Haiku

Commentary:

What does it mean to write haiku in English? How does it look? More importantly, how does it feel? Since its popularization (if you’d call it popular) in English speaking cultures, haiku has morphed into something beyond the 5-7-5 rules (which is not to say that these rules were all that it ever was). Formalities, it seems, have largely disappeared.

So what is left? I think all that remains is a sensation. But what sort of sensation? It should be self-evident with good haiku (which I don’t pretend to give you here). However, in an attempt to capture it in words, I say that the best definitions of English haiku today describe it as containing the sensation of a momentary pop; a sort of snapping realization of something. While this pop is typically seasonal, it needn’t be. In some sense, haiku today (if not always) transcends seasonal elements to encompass something far greater.

I think good English haiku capture the sensation of presence in our lived experience.


July 2022

7/13/22

Old porch nights.

I look for

the breeze

January, February, and March 2022

3/10/22

A basketball,

fresh from

the puddle

2/15/22

Knowing what it is,

We look up anyway.

The fighter jet

1/17/22

In lamplight alone,

I lean back

And sigh.

December 2021

12/24/21

The sound

of a frozen lake

At noon

12/22/21

Blue winter sky.

Hushed voices

12/3/21

Blue flowers.

A car’s seat

reclined

November 2021

11/16/21

All this. Done. 

For and because

this feeling.

11/10/21

Early morning,

the cat

rolls onto his back

October 2021

10/26/21

Forgotten

under snow:

the small woodstack

10/22/21

Pre-dawn

cloud movements

10/3/21

With lazy eyes

the cat

watches TV

10/12/21

In lightfall.

I look toward

the last blooms.

September 2021

9/24/21

Bench 

in the autumn sun.

How it works into my bone

9/22/21

From under the couch

a paw

9/21/21

A conversation

meant to be overheard

9/20/21

Pouring birdseed

winter morning

9/17/21

Finding aversions

on every inward path – 

leaf-fall afternoon

9/13/21

Missing my step on

imperfect brickwork

9/10/21

Outside the party.

I pause.

These stars

9/10/21

Without a message 

I sleep

closer to my phone

August 2021

8/31/21

Now empty:

mailbox bird-nest.

8/31/21

All I need to know 

from your shifting

in the chair

8/23/21

Without a sound

the butterfly lands

on the rim of the cup

8/11/21

Recalling

summer stars

together

8/11/21

Mid-day dog rest.

Her eyes,

never shut, never open

8/8/21

What excitement!

The dog’s run

with that little jump

8/5/21

Suddenly

everything is foreign.

I stop walking.

8/5/21

Lone planter

on the porch.

Still empty

8/5/21

Waking up 

separately:

skin, bones, legs, eyes

8/5/21

Private expressions.

Tenderness. 

I catch a glimpse

July 2021

7/30/21

From the palm leaf

rain bounces

onto the porch; onto me

7/30/21

Even with this warm January,

winter stars

retain their significance.

7/23/21

For the first time

I wake up

covered in dew

7/22/21

The difference between 

a summer

and winter itch

7/22/21

Now, without barriers,

your habits.

Summer breeze

7/18/21

Overwhelmed by this

summer-fire

heat,

I see a star.

7/18/21

Even in the shade

the slow gathering

of sweat

7/14/21

Same spot on each turn, 

the rotating fan 

struggles

7/12/21

This wind. 

Carrying heaviness

from a distance

7/11/21

Moss

on bare feet.

Mid-morning overcast

7/10/21

The dog closes his eyes

and sniffs

into the wind.

7/7/21

Nothing

says a lot. 

A summer’s walk

7/6/21

Bird-song

wind-chime

soft wind

June 2021

6/30/21

Shoulder to shoulder 

we write.

I look up

6/30/21

The tree root gives,

ever so slightly, 

to my foot

6/28/21

Waking slowly. 

Together.

Summer morning

6/26/21

Rifle crack.

That distance.

This dusk.

6/26/21

Teaching me yoga

on the porch,

a butterfly

6/13/21*

What more do you need, 

little monster?

Devouring my attention and mind-space

6/13/21

I wake surprised. 

How long have we been

this close?

6/13/21*

No better place, you think,

than this window, at this hour,

in this place

6/13/21*

Her little words are,

for a moment, 

my entire little world

May 2021

5/30/21

How you move your fingers

in a circle.

Knowing you are awake

5/21/21

All that is

Is.

Plus more

5/21/21

Of the many rhythms of our walk

most important:

your breathing

5/17/21

Finally!

Sun

on my toes

5/15/21

Not questioning:

this reassurance

January 2021

1/1/21

Grey-wet-morning.

Birdsong

December 2020

12/21/20

Without the sun, 

the snow;

still bright

November 2020

11/28/20

Smelling,
but not seeing,
in low-light, dew.

11/23/20

Sprout
breaking through-
silence

11/23/20

Almost,
for a second,
I thought maybe

11/23/20

Waking up to frost air-
I forgot a window

11/5/20

Hoping,
under your sweater,
as under mine: joy

11/23/20

For a moment
It-is

11/19/20

Early winter morning
truck sound

11/12/20

Under the overhead,
out of the rain,
I fold into myself

11/12/20

On and off
all day-
I know you rain

11/6/20

Cloud boundaries-
Many self-conceptions

11/6/20

First cold morning breath

October 2020

10/28/20

Frost-melt
Hope-smell

10/28/20

Under my blanket
stillness.
train sound

10/27/20

Ink-spread
wet page spot

10/22/20

Dark root &
mind-gnarl

July-August 2020

7/1/20

Somehow forgotten,
autumn leaves
in a summer shade

8/13/20

Humid
cricket-song

8/13/20

Fighting attention,
our table neighbor’s voice
and yours

8/13/20

Tall grass and
snake-fear

June 2020

6/23/20

my body, me
and my body is,
me

6/23/20

Waiting for the right time
at the wrong time

6/23/20

Hands covered in sap
oh!
Jeans covered in sap

6/23/20

Unfolding into un
folding into unfolding
into the unfold

6/23/20

Rouge raindrops,
don’t you know
the storm is over?

6/23/20

Bee!
your weight is
bending the flower!

6/23/20

Without any wind
I doze off
on the park bench

6/10/20

Cooling herself-
the dust is icy,
little bird

6/10/20

Big tree
giving little tree
parental shade

6/10/20

Horseshit
& heat

6/9/20

A park conversation
begging to be overheard

6/8/20
Not for long-
I sit on this
summer stone’s heat

May 2020

5/26/20

Only a matter of time-
my socks
& the wet driveway

5/26/20

Before sun-up,
birdsong

5/16/20

Uncut grass
clinging
to the soccer net

5/9/20

Freedom-
green field
& the dog’s dark eyes

5/9/20

Two days:
pillow lingers
with a stranger

April 2020

4/28/20

First heat,
the smell
of my skin

4/23/20

A torrent!
where did the birds go?

4/28/20
What significance
is this page
the wind shows me?

Undated: 2018-2019

Paper cup coffee-
windowless room

Plant growth
one day
by the open window

Dawn bus sound-
January

A mother’s persistence
cold medicine
weekday morning

Mulch-covered tarps
& and dew grass smell

Coldness
and its correlation
to journaling

Station stop
my seatmate,
immediately replaced

Wiping sweat away
to the sound of cicadas


Here are some online and printed suggestions for further reading:


  • Higginson, William J. “The Haiku Seasons”
  • Higginson, William J (eds). “Haiku World”
  • Heuvel, Cor van den (eds) . “The Haiku Anthology”
  • Ross, Bruce (eds). “Haiku Moment”
  • Wright, Richard and Julia Wright (ed). “Haiku The Last Poets of an American Icon”
  • Brandi, John and Maloney, Dennis (eds). “The Unswept Path
  • Kacian, Jim, Rowland, Philip, Burns, Allan, (eds) and Collins, Billy. “Haiku in English The First Hundred Years”

*For a cat and all cats