10:39 pm
17 November 2017

The key of a good Haiku

When you undertake the task of learning to write haiku, that traditionally feelings and emotions are not directly mentioned in the poem. If they are, they are described through other elements, such as a color, a moment of season cycles, i.e. flowered plum-tree, withered leaves, and so on. As for timing, in general, haiku, or, better said, the scene that it stages, is developed in the present time, and it is crafted poetically. That is where the poet is placed, so it is difficult for it to include elements referring to the past or the future. Moreover, haiku is supposed to describe an experience of “what is happening in this moment and this place”, as MatsuoBasho used to teach, and that is the fecund reality capture that it provides. A sudden capture that encloses a profound lesson, and, that can only be comprehended intuitively, beyond reasoning. Haiku is an invitation to discover life itself, with the scrollwork that it paints everywhere. In this way, there is nothing that escapes the sight of the poet; not even the details of an event, landscape, or manifestation. In this sense, haiku is the art of the small. As the Taoist proverb says: “He who sees what is small, understands”.

But everything has its counterpart; in a famous article, Prof. Haruo Shirane shatters a series of ideas on how Japanese traditional haiku is perceived by the western culture. He tells us that tradition haiku is based on certain assumptions: a) direct observation and self personal experience; b) excludes metaphors; c) refers to nature; d) deals with facts and not imagination; e) refers only to the present (here and now). And then he proves that these notions are not valid in Japanese haiku, with examples taken mainly from Basho and Buson, in which it can be observed that these rules have never been followed. According to Shirane, traditional ku has two axis, the horizontal one places it in the present, and the vertical one places it in the past (relations to history, culture, classic poems, etc.) And he stresses the fact that the second axis’s resonance is very intense to Japanese people, as it involves meanings that have been passed from generation to generation for hundreds of years. Even kigo would have very special resonances in Japan, which does not have in the Western world.

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