How now, haiku!

Haiku
Can we really say we understand haiku?

My friend and colleague Seth La Tour is a brave soul. He has started a blog “one poem every day,” which is pretty much what it sounds like.

He writes a new poem every day and posts it. Mostly he writes haiku.

I’m not sure I get haiku. By which I mean I really don’t get haiku. It comes from a cultural tradition so different from my own that I hesitate to claim any knowledge.

But, every now and then reading haiku, I get a glimpse of something … a whiff … a hint.

Seth wrote one a few days ago that gave me that twinge:

old, red butter dish/

doing your one job so well/

on the countertop

Something about its directness, its simplicity and its sheer concreteness gave me that feeling I get when I think I have apprehended the best of the haiku from Japan.  For me, it’s a little like catching a glimpse of something in peripheral vision.  When you look at it directly, it’s gone.

There was a significance in this simple moment.  There was “something” the poet perceived and recorded.

I sensed the same sort of thing when experiencing a Japanese Tea Ceremony.  It was so simple, yet precise.  There was something there.  But I couldn’t quite apprehend it.  (Then my knees started to ache and I had to stand up.)

We know that haiku master Basho also followed the Way of Tea, so there is clearly a deep connection.

I have tried haiku, but am not satisfied I have the clarity and tranquility required.  Here’s one I didn’t burn:

As night turns to day

Summer’s last full moon slips down

Making not a sound

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Published by

Bobby Ball

I love poetry. But I'm picky. No one pays me to read and write poems. It's more of a labor of love. I guess that puts me in good company. This is a project to discover why some poems strike you deep, deep down, while others leave you cold. I've got some ideas, and I'm eager to learn. I'll show you some of mine. Maybe we'll learn something new.

2 thoughts on “How now, haiku!”

  1. Lots of really great poetry about the way of tea as well.

    I love the zen “moments” in haiku poetry, moments of satori if you will. One of my favorite satori stories is about a monk who was sweeping his porch, just like he did every day and like he was supposed to do every day. In tea you could say he was cleaning not to prepare for a scheduled ceremony, but because he was always ready to host a passerby. His moment of satori came at the sound when one of the pebbles flicked by his broom off the cobblestone struck a hollow piece of bamboo.

    This is not really poetry related, but I love that story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is a good story. I’m told haiku master Issa’s name means “cup of tea,” or “cup of ….” I think you’re right about the closeness of Zen, the Way of Tea, and haiku. I think we Westerners coming from a much different culture, struggle to get any of the three.

      Like

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