North Vancouver poet pens haiku collection about living through COVID-19

Across three lines and 17 syllables, a North Vancouver writer has endeavoured to capture the spirit of what’s been dubbed “these uncertain times” using a certain poetic form.

Insurance consultant by day and poet all of the time, Me-An Laceste recently published Feeling Isolated? Explore!, a haiku collection accompanied with photographs the author mostly took herself.

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“I had never done any haiku before,” says Laceste. “I thought it would be a little bit challenging.”

Like many who have spent the last few months in lockdown amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Laceste felt burdened by feelings of helplessness and a lack of direction while she remained holed up at home.

“Every day I read the news – when I wake up in the morning and before I go to bed at night,” she says. “I started to read the news less and less.”

She’d already decided at the end of the March that her next creative project would be an attempt at haiku, a centuries’ old Japanese-style poem which is made up of two five-syllable lines and one comprised of seven syllables.

A few weeks later, during her morning prayer, she says she asked for a sense of direction and purpose, a way to give back, as the health crisis continued largely unabated.

“In my prayer I said, ‘Please let my mind wander to see what I can do,’” she says. “I stood immediately and I realized I’d write haiku about COVID.”

She had already been filling her days by taking quick walks and snapping photos of the largely absent streets of North Vancouver during the last few months, so in a burst of inspiration she put words to the pictures and eventually a full book took shape.

Across 150 haiku, Laceste recounts myriad moments – some profane, others mundane – using her charming, irreverent and, at times insightful skills with language.

“Legs propped, in sweatpants / ready for the next video call / how long will this last?” reads one haiku that anyone whose lived through the last few months can likely relate to.

Another poem, accompanied by a photograph of a note propped on her doctor’s office, reads: “Walk-in clinic closed / consult doctor on the phone / no more face to face.”

Laceste says her book has the two-fold goal of entertaining people with some of her more light-hearted haiku (“lovely walk along / Cherry blossom-lined walkway / calm in times like this”) as well as getting them to think about the more important things in life.

“We can reflect on our lives and what’s important and perhaps maybe think about what we can do during this time, or even after this time, that’s really important to us,” she says. “That really hits home to me. Because of that I’ve used this time to really spend time with my kids, even though we sometimes really get into each other’s hair.”

Laceste plans to donate any proceeds from the sale of her new poetry book to care homes on the North Shore, many of which have been hit hard by the pandemic.

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