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Guyku, A Year of Haiku for Boys

November 6, 2010

Guyku, A Year of Haiku for Boys
written by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Houghton Mifflin, 2010
poetry picture book

Normally poetry books intimidate most of us. Not Guyku. Guyku is fun, whimsical and easy to understand haiku for guys with poems about nature, friendship and play.

The poems follow the four seasons, hence the title, A Year of Haiku for Boys.

I loved this book so much I asked the author, Bob Raczka, if he could tell me more about it. Make sure you enter the contest to win a copy of Guyku – details at the bottom of this post.

Colorado Parent: How did you think of the idea for Guyku?

Bob Raczka: Believe it or not, I came up with the title first. I had been messing around with writing a children’s poetry book for a while, and I thought I’d start with a short form like haiku. My original thought was to write a funny haiku book for boys, and the word Guyku popped into my head.
But as I started writing the poems, these memories from my boyhood started coming back to me. Like my kite haiku:
The wind and I play
tug of war with my new kite.
The wind is winning.

That’s a vivid memory from my childhood. It isn’t funny in a laugh-out-loud way, but more of a quiet smile. It felt right. So that poem sort of set the tone for the book.
Colorado Parent: What was your process in writing the poems – did you go outside, watch your kids?
BR: Once I had the kite poem, I started mining my memory for moments to write about. As a boy, I always loved catching grasshoppers, skipping stones, raking leaves into piles, and throwing snowballs at trees. So I turned those memories into haiku. I realized that, unlike traditional haiku, which are more contemplative, mine were more active. But this felt right for my boy audience.
I also watched my own kids (Robert, Carl and Emma) at play. They love to dam streams when we vacation in Colorado, so that became a haiku. They also love to pound cattails until the fuzzy seeds fly out, so that became another.
The other thing I had to be aware of while writing was having enough haiku for each season. I wanted this to be a book kids could read any time of year, so it was important to represent all the seasons equally.
Colorado Parent: How did you know when a poem was done?
BR: Boy, that’s a tough question. I rewrote most of them quite a few times, until they sounded just right. I also read lots of other haiku, to get a feel for what a good haiku should sound like. And of course, my editor helped me weed out the ones that didn’t quite measure up, and encouraged me to make some of them better.
I’ve found that poems definitely need time to ripen. Sometimes after I put the haiku away for a few days, then look at them fresh, it becomes obvious how to improve them.
Colorado Parent: Are you going to write one for girls?
BR: I already have. It will either be called Galku or Herku. My daughter, Emma, helped me by making a list of her favorite things to do during the four seasons. Here’s a sample:
At our lemonade
stand, we get lots of business
from the bumblebees.

Of course, girls and boys like to do many of the same things. In fact, girls will definitely enjoy Guyku, And there’s no reason boys wouldn’t enjoy Galku. But then, I’m the author, so you’d expect me to say that!

CP:  Thank you so much, Bob!

CP: For Bob’s post on how to write your own Haiku, go to Imagination Soup.

WIN a copy of Guyku. E-mail your name and address (to make book delivery faster) to deborah.mock@parenthood.com with “Guyku” in the subject line. We will randomly select one lucky winner to receive a copy of the book. Deadline for entry is midnight MST on November 21, 2010.

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