Haiku Lessons

by Alison Williams

This article was first published in Yellow Moon 18, Summer 2005, pp. 30-31, and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the author.

Alchemy is sadly missing from the curriculum, and so it is possible that you may not be aware of something called prima materia. Prima materia is said to be the original pure substance out of which everything was created, and is so easily overlooked that only a master alchemist recognises it as the vital ingredient of the Philosopher’s Stone.

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Nobuyuki Kobayashi — ISSA

1763 — 1827

by Janice M Bostok

The spring moon
Shines Godlike
Upon a flower thief
At work on a hill. 1

Issa was born in Kashiwabara village, Japan, the first son of a farmer. His childhood name was Yatarô but he was registered with Nobuyuki as his first name and Kobayashi as his surname. Issa did not have a happy or fortuitous life. While he was still young (at the age of about three) his mother died. His grandmother took over raising him. Later she also died and his father remarried. His stepmother eventually forced Issa to leave home at the age of thirteen.

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Yosa Buson – BUSON 1716 – 1784

by Janice M Bostok

Perched upon the temple bell
the butterfly sleeps 1

Buson was originally named Taniguchi Buson (pronounced boo-sahn). He later changed his name to Yosa Buson. It appears he had more than one pen-name or ‘go’ throughout his lifetime. (Particularly as there are various seals that he used on his paintings.)

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Matsuo Kinsaku — Bashõ 1644 – 1694

by Janice M Bostok

Most of you who have heard of the short Japanese poem haiku will no doubt have heard of the haiku master Matsuo Bashõ. He is considered the first of the four Japanese masters who are the pillars of the development of the haiku poem. In the west, we are probably first introduced to him in translation and many of us say we fell in love with haiku because of Bashõ’s work. Of course, there has been much more development of the haiku over the years in Japan, but this is the starting point where we are introduced to haiku and become serious about wanting to write it in English.

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Haiku – 5-7-5? An article by Vanessa Proctor

When many people hear the word ‘haiku’, their immediate response is, ‘That’s a Japanese poem written in seventeen syllables – 5-7-5’. While it’s true that traditional Japanese haiku is written in this form, haiku in English, because of the very nature of the English language, doesn’t conform to the 5-7-5 pattern.

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Haiku and Visual Art: A Winter Ginko

Martina Taeker, RR for SA, recently conducted a ginko in the Art Gallery of SA and based on her experiences offers some thoughts on how a winter ginko might be conducted indoors.

Are you and your haiku feeling a little tired, cold, or stale? Have you thought about taking a ginko, but put it off because it’s winter and you’re still coughing from the last flu you caught?
Try taking a ginko indoors, at your local art gallery.
Don’t know anything about art? It doesn’t matter. After all you are not intending to write a thesis. You want to enjoy some art, be inspired and invigorated by it, and use this experience to create art by writing haiku.
Artists have been inspiring each other for centuries. It is useful for artists to be exposed to the work of others. You can see what subjects they choose and how different artists tackle a particular subject in different ways.
Remember to observe the people around you in the gallery, but discreetly. People respond to the same piece of art in individual ways and that too is grist for the artistic mill of your pen.
If this is your first visit to a gallery, begin by wandering slowly through it. Notice which art works catches your eye, but don’t stop. Get an overview before focusing in on one area. You might even find that this is more than enough material for one day. In which case you can return for another ginko in a few weeks.

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Black Swans and Gymea Lilies: an Australian haiku?

This article was first published in Five Bells: Australian Poetry, Summer 2006  Haiku, a traditional form of Japanese poetry, is becoming increasingly popular in the West. English-language haiku has been described as ‘one of today’s most exciting literary developments.’

To mention haiku is to elicit one of two responses among those who are not current readers or writers of the form. Either they have never heard of it, or they remember it (and may even teach or study it) as a three-line Japanese poem, consisting of seventeen syllables and having something to do with nature. While this description may suit past translations and attempts at writing haiku in English, many changes have taken place, not only in the way we write haiku, but also in our understanding of the genre.

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