Haiku History

That is to say, my history with Haiku.  Six years ago I joined a Yahoo Group to study Haiku with a woman who had more experience with the form than the rest of us.  Haiku is three lines of seventeen syllables.  The first line is five syllables, the second seven and the last is five syllables.  It is supposed to be about nature and end with a twist.  That would be the Japanese style of Haiku, which I followed as best I could, until I read Paul Muldoon’s Haiku’s about things more mundane, that also rhymed!  Here’s an example from Moy Sand and Gravel.

The smell, like a skunk,

of coffee about to perk.

Thelonious Monk.

One of the exercises in the on-line class, which was called “Doing Haiku,” was to develp a definition of Haiku that in meaningful for you.  Here’s what I wrote in my notebook:  “A snippet of an observed moment that I want to preserve, perhaps simply because I noticed it…or because of Haiku, I saw and remembered.” 

In answer to “What does ‘doing Haiku’ mean to you?” I wrote: “it means seeing, stopping, thinking, recording.  It’s not about me; it’s about what I see.  My mind finds the words to give expression to the sight.”

Here’s a Haiku I wrote during the class in early September after a drive to New Glarus, Wisconsin.  We’d been in drought all that summer.

Crisp, yellow-gold fields

border rows of brittle corn.

Maples drop brown curls.

I have kept writing about a Haiku moment almost everyday since the class.  I write about where I’ve been, who I’ve seen, what I’ve been doing, about operas and concerts I’ve attended, about the seasons and the moon and dreams.  I write cat’kus and record conversations.  Sometimes, though, I am simply Ku’less and have to close my notebook.


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