A friend recently said that he liked haiku because they were short enough for him to memorize. He delighted in writing haiku that did not make sense. He then recited them to acquaintances who were left perplexed by his Haiku Koans.
Another friend, upon waking, writes haiku as she greets the new day…it has become her morning ritual. This was also my routine for awhile. When writing haiku, I enjoyed the feeling of presence. The early morning was a good time to write as I left the dreamworld and entered the waking world. I could invoke both states, it seemed.
A brief introduction to haiku. So far as we know, haiku originated in Japan. Short poems, usually three lines long, haiku have a total of 17 syllables…5 syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the second line and 5 syllables in the third line. Traditional haiku usually contained a season word that indicated in which season the haiku was set. The season word isn’t always obvious. Haiku are little philosophical gems, sometimes with humor. They can describe almost anything. Often, they describe daily situations in a refreshing way–creating a new experience of something familiar. It is always amazing to me that some poetic forms, such as haiku, endure.
Following are a few of my haiku–I allowed myself to veer slightly off 5-7-5 for the sake of meaning:
Mocks her skeletal cage
Risk taken, spirit leaps.
I’ve a perfect view
Of life through eyes that see
The world as it could be.
When summer fades to fall
As love fades into friendship
where does the heart call home?
Tea in the morning
Leaves, twigs, roots, flowers
Connect one to origins.
Here are a few haiku from the masters:
Spring Cobalt Ocean…
Across snow-white mountains fly
black returning birds (Shiki)
and a white paper screen
reflect each other’s color (Basho)
I envy the tom cat
how easily he let’s go of
love’s pain and longing! (Etsujin)
Divorced and lonely,
she walks to the field
to help plant seedlings (Buson)
I climb into bed
and then take my socks off.
How lazy I’m getting ! (Shiki)
Note: In translating haiku from Japanese to English, it is challenging to get both the meaning and the syllable count.
The simplicity of haiku, with its ability to evoke images (and possibly a culture) in a few short lines, is appealing.
In writing your own haiku, strive to “give a new
experience of something familiar”. Try to adhere
to the 5-7-5 syllables (or as close as you can get to
it). Take a few deep breaths, get present with
your surroundings and drop into this now moment.
Write from this place. Stand up, look out a window.
Where do your eyes land…write a few more haiku.