A Very Brief Art of the Haiku

I’m happy with this last year of haiku.

And I’m grateful to all who have chosen to follow the blog, and perhaps because of the haiku. So as long as you enjoy them, I’ll continue writing them, twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays.

As of this year, I’ve written just over sixteen hundred haiku and senryu, and it’s only in this last year that I feel as though I’ve internalized the art, possibly producing some beautiful examples. If the year is taken as I whole, as a single poem, then I think it’s the best that I’ve produced.

Anyway, what follows is a personal and incomplete Art of the Haiku:

Avoid abstract adjectives like “beautiful” or “profound” or, more simply, any adjective that does not evoke one of the five senses—sight, touch, taste, smell, hearing. Beauty speaks for itself.

Winter garden,
the moon thinned to a thread
insects singing

Basho ~ translated Robert Hass

Any adjective that evokes one of the five (or seven depending) senses is a concrete adjective. The brevity of the haiku lives or dies in its ability to vividly evoke the world we live in.

White dew
one drop
on each thorn

Buson ~ translated Robert Hass

Avoid the idea of haiku as simile. They can be successful, but that’s not what a haiku is.

Brevity is the soul of haiku. If a haiku can be made shorter, then the haiku is too long. If one is counting syllables, then every syllable should count.

open the window
a whole windowful
of spring

Santoka ~ translated Burton Watson

The haiku is at its best, as with all poetry, when the abstract is expressed through the concrete.

Summer grass
all that’s left
of warriors’ dreams

Basho ~ translated Robert Hass

Do not tell the reader how you feel. Describe what made you feel the feelings.

In spring rain
a pretty girl
yawning.

Issa ~ translated Robert Hass

Describe what you see, feel, hear, taste and touch and that will be enough. Haiku is the poetry of the startled body.

Naked
on a naked horse
in pouring rain!

Buson ~ translated Robert Hass

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Happy New Year! | Jan. 1st 2020