The first time that I distinctly recall being introduced to haiku was in a college English course. The instructor had a fun air about him and you could tell he loved not only teaching but also people—he cared about us. He was trying to be funny and put the class at ease and began reciting a haiku by Basho. I honestly do not remember the haiku he chose. What seemed to stay in memory was the excitement the teacher had for the very short form and all that it contained. He read it again and again. Did we see, did we get it?, he seemed to be saying with his body language, book propped up in hand.
Haiku seems to me like sipping a sweet, strong port—over time and many small sips, the moment penetrates your being: One moment contained inside a seemingly small container—and often that one moment is the whole world reflected back.
I recently started reading a short book for children and adults alike called Haiku: Asian Arts & Crafts for Creative Kids (2003) by Patricia Donegan. Kigo makes more sense to me now. I first came across the word kigo on one of Keiko Amano’s blogs where she was discussing haiku. Ever since then, I have been more aware of the word when I read about and think about haiku. Each part of the world will have its own season words sometimes only making sense to those who live there. It made me start to think of all the critters around here and when they seem most apparent—which time of year, what part of the day—and all the other characteristics of a season.
I love the “checklist” in the book on page 8 (there is a descriptive sentence after each word in the book):
The Seven Keys to Writing Haiku
3. Kigo (Season word)
4. Here and Now
For many who may read this, you might be thinking yes, we know this already. But for me, having a little more background and having it put forth in such a simple manner, makes me feel like I’ve just discovered something for the first time—as though it’s absolutely new to me.
I like baby steps; I never mind going back to square one again and again.
I respect and acknowledge the traditional form as part of the Japanese culture. I will never be able to fully understand haiku from the Japanese perspective. I will not be able to write it in beautiful Japanese characters, but I’m appreciative that there are ways for English writers to appreciate the form and its beauty—ways to work with haiku in English.
What resonates with me most is my love of nature; how I feel so much; and how I love trying to transfer images and impressions and reducing them to their most true form.
So the other day when I was observing the rose branches that are in the same park and how they were still bare but beginning to show signs of tight buds readying to bloom, I thought about haiku, about kigo—about how the seasons and months seem to go so fast and that the only way to slow them down is to capture them in images and words, especially haiku—because it seems the fewer intentional words, the more the moment is able to be recalled.
I want to remember the seasons, more so now than ever, partially because from one year to the next, they never seem the same. I want to be able to look back.
teardrop falls from the moon
(haiku written February 23, 2012 without a season).