....Volume 1, Number 1, July 2003

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My Take On Haiku

Robert John Mestre

Many people ask what haiku is. I have seen many different definitions, depending on the country of residence, language structure and so on. Some definitions are made so technical I'm surprised the author could understand his or her own words. Then comes the syllable question - to 17 or not to17? Most of us know the 17 syllable rule was made by and for the Japanese language system. In some languages like English, that can sometimes be too many syllables. So instead of worrying about syllables, I think the one breath rule should be used. Easy to remember, and it works!

As for describing haiku to someone, I think it can be done quite easily without being confusing . Let's use Basho as our example. Basho wrote most of his work while traveling, sometimes accompanied by little sketches to compliment the work or vice versa. His haiku were about things he saw that he wanted to capture the moment of. Keep in mind that if this were one of us we would do this with a camera. Which is exactly what haiku is - plain and simple, a picture. (Example) Imagine Basho somewhere on a snow covered mountain. He is looking at the valley below when a breeze rises to where he stands, bringing with it the the aroma of the fertile valley below.

What luck!
The southern valley
Makes snow fragrant-----Basho

This simple yet elegant haiku catches that moment vividly. It is as simple as that. Don't get me wrong, though the definition is simple, the actual composition may be more complicated. Be true to that moment in time. If you can't write the haiku when you are actually viewing the inspiration, take a mental picture. Look at every detail, compose a little rough draft in your head and write it down as soon as possible. Even better . . . take a picture. Not only will that help to mentally bring back the moment, but it could possibly make a great haiga!

In conclusion, what separates haiku from most other forms of poetry is its simplicity. Most forms of poetry try to describe a time, a place, emotion, or fantasy in such great detail by detail images. Sometimes graphic, sometimes abstract, often leaving you to form your own image or idea of what the poem is about.

Haiku is a snapshot in time. No veils, no mystery- it is exactly as it reads. The mind perceives everything moment by moment. The haiku is a moment in time, pure and unblemished. Put to paper (or computer) in a short form most imitating a 'moment'.

Being awake
He says he is already asleep.
Autumn chilly night--------------

- Buson Yosa


Robert John Mestre


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