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Winter haikus – exclusive haikus from well-known writers

It’s a snowy day at the dark end of the year. Winter is truly here now, and I thought it would be a fascinating idea to explore it in all its loveliness and harshness through the eyes of some of our finest authors, poets, artists and songwriters. These winter haikus have all been specially written for this blog, which is a companion to my Writing haikus blog, published in June 2021. I hope you’ll enjoy reading them, and I hope they’ll inspire you to write some of your own and maybe to contribute them to the comments box at the end of the page.

I absolutely love these winter haikus. The writers are Katharine Towers, Jackie Morris, Ian McMillan, Bella Hardy, Adèle Geras, Malorie Blackman, Ian Beck and David Almond. What a starry line up! Thank you all so much for contributing!

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David Almond

Black jackdaw, black tree
Grey clouds and pale yellow sun
Catch white snow, red tongue!

David Almond writes for children and adults. He lives in and nearly always writes about Northumberland. He has won many awards throughout the world, including The Hans Christian Andersen Award, the Carnegie Medal, Eleanor Farjeon Award, Michel L Printz Award, The Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, Nestlé Smarties Gold Award and the Whitbread Children’s Book of the Year.

Perhaps of all his much-loved books, the most famous is still Skellig, his first for children, which won the Whitbread Children’s book award and the Carnegie Medal, and is also a film and a stage play.

David Almond’s most recent book, Bone Music, is currently a Carnegie Medal nomination. It tells how a girl reconnects with the prehistoric world by playing a bone flute created from the wing of a dead buzzard.

David Almond’s website

David Almond
David Almond
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Published by: Hodder, 2021. Available from Amazon.

Ian Beck

The kitchen curtain
Lace broken by light, summer?
No, it is winter

Writer and illustrator Ian Beck used to design album covers, most famously the triple gatefold album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, for Sir Elton John! He has written and illustrated over sixty books for children, and I’m proud to say that he illustrated my retelling of Hoffmann’s The Nutcracker.

He’s a three times Gold Award winner in the best toy awards with his illustrated books for younger children. Recently, during lockdown, he’s been painting scenes from his window and in his close neighbourhood, and his lovely watercolours can be seen on his website.

Malorie Blackman

I stick out my tongue
Silent, soft, still, snow settles
One blink later – gone

Snow silently sobs
Not in sorrow but relief
The earth at rest, sleeps

I don’t like winter
Winter is a carnivore,
Claws out, its bite sharp

Malorie Blackman writes books and television dramas for children and young adults. She was Children’s Laureate from 2013–2015. She was given the Eleanor Farjeon Award in 2005. In 2008 she was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her work in representing England’s multicultural youth through literature.

Her most famous book throughout the world is Noughts and Crosses, a novel about a dystopian world where black people are powerful and white people are slaves. Followers will be thrilled to know that the dramatic TV drama based on the Noughts and Crosses books will be screening a second series in 2022.

Malorie Blackman’s most recent book, Crossfire, is the sixth and final book in the series, and is nominated for the Carnegie Medal.

Malorie Blackman’s website

Malorie Blackman
Malorie Blackman
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Published by: Penguin, 2019. Available from Amazon.

Adèle Geras

Tulips lie quiet
in winter, under cold earth,
growing long, green stems.

Adèle Geras is the author of 95 books for children and adults. Her most famous book, Troy, was shortlisted for the Whitbread award and highly commended for the Carnegie Medal, and won the ALA best novel for young adults.

Her newest book is a murder mystery, Dangerous Women. After many years of writing for children and adults under her own name, she’s adopted a pseudonym, Hope Adams, for this book.

“It’s a new departure, because it’s based on a real voyage and a real work of art: the Rajah Quilt.” It’s an imagined story about the 181 women who travelled to Tasmania in 1841 on the convict ship, The Rajah.

Hope/Adèle was born in Jerusalem and lives just outside Cambridge.

Adèle Geras’ website

Adèle Geras
Adèle Geras
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Published by: Penguin, 2021. Available from Amazon.

 Bella Hardy

White gloved skeleton
reaching bony cold fingers
dear friend, winter tree

Wrapped white, lean through wild
Winds’ swirl snow dancing, each step
Love’s warmth remembered

Singer-songwriter, fiddle-singer Bella Hardy is known for her beautiful songs and stunning voice. As a child she was much inspired by folk ballad books. A self-taught ‘fiddle-singer’, she began performing at Cambridge and Sidmouth festivals from the age of 13. Her debut album Night Visiting established her reputation as a talented songwriter when her first original composition ‘Three Black Feathers’ earned a BBC Folk Award nomination. Later Bella won the Best Original Folk song with ‘The Herring Girl’, and also the Folk Singer of the Year award, and has since performed her songs in festivals all round the world.

Her most recent release is Postcards & Pocketbooks: The Best of Bella Hardy, a double CD celebrating her incredible first 9 albums of musical adventures, alongside The Complete Lyrics of…, a hardback book containing over 100 songs. She has just recorded a new album.

Bella Hardy was the little girl in my book Bella’s Den.

Bella Hardy’s website

Bella Hardy
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Released by: Noe Records, 2019. Available from Amazon.

Ian McMillan

On the snowy ground
These words are making footprints
Walking black on white

Snowmen in kit form
Tumbling from the winter sky
I just need carrots

I can see my breath
It says ‘look how cold it is’
The words freeze solid

Ian McMillan, fondly known as the bard of Barnsley, has spent all his life in one small Yorkshire village near Barnsley. He’s famous for his hilarious and tender performance poetry, and is a celebrated presenter and broadcaster. He’s currently presenting The Verb, Radio 3’s cabaret of the word.

His new pamphlet Yes But What Is This? What Exactly? was published by Smith|Doorstep in November 2020 and his most recent collection is To Fold the Evening Star (Carcanet).

Ian McMillan’s website

Ian McMillan
Ian McMillan. Photo: Adrian Mealing.
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Published by: The Poetry Business, 2020. Available from Amazon.

Katharine Towers

gruff kwaawk from treetops
dry throat or old scrap iron
throat, crow wants oiling

Katherine Towers won the Seamus Heaney award with her first collection of poetry, The Floating Man. The collection was also shortlisted for the Ted Hughes award and the Aldeburgh First Collection prize.

Her second collection, The Remedies, was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize. Her pamphlet, The Violin Forest, resonates with lyrical imagery and musical grace.

Her third full collection, Oak, was published by Picador in November 2021.

She describes it so: “Oak is a book-length poem about the life of an oak tree. Along the way we meet some of the insects, birds and plants that it hosts and encounter hardships ranging from pollution to bad weather. Loosely structured around Shakespeare’s ‘seven ages’, it explores how the tree’s life rhymes with and echoes our own.”

Katharine Towers’ website

Katharine Towers
Katharine Towers
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Published by: Picador, 2021. Available from Amazon.

Jackie Morris

Feathers fall as snow
too soon they reach the cold earth
turning green to white

Statue still he stands
breathing in the scent of life
reading the still air

Mother and child dream
rest in winter’s frozen form
white in the bright light

Jackie Morris is one of Britain’s most celebrated artists. Her illustrations of wildlife, her rich painter’s palette, her imaginative designs and her observations of the natural world are widely acclaimed, and she is the highly deserving winner of the Kate Greenaway medal for The Lost Words, written by Robert Macfarlane.

Her most recent books are the gloriously illustrated The Unwinding and The Silent Unwinding. See also her current crowdfunding project, Feather, Leaf, Bark & Stone.

Jackie Morris’ website

Jackie Morris inking otters
Jackie Morris inking otters. Photo: Elly Lucas
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Published by: Hamish Hamilton, 2017. Available from Amazon.

My own winter haiku

Finally, here’s a winter haiku from me:

A cloak of darkness
swirls around the day, lifts, brief
lemon sun glints through

Readers who enjoyed these winter haikus may be interested in the British Haiku Society.

Over to you

Perhaps you’d like to post one of your own winter haikus into the comments box below?

Berlie Doherty

Berlie Doherty is the author of the best-selling novel, Street Child, and over 60 more books for children, teenagers and adults, and has written many plays for radio, theatre and television. She has been translated into over twenty languages and has won many awards, including the Carnegie medal for both Granny Was a Buffer Girl and Dear Nobody, and the Writers’ Guild Award for both Daughter of the Sea and the theatre version of Dear Nobody. She has three children and seven grandchildren, and lives in the Derbyshire Peak District with Alan James Brown. Her brand new novel for adults, Rose Doran Dreams, is out now. Her forthcoming novel The Haunted Hills will be published later in 2022. See the About me page for more information.

This post has 12 comments

    1. Thank you Jeremy. That’s such a beautiful observation. You’ve inspired me:

      Time is in suspense
      a breath held, a future glance
      winter hiatus

  1. Winter is here
    Go get out your sledges now,
    and have snowball fights!

    Snow angels flying
    All of the children sledging
    people having fun.

    1. These are lovely, Anna-Merryn. They’re so full of energy and excitement – and I really like the image ‘snow angels flying’. I wish I’d thought of that!

  2. Drifting time and snow,
    Brings Winter to our doorstep,
    Letterbox chatters.

    Chilly air creeps in,
    With frosty breath condensing,
    Smile drawn on window.

    Freeze and thaw and freeze,
    The rhythm of these winter days,
    Warming feet by fire.

  3. Lovely, Berlie and everyone! Another for you:

    Turning

    Follow the winter light
    Into the brooding and angled shadows
    And play keep-away with the sun

    Let spring wait, let the light rest
    And make a glittering forest here
    Summer can hold its breath a while more

    1. This is a beautiful winter poem, Renee. I really like ‘the brooding and angled shadows’ – I too want the loveliness of winter to linger. Many thanks for sharing it with us.

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