Haiku

Commentary:

What does it mean to write haiku in English? How does it look? More importantly, how does it feel? Since its popularization (if you’d call it popular) in English speaking cultures, haiku has morphed into something beyond the 5-7-5 rules (which is not to say that these rules were all that it ever was). Formalities, it seems, have largely disappeared.

So what is left? I think all that remains is a sensation. But what sort of sensation? It should be self-evident with good haiku (which I don’t pretend to give you here). However, in an attempt to capture it in words, I say that the best definitions of English haiku today describe it as containing the sensation of a momentary pop; a sort of snapping realization of something. While this pop is typically seasonal, it needn’t be. In some sense, haiku today (if not always) transcends seasonal elements to encompass something far greater.

I think good English haiku capture the sensation of presence in our lived experience.


November 2020

11/23/20

Almost,
for a second there,
I thought, maybe

11/23/20

Remembering,
new-fire-warmth
is soon-same-old

11/23/20

Waking up to frost air-
I forgot a window

11/23/20

Sprout
breaking through-
silence

11/23/20

For a moment
It-is

11/23/20

Tapping into the
real

it slips

11/19/20

Early winter morning
truck sound

11/12/20

Under the overhead,
out of the rain,
I fold into myself

11/12/20

On and off
all day-
I know you rain

11/6/20

Cloud boundaries-
Many self-conceptions

11/6/20

First cold morning breath

11/5/20

Hoping,
under your sweater,
as under mine: joy

October 2020

10/28/20

Frost-melt
Hope-smell

10/28/20

Under my blanket
stillness.
train sound

10/27/20

Ink-spread
wet page spot

10/22/20

Dark root &
mind-gnarl

July-August 2020

7/1/20

Somehow forgotten,
autumn leaves
in a summer shade

8/13/20

Humid
cricket-song

8/13/20

Fighting attention,
our table neighbor’s voice
and yours

8/13/20

Tall grass and
snake-fear

June 2020

6/23/20

my body, me
and my body is,
me

6/23/20

Waiting for the right time
at the wrong time

6/23/20

Hands covered in sap
oh!
Jeans covered in sap

6/23/20

Unfolding into un
folding into unfolding
into the unfold

6/23/20

Rouge raindrops,
don’t you know
the storm is over?

6/23/20

Bee!
your weight is
bending the flower!

6/23/20

Without any wind
I doze off
on the park bench

6/10/20

Cooling herself-
the dust is icy,
little bird

6/10/20

Big tree
giving little tree
parental shade

6/10/20

Horseshit
& heat

6/9/20

A park conversation
begging to be overheard

6/8/20
Not for long-
I sit on this
summer stone’s heat

May 2020

5/26/20

Only a matter of time-
my socks
& the wet driveway

5/26/20

Before sun-up,
birdsong

5/16/20

Uncut grass
clinging
to the soccer net

5/9/20

Freedom-
green field
& the dog’s dark eyes

5/9/20

Two days:
pillow lingers
with a stranger

April 2020

4/28/20

First heat,
the smell
of my skin

4/23/20

A torrent!
where did the birds go?

4/28/20
What significance
is this page
the wind shows me?

Undated: 2018-2019

Paper cup coffee-
windowless room

Plant growth
one day
by the open window

Dawn bus sound-
January

A mother’s persistence
cold medicine
weekday morning

Mulch-covered tarps
& and dew grass smell

Coldness
and its correlation
to journaling

Station stop
my seatmate,
immediately replaced

Wiping sweat away
to the sound of cicadas


Here are some online and printed suggestions for further reading:


  • Higginson, William J. “The Haiku Seasons”
  • Higginson, William J (eds). “Haiku World”
  • Heuvel, Cor van den (eds) . “The Haiku Anthology”
  • Ross, Bruce (eds). “Haiku Moment”
  • Wright, Richard and Julia Wright (ed). “Haiku The Last Poets of an American Icon”
  • Brandi, John and Maloney, Dennis (eds). “The Unswept Path
  • Kacian, Jim, Rowland, Philip, Burns, Allan, (eds) and Collins, Billy. “Haiku in English The First Hundred Years”