Editors Choice Haiku

  Editor’s Choice: Haiku

May 2001

Select Poetry from the Members of the World Haiku Club

The selections in our “Editor’s Choice” column represent the various genres and styles of poetry practised within the membership and mailing lists of the World Haiku Club. Specific poems are chosen as outstanding contributions. In each issue, one haiku and one poem from another genre are chosen as outstanding contributions.


Editor’s Choice: Haiku
Susumu Takiguchi

forest trail
the silence
inside a morning glory

Maria Steyn, ZA

There are at least three near no-go areas in haiku. One is a path trodden once already by a very famous master or covered by a very famous haiku: frog, pond, peony petals, persimmon, sparrow without a neck, lily out of water, etc. The other is a collection of clichés: shadows, heron, reflection, sky in the puddle, parking lot, caw of crows, animal’s eye meeting the poet’s —  you name it. The third is a group of abstract notions: loneliness, beauty or silence.

It would take either a fool or brave person to tread these areas while angels avoid them. Maria has wandered into one of them by using the near taboo word “silence”. I have read so many haiku having this word even after Basho used it and seldom found any worth glancing at for longer than a few seconds. It was therefore such a joy one day to come across this haiku where the very word “silence” with a definite article was used in such a bold and positive way. And it worked!

Let us see how it does. “Forest trail” is nothing special in itself but as a scene-setter and a phrase to stimulate and share all sorts of things which happen in the forest trail (association), it is most effective. Then comes this abstract word “silence”. However, having understood the setting and the situation, the reader is ready to accept the quiet atmosphere permeating the forest, and the abstract word ceases to be abstract and becomes as natural and concrete as the air the walker must be breathing. And it’s not just any silence anywhere but the specific silence the poet is experiencing in the forest.

However, what makes this haiku a real haiku is the third and final line where after a definite caesura we are given a completely unexpected object, “a morning glory”. From the vast landscape of the forest, our attention is now zoomed into this tiny flower. But that is not all. It’s not vaguely the entirety of the flower but it is its inside that our attention is led to. Inside of a flower is a specific place but it is also a mysterious place. We are definitely there but we are lost there as well. While we find ourselves in that limbo, we are led to another enigma about the silence itself. Is it still the silence experience in the forest. Or is it “the” silence belonging to the inside of the morning glory, which is Maria’s poetic licence. This duality of things concrete and something which goes beyond the specific is the strength of this haiku. It gives depth and universality. It makes this haiku devoid of clichés of the “tsukinami” (mediocre) haiku even if each line uses utterly ordinary words. Coleridge talked about “the best words in the best order”. In this haiku by Maria, it is the case of “the best choice of the ordinary words in the best order”.

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