Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Simple Poetry: The Haiku

Photo via The Painted Eye

Living more simply enables us to get to the point of things. When we free ourselves from excess (in its many forms), we have the opportunity to see the world around us more clearly and avoid confusion and distraction. When we free ourselves from excess communication, we are are challenged to share our perspectives carefully and accurately. 

Enter the haiku. This form of Japanese poetry is concise and follows a 5,7,5 morea (what we in the West would interpret as a syllable) structure. The rules of traditional haiku poetry are rather strict, such as requiring that certain seasonal words be used to reference the natural environment and the incorporation of a kirej (also called a "cutting word", there is no english equivalent for a kirej but Wikipedia tries to explain it here). But despite these traditional rules the lyrically challenged can rejoice, because haiku need not rhyme. 

I really enjoy haiku poetry for its brevity and clarity. It's amazing to me the emotions and visuals some haiku writers are able to convey in a mere 17 morea. Check out some of the poems below and see what you think. Note that many of these are translations and thus the english syllable count may not correlate directly to the 5,7,5 structure. 

The winds that blow-
ask them, which leaf on the tree
will be next to go. - Kyoshi Takahama

After killing 
a spider, how lonely I feel
in the cold of night. - Masaoka Shiki

First autumn morning:
the mirror I stare into
shows my father's face. - Kijo Murakami

In all this cool
is the moon also sleeping?
There in the pool? - Ryusui

Covered with flowers,
instantly I'd like to die
in this dream of ours! - Etsujin

Regardless of how you feel about the poetry, I think there is a lot to be learned from the great haiku masters. What could you be communicating more clearly? Why aren't you? How simply can you express your feelings? Now go ahead and do it! The more clear and simple you can be, the more effective your communication will become (and the less frustrating misunderstandings will occur).

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