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Different Schools-of-Haiku-Thought: The Responsibilities of Each Haijin
by an'ya


All haiku examples used here were previously published in either American Haiku or Cor Van Den Heuvel's Haiku Anthology.


If words were like silver, it’s possible then that fewer words in haiku would be like gold. Although this is only valid when each and every word is carefully chosen, and only in certain haiku. As this applies to the haiku artform in general, our first responsibility as haiku poets who would become triumphant haijin, should be to think deeply of what we wish to convey before composing it. We need to know how to present our ideas in as few words and syllables as possible, yet in a way that convinces readers to also think deeply about what we've experienced. As soon as we learn how to convert our thoughts into clear-cut, concrete images, we can then project them into the minds of others under the form of light and silhouette, as does this often-quoted and classic haiku by Nick Virgilio:

lily . . .
out of the water
out of itself

If it is understood with what adequacy and readiness people follow beauty of thought, responsible authors then should be admired for having counted on the high mental quality of their readership in rising to meet their level with an outstanding haiku like the one above. I ask you, is it not by these eight perfect word choices that Nick’s haiku lifts us high up into the light as if we were that very lily, lending shape to his word-silhouette?

However, it isn’t “set-in-stone” that fewer words from less often quoted haiku, are better. Sometimes a full 5,7,5 format (which admittedly was more popular in the past than nowadays), is necessary to convey complete thought patterns. In the year 2004, we should all strive to glean from such haiku the proper way to use a maximum syllable count. Poetry, and most especially haiku, is the sow-broadcaster of moments that surround us, of which the original impression, after triggering a certain response in one individual, travels by similitude to invade other readers' minds. This is the real reason why certain haiku are so successful; they allow virtually everyone to at least be present somewhere in the audience, like this haiku by Sandi Gerber that might easily appeal to old and young alike, male or female, rich or poor, universally, etc.

wet autumn evening
we shattered all the street lights
walking in puddles

or this one with the same amount of syllables, yet arranged differently:

a few droplets
and the cloud passes by . . .
our words are bright and barren

Karen Lindsey

In any case, and (no matter what school-of-haiku-thought or how many syllables used), it is each haijin's responsibility to compose high-souled haiku in the midst of a world of mental mediocrity, while taking care not to use archaic, pretentious, or overly poetic words. To allow the reader to sketch in any open spaces with his own feelings, and under the power of words adapted to the purest ideal (nature), even the most crude spirit shall be lifted as in haiku such as this one by Scott M. Bushnell:

bat-ridden gargoyles
high atop the church steeple
smile at the new sun

and in this one composed of only thirteen syllables that could easily mesmerize an entire audience, but by its catchy word repetition:

the hills
release the summer clouds
one . . . by one . . . by one . . .

John Wills

On the other hand, success can even be achieved if an author, upon observing something perhaps considered otherwise mundane in nature itself, is able to skillfully yet flatly and humorously present that moment, thereby rendering it much different, though nonetheless, a responsibly written haiku. For example, I close by sharing with you this pattern-style haiku of only two words by Marlene Mountain, which effectively, but most of all importantly, makes me smile:


           o ........g
...r
f                              ......frog


an'ya . . . whose haigo (haiku nom de plume) loosely translates to 'a peaceful light in the moonless night,' lives in Oregon, USA.

Besides editing haigaonline, an'ya is the director for the World Haiku Club beginners sessions and the Newsletter Editor for the Tanka Society of America.

She has been bestowed numerous top world-class awards and honours for her haiku poetry, as well as other verse forms, not only throughout the United States, but in Japan, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, France, India, the UK, Brazil, and throughout the Balkans.

an'ya has five books out currently, haiku for a moonless night, haiku wine, crosswinds, haiku in my apron pocket and haiku for the birds. Her personal website can be viewed at The Natural Light Press.
Her extended biography is found at: www.haigaonline.com under staff members.


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