My best haiku come when I’m in the right state of existing… as in being in the haiku zone. It’s a frame of mind as well as a physical, meditative state.
When I’m in the zone, there is a wide-eye alertness that changes the way I understand the world. It’s more than just seeing, as in literally visually seeing better with my eyes, although that may be a part of it. It’s a state of receptivity… a willingness to view things differently or more acutely. The mind becomes ready to accept, notice, and record poetically the haiku moment. This mental acuity comes with practice and time.
Physically… my body changes when I’m in haiku mode. I’m sure my blood pressure decreases, while my breathing becomes deeper (probably to add more oxygen to the brain, to ready it for the hard work of capturing a haiku moment). I’m sure the outside observer doesn’t notice the physical change—in the same way there’s no observable physical manifestation of the witch doctor who readies themselves to walk barefoot over a bed of red-glowing embers.
All I know is that I’ve developed the ability to drop into the haiku zone at a moments notice. I can choose to write haiku when I have a pocket of time. I know that many who are accomplished in haiku speak of living in the haiku spirit and being ready and open to experience the haiku moment when it happens at any time. Their perspective is that real haiku comes from living authentically in the now. I believe that one doesn’t need to be in a 24/7 state of zen bliss to capture the aha moments in life. Maybe I am generally attuned to the world, but it still feels as though I am deciding when I wish to drop into that magical state where haiku emerges.
On a different topic…I also feel there’s a transformational moment—an epiphany–in a haiku poet’s life when the realization hits that the haiku moment can be captured in just the right words. It’s the mega-aha-moment when haiku makes sense and clear, unadorned observation replaces similes, metaphors, cute moral conclusions, and personification. I can’t point to a date-time marker in my life, but I feel like it happened and I understand. It’s like studying a foreign language and waking one morning and thinking, “Holy crap, I understand Italian…I can conjugate verbs, order penne pasta, and the grammatical structure makes sense—I get it. Salute!”
Achieving that pivot point generally means the haiku poet can discern what good vs. poor haiku really means and begin to better express the haiku bolt of lightning in poetic words.
It takes work, study and practice—but I’m convinced it will come…that epiphanous point. And just like Spider Man who has been bitten by the mutant spider, a haiku poet experiences their own venom flush with radioactive mutagenic enzymes making them sense and see perfectly. The haiku moment is observed and captured.