A Breath Between Two Moments – in praise of the Haiku

Urban Blossom – D Sloan

Happy National Haiku Day!

Not only is this weekend an important celebration or holiday for many, it’s also National Haiku Day.  ‘Hoorah! Put down the chocolate egg and pass me my haiku anthology immediately,’ I hear you cry! 

But you could do worse than searching out a Haiku today, or looking up how to write a Haiku and trying it out for yourself.  Mention ‘Haiku’ to a poet and you’ll get varied responses ranging from enthusiastic approval to rolling of the eyes or a shrug of the shoulders.  Perhaps for good reason – it is a poetic form born from a specific linguistic and cultural tradition and it is a tad tricky (read, probably impossible) to translate the sense and spirit of the Haiku by using any other language (or way of being) than Japanese.


古池や 蛙飛び込む 水の音


The old pond
A frog leaps in.
Sound of the water.


So, I write my haiku to myself, for myself.  In fact – and this is possibly Haiku sacrilege – I have invented my own hybrid haiku form – the Chaiku.  It’s a haiku written whilst I have a cup of tea (thus the ‘chai’) and it puts words to a moment of reflection on something important or beautiful in my day.  The Haiku has quite specific ‘rules’ apart from the syllable count having to be exactly 17. But:

It was amazing
I’ll tell you in seventeen
Said no one ever

So I’m fairly generous with my syllables although I do try to use no more than three or four lines.

I do always try to adhere to two lesser known Haiku rules in my Chaiku – a reference to the season – a kigo – and a ‘cutting word’ or Kireji.  It’s the premise of the Kireji that I particularly like – it’s a word that serves as a breath between two thoughts or two moments. In the English form of Haiku the Kireji often falls at the end of the second line. It holds a space for the reader and allows the reader to complete the thought.  In Japanese, the kigo and Kireji are usually taken from a specific list of words but again – anything for an easy life, me! – I don’t hold myself to that rule in my Chaiku.

The idea of holding oneself in the space between two moments is particularly appealing to me.  The haiku (and my Chaiku) are about noticing, resting in awareness and recognising movement from here to another here and now to another now.

In the interests of the all the dignified brevity that the Haiku embraces, I will leave you now to let you go a-Googling (other search engines are available – but none beginning with ‘G’!) for Haiku and I’ll offer here one of my own haiku to honour this truly beautiful poetic form and to mark the beauty of the season. 

Single blackbird song

Brings dawn through half-silver light

Blossom holds its breath

D Sloan

For a guide to writing Haiku: https://classicalpoets.org/2016/11/13/how-to-write-a-haiku-and-much-much-more/#/

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