I am a singer songwriter. I never considered myself a visual artist. I cried when I thought I had to pass an art class to graduate, as you learned last week. Yet I had this romantic notion.
I would take a photo of water flung in the air.
I would allow my immediate response to the photo to create a haiku.
In as close to the moment of creation as possible, I would invite everyone I knew to experience that thrilling moment with me.
As long as I can remember, if there was any amount of beverage left in my glass, I would go outside, throw the liquid up into the sky, and watch it fall.
I loved doing that: watching with the light shine through water, hearing the rushing water fall, seeing the beautiful designs the water makes on the ground.
On September 10, 2017, I had been enjoying the idea that I would do that, someday, for a long time. And it hit me: I needed to do the idea, or I would lose it. It would be over. The way a crush ends. The way a bubble bursts.
I couldn't have that.
Looked at my phone, it was at 20% charge. I needed to get started.
I took my water bottle into the alley, threw it up against the sky like I always do, and took photos. The results were…spectacularly unspectacular.
So I ran in the house, got a glass of water. This time, it would WORK! I had learned where to stand, what direction to face, and the arm motions to use.
I took photos expecting the thrill I had always found to there, but there was nothing inspiring: no sparkle in the water drops; no compelling designs on the ground where the water fell; plus I was getting soaked.
I dashed back into the house, grabbed a flower vase, calculated the angle of the sun and realized it was in the front of the house, not in the alley where I had been. I stood in the street, waiting for the cars to pass. I threw the water in the air…
…and guess what…I got something. Now we’re getting somewhere.
And now, with my phone on 10% charge, we had to GET THERE. It was time for the next part of my mission: gazing at the photo and writing a haiku.
A haiku is 3 lines of 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables. I came up with this:
Flinging the water
Singing, the sun shines through it
I just learned to fly
Fast forward to today, April 25, 2021.
Now there’s two volumes of Haiku Milieu with photos and haiku, a tiny book with 120 haiku and my own drawings (what?!), an audiobook, a soundtrack, a Collaboration Blog, the Sunday Haiku Milieu email, and four different kinds of t-shirts.
Guess what else. There's a concert series, and the Haiku Milieu YouTube channel with, as of last Friday, April 23, 140 songs written by a bunch of incredible songwriters, inspired by Haiku Milieu.
Like I said at the top, I'm a songwriter. I started this whole haiku thing to keep fresh, to keep writing every day, in between songs.
When I released the first book, I thought, "Wouldn't it be great to invite some of my favorite artists to write a song based on one of the photos and haiku? I'll write one too."
It was FUN. It got written up in the Chicago Tribune. David Sameshima captured the magic on video...and that game tape looked very close to as good as it felt (which is not always the case.) Most of all though, it was fun. So, we kept doing it.
In 2019, there were Haiku Milieu concerts in April, July and November.
We were on track to do that in 2020, when the world shut down. I already had 20 or so artists writing songs for the April show. We just decided to go for it, and settled on the Facebook Premiere option.
The rest is history. You can see all the shows at the Haiku Milieu YouTube Channel, organized by playlists here.
Basically, how it works is this: I invite the artists to be part of the show. I say, any image/haiku is fair game, with preference for the ones in the books. Any genre of music is great, just try to make it between 3-5 minutes. I make it clear that I don't think of myself as a co-writer, my work is just a jumping off point for their own incredible creative process.
I give them deadlines for a draft of the song, then for the final song, then for the final video. This keeps us all honest, and if someone is getting stuck or needs a collaborator, I can help connect artists with what they need.
Hopefully, we all get across the finish line together, but sometimes people have to drop out. No big deal. If we've done it right, you'll feel the tremendous trust, respect and love between us, coming into the world through our songs.
When it comes to curating the actual show, and coming up with a show order, I mostly let Divine synchronicity determine the flow of the show.
What does that mean, you ask?
Well, look closely: you'll see that the show basically runs in alphabetical order!
Now, I might move a song or two as needed, or decide that we'll go in reverse alpha order, but for the most part, I have been utterly delighted with how well going in alpha order works.
The Haiku Milieu Virtu-Concert: Duos was the first time Robin and I co-hosted. The ink is barely dry on the show, so I haven't had time to reflect on much of anything except this:
I'm trying to forget I knew
how much easier it is with two
I know, I know, it's not a haiku...yet. Maybe someday.
I will just say this. I, who have a blog aptly titled The Collaboration Blog...forgot! It is so much easier, working together. If you're lucky enough to have a good collaborator in any arena, you know what I mean.
Meanwhile, take a look at the 4.23.21 Haiku Milieu: Duos! on YouTube, and if you are so moved, subscribe to the channel. Share your love for the artists via the TipJar on my website. On behalf of Robin, myself, and all of the artists, thank you.
In the coming weeks, I'll be asking the Duos artists to reflect on their creative process and experience in The Collaboration Blog. Stay tuned!