Saturday, March 31, 2012

Thinking about Haiku

I find that when I am trying to understand something, if I write what I’m learning and digesting, it sinks into my system better. I enjoy watching the seasons come and go, yet the other day when I passed the park near one of my favorite crepe myrtle trees—it really became apparent to me how many seasons had passed in my lifetime that I had not captured in a way that I would remember. I feel that only within the past few years have I really jotted down impressions on the page that will be there to remind me of the passing seasons and the elements unique to each.

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

1. Form
2. Image
3. Kigo (Season word)
4. Here and Now
5. Feeling
6. Surprise
7. Compassion

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
living moment

(haiku written February 23, 2012 without a season).


keiko amano said...


Me, too. I've missed many opportunities in the past, so I pay more attention nowadays. Lately, I read some modern haiku and tanka and also I've been writing some of my aha moments in both forms on and off and post on FB. Some with a photo, others, just by themselves. I think I finally feel pretty comfortable expressing myself. I'm less self-conscious. Otherwise, I can't show it to anyone. I enjoy it!

Rebb said...

Keiko, It's a big step to feel pretty comfortable expressing yourself. I'm happy to hear that. It seems the more we express and experiment, the more confidence will continue to grow.

And thank you for bringing kigo to my attention in your blog. It really helped a lot to bring another level of awareness to my already observing nature. :)

keiko amano said...


You're more than welcome. You and Luciana and Farzana inspired me to start writing poems. I don't know why it has been taking so long for me to open up.