I’ve recently taken to writing haiku. While I value all forms of creative and expressive writing, haiku had never been particularly appealing to me, from a writing standpoint, which was mostly due to my love of words and haiku being too short and succinct to embody all of what I wanted to say. But I’ve been learning more about the art of haiku, and developing a deeper understanding and appreciation of it. As I’m getting the hang of haiku writing, it’s becoming quite fun!
In reading online about haiku, a few things really resonated for me: R.H. Blyth, who was a well-known interpreter of Japanese haiku into English, explained haiku as “an open door which looks shut.” One definition of haiku said: a short poem recording the essence of a moment, keenly perceived, in which nature is linked to human nature. And another source whittled down haiku to three words: concision, perception, and awareness.
The art of haiku is not simply a matter of following a set pattern of syllables (5, 7, 5 as we’ve commonly translated it into English, though this can sometimes vary). Traditionally, haiku involves a juxtaposing of something nature/season related with something present tense/human world related. This is where I feel the art of haiku writing comes in. It’s not about penning any ol’ thing that comes to mind in the allotted structure of 5/7/5, it’s about relaying an insight or experience relating to the present moment – taken in this light, haiku is right up my alley :) Haiku is very relate-able and easily interwoven with a Zen-based practice.
I’m finding it a welcomed challenge to coalesce what I have to say in the simple structure of haiku. I figure that, as a lover of the Dharma and an aspiring Dharma teacher, if I cannot manage to offer what I have to say in a clear, precise manner, then I have more work to do in sculpting my experience and insights so that they may have the best chance of penetrating into the hearts and practice of others. Of course, haiku is a rather extreme and limiting way to offer full fledged dharmic teachings, but it’s affording me good practice in getting at the core of things.