Different Schools-of-Haiku Thought: The Responsibilities of Each Haijin

by an'ya

(First Published in Simply Haiku: An E-Journal of Haiku and Related Forms)

All Haiku examples used here were previously published in either American Haiku or Cor Van Heuvel's Haiku Anthology.

If words were like silver, it's possible then that few words in haiku would be l like gold. Although this is only valid when each and every word is carefully chosen, and only in certain haiku. As this applies to the haiku art form in general, our first responsibility as haiku poets who would become triumphant haijin, should be to think deeply of what we wish to convey before composing it. We need to know how to present our ideas in as few words and syllables as possible, yet in a way that convinces readers to also think deeply about what they're experienced. As soon as we learn how to convert our thoughts into lear-cut, concrete images, we can then project them into the inds of others under the form of light and silhouette, as does this often-quoted and classic haika by Nick Virgilio:

lily...

out of the water

out of itself

If it is understood with what adequacy and readiness people follow beauty of thought, then a responsible author should be admired for having counted on the high mental quality of their readership in rising to meet their level with an outstanding haiku like the one above. I ask you, is it not by these eight perfect word choices that Nick's haika lifts s high up into the light as if we were that very lily, lending shape to his word-silhouette?

However, it isn't "set-in-stone" that fewer words from less often quoted haiku, are better. Sometimes a full 5, 7, 5 form (which admittedly was more popular in the past than nowadays) is necessary to convey complete thought patterns. In the year 2004, we should all strive to glean from such haiku the proper way to use a maximum syllable count. Poetry, and most especially haiku, is the sow-broadcaster of moments that surround us, of which the original impression, after a certain response in one individual, travels by similitude to invade other readers' mind. This is the real reason why certain haiku are so successful; they allow virtually everyone to at least be present somewhere in the audience, like this haiku by Sandi Gerber that might easily appeal to old and young alike, male or female, rich or poor, universally, etc.

wet autumn evening

we shattered all the street lights

walking in puddles

or this haiku by Karen Lindsey with the same amount of syllables, yet arranged differently:

a few droplets

and the cloud passes by...

our words are bright and barren

In any case, and (no atter what school-of-haiku thought or how many syllables you use), it is each haiin's responsibility to compose high-sould haiku in the midst of a world of mental mediocrity, while taking care not to use archaic, pretentious, or overly poetic words, To allow the reader to sketch in any open spaces with his own feelings, and under the power of words adapted to the purest ideal (nature), even the most crude spirit shall be lifted as in haiku such as this one by Scott M Bushnell:

bat-ridden gargoyles

high atop the church steeple

smile at the new sun

and in this once composed of only thirteen syllables that could easily mesmerize and entire audience, but by its catchy word repetition:

the hills

release the summer clouds

one...by one...by one...

On the other hand, success can even be achieved if an author, upon observing something perhaps considered otherwise mundane in nature itself, is able to skillfully yet flatly and humorously present that moment, thereby rendering it much different, though nonetheless, a responsibly written haiku. For example, I close by sharing with you this pattern-style haiku of only two words by Marlen Mountain, which effectively, but most of all importantly, makes me smile:

           o......g

    ...r

f                   ......frog