For such a short and seemingly simple form debate around what haiku is continues to rock up a storm with impassioned arguments around preference and approach.
THE DAILY HAIKU offers 5/7/5 syllables as a guideline for writing haiku and I would like to stress, as I often do, that this is NEVER a RULE. The 5/7/5 framework can be especially helpful to those new to haiku but despite the choice involved in using this format it is an area frequently challenged and questioned. 5/7/5 stresses the mechanics of haiku rather than the craft but remains a popular option for many experienced haiku writers too.
I thought a fruitful approach would be to dig down through a creative process into what haiku means to you alongside our more formal and informal debates. This is because despite its shifting form and function it clearly does mean something different to everyone.
The following questions framed this quest:
If Haiku were a season what would it be?
If you touched Haiku what would it feel like?
What does Haiku taste like if anything?
Where does Haiku live? Describe the environment?
Does Haiku have a colour?
What are Haiku’s best features?
What isn’t Haiku?
What does Haiku do?
What doesn’t Haiku do?
What does Haiku see?
Who are Haiku’s friends?
Where does Haiku want to go?
What does Haiku say if anything?
If Haiku were an animal what would it be?
If Haiku were a smell what is it?
If Haiku wanted to try something new what would it be?
How does Haiku move (if at all)?
What does Haiku look like?
How does Haiku feel?
I then ask you after playing with the above answers to have a go at defining haiku in one sentence from your point of view.
What emerged from this creative process was that haiku evoked dramatically contrasting and diverse responses that included John Lanyon’s ‘shy seed’ to Kitty Kisrow’s ‘expresso shot poetry’ to Shirley Zanes’ “pedicab taking me on a slower journey through life’s busy streets.” What is common to all responses to date is the passion haiku conjures up in us all and the ensuing frustrations and joys around writing haiku.
Haiku is personal, perhaps that is why we can get personal at times in our haiku debates. But expressing the personal through creative means embraces the personal without getting personal!
Here is a selection for you to enjoy of the many creative responses to ‘What does Haiku mean to you?’ 2
Thank you to those who completed the creative quest. In reading through I feel, without tussling with the technicalities of this quixotic form, I have a clearer glimpse of haiku and its many coloured coats. I love too, without prompting, that many of the responses are of course in haiku form. I feel that having questions about what it isn’t as much as what it is brings us closer to finding its changing, slippery and glorious essence.
Haiku evades our capture so if we want to be free we shouldn’t attempt to conquer ‘haiku’ but let it conquer us.
Cindy Ravines Haiku is a camera taking photos of the present
Much needed outlet
Haiku is my therapy
Tapping into NOW
Lynda Flint haiku is a fresh sweet fig, first taste never leaves you
If Haiku were a season what would it be? The point at which autumn tips into winter.
If you touched Haiku what would it feel like? Static electricity.
What does Haiku taste like if anything? A very cold satsuma.
Where does Haiku live? Describe the environment? In a beach hut miles from the sea.
Does Haiku have a colour? Sometimes.
What are Haiku’s best features? Honesty and sharp creases.
What isn’t Haiku? Its reflection.
What does Haiku do? Leave extra coat hangers behind in hotel wardrobes.
What doesn’t Haiku do? Take off its shoes when it comes into the house.
What does Haiku see? Afterimages of objects that don’t move.
Who are Haiku’s friends? Lollipop ladies and the people who do that broom thing in competitive curling.
Where does Haiku want to go? Just over there.
What does Haiku say if anything? I think the D string’s a bit sharp.
If Haiku were an animal what would it be? A cartoon shrew with real claws.
If Haiku were a smell what is it? Tomato plants.
If Haiku wanted to try something new what would it be? Liquorice ice cream.
How does Haiku move (if at all)? In mysterious ways.
What does Haiku look like? A candlelit greenhouse in snow.
How does Haiku feel? Like a finger on the rim of a wine glass.
What does Haiku’s voice sound like? An old trout whistling a Dolly Parton tune.
Haiku is Spring, learning
Strength and confidence, flowing
Energy through words
Haiku is freeze framing a visual image in words.
Laura Frances Martin
Haiku is a mini meditation on life in myriad syllables
Haiku is to language as birdsong is to the morning wood
Haiku walks with grace through the thorns of life
Season – Rain
Feellike – a Petal
Taste -. a tangy orange
Live – in mountain ranges
Color – white canvas to pour your thoughts
Feature- shortest poetry
Haiku Isn’t about hate
Haiku do – give joy
Haiku sees – the universe as one
Haikus friends – haiku poets
Haiku wants to meet nature
Haiku says – poetry is redeeming
Smell-. Baby’s scent
Haiku will explore itself
Move like the clouds
Haiku looks like the blue sky
Haiku feels warmth of expressions
Haiku for me is like watching a butterfly visiting the blossoms at free wil
One of the questions was, “Does Haiku have friends?
This us quite silly,but I think we were given permission.
Haiku and Friends
Haiku with a friend
Underling he’ll never be
Get Acrostic out
Hope you all noticed the HUG in my silly Haiku Friend. That was planned for the new word-friends who encourage me.
Haiku for me is an essence of thoughts and feelings provoking thoughts and feelings.
Haiku is me
all of us …
Eyes like write Haiku
Every day something new
New Haiku for you
Haiku suit all moods.
Be it poignant reflection
or just some silly fun.
heart’s-ease, joy and sweet release
in its brief caress.
If Haiku were a season what would it be? Winter. Sparse but glittery.
If you touched Haiku what would it feel like? Fragile, and dewy.
What does Haiku taste like if anything? Spun sugar.
Where does Haiku live? Under a beautiful tree, which occasionally drops fruit.
Does Haiku have a colour? Blue, pink and black.
What are Haiku’s best features? Precision.
What isn’t Haiku? Arguments
What does Haiku do? It makes you strive for perfection.
What doesn’t Haiku do? Make you obsessive.
What does Haiku see? Everything
Who are Haiku’s friends? We are!
Where does Haiku want to go? Deep inside.
What does Haiku say if anything? Quiet! Stop. Think.
If Haiku were an animal what would it be? Hedgehog.
If Haiku were a smell what is it? Green shoots breaking snow.
If Haiku wanted to try something new what would it be? It wouldn’t.
How does Haiku move (if at all)? In little, delicate steps.
What does Haiku look like? Female
How does Haiku feel? Vulnerable.
Gemma Jayne Paine
It’s making a magical statement in a few words as possible
William Dean Ford
A thought to be aired Set free on a single breath Firefly in the void
Haiku to me captures in a few lines; a moment of grace. Emotion is distilled by releasing the pressure. The text in its simplest form unfolds what is necessary and pares down the unnecessary. As I go on it is less of a discipline and more of an art.
I am a fledgling in haiku. Every day I learn something.
If haiku was an animal it would be a cat. Walking metaphors they inhabit many worlds. they have a talent for finding their “Spot” and the mental flexibility to rotate to ever more favourable spots. The delicate balance they strike between concealing and revealing is like a haiku. Cats are compasses. Mine momentarily is at North to North East. She is always in the zone.
Wendy Houser Blomseth
Haiku is a Divining Rod that moves you forward toward self-knowledge and appreciation of nature: human nature and mother nature
I continue to quote Amita Paul who, early on, explained haiku to me as :
Those ineffable thoughts
Become Haiku ”
Poet, Amita Paul, Patna, India, 2020
all that I can
show not tell …
builds a corridor
amongst all of us
Pedants tell Haiku,
“You’re not what you claim to be.”
Haiku says, “Get stuffed.”
Reading and/or writing a haiku is sharing moments of our lives, our experiences and our perceptions.
what’s within you
The turn from midwinter to Spring
A delicate, spiked object, sharp yet smooth
Lemon after freshly cleaned teeth
Lives in a glass case, edged with gold, placed in a forest
The white of spaceship interiors
The asymmetry of its face
Washing machine manuals
Makes a man walk with a lopsided gait, 5 7 5
Know how to ride a new bicycle
Other newborn lines, squealing and kicking
The neat children in the class, but also the child running in circles through daisies
Home, but at a tangent
Little, but what it says is cool
A particular, clean bird on an elegant branch, perhaps clockwork
Smells of fresh pressed rose heads
Not itself, but itself
On tip toes, like a tiger
Something impossible for a sketch artist to draw
Happy but also, like bone China
What building would haiku be?
What drink would haiku be?
What would haiku work as?
Haiku Is a turn, spiked lemon, forest spaceship, asymmetry machine, man bicycle, newborn daisies, home but cool, clean clockwork head, itself a tiger, impossible happy, temple, lemonade magician
Haiku has just the right number of lines and syllables, but it won’t tell you what they are.
Haiku is a word-art form that endeavors to use words to go beyond words. It is a word-art form that takes few words to express itself, and millions of words to talk about it.
Of course this isn’t all that haiku is, for haiku is everything that it is and nothing that it isn’t. It is far more than what we could ever say about it, yet far less than what we often do say about it. Haiku is.
If you haven’t tried the creative quest into haiku yet please do. Get up close and personal with haiku and share your thoughts here.
Alan’s Haiku Journey on Japanese Television NHK World https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VS36AGVI6s
Amazement of the ordinary- life through a haiku lens: Alan Summers TEDX
David DeNavarro website: https://allauthor.com/author/denavarro/