Evidence that you/can write some super haiku/about your schooldays

I mentioned the 'schooldays haiku' competition last week that I ran as part of my book launch.

First, here's an anonymous one that was put through my letterbox. I love the fact that someone decided to do this. I don't know who it was for sure, although I do have a couple of ideas. But there's a sadness about it that touched me. 

I'm posting the winning entries and highly commended here as I think you'll enjoy them. The winners get a free copy of my new book 'Miss, What Does Incomprehensible Mean?' and the highly commended get .... well .... highly commended. I didn't intend to do a 'highly commended' category but frankly had too many lovely haiku entered not to give them a mention, too.  

All winners and highly commended have agreed that I can post their poems and their names. I'll hold off from posting their full addresses, dates of birth and internet passwords. 

I have added some comments to show you why the haiku were chosen. 

The three winning haiku (in no particular order):


School when I was five.
I cried when I arrived, they laughed;
Then and through the years.

Sheila Johnson 

I particularly like Sheila’s haiku because a) the last line gives it a haunting quality and says so much about the effect of childhood experiences; b) she has included some internal rhyme in ‘five’ and ‘cried’ and ‘arrived’ which is impressive; c) the juxtaposition of ‘cried’ and ‘laughed’ in the same line helps to show how crushing this experience is; d) the way Sheila has constructed the poem gives it natural rhythm when read aloud.


His hair stands on end:
Van de Graff generator
Or just a new term?

Russell Osborn 

Russell's haiku appealed to me very much because a) it is witty and hinges on a joke; b) the Van de Graff generator is fitted into the poem very cleverly and is a strong image everyone remembers from school; c) the use of the question in the last line acts as the punchline; d) the poem recreates the tension of a new term, whether for teacher or pupil.


Sidetracked by our guile
From algebra to steam trains,
Dear old Mr D!

Sarah Sansbury

Sarah's haiku really caught my attention because a) there’s a tone of real affection for the hapless teacher in the last line’s exclamation which instantly resonates; b) there’s a joke in ‘sidetracked’ and ‘steam trains’ which is genius; c) the ‘guile’ of the class is something everyone would recognise; d) the stresses of the individual words create a strong rhythm which also evokes the ‘train’ theme of the poem; e) there is alliteration in ‘Dear old Mr D!’ which really helps to create that affectionate tone.

Highly commended - again, in no particular order. 


Friday afternoon
English teacher been to pub
Asleep on the desk

Jackie Stopp

Jackie's poem appealed to me because, simply and practically, it presents a scenario so many of a certain age would recognise. Setting it on a Friday afternoon is clever, emphasising the impression of a weary teacher trying to cope – somehow! The last line ‘Asleep on the desk’ has a sense of finality about it, as if to say, accept it! That’s how it is. And, indeed, that’s how it was.


School lunch – no meat please!
Sent to ‘starve’ room, terrified, -
lone, misunderstood.

Chris Broomfield

I really like the use of ‘speech’ in Chris's poem, even though speech marks are absent. In fact, you could say the lack of speech marks represents the ‘silencing’ of the child. Somehow the bald phrase ‘school lunch’ resonates: even if this particular experience isn’t everyone’s, most of us have ‘school lunch’ memories of our own. There’s a real sense of terror in the poem, and also an impression of lasting effects.


French lessons in school
Some phrases stay with me, like
Fichez-moi le camp.

Ros Bayes 

Ros's haiku has a real twist and, even more delightfully, if you don’t speak French, you have to look it up and the surprise is lovely! There’s a real irony in the fact that she sets up the expectation that the speaker in the poem has remembered some French, and then it turns out quite differently. Very witty.

I honestly didn't expect so many people - and from so many different areas of my life (writing, teaching, church, friends etc) - to have a go, and I was seriously chuffed about that. 

There were other witty haiku and moving haiku and evocative haiku, too, and to decide, I had to be strict about my competition guidelines, in that the poem had to be about schooldays specifically, and had to try and capture the essence of school life. I was also looking for use of literary techniques (consciously-used or otherwise!) that added to the effectiveness of the poem.  

Here are some of the others that I liked in particular. I haven't put names to these as it would take a while to ask everyone's permission to publish. Perhaps not everyone who entered was expecting them to be made public. But if you want to own up to one of them (if you wrote it, OBVS) then do say something in the comments below. 

And if there are any that strike you particularly (and you think should have won - these things are subjective!) why not say so, and encourage its writer? 

Heavy wooden door
Heart beating heads turning uh oh
So the hell begins

Queuing up for lunch - 
sloppy sauce and mouldy peas - 
dinner lady glares. 

First period ends - 
the freeze creeps in through my skin -
outdoor chill is here. 

Chicks with mother hen
Stepping out into the world
Watch, try, learn, grow, fly

Second place result
And ninety seven per cent
Still not good enough

My children say that
Teacher runs through me like pink
letters inside rock. 

Trifle sits untouched
Me and the dinner lady
Stare out at high noon. 

Common room squabbles
The smell of dust on the stage
Hidden with my books 

Another day done! 
Glad to be finally home. 
Red, white or rosé? 

Hearing children play
I stare at the floor,
Hoping to be included. 

Left behind in tears
Prey to fierce dinner lady
Mocked by soggy swede

Hockey sticks, bruises;
My tragic schooldays haunt me; 
I never scored goals! 

Reading round the class
Hoping my turn will not come
Waiting for the bell

Cycled off to school
Stupid thing got a puncture
Late for Maths again 

I want to Haiku
Can't count very well howev
errr, miss, can you help? 

I hate calculus
It's incomprehensible
Never needed it! 

Sports Day here once more; 
I can't run, can't jump, can't throw:
Our house last again. 

Hollow chills, grieved heart 
Teacher's wrath at homework lost
Now rinse and repeat 

Wow! There are so many memories here, aren't there? And far too many of them are sad :(  

Well done, everyone, and thanks to anyone else who entered. 

Lastly, if anyone fancies having a shot, post yours in the comments. I'd love to read them. 


  1. Thank you for posting my Swede one Fran! I see someone else posted one about the same situation only in that case it was trifle. What a fabulous collection of haiku. But how sad so many were about negative situations. Is that because we are all of a certain age? Are schools more enlightened now? I'll have to read your book to find out.

    1. I know, Sheila - so many sobering reflections. It makes me realise how responsible the job of teacher is. (And perhaps of dinner lady, too ....)

  2. Hi Fran. I was really excited that mine (97 per cent) was one you read out at your book launch. So thank you.
    I'm actually reassured by the other sad entries - glad to know I wasn't the only one who looks back on secondary school with less than enthusiasm (although I loved primary school). But teens are such an insecure yet formative time, aren't they? So maybe that's why. Perhaps others were feeling like me but I just didn't see it at the time.

    1. Liz, thanks for your comment. I suppose that when it comes to our schooldays, we often remember those moments that scarred us rather than the happy ones, unfortunately! Thanks for getting involved and sending in an entry.

  3. Anonymous24/5/20 11:05

    I want to Haiku
    Can't count very well howev
    errr, miss, can you help?

    Really like this one - it's very funny and very cleverly created!

    1. I agree. I liked it a lot.

    2. me three. My favourite. Especially the hiccup at howev


  4. So many great ones here! You are right about the sadness, though. I tend to like the humourous ones, but several of the melancholy ones are so well done. They pull at one's heart. Thanks again for including mine; I enjoyed the whole process and finding out that "in person" as it were, you are just as I imagined! (that's a compliment :))

    1. That's poetry for you, tugging your heart this way and that! And thanks for the compliment!

  5. I am so glad you had the idea of the haiku competition, Fran. That heavy wooden door opening marked the beginning of a terrible 7 years which scarred me and left a long, dark shadow. When people say that school days were the happiest of their life, I just don't understand. However, life is copy, as I always say, and a miserable school life is a mine of helpful memories for the writer. I loved all of these - I must say I snorted out loud when I googled Ros's French phrase. Good to know, as so many have said, that not everyone was dancing through a field of buttercups, rather than ploughing through a field full of thorns. Although of course I'm sorry that so many of us suffered.

    1. I'm sorry you had such a terrible time, Ruth. I suppose some people must have had a happy time at school although, as it coincides horribly with what is often an angst-ridden time for us all - adolescence and all of its complications - it's hard to see how anyone can get away without at least some conflict or trouble. I liked the way your poem misses out punctuation deliberately - it emphasises the sense of the inevitable that haunts it. Agree with you on Ros's - I had to look it up too and it was a brilliant surprise :)


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