I love this old Bashō tree for its uselessness. I sit under it, and enjoy the wind and rain blowing against it. Matsuo Bashō
Extract from the text
Anyone reading a Japanese haiku, either in the original language or in translation, will immediately become aware of its salient features: its brevity, by being limited to a total of 17 syllables; its form of three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables; the concreteness of its images (trees, flowers, blossom, water, wind, leaves, insects, birds); and how it suggests, rather than states, a mood, a feeling, an emotional response to a particular experience purely by the conjunction of words and the juxtaposition of images. Haiku, in brief, seem to capture the significant moment in its passing. They might adequately be defined as ‘records of high moments’.
If the successful haiku speaks for itself, without the need for further elaboration by the poet or an explanation demanded by the reader, then the above description of the haiku will serve to sum up all we need to know about it. The more we say, the farther away from the essence of the haiku we find ourselves. Yet, if we wish to capture our own fleeting experiences, our ‘high moments’, in the form of the haiku we must look further into how the haiku achieves its effect. In doing so, since we shall be looking at the creation of haiku in English, we shall be asking a few questions about the history and origins of this particular verse form in Japanese culture, and the extent to which that tradition is transferable to the English language.
Published January 2017