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Haiku—Interactive Poems

Poetry, especially the Japanese haiku, reminds me of interactive games and media. Listening to haiku and creating the poems can be a lot of fun, or they can give you a kind of calm melancholy, depending on the mood you bring to them. The haiku, made up of a set number of syllables, forms a framework and allows the readers to imagine the scene and interpret the meaning from their own experiences.

Bashō, a seventeenth-century Japanese poet, has written some of my favorite haiku. In fact, my novel features this one:

Red pepper pods

Add wings to them

Darting dragonflies

(The Japanese original has the expected format of 5 syllables for the first line, seven for the second, and five again for the third.) What meaning would you give to this poem? A child’s play? A humorous look at dragonflies? According to the experts, Bashō was expressing that all things are one in their essence. But the poems are meant for enjoyment, and we are free to insert our own ideas.

The themes of traditional haiku center on nature and the four seasons. They convey a keen awareness of an emotion and may hint at a philosophy of life. One theme often repeated is the fleeting nature of beautiful things. When you think of beauty, what comes to mind? The gorgeous cherry blossoms, which last for about a week, are beloved symbols to many Japanese people of what is treasured, but too short-lived. Sōchō, another well-known poet, wrote:

Throughout the morning

I watch the cherry blossoms

Growing old.

A little sad, wouldn’t you say? But where did the blossoms’ beauty originate? The wonderful fact is that the cherry tree’s Designer is eternal. Not only flowers, but also rainbows, music, snow-covered mountains, starry skies, brilliant sunsets are just a little taste of true beauty—a gift from the Giver, the eternal Artist. God designed the cherry tree’s first tiny seed with all the information crammed inside: directions for the roots, bark, trunk, leaves (think of the photosynthesis’ complexity), flowers, and delicious fruit. How wonderful that when we seek to know God through Jesus, we can have an everlasting relationship with the Giver of such beauty!

While writing this post, I tried my hand at creating haiku. Obviously, I’m an amateur. Anyway, here’s the one I wrote:

Jagged mountain peaks

Puncture the risk-taking clouds

Snow covers my path

Perhaps you can catch a glimpse of the traveler’s wintry scene and the tongue-in-cheek connection between the peaks and the snow. Have you written any haiku? If so, I hope you will share one in the comment area below.

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2 Responses to Haiku—Interactive Poems

  1. Lisa Yabuki August 14, 2013 at 5:03 pm #

    Raindrops pelt the glass
    The sun is hiding somewhere
    Melancholy day

    • Kathy Collins August 17, 2013 at 11:53 am #

      Loved reading about the Haiku! When I was teaching middle-schoolers, I would often extend their Language Arts class to include a poetry unit. We would always study the Haiku, usually around the same time I was teaching the history of Japan in my Social Studies class (you know me – if it had been left up to me, my entire curriculum would have been Social Studies driven!!! Ha, ha). The students thoroughly enjoyed creating & illustrating their Haikus. I was always amazed at what a GREAT job they would do – some were funny, some were sad, many were thought-provoking (especially for middle-schoolers!!!). Here is one that I wrote:

      Blue and white meadows
      Wave gently with the spring winds
      Texas bluebonnets!

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