Saturday, February 20, 2016

haiku meditations

I guess you could say Haiku Inspirations is a coffee table book, although those are usually larger affairs with lots of glossy pictures. This book is much smaller, more of a gift shop book. You know the kind they sell in museum shops.

Tom Lowenstein seems to know his business and tells the story of the history of haiku in a series of short essays about various well known authors, their followers, the political climate they lived in and the other religious and artistic influences on the form. Victoria James is listed as a co-author.

The book does have beautiful photographs and imagery, including yamato-e (painting), shodo (calligraphy) and woodblock prints. At the end of each 2 or 3 page chapter is a double page spread of 3 haiku some calligraphy (presumably related) on suitable background image.

One of the useful pieces of information I came away with is this feeling of aware; melancholy or sadness that permeates haiku. It's a sadness born of joy it seems to me; an understanding or the impermanence of things. A dew drop is lovely mainly because it is so evanescent. Haiku is meant to capture or at least remind one of these precious tiny moments in nature. Another structural concept is kigo which are season words, nearly always referred to either directly or through any number of key words or phrases that refer to the season. Snow for winter, or cherry blossoms for spring, for example.

As far as inspiration goes, I guess it worked. Here's mine for winter, preceded by three drafts. I left the drafts because I think they help show the progression for where I started--thinking about my favorite imagery from winter--to where I ended up; a very specific moment in time. The rabbit tracks are fleeting and will quickly be covered over by the snow, the branches dip under the weight of the snow.

Snow rests quietly on the
Evergreen branches] draft 1

[Moonlight shines softly
Snow, slipping quietly from
Evergreen branches. ] draft 2

[Snow in the moonlight
Clinging in soft mounds on the
Evergreen branches.] draft 3

Snow in the moonlight;
A rabbit has left her tracks.
Evergreen boughs dip. 

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