HAIKU - I dedicate these poems to mamie - My Japanese daughter and friend

Haiku is one of the most important forms of traditional Japanese poetry. It should register or indicate a moment, sensation, impression or drama of a specific fact of nature. Some people meditate to create inspirational Haiku. I have loved writing Haiku ever since 1967 when it was introduced to me by poet Bob Gillis - my first lover.

Haiku is a very short poetic form. Traditional Japanese haiku consisted of three lines of 5, 7, and 5 units each, which are generally applied as syllables and contained a special word - the kigo - that indicated the season in which the haiku was set. The kigo is not really necessary in modern poetry however, especially in the Caribbean where there is only one seaso- summer !

Some consider that a haiku must also combine two different images, be written in present tense, have a focus on description and have a pause (the kireji or cutting word) at the end of either the first or second line. All such rules are somewhat arbitrary and are habitually broken by most poets, especially when adapted for languages other than Japanese. I am forever breaking this rule.

 The 5-7-5 practice produces a haiku much longer than a traditionally composed haiku in Japanese, as the Japanese do not count syllables as they are defined in English, but instead count morae (singular mora), units of time. Morae are generally shorter than the average of English syllables which are highly variable in length.

Today's English-language poets produce haiku in one of three ways:

(1) by using three [or fewer] lines of no more than 17 syllables in total;

(2) by using the concept of metrical feet rather than syllables. A haiku then becomes three lines of 2, 3, and 2 metrical feet, with a break or pause after the second or fifth;

(3) by using the "one deep breath" rule: take a deep breath and you should be able to read the haiku/senryu aloud without taking a second breath.

Regardless of which variation the poet chooses, the haiku poet [haijin] writes about a moment in time, a brief experience that stands out. The traditional haiku poet usually focuses on nature which represents the true oneness of all.

Often, at least in translation, the subject matter of many Japanese haiku may seem banal, but the subtle linkage or juxtaposition between the two sets of images within a haiku will be found to contain an interesting insight or spiritual message. I try to also incorporate this into my haiku lines.

The term Haiku was created by the modern critic and haiku-maker Masaoka Shiki. Before then this style was called Hokku. Hokku is the first phrase of Renga, another traditional form of Japanese poetry. Already since the early Edo period Hokku was appreciated as an individual work, not just as a part of Renga. Masaoka Shiki discarded the Renga concept and established Haiku as pure artistic poetry. Hence today we see classic Hokku as Haiku.


EACH OF THE HAIKU BELOW IS LINKED TO A WATERCOLOR THAT I PAINTED that can be seen at www.missnancysart.com

Opening to light
Asking no questions of life
Total enjoyment


As Above
So Below
Unity in opposites


Four winds, four seasons
Four directions, four kisses
Earth, Fire, Water, Air


Sunburst - our glory
radiating light and love
harmony in nature


coloured lightning
branching down from above
sky kissing earth


eternal triad
opposites merge into one
constant in all life


blossoms all aglow
shake petals with neighbors
a welcoming party


tiny new sprouts of spring
hasten towards the sun
eagerness to live


Graceful arms asking
Harmoniously they bend
Sea oats in full dance


Virgin, many hued sand
Mist, hypnotic on foam-fog
Arena of dreams


Tonal sea pathways
Large, narrowing to minute
Leading me to you

Wind kiss, roaring break
Pound in energy excess
White caps, untapped surf



Here we are at last
Champagne alights our future
Crystal balls unite

Past, as though it seems
Reveals the greatest pleasure
Upon my restless brain

Alive at sixty-four
A family yet deceased –still
I somehow desist

Imaginings left beyond
Religion cannot recant
Unanswered questions

Leave us desolate
And bewildered – so I toast
To spiritual quilts

Embroidered on lives
Possessed of caring and love
Kissing our self souls

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