The Art and Inspiration of Haiku

Haiku is a Japanese type of poetry that combines form, content and language in a distinct and compact way. These poems embody the poet’s awareness of the “present moment” and encourage the use of your senses to find your creative inspiration.
Haiku has a centuries old history, derived from Tanka, a form of Japanese court poetry, popular in the 9th through the 12th century. It is closely tied to the spirituality of Buddhism and “Yugen” – the Japanese word for beauty, which also carries a suggestion of depth, mystery and a note of sadness. Basho (1644-94), was a scholar of Taoism and classical Chinese poetry is considered the father of haiku.
Those who meditate understand that being in the present state of mindfulness allows you to leave the endless stream of thoughts and worries behind. It fosters an expansion of your senses, centers you and provides a feeling of oneness and simplicity with life – All optimal qualities allowing your creative juices to flow. It is this state of mind that is portrayed in a haiku.
Many Haiku themes involve nature, feelings and personal experiences, not what is known to be right or wrong, good or bad. A Haiku can be spoken or written and is a unique expression of your individuality. With ongoing practice, you will find that your Haiku’s continue to reflect your authentic inner-self while deepening your sense of mindful awareness.
A haiku is constructed in three short lines. The first line contains five syllables, the second line has seven, and the third line contains five syllables. A Haiku doesn’t rhyme; but rather paints a mental image in the reader’s mind. Another important component of a Haiku is the point of creativity, or “Kigo.” Kigo is translated as the word that depicts the time of the year, or season that the Haiku was written or took place. Haikus are composed in the present tense, so it is important to select words that create an image in your mind, as if it was happening in the present moment. The last important component in a Haiku is to include a contrast or comparison. The shift is achieved with a “Kireji” or cutting word, separating the poem into two parts. The design of the Kireji is to create an internal comparison through intuitive realization.
Here is an example of a Haiku from Basho:
Autumn moonlight—
a worm digs silently
into the chestnut.
The development and creation of each new haiku will reveal something new to you, just as you capture a single moment of time in your writing. You may find a renewed sense of appreciation for the simplicity of life, nature and events, while creating works of art that will mark your life’s journey through time.
For more information on writing a Haiku, we recommend Writing and Enjoying Haiku A Hands-on Guide by Jane Reichhold available at Chopa.com.
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