Haiku and I Are Old Friends: by Jacqui Murray

by Jacqui Murray, Patron

We go back a long way. I love them, I trust them, I embrace them and i turn to them for joy, inspiration, comfort and reassurance. Haiku are for staying in touch with, for visiting time and time again, for remembering, for bringing alive old friends, including those that are no longer with us. Haiku speak to me and they touch me. As through John Knight’s

at the airport
wrapped in that last kiss
the still blue sky

Here John, who loved love, captures the essence of great haiku – conveying insight into a special moment best summed up by the early American haiku poet, J W Hackett:

Lifefulness, not beauty, is the real quality of haiku.

Life forces were well understood by another great haiku poet, Janice M Bostok, who wrote breathtakingly beautiful haiku but, above all, was never afraid of confronting life’s duality.

with cat’s breath
butterfly wing

It was that very ‘lifefulness’ that held me spellbound when I first encountered haiku – even if I didn’t fully understand why at the time. In the words of Santoka Taneka, an early exponent of the free style haiku genre generally written outside Japan: Haiku is not a shriek, a howl, a sigh or a yawn; rather it is the deep breath of life.

I eventually realised that haiku had changed my way of looking at, and appreciating, all those moments when I took time out from doing to being. In so doing there was another realisation: of simply being more aware, of looking more closely at, and more deeply into, the world around us. Haiku is the gift of transmitting that awareness, in very few words, into a moment that can be shared with others in a way that other forms of poetry and prose cannot.

Haiku, and the second half of the 20th century with its rediscovery of the importance of the natural world and increasing emphasis on brevity, seemed a perfect fit. Unfortunately, the new technologies brought a rash of conversations that permit everyone to talk/write/text at once and …some anguish about the future of poetry as we know it.

I live in hope that in the 21st century haiku will win out in the technology micro stakes. The mobile, or what President Obama called the computer America put in everyone’s pockets, would seem the perfect platform.

Haiku was hardly known in the western world until the 1950s and, after a stuttering start in the 1970s, did not come into its own in Australia until the 1990s. It is worth noting that the American Academy of Poets has not only roused itself from a deep slumber but has also managed to reinvent itself. (See Redesigning Poetry for the 21st Century )

It is also worth noting that haiku has been around in one form or another for many centuries. That is what I call an old friend.

September, 2017

About Jacqui Murray

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