What exactly is haiku? Whenever I meet people curious about haiku, I ask them what they think it is. The answer is almost always the same. “I learned a bit about haiku in school, and the first thing we were taught is that it’s a three-line, seventeen-syllable short poem.” This is partially true, but what haiku is really about is nature, the seasons, the senses and personal experiences based on simple ordinary moments. Haiku evokes images and feelings of being in the moment, providing insight and emotion into nature and human nature. It is like taking a snapshot of everyday events and putting it into clear, concise words. It is the most popular form of poetry in Japan and it does consist of three short lines, but it could also be two lines and sometimes even just one. A haiku presents images. One suggests a time and place, the other a vivid but temporary view. It is poetry of the senses that expresses daily occurrences through the presentation of a brief moment in time.
The first haiku I ever wrote was in elementary school with the help from my Grandmother, who also had written haiku. I dabbled a little bit in it when I was in my late 20’s, but it wasn’t until 2006 that I got more interested in Zen and Japanese culture and felt inspired to give it anther try. Going with all that I knew, my first attempts were much like most learning a new skill…. not too great! I was going with the 5/7/5 syllable count and it wasn’t until I joined the Vancouver Haiku Group that I learned more about what it is and my interest grew.
Haiku evolved from another poetic form called renga. Centuries ago, Japanese poets would write linked verses together. That was originally called hokku. Renga consists of at least two ku or stanzas (a grouped set of lines within a poem). It was a collaborative style of poetry where they would write into the wee hours of the night and have contests to see who could come up with the best ones. The opening stanza of the renga, called the hokku, later became the basis for the modern haiku form of poetry. In the late 1800s it eventually became known as haiku.
The true essence of haiku is capturing a moment in time and putting it into three short lines that clearly illustrate what the poet is feeling. Always written in present tense, some of its key components are the senses: taste, sound, scent, touch, sight, and sometimes the sixth sense, which is really about following your intuition. When you read a well written haiku you should be able to feel at least one or more of these senses. What, where, and when is what keeps the haiku true to form by being in the moment. The practice of writing haiku has helped me to pay attention, be aware of my surroundings and notice the everyday things in life we often miss.
In the haiku community, February is known as National Haiku Writing Month which stands for NaHaiWriMo and is a hashtag used in social media and other online forums. It started in 2011 by Michael Dylan Welch has become a yearly tradition for haiku poets around the world to write one haiku a day in the month of February. Why February? Since haiku is known as the shortest form of poetry and the month of February is the shortest month of the year, Michael picked it as the best month for this challenge.
When I started Everyday Haiku in 2006, I was designing art cards and wall art and participating in craft fairs. My haiku journey has evolved and once I became more inspired and interested in mindfulness, things changed. My passion now is to share and inspire others about the philosophy of what it is based on. I want to help others to simplify their personal lives to have a better connection to who they truly are and how they can see the world in a new way. This ancient form of the written word can bring awareness of the senses that is healing and calming. Learning to connect with your senses in the moments of your life by going within helps facilitate a better relationship with, not only yourself, but with those who you are close to. You’ll become inspired to embrace self-care and make YOU a more important part of your life.
Haiku is on an ever-evolving path that can’t really be clearly defined. Like the seasons, it is in constant movement, changing and growing. It’s grounded in the reality of our physical existence, but as we move into the age of Aquarius, that is shifting. As we become more spiritual beings our experiences of the world will change in a way that is more dynamic and rich with a deep connection to earth.
To find out more about NaHaiWriMo click on the link below.