homeeditorsreviewsessaysmhbooks issues


Volume 33.1

editor's speculations


Robert Spiess

Animals frequently are subjects for haiku. It is the common view that animals are soulless, but it should be of special interest for haiku poets that the word “animal” quite literally means “ensouled” . . . hmm!

As the basis of haiku is reality, haiku are not to be intellective but experiential, for only what has been experienced and not merely thought has the veridical value of reality. Haiku poets can best apprehend now-moments’ reality in the act of vitally living. [Prompted in part by a passage of Lama Anagarika Govinda’s.

Another of the many paradoxes of haiku is that the infinite modes of nature are best expressed through the restriction of brevity that haiku imposes on itself.
[Prompted in part by a passage of R. H. Blyth’s.]

Transience is what gives poignancy to many a haiku.

In genuine haiku there is repose, but this repose is not merely a resting but a vibrant state with everything being alive, but in an equipose through being in total harmony.[Gloss on words by Hugh McGregor Ross.]

For haiku poets: “The world is neither beautiful nor ugly, but simply is.”
[Adapted from Vivekanada. Courtesy of Kim Dorman.]

Sometimes we are to perceive entities with compassion, as Chiyo did when she went to a neighbor to borrow water because a morning glory had twined around the handle of her well-bucket; other times, with a dollop of humor, as Bashô did with the stones covered with pinks among which he wished to nap after having had a couple of drinks. [Prompted in part by a passage by Stewart W. Holmes.]

Haiku are remarkable, yet modest.

Haiku may be said to be wisdom poetry in the following sense—using words of Dennis Hiroto’s from his No Abode: The Record of Ippen (Univ. of Hawai’i Press, 1997, p. lxvii): ”. . . where the subject-object dichotomy has fallen away and the self and world seen from the stance of egocentricty have been cast off, there arises wisdom in which each thing is perceived just as it is—grasped not as an object apart from the subject, but in its sameness with all other things, including the subject.”

Frequently a, genuine haiku is an epiphany of the commonplace.
[Gloss on words of Frederick Franck’s.]

Haiku is the poetry of the leaving out.

Almost always the entities in haiku are utterly simple, utterly themselves, and utterly sufficient. [Gloss on words of David Hinton’s.]

That which is fleeting, which passes out of existence, is the mother of haiku.

It seems that haiku is related to Zen in that both aim for the fundamental state or primordial unity that exists in us before intellect’s fabricated dualities come forth: in Zen, that which is prior to both unenlightenment and enlightenment; and in haiku, that which is prior to our intellect’s separation of self and other, of both subjectivity and objectivity. [Prompted in part by a passage by Musô Soseki (Kokushi).]

In haiku the better poets strive for harmony between elements that have different characteristics, not seeking to incorporate in their haiku entities with the same qualities; while lesser poets take the easier way of putting into their haiku those things that have similar natures, avoiding the creation of harmony resulting from the aesthetic juxtaposition of entities that differ from each other in various ways. [Prompted by words by Confucius: Analects XIII: 23.]




©2002 Modern Haiku • PO Box 68 • Lincoln, IL 62656