the birds and I
watch the valley mist creep
through our minds
There are certain natural occurrences that we commonly come across in haiku – and mist is certainly one of these. We encounter frequent references to mist in other art forms as well, such as painting (especially in land & seascapes), photography and film. We might wonder what it is about mist that appeals so much to the poetic and artistic imagination. Light and shadow do wonderful things in mist and together they set the tone for certain kinds of mood. Mist has a particularly tenuous and ephemeral quality and as such often seems to be suggestive of mind, spirit, dreaming and ‘otherworldliness.’ In this haiku there is an obvious sense of shared experience as the birds and the poet watch the valley mist together. H. F. Noyes makes the comment that “one of the things a haiku can be said to express is our joy in reunion with nature”1 and this is certainly the case in this haiku where we are able to enjoy these moments of unity between birds, valley, mist and person. But the deeper value of this haiku takes us beyond the unity of shared experience into a more fundamental unity where the boundaries between these elements are dissolved. The mist is not just seen by the birds and the poet, it creeps through their minds; the world outside and the inner world of the mind become one, the distinction between subject and object falls away. This is a remarkable haiku.
1. H.F. Noyes, Favourite Haiku Vol 1 Pond Frog Editions, Red Moon Press, 1998
First published: Asahi Haikuist Network, April 21, 2017
Selection & comments by Simon Hanson