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The University of Southampton

'World First' for World Poetry Day - an interview conducted entirely in Haiku

Published: 21 March 2019
Charles Elder and Jim Anderson
Charles Elder and Professor James Anderson joined forces to conduct an interview in Haiku.

James Anderson is a Professor of Pure Mathematics at the University of Southampton, known for his work on Kleinian groups and hyperbolic geometry.

That’s something of a far cry from his activities on Twitter where, for nearly a year now, Professor Anderson has written a #DailyHakiu, sharing his thoughts through a creative outlet which he admits is neither disciplined or planned but thoroughly enjoyable. 

“My Daily Haiku isn’t about being ‘disciplined’ to create something new every day – that’s too strong a word. I find it entertaining – and a few people occasionally like them which is all the better.

“I don’t have poems ‘queuing’ in my head. Most days, I sit down at the computer at home or in the office and gather myself for a minute two and then see what comes out. Sometimes it’s the view out the office window – I look out at a very nice part of the campus with the stream and the trees – between Maths and Physics – it’s a very nice view.

“I think the quality is somewhat uneven day to day – as with all writing, some days it’s more of a chore than others. Sometimes something that has been churning away pops out and other days it’s more of a struggle. 

“Unlike academic or other forms of writing, I don’t have to worry about an editor and I’m not going for popularity – I’m just sending something out there.

“Occasionally people respond – very rarely in Haiku. What they usually do is they ‘Like’ my and then I start seeing their Haikus too so there are a few out there. I’m convinced I’m not the first to do a #DailyHaiku – I’ve probably just barged in on their hash tag, I don’t know. When I started, I thought I checked the hashtag and there wasn’t anything there.

“Poetry hasn’t always been there as a creative outlet for me but I have written science fiction short stories and had two published so far.  I haven’t done much investigation into the formal structure of Haiku. I just know the basic form and started writing it.”

Haiku Interview

For World Poetry Day 2019, Professor Anderson got together with Charles Elder, Media Relations Manager at the University of Southampton (and fellow American) to conduct an interview done entirely in Haiku – possibly a world first.


Q: What inspires each day’s

     Haiku themes and imagery?

     Nature plays a part?

A: Thoughts come unbidden.

     Ghosts of ideas, window views,

     The world sings itself

Q: How does your haiku

     Reflect academic life?

     Metaphors at play?

A: Academic life

     An orrery of ideas

     Whose depths we explore

Q: Creativity –

     Is it a process or is

     It pure emotion?


A: Emotion’s one fuel

    Creativity’s the flame

    That burns all it finds


Q: Mathematics lead

    You to certainty. Poetry

    Is more/less abstract?


A: Words and ideas all

    Engage in an abstract dance

    Meaning falls like rain

Q: What motivations

     Are at play as you reveal

     What your mind’s eye sees?


A: We each see our world

    We explore, share, understand

    These worlds together


Q: Your daily musings –

     Pre-planned, spontaneous or

     Something in-between?


A: Rarely planned ahead

    Each day presents its own gifts

    Joy in unwrapping

Q: How far can you go,

    In poetry terms, with words

    Placed so carefully?


A: Limits are our own

    We seek order inside form

    And freedom emerges


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