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Summer Memories: Share Yours As A Haiku

Jun 19, 2019
Originally published on October 30, 2019 1:38 pm

We want to hear about your favorite summertime memories in just three lines, haiku style:

  • 5 syllables in the first line
  • 7 syllables in the second line
  • 5 syllables in the third line

Think weekend barbecues, ice cream cones, ballpark games — or whatever summer has meant for you.

Ideally, your poem can be read in one breath.

One more thing: Try not to use the word "summer."

Your poem could be used in an upcoming Morning Edition segment with poet Kwame Alexander.

You can submit your written responses below — or submit responses through a voice memo.

NOTE: The call-out for submissions has closed.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


Whether you grew up in the city or the country or anywhere in between, you probably remember plenty of summers catching lightning bugs, playing in a gushing fire hydrant, logrolling down hills maybe.

KWAME ALEXANDER: OK. I don't remember logrolling down hills.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

ALEXANDER: I lived in Brooklyn. But we did play stickball.

MARTIN: Kwame Alexander, how's it going?

ALEXANDER: It's great. How are you, Rachel?

MARTIN: I'm doing well.


MARTIN: Oh, yeah.

ALEXANDER: Oh, yeah (laughter).


UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Oh, yeah, summertime, summer, summer, summertime.

MARTIN: You know why we're playing that song, Kwame?

ALEXANDER: Of course, I do, but enlighten me.

MARTIN: It's summertime. It makes everybody happy. There are all kinds of opportunities for poetry, I think. I know you probably agree. And while there's a lot of beauty in the long narrative poem, I understand you are feeling the haiku right now.

ALEXANDER: I am. And talk about feeling the haiku as the poem of the summer - it's short and sweet, like summer memories.

MARTIN: Right.

ALEXANDER: Especially for my kid because before you know it, she'll be back in school.

MARTIN: (Laughter)

ALEXANDER: I remember Coney Island. I remember cutting grass for $5 a lawn. I remember football in the streets. I remember two turntables and a tape deck, rapping in my basement - summer vacation.

MARTIN: Look, I feel like that was all just a poem. I mean, mine aren't as poetic. I do just remember that feeling of total and complete freedom - right? - just on your bike riding around. You don't have to be home till it's dark outside.


MARTIN: No one's tracking you on the cellphone. You're just free to do your thing.

ALEXANDER: We didn't have cellphones back then.

MARTIN: No, we did not. No, we did not.

ALEXANDER: So we want to take those memories and use them to construct haiku. And it's really easy to do. It's a three-line poem with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second and five in the third.

MARTIN: All right. So we should share an example. I've got one. This is a haiku by the Japanese poet, Kobayashi Issa. Here it is. (Reading) squatting motionless, the sun-tanned child and the toad stare at each other.

ALEXANDER: Can't you just see a kid in July eyeing a frog with adventure and awe in her eyes?

MARTIN: I love it.

ALEXANDER: OK. So here's one from the novelist Richard Wright, who many people don't know wrote haiku also. (Reading) The sudden thunder startles the magnolias to a deeper white.

MARTIN: I love magnolias. I love thinking about that smell in summertime.

ALEXANDER: It's nothing like the smell of sweet candy during the summer.

MARTIN: It's true.

All right so, listeners, you and your kids, this is what we want you to do. We want you to write a summer haiku with your own memories, right? So you can send it in, this haiku, based on your memories from your childhood summers that paints a picture of what summer meant to you and means to you now.

ALEXANDER: Exactly, and try your best to follow the rules - the five syllables in the first, seven in the second, five in the third. And try not to use the word summer in your poem.


ALEXANDER: Yeah. Let the images alone evoke the memory of the season.

MARTIN: That's a good idea. All right. Send your submissions in writing, or you can record a voice memo by going to npr.org/summerhaiku. And next time Kwame and I are together in the studio, we will read or play a few of your poems.

ALEXANDER: I can't wait.

MARTIN: It's going to be cool.

Kwame Alexander is the author of "The Undefeated" and a new picture book titled "How To Read A Book." He is also a regular contributor to this very program.

Kwame, thank you so much. Happy summer.

ALEXANDER: Watermelon hugs to you my friend.

MARTIN: Oh, yum.


WILL SMITH: (Rapping) Back then, I didn't really know what it was. But now I see... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.