Pocket-sized 4.25 x 6”, perfect bound, Allbook Books’ most popular book.
1/2 how-to write haiku, 1/2 anthology, plus background info on haiku and
the philosophies and spirituality that flavor it, and original brush calligraphy
of ancient Chinese pictographs, and more.
“...haiku is a pebble thrown into the pool of the
listener’s mind evoking associations out of the
richness of his own memory. It invites the listener
to participate instead of leaving him dumb with
admiration while the poet shows off.”
— Alan Watts The Way of Zen pp.183-84.
Part 1 - Structure and Technique
Haiku are poetic-literary expressions from a culture that
values humility, precision, and a connection with the true
nature of being (or Spirit) through daily ritual. Although
not limited to Zen, haiku is considered one of many Zen
Arts. Others are: Tea ceremonies cha-no-yu “the art of
tea,” and chado “the way of tea”; kodo (incense
ceremony); Zen rock gardens; feng shui “wind-water”
(the art of placement and natural energy flow); ikebana
“the art of flower arranging”; shakuhachi, the hollow,
Zen flute; sumi-e painting and brush calligraphy; kendo
“the way of the sword”; the classic Noh Theater; and the
martial arts of which tai chi chuan (Chinese) is the most
peaceful— all forms whose ‘products’ are visibly sparse,
yet whose inner workings are quite vast.
Many of these Arts (along with Zen koans or Master pupil
interchanges) are classified by some as belonging
to the Rinzai school of Zen which aims toward ‘sudden
recognition or enlightenment,’ as compared with the
Soto school whose aim is a gradual moving toward such
a state of awarenes, or more like ‘there is no where to
get to’ Buddhist approach. Both of these qualities are
apparent with haiku.
Haiku have the smooth timelessness of tai chi; the
brushstroke motions of sumi-e painting or calligraphy;
the natural precision of flower arranging; the grace of a
tea ceremony; the mask of Noh theater; the austere
beauty of a rock garden; the immediacy of a sword; the
positive energy-flow of feng shui.
Haiku are a creative offshoot of and reflect the spiritual
traditions and philosophies of, especially, Buddhism
(more specifically Mahayana Buddhism,) Taoism, Zen
and Zen Buddhism where the emphasis is taken off of
the mere ego-self, thus allowing one to better experience
the ‘other’ and Greater parts of Self. However,
please note that classical haiku poems are not of
themselves precepts nor necessarily any of the direct
teachings of those enlightened philosophies and
spiritual practices; haiku may reiterate such principles,
or reflect the essence of such, but any similarities as
well as differences need to be honored. There are
numerous literary infuences as well, among them are
Buddhist and Chinese poetry. Although lacking descriptive
language, haiku exemplify a literary cell, a
building-block of larger literary molecular structures.
Haiku’s popularity outside of Japan is a kind of gift that
resulted from WW II, for it was while R.H. Blyth (tutor
to Crown Prince Akihito,) Harold G. Henderson, and
Faubion Bowers were stationed in Japan that they
learned of haiku in great depth. Kenneth Yasuda
(Shson) is also an influential haiku figure, and the
writings of D.T. Suzuki and Alan Watts helped familiarize
the West with Asian culture, arts, and philosophy.
recognition/sensory surges; don’t try to write haiku
This is not just reverse psychology. For recognizing
that a haiku is ‘happening,’ I normally notice/experience
that there is a combination of (one or more of) seeing,
hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, along with a clear
awareness, all combined with a ‘surge’ of
energy/feeling/emotion that says: ‘this is noteworthy!’
Alan Semerdjian describes the process as “similar to
picking grapes off a leaf, fruit off a tree.”
For me it is the moment of biting into the fruit, though
one could consider THAT as the sharing of the haiku.
Suffice it to say: haiku is “a ripe moment.”
The process is: “Organic. When something strikes me
in an emotional way, words seem to appear,” according
to Saul Waring.
Cliff Bleidner, a Zen-practioner with twenty years of
haiku experience, says that a haiku poet is a “trained
observer,” thus trained to recognize the haiku moment
or experience. He describes the haiku essence as
(non-violently) “three bold strokes with a sword.”
Vivina Ciolli knows she has a completed haiku when
the following criteria are met: “My ‘tests’ are: if I can
read the poem slowly, knowing more as I move along
the poem one word at a time; if there is no word or
punctuation or spacing I ‘must’ change; and if the hair
on my neck stands, each time I read it.”
Kay J. Wight writes: “I have not been able to sit and
plan to write a haiku... for me it has to be a moment, a
sound, a smell, or just casting an eye on something
that inspires me to want to paint or write or somehow
capture the "feeling" so that I might share with others.”
On a frigid winter night with high winds, I made some
toast, and the orange glow from the toaster coils was
visually ‘noteworthy’ along with the little bit of warmth it
provided. This spontaneously contrasted nicely with the
cold, windy weather:
orange glow from the old toaster—
30 mph winds
This formula is also: “don’t try to write haiku,” simply
observe and feel, and learn to recognize what is a haiku
moment or experience worth jotting down; or sometimes
the words are just there and pop out.
Following this formula I have sometimes gone for
months without writing a haiku, and then suddenly 3 or
5 may occur in a week. Yet everyday I read at least one
haiku of other writers, some classical, some modern..
so there is still that connection with the haiku essence.
rattles the roof's gutter--
first day of spring!
down the path
to the garden
the sound of rain
~ Marvin Schlesinger
over marsh grass
along rivers and shoreline
-- Kay J. Wight
in late winter
garlic tops sprout
green spikes toward spring
Paddling ashore in the still night,
only the heron sees me.
-- Russ Perry
shrouded by trees
beatific splintering orb
sunshine greets my eye
-- Christian Laura
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