A Personal Haiku Selection

May 2001

A Personal Haiku Selection

James W. Hackett

First, a salute to Mr. Takiguchi, our dynamic daimyo, for his ideals and dedication which have led to the establishment of the WHC and this Review. And I am grateful to the poets who have submitted verses for this first World Haiku Review. The number of creative and sensitive haiku is indeed heartening. All of us can be edified by the transcendent quality and dignity of purpose this international undertaking reveals.

Admittedly, the final selection just one special verse proved extremely difficult: not unlike having to select one flower from an impressive array of blooms. If mediocrity had prevailed, my task would have been far less daunting. However, the quality  achieved by many of the poets fired a resolve that sent me quite proudly into the breech of choice.

After perusing each of the 163 submitted verses, and after serious deliberation, the “favorite of favorites” is:

Tears blur the meadow —
one small pony
nuzzles my hand.

Billie Wilson
Juneau, Alaska, USA

How richly varied the interpretations that can be made of this provocative haiku moment! It is a superb example of how a haiku can and should draw upon the reader’s creative imagination. And by the way, the fine art of reading haiku with imaginative interaction needs to be emphasized, and such verses with stimulating ambiguity can encourage reader involvement.

In this emotionally evocative haiku, the principal subject’s identity and the source of sorrow are deliberately left to our imagination. So also is the poet’s gender unstated, through use of the pronoun my. Such ellipsis can stimulate readers to imaginatively fill in what is not supplied.

Certainly, I’ve always agreed with Harold G. Henderson’s recommendation (in my correspondence with him) that feeling should somehow be suggested in a haiku. The absence of feeling has possibly abetted the plethora of “so what?” haiku.

Another outstanding quality of this verse is the intuitive “interpenetration” between poet and subject. The writer suggests a quite remarkable interaction between the human and the pony. How poignant the reaching out in sorrow to the animal, and the creature’s nuzzling (and possibly  empathic) response. This expresses exactly the interpenetration Basho urges poets to experience and to suggest in their writing. Certainly this ancient Vedantic (and subsequently Tao/Zen) principle of spiritual union had a profound influence upon Basho’s later (and greater) poems. We might recall Basho’s haiku about the monkey in winter rain, and that of the empty cicada shell.

Though usually neglected today, this spirit of interpenetration between poet and subject was an important haiku principle for Basho. He admonished poets that: “To write of the pine, become One with the pine.”  (A cynic might attribute the neglect of this principle to the prevalence of egoistic hubris in today’s society.) Basho’s advice, if followed, might inspire haiku that gives some inkling of just what it was that caused a writer to take notice of a particular moment. The poet’s initial moment of interpenetration (or moment of  surprise, shock, empathy, delight, or other response), should be expressed in the finished haiku.

Significant also is the ambiance created, even by this spare haiku. In what harmonious accord are the pony, the human, and the meadow: a perfect representation of “Greater Nature.” By what subtle means is the picturesque, bucolic setting presented. An ambient quality of  harmonious union seems to resonate. Certainly the the epithet of “snapshot” does not apply to this profoundly suggestive haiku, one that so quietly reflects the infinite wholeness of  creation that defines this eternal Present of life.

J.W.H.

Postscript:

No doubt R. H. Blyth would join me in cheering this historic establishment of the WHC and the World Haiku Review. The following pertinent quotation is from the final chapter Blyth’s 1964 History of Haiku, Vol. 2:

The latest development in the history of haiku is one which nobody foresaw, — the writing of haiku outside Japan, not in the Japanese language. We may now assert with some confidence that the day is coming when haiku will be written in Russia though communistic haiku, like capitalistic or Christian or Buddhist or atheistic haiku is a glorious impossibility, in the Celebes, in Sardinia. What a pleasing prospect, what an Earthly Paradise it will be, the Esquimaux blowing on their fingers as they write haiku about the sun that never sets or rises, the pygmies composing jungle haiku on the gorilla and the python, the nomads of the Sahara and Gobi deserts seeing a grain of sand in a world!

whc_blmed

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