My interest in haiku began with an interest in Asian art. When I was small, that meant Chinese and Japanese. India and Indochina were underrepresented in the museums of Boston and New York at that time.
I found Japanese art the more interesting and as I grew older began to look into the whys and wherefores. That led back to Zen Buddhism in general and wabi-sabi in particular (not to mention shibumi). Ultimately I wound up writing haiku, painting sumi-e, and studying martial arts, with varying degrees of formal training. In the case of haiku, I’m self-taught.
Probably the worst advice I’ve ever read about proper haiku technique was from one Internet savant who proclaimed that haiku “should be both revealing and mysterious”, which sounds like a madam’s instructions to a new recruit at a bordello.
To be fair, our deliberately unnamed savant is thinking of something specific here – the total effect of a good haiku – and trying not to be too restrictive. The problem is that all poetry, even blank verse, has form, even if it’s not the sort of forms taught in high school. Haiku is no exception.
The haiku form is, of course, three lines, the first and third of which are five syllable each, while the second line is seven, totally seventeen syllables. There is a pivot word and a seasonal reference. The first line sets the place or context; the second deepens the context or adds a who or a what; and the third can summarize the first two lines, reveal the connection between them, or resolve the tension between their seeming conflicting juxtaposition.
But wait, there’s more. The haiku has to leave the reader with a sense of something more, if not something else.
Needless to say, at some point serious haiku writers ditch the rules’s fine print and go for concept. If it feels like a haiku, it is a haiku. A three line statement of an image or feeling (emotional or intellectual) complete in itself, yet leaving the reader with a sense of something unsaid.
The way of the haiku depends on the interplay between poet and reader. The art of the haiku is what happens when the reader brings his or her own images and associations to the images suggested by the poet.
Triumph through old Mexico
Landscapes with rider