Ideas for Discussion of Pieces of Her Mind
with a Focus on Book Clubs and Women's Groups
These discussion questions have been prepared for book clubs or women’s groups who may or may not be familiar with Japanese short form poetry such as haiku, senryu, tanka or kyoka. These ideas for discussion will appeal to both women and men who enjoy exploring a woman’s perspective on life.
(1) The poetry in Pieces of Her Mind is organized around eight themes: Beauty, Enlightenment, Laughter, Passion, Strength, Truth, Wisdom and Friendship. The authors sifted through and weeded out a number of themes and settled on these listed. Are there other themes you would have included in an anthology written by women? What are they, and why did you select them?
(2) In your view, why are reflective essays written by each of the authors included in this poetry anthology? Was there one reflective essay with particularly appealed to you? Which and why?
(3) In her reflective essay, Suzanne Fuller states: “I don’t think of myself as a woman writer. But I think it is my woman’s sensibility…that informs so much of my writing” (page 13).
a. In the Beauty chapter of the book (page 3), what observations can you make about how a woman’s sensibility is expressed?
b. Do you think a chapter of poems on a Beauty theme would be written differently by men? By men or women in their twenties?
(4) In Sally Yocum’s reflective essay on humor, she recounts everyday absurdities, irony and humor we experience as fodder for poetry (page 49). (To prepare for this exercise, you may want to review the definitions of satire and irony).
a. Spend some time to observe mindfully as you search for examples of humor, irony or absurdity. Jot your thoughts down.
b. As you share these observations with your group, do you find similarities or differences? Did gender or age make a difference in what you noticed?
c. How might your observations spark a poem that would be an addition to one of the thematic chapters in the book or other themes you have identified?
(5) What examples of irony did you discover in the poems found in the Enlightenment chapter?
(6) The haiga in Pieces of Her Mind juxtapose a photograph or graphic print with a senryu poem. The pairing of art and words is meant to complement each other, and convey “visual sound bites of sardonic wisdom” (page xx).
a. Examine the haiga created by Melissa Bickel (page 59), Carol Judkins (page 24), and Suzanne Fuller (page 78).
b. Based on your personal reactions, did these haiga convey “sardonic wisdom” effectively or not? Why or why not?
If you would like to explore haiga further, there are several citations for more information and haiga exemplars in the resource list of the book (pages 167-168).
(7) Centuries-old tanka often dealt with themes of love and longing, loss and grief. Consider this classical tanka from Izumi Shikibu, a tenth century tanka poetess:
Watching the moon
he views it from
(From Ink Dark Moon, translated by Jane Reichhold)
a. In a discussion, compare the tone and impact of this classical tanka to the kyoka of Karyn Stockwell (page 79). (You may wish to review the kyoka essay found in Pieces of Her Mind on page xv before your discussion. For further, more in-depth information about kyoka, a good start is M. Kei’s excellent article with examples available on line, referenced in the resource list (page 169).
b. In your view, does “mad, wild, crazy” kyoka poetry energize the exploration of themes of love and loss? Why or why not?
(8) Locate a favorite poem in Pieces of Her Mind and discuss your choice.