It can be difficult to remember to slow down and spend some time on the beautiful things in life. But doing so, according to 23-year-old HaikuJAM creator Dhrupad Karwa, can help you unspool and remind you that there is much more to you than the daily grind.
"I had the idea in a London teashop during my second year at university. I was feeling a little down at the time as a startup venture that I had been working on that summer, had not gone to plan -- after winning a Startup Weekend hackathon, my team and I commenced development on an online automated utility bill management service, but due to red tape in the industry we were not able secure the tariff data we needed. Thus we shelved the project," he explained.
"So as a fun, creative exercise that day my friend and I decided to write a few collaborative poems in my journal. It was very therapeutic and intriguing to see how the expressions evolved from one person to another."
HaikuJAM, for iOS and Android, aims to give that experience to everyone. Like other social apps, it allows you to connect with strangers all around the world, creating friend groups and bonding over a shared interest. Unlike other social apps, that interest is poetry. Users collaborate to create simple, three-line poems inspired by, but not necessarily in the form of, traditional Japanese haiku poems or a series of three photos that tell a story.
To get started all you have to do is tap the "Jam" button, then decide whether you want to collaborate with the world, or with a circle of your friends. If you join the app using Facebook, you can invite your Facebook friends, but if you don't, you have to make circles of users already within the app. Then you can get jamming, either by starting your own photo story or poem, or joining one already in progress.
"In terms of the form, by no means am I master of Japanese poetry, but I do love literature. I have been writing a novel in verse, inspired by Vikram Seth's book "The Golden Gate" (though it is currently on hold due to startup demands!)," Karwa said.
"I wrote haiku as a child and teen... One of our advisers said it very beautifully, 'A haiku is a tornado in a proton.' It's incredible how much meaning and imagery three simple short lines can capture. Also we felt that haiku as a medium and method, lends itself very well to mobile for it is bite-sized, elegant and easily consumed."
The app is designed to tap into the little slices of down-time you have in your life -- during a tea break, or waiting for the bus, or just before you fall asleep and your idling mind conceives a striking turn of phrase. In this way, it allows users a small creative outlet -- like a zen garden for the mind.
The app has been in open beta for a year, and, according to Karwa, is used primarily by finance professionals, doctors, nurses and students. Together, the users have written over 50,000 lines of poetry so far. This, however, Karwa said, is just the beginning.
"Our vision extends beyond haiku poetry... Our focus is on collaborative art and expression (the concept of people "jamming" together)," he said. "It just so happens that our current platform subscribes to the triadic method of 'haiku', for it is clean and simple, but we will be exploring creative collaboration through a range of mediums and frameworks."