Sunday, 19 June 2016

Haiku and Zen poetry

I'm a great fan of Haiku, the Japanese poetry discipline which manages to say a lot in very few words.    The art of Haiku is to establish a thought provoking image, traditionally, but not always, using just seventeen syllables in a 5-7-5 pattern. The idea is to take imagery from nature as a basis for deeper philosophical thought.

Although it is now winter in New Zealand my garden is acting like it is late autumn, the scarlet leaves still gently falling from my maple trees. The leaves give me great pleasure and have inspired me to re-read a few autumnal haiku.

I went straight to the works of the greatest zen poet of all, Matsuo Basho (1644 - 1694) I never fail to be entranced by his succinct word pictures. Originally in training as a samurai, or warrior, Basho abandoned that life to travel around Japan and pursue the life of a wandering poet. His works are widely acclaimed throughout the world. This is his most well known Haiku:

An ancient pond
A frog jumps in
the splash of water

And here are a couple of his autumn themed poems:

An empty road
lonelier than abandonment
this autumn evening 

Won't you come and see loneliness
Just one leaf from the kiri tree 

This poem is by Ryokan (1758 - 1831)

My legacy....
What will it be?
Flowers in spring
The cuckoo in summer
And the crimson maple of autumn

Here is one by Shiko, an artist, engraver and poet (1903 - 1975)

How enviable
Turning beautiful then falling
Maple leaves 

But since it really is winter I think I should add a couple of winter themed haiku.  These two are both by Basho:

How admirable
to see lightening and not think
life is fleeting


Winter solitude
in a world of one colour
the sound of the wind

 Every season has it's pleasures and it's downsides, just like life.  The beauty of Haiku is the way it can combine the imagery of nature with the full range of human emotions. Occasionally I like to try my hand at writing them with varying degrees of success, however, I am fond of this one I wrote in memory of my late husband, a keen fisherman:

Waitemata dawn
Golden glow on silver sea
Quietly fishing

All photos are my own.