An old silent pond…
A frog jumps into the pond,
splash! Silence again.
Haiku is sometimes referred to as one-breath poetry, because it is short enough to be read in one breath. A haiku comes from and returns to a place of stillness. Its content is usually a fleeting but memorable moment, a snapshot of the natural world. It is not a closed poem – it is pregnant with possibility, suggestive rather than explanatory, leaving space for the reader to join in with the writer’s ‘haiku moment’.
Like the Japanese tea ceremony, the haiku was intended to take you away from the cares of the world and root you in the present, if only for a moment – a tiny exercise in mindfulness.
Just like the one conscious breath it takes to recite, a haiku gives both a sense of stillness and movement, of both the transient nature of time and of eternity. It can contain both the gasp of wonder at the extraordinary within the ordinary in the natural world, as well as the sigh of contentment that the world is continuing as it always has. It captures the moment of ‘ahhhhh-ness’ when we see the true essence of something, see it in all its beauty, when we connect with it, as if the observer and the observed have breathed into one another or have taken a breath together.
Modern haiku take on various forms, but the traditional Japanese haiku usually has lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables and often indicates the season. It also generally contains a juxtaposition of two contrasting ideas, divided by a ‘kireji’, a cutting word. Basho’s haiku above, perhaps the most famous of all haikus, moves from silence and stillness to sound and movement and back again. There is an ebb and flow, just as there is with the seasons, with the tides, with a rippling thought that arises and passes, just as there is with the breath.
Could you write a haiku for this website? Has conscious breathing helped you to see the natural world in greater clarity? Could you write a haiku about something you have seen in nature? Or perhaps a haiku on the miraculous act of breathing itself?
Send us your haiku at firstname.lastname@example.org