The Haiku Moment

Published August 7, 2012 by Elsa Pla

Today’s exercise is deceptively easy.

Take a walk or go sit on the porch and contemplate the everyday world around you. Compose a haiku (or more than one) that describes your experience and how that moment “spoke” to you. The point of the exercise is to develop an awareness of our surroundings and to learn to translate a single moment’s experience into a simple descriptive image that contains layers of meaning. These simple layered images (usually metaphors) can add depth to our writing.

Traditional haiku consist of 17 syllables arranged in a sequence of 5-7-5. They commonly contain

1- a sensory experience (the what),

2- a sense of place (the where), and

3- a sense of time (the when).

“Though brief, [haiku] tell a story or paint a vivid picture, leaving it to the reader to draw out the meanings and complete them in the mind’s eye. Haiku often contain a hidden dualism (near and far, then and now, etc.) and have a seasonal tie-in, as well as specific word-images that reveal deeper layers in each poem.”

(From The Classic Tradition of Haiku — an Anthology, edited by Faubion Bowers)

By the way, the plural of haiku is haiku.

Here’s an example by the poet James Kirkup:

Haiku should be just

small stones dropping down a well

with a small splash

(A possible deeper layer of meaning: Should we strive to be like those small stones?)

“A fine haiku presents a crystalline moment of heightened awareness in simple imagery, traditionally using a kigo or season word from nature.” Patricia Donegan, Haiku Mind

My attempts:

Summer morning stroll —

the coyote on the road

turned and looked at me.

The noon sun ignites

the colors of the lily.

The petals blind me.

Such a hot summer!

Clusters of Black-eyed Susans

brighten the garden.

Now you try it! 🙂

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