Vol. 8, No. 14, Summer 2011
Geert Verbeke, Flanders, Belgium
Close at hand on the writing desk: haiku manuals, a photo of Shiki’s statue, and a bag of sugar-free sweets. The writing room is an island of tranquility, to be alone with words and poems with silence and poetic rapture.
Haiku study is fascinating; the opportunities are great. The study of historical haiku and source books hold a unique meaning for me, one that permeates everything I do by trial and error. Haiku writing happens in the present moment; thus suggestions about books and magazines are always welcome. Trade by barter is a brilliant idea: send your books for mine... Books written by others are like a path in the garden. Haiku are a form of direct joy.
No, you don’t have to follow the experts who refer univocally to, ‘Bashō said this,’ or, ‘Buson said that.’ Saying the whole truth and nothing but the truth, doesn’t exist! Everything is true, and nothing is true.
A haiku writer expects a creative vision with an open mind from magazines, haiku circles, and blogs, without nitpickers or a patronizing or supercilious air.
A Western haiku approach:
1. Haiku is short
2. It has approximately seventeen syllables, written in three lines with word groups of 5-7-5 syllables.
3. It is connected with nature.
4. It is an observation in the present.
5. It expresses less-personal feelings.
6. It avoids too much use of metaphor and rhyme.
7. It usually has a connection with a season.
A contemporary haiku poet, or haijin, knows that the 5-7-5 syllable rule we learned at school is artificial. Our teachers told us that a haiku is a poem with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third. It was just a trick to get us to learn syllables. In the original Japanese form, the 5-7-5 are called morae. A mora is a linguistic Japanese unit (called onji), smaller than an English syllable. Five-seven-five syllables means seventeen in total. Less is possible; more is unusual.
Do not add unnecessary words to reach the ‘magic’ 5-7-5 number; or worse, break the sentence in an awkward place. But it is better to be a poet than an abacus. Childlike amazement is more important than all kinds of hairsplitting subtleties.