax


9/18 YX

Yellow autumn leaves

Leave the dust in emptiness

Empty your worrying mind


9/18 JL

I see summer breeze

Green leaves, blue sky and white cloud

What comes to my mind


An old man came first

A young girl jumped up and down

And many others


Why the self not come

Ah, cogito ergo sum

You know what I mean


9/19 YX

Raining on the lake

Drops run after drops and drops

Grasshopper awaits rainbow


9/19 SS

Wildfire in northland

Ocean wind toasts maple leaves

Dylan book of lyrics


9/20 SS

Chairman on a chair

Spinning up keeps spinning fast

Home away from home


9/21 JL

Two worlds cut by doors

Chilly sluggish me inside

Come, come, said the sun


I have what you need

Sunny happy energy

And a cake like moon


Your bonus tonight

Enjoy the nature my friend

In the hardest time


9/21 MQ

It’s full moon tonight

We go for a full moon hike

Beautiful moon-rise


9/21 SS

6am con-calls

Zooming through the entire day

Mid-fall never falls


9/22 MQ

Four nights out of home

Camping site with wine tasting

What a pleasant trip


9/22 SS

Sub-boomers opera

Atlantic tweets Pacific

Yellow nautilus


9/22 JL

Mornings come and go

Evenings come and never leave

I am evening


9/23 CL

Baby crying much

Sucking milk in mother’s arms

Both smiling again


9/24 AX

My boy doesn’t wake up

It’s already time for his school

Alarm keeps ringing


9/24 CZ

Sunshine on table

Such a wonderful morning

With the ones you love


9/24 JZ

Moonlight shatters me

As torrential memories

Permeate my heart


9/24 YX (Haircut by my hubby)

New style with short hair

His stress from mediocrity

Mine is the grey hair


Cellular shuts down

Quietness is my luxury

Inner-outer peace


9/24 SS

Sunrise on Hudson

Boys and girls boogie all night

The sound of ashes


9/24 CL

Good morning coffee

Keeps me going every day

Wind or sun or rain


9/24 JL

Virtual remote

distance you further away

I miss you so much


9/24 MP

Kitchen windowsill

Tomatoes turn red yellow

Colors of the life


9/25 MP

Toothaches all night long

Where does the problem belong

Night will soon be gone


9/25 MQ

Back from camping trip

Face my fumigated house

So much work to do


9/25 SS

Tip-toe with mask on

Crimson fever inside out

Until autumn falls


9/25 AX

Wind starting to blow

Gopher hiding in the hole

Leaves keep falling down


9/26 SS

Hide behind the drapes

Two calico cats inside, stare at

The black one outside


9/26 GY

Oh, the orange light

The air is thick and smoky

It scares me daily


9/26 MQ

Drove to testing site

Thought it’s drive-through COVID test

How come the set changed?


9/26 XW

This is a nice day

I went outside for a walk

It’s full of sunshine


9/26 YX

Coffee grinder comes

My new toy for addiction

Tea still No.1 choice


9/26 CL

Ants on the table

Don’t know danger approaching

Run for your life, run!


9/27 MQ

Fall breeze refreshing

Calligraphy practicing

My strings still waiting


9/27 SS

Sunset through glass door

Breaks porcelain at its core



9/27 ZZ

In the autumn night

Shadows of deer and baby

Impression of moon


9/27 XW

Autumn is coming

Leaves turned into colors

The air gets so crisp


9/28 MQ

Someone in the dark shadows

whispered to me “They are all over the place...”

Scared me a bit - here comes a deer!


9/28 CL (Financial Times)

Black words on pink sheets

Sheets fluttering with the wind

Wind takes thoughts away


9/28 SS

Winter at doorstep

The squirrels collect acorns

Shout “Yo La Tengo”


9/28 YX

Breeze through silver birch

Small town of gold ginkgo leaves

Full of city crowd


9/28 JL

Silent the meeting

Turn off shining monitors

Gimme back my life


9/28 XW

Books on my shelf

A way to look at the world

Reading enlightens


9/29 XW

Wind, rain and lightning

A small ship sails on the sea

Oh, how dangerous!


9/29 CL (Eye checkup)

In the hospital

Staring at the lines and dots

Are my eyes ok?


9/30 SS

Freeze some ice cubes and

Run! Lock the sadness into

sub-zero darkness


10/1 XW

This is a small park

Neighbors all come here and play

Busy and crowded


10/1 CL (Grieving)

Sitting by the porch

Woman in black gown mumbles



10/2 SS

Hydrangeas being trimmed

Endless speechless summer wind

Autumn sinks in ink


10/2 XW

The clouds are heavy

and grey, it’s raining all day

At home, have to stay


10/3 XW

Learning has much fun

It gives me new perspectives

I enjoy myself


10/3 JL

Even worm knows to

Live a full life while it can

“Ghost won’t do after”


10/4 XW

Good friends seldom meet

When will the restrictions end?

Blame the pandemic


10/3 MQ

Life almost halfway

Upfront still a long journey

Look forward to it


10/3 YX

Chasing in the wind

Flying with the dandelion

Seeds of hope awaits


10/4 MQ

No time today for

my dear books, who mourn on shelf

I apologize!


10/6 SS

Lie down on the floor

Listen - the knocks at the door

Let it come and go


10/6 CL (Squid Game)

So fake yet so real

456 flighting for life

Humanity rules


10/7 XW

Oh my dear daughter

A wonderful day in life

Happy birthday


10/7 SS

Eat birthday cake piece

by piece. Grow old as you sit

by me day by day


10/7 CL (Happy Birthday)

Bright and elegant

You are a dear to my heart

Feliz Cumpleanos


10/7 YX

Bridal veil in white

Happiness covered with tears

New chapter, it is


10/8 XW

Day by day passed by

We grow old year after year

It’s law of nature


10/9 SS

Foggy hills Chilly Dew

The fifth autumn solar term

Winter at door step


10/9 XW

Winter is coming

Weather changes - it’s getting cold

Have to dress warmly


10/9 JL

Fast technology

Fast food fast delivery

Fast to heaven or?


10/10 YX

Tattoo since teenage

Fading in the dawns of life

Script wasn’t written down


10/10 XW

Everything in pan

Rice, vegetables and sauce

Now it’s clay pot time!


10/11 SS

Breakfast of west coast

Toss in avocado toast

Orchards swipe forest


10/11 XW

Sun, sand and cactus,

Ocean and an old captain

think of an old song

(same old song)


10/12 XW

I got some fresh fruit

A box of love from a friend

Delicious apples


10/12 YX

Paint a picture, while

Listen to “iridescent”

Indian-summer heat


10/13 XW

Nobody knows who

was that charming young lady

Oh, Mona Lisa


10/14 XW

The sun shone gaily

Sunlight poured into my room

Through crystal windows


10/14 YX

Peace, love, on paper

How does mankind term, esti

-mated, in the end?


10/15 SS

A flock of seagulls

Glide through skyline, effortless

angle of attack


10/15 CL (Pollution)

Haze filling the air

Fogging hills and the city line

Wait for the sea breeze!


10/15 XW

“Double Ninth Festival”

Older people climb up hills

Careful! Don’t fall!


10/16 SS

Purple raw crystal

Corner office nested in trees

Look through double-panes


10/17 YX (All alone)

All-in while together

All-out while saying goodbye

Make peace with fate


10/17 SS

A team of team players

March toward the highest peak

Such a lonely trip


10/18 XW

Picture on the wall

A dragonfly hovers above

a lotus who buds


10/18 YX

Still a week to go

Let the pink champagne bubble

So's my heart sparkle

(Can't wait!)


10/19 SS

March to snowy peak

Friends and folks all-together

Such a weary trip


Paddle in whitewater

Friends and folks on the same boat

Such as lonely feel


Hike through forestry trail

Friends and folks hug in laughter

Such a starless night


10/19 XW

I went to market

where they sell organic food

Indulged a lot


10/19 YX (My masterpiece)

Puzzle of my half

Always search for the next piece

Almost fifty years


10/20 SS

The moon casts moonlight

The mountain shapes mountain waves

I lost my own voice


10/20 XW

Stay at home all day

I enjoy chat time with friends

And afternoon tea


10/20 YX

Being asked once again

Where’s the happiness on earth?

Always somewhere, alw(ays)


10/21 SS (For Christo and Jeanne-Claude)

White cliffs, waves go pink

The curtain is up? Or down?

Go ahead, wrap my heart


10/21 XW

What a sunny day

We like to bask in the sun

on fake grass playground


10/21 CL (Cantonese Idiom)

Blame on the weather

For all things can’t be explained

This is how it works


10/23 XW

My teeth hurts again

Treatment is a long process

Taking a pill first


10/24 SS

Rainy winds whole night

Message from North Pacific

Time to sort out cashmere


10/24 XW

Time flies like a bird

This year is ending again

You have a good day


10/24 YX

“You can run, sweetheart.

Do not let anything stop you.”

“So do you, Chuan-Mom.”


10/25 XW

This season, old times

We preserve all kinds of food

to survive winter


10/26 XW

Outbreak here again

I got a boost vaccine shot

Fingers crossed for best


10/27 XW

The Golden Gate Bridge

A world infamous red bridge

Flies over the bay


10/28 GY and AX

Buildings, more buildings

Rabbit is trapped in the land

Nowhere else to go


10/28 MQ

Every night, look

at my to-do’s. How to do

better the next day?


10/29 XW

Enter the compound

Travel pass, health code and more

Have to show them all


10/29 JZ

Shackled by turmoil

I imbibe the last vestige

of joy you bestow


10/29 CL

Golden sunlight shines

through pink cotton candy clouds

A beautiful day!


10/30 YH

The end of October

Crickets chirping, fading into silence

Last sip of summer


The silver lining of cloud

Shed by the glorious moon, never tired

Buried in the ever growing tide


A night in the autumn

Your name suddenly rises, from deep down

With a bottle of osmanthus wine


10/30 CL (Haiku Social)

What a sweet burden

strained but don't want to give up

a friendship precious


10/30 XW

Today is weekend

Cleaned bathroom and kitchen

The dust swept away


11/1 CL (Climate Change)

Climate is warming

Polar melting, storms surging

blue planet's crying


11/1 XW

Jujube, ginger

I drink it in the morning

Kind of healthy tea


11/1 GY

Look at yellow trees

They liven up the forest

The leaves slowly fall


11/2 SS

Nimbus clouds rising

Wake me up when October ends

Fire clouds fall from sky


11/3 XW

Double eleven

Online shopping carnival

Everyone buying


11/4 YX

Don't be somebody

Bounce, bounce, I write my story

Don't be Nobody


11/4 JL

Hunger in stomach

Food can cure hunger in mind

Nothing can help more

(No one can help you)


Media creates

onlookers and loneliness

Who is real product?


11/4 SS (Practicing Calligraphy)

Thousands of Kan-Ji

Pour into zillions of bytes

Lost-and-found in time


11/5 XW

It's time for winter

Weather is getting colder

Like everyday


11/5 CL (Kids)

Boy one, boy two, plus

a girl so cuddly and cute,

happiness explodes


11/6 GY

Cars, cars and more cars

Longer waits in the traffic

Listening to honks


11/6 CL (Lightness of Being)

Blue sky and light breeze,

butterfly flutters above,

may it every stay.


11/6 SS (First snow in Peking)

The very first snow

Some old song for an old soul

Long long time ago


11/7 SS (Finale)

Daylight saving ends

Earlier sunsets, longer nights,

Dark winter starts



(A Haiku written by a 6-year-old a few years ago)

9/14 JP

Going to the farm

Farmers working very hard

The sound of the dirt

(Two tanka try-outs in this collection)

9/14 SS

A sip of coffee

Crisp morning, sun is rising

The door is ajar

Birds are chirping, bees humming

No! The door is open!

(The cat must run out, again)

11/4 SS (Study of Chinese calligraphy)

Thousands of Kan-Ji

Pour into zillions of bytes

Digital rivers

Lost-and-found in this life

Carry into next round

(Last but not least, a random one for someone who really likes cats…)

A cat named Ravioli

Sitting by the window

As her designated guard post

Restlessly day and night

diligently she watches outside

moving her neck like an owl who stands

on top of an alpine in the mountains

“I ain’t looking like a bird.”

Said the cat, “Hoot, hoot.”


Photo Credit: Wix



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