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First Published: September 24: 2015


















































Poets' Letter Magazine Archives Poetry Pearl

Aiko Harman

Poet in Residence V London Poetry Festival 2009

Aiko Harman is currently studying for an MSc in Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh.  She has earned double-degrees in English (Creative Writing) and Mass Communications Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles.  Aiko was Poet in Residence at Poets' Letter in March/April 2009 and now has been offered a Residency at the 5th London Poetry Festival 2009. Her first name means 'love' in Japanese and here is her love: poetry. Aiko read at with the other Resident poets at the Festival.

Aiko has been published in London Poetry Pearl Life's London Poetry Elleesium.

Congratulations to Aiko on Winning the Grierson Verse Prize for 2009!

The Grierson Verse Prize, estimated value £650, is awarded to a matriculated student of the University of Aberdeen or the University of Edinburgh. The topic for 2009 was " Deception". Candidates were required to use any recognised verse form but not ‘free verse’. Entries must be not more than 80 lines in typescript.

Aiko's 'Mimicry' is a sestina has won this award for 2009.

Congratulations Aiko. Well done.

Why I Write Poetry: Aiko Harman

My name is Aiko Harman.  I've just turned 24 and I am a native of Los Angeles, California, in the United States.  However, I'm currently living in Scotland while I pursue an MSc in Creative Writing from Edinburgh University.  I've been quite graciously granted the William Hunter Sharpe memorial scholarship for creative writing, which has allowed me to practise and study my favourite subject -- poetry!

Prior to coming to Edinburgh, I was living in Sendai-city, Japan, where I taught English to Japanese high school students.  My mother is Japanese, and many of our relatives still live in Sendai, so this opportunity was indelible for me.  Not only could I learn and improve my Japanese at a rapid rate, but I had the chance to finally get to know my Japanese family whom I had only met, maybe, once or twice before in my life.  My experiences in Japan - living on my own, getting acquainted with my new family, and being submerged completely in a new culture - have made a huge mark on me, and I am more in tune and interested in representing my mixed Japanese-American heritage in my poetry today. 

For me, poetry is an opportunity to share one's unique worldview.  It is incredible how many different cultures and peoples there are in the world, and it seems so silly that quite often a person can spend his whole life in touch with only one culture.  What a wealth of spirit and history gone to waste on account of a simple lack of exploring. 

So, as I become more and more involved in any community or culture, I hope to share a bit of my perspective via poetry, so that others might have an opportunity to see the world through my eyes.

I am really inspired by Philip Larkin's poem 'The Importance of Elsewhere'.  (If you haven't seen it, I found it online here:

I think that, especially, from the viewpoint of 'elsewhere' one can gain a different perspective of one's own 'home', and likewise, the ability to see someone else's home in a new and unique way.  As an American living in Japan, or in the United Kingdom, I can see each country with new eyes, and perhaps, am able to notice more or different things than a local notices.  I only hope I can write this 'elsewhere' vision into my poetry. 

Aiko Harman 

Poet in Residence at 5th London Poetry Festival 2009


Aiko has written this Ellaran in Syllabic Laranameter recently, a form developed by Munayem Mayenin. Here is her post. An Ellaran is a four-part poem in four Ells, each Ell having their own name: Ella, Lara, Raine and Aranya. Each Ell  has four Laranzas in it.

1. Ella

Shelduck, skylark,
sand martin, gannet, whooper swan,
kittiwake, bar-tailed godwit, tern,
crossbill, wigeon,

meadow pipit,
ringed plover, eider duck, and still
water, a tideless ripple, breeze.
For days on end

you are alone.
You forget to speak. You wait there
by the water’s edge, counting birds.
Day becomes night.

Fireflies, glowworms.
The night is vibrant with noises,
light. You wait by the still water.
Listen for birds.

2. Lara

Tinker, tailor,
soldier, sailor,
rich man, poor man,
beggar man, thief.

Counting cherry
stones, your future
laid out before
you: thief. You weep.

You say, ewe bleats
for lamb the wolf
drags; dogs have night-
mares in their sleep.

For days on end
you are alone.
There are nightmares,
but you don’t cry.

3. Raine

In the city once named for
the soot that choked it, the rain paves
a way for yellow wildflowers to grow in lips
of rooftop gutters and line the rows

of old granite tenements
with freak foliage. From your room
you watch the flowers bloom, and in the evening you
string fairy lights out over the floor

like white stars on the carpet,
a false charcoal sky. You think back
to winter nights, running home in the rain, brollies
forgotten or dropped on the pavement.

It was not long ago that
there was someone here to hold, fold
into, grow warm against the cold outdoors. But now,
now there is no one and so much time.

4. Aranya

Soon you return
to the water’s edge:
salt, foam, float. You squat in the sand
between the broken mussel shells,

find a tiny pearl—
a shiny bead
of time and care amongst the shards.
You hold the pearl in your fingers,

hold its small globe
up to the sun—
a glint of hope. Peace. You open
your mouth to speak: I am no thief.

You head for home.
Your bright shadow
at dusk rising to meet you, like
the future, this pearl, a white star.

Copyrights @ Aiko Harman


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Aiko Harman 

Poet in Residence at 5th London Poetry Festival 2009

The Pit

It was a good job, one of the best I’ve had:
spending Wednesdays cleaning ‘The Pit’,
the basement repository for all the books
in stock, waiting patiently for sale.

In The Pit, the printing press’s shipping boxes
moulder on the floor, damp after last winter
(a burst pipe left to sop, ravaged pages),
webs of white fur mottling the bottoms.

Rats had made homes in packing paper,
popped bubble wrap and polystyrene 3’s.
Pulling cardboard boxes from the rubble,
every fourth held a tiny skull of decay.

The Pit air stank of stagnant mildew,
and every few minutes, a fat black spider
twinned his spindly body across the concrete
or the wind slam-sucked the front door shut.

I loved the books. Tucked up in boxes,
never touched. I dusted covers, shelved them
alphabetically. In time, I cleared the hovel
of rubbish, binned the boxes, rats nests and webs.

I filed old papers, lost receipts; I sorted stock
until The Pit became a paradise of literature.
And on the last day, I sat on an old wood chair
in the back room and read.


Castle Rabbits, Edinburgh

Down the slope of castle crag, a family of cottontails
duck into the close of fallen rock, a warren
of underground homes. At dawn, as the tourist buses
line the castle-side of Johnston Terrace, the rabbits rest.

Jackdaws caw and peck at the after-trail of hare.
Men in dark suits sit at benches, face the fortress
on lunch breaks, stare blankly at mobile phones,
the last pages of a book – have forgotten the castle,
the rabbits, in all their daily toxic repetition.

But as the summer sun wanes in the sky, past six,
past seven, still bright, the rabbits make their runs,
zag through yellow wildflowers across the old slope
the castle guards, and stop only to sniff at the cameras.



A leaf falls like a heart into the sea,
a thousand jackfish, a swarm of one shark,
nip at the ripples on the surface.

On our holiday, we buy a bread loaf
from a dark boy also selling cigarettes
and run into the water, bag in hand.

We will not think again about the boy,
or who better to give the bread to
as we are already in the water by then.

In our snorkels, we watch the clownfish
feed right from our hands, the tufts
of bread dissolving into mouths and sea.

You see the swarm of jackfish, swirling
like the lines on a thick scaly straw,
and you dart into their pack like a predator.

You twist between them, they split
and join again, like water in the hand,
a fluid movement, a secret in the sea.

Some of the fish are massive – you reach
your hand and stroke the side of one
as it flits and I fear for you, a human fear.

In the shadow, just beyond my vision
a huge grouper gapes his toothy mouth
just slightly open, and I am suddenly

aware of my size, the food in my hand,
the open sea, my lack of shelter; but you,
you see nothing, you swim amongst
the jackfish, making shapes.

Copyrights @ Aiko Harman

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