If you click the "Log In" button and get an error, use this URL to display the forum home page:

Update any bookmarks you have for the forum to use this URL--not a similar URL that includes "www."
Welcome to The Haiku Foundation forum! Some features and boards are available only to registered members who are logged in. To register, click Register in the main menu below. Click Login to login. Please use a Report to Moderator link to report any problems with a board or a topic.

Main Menu

Field Notes: Where do your haiku begin?

Started by Peter Yovu, June 19, 2013, 01:09:53 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

Peter Yovu

Garry Gay

Where do my haiku begin? I would have to say at the beginning.
As I live my daily life I trip over haiku, one step at a time.
All haiku are ah ha moments and that is the true beginning for me.
Often it is something I see everyday and suddenly I realize I am seeing it in a new light like never before. That spark of realization is the beginning of the haiku, the found moment. I know it's more than just a casual relationship, but the awareness of my surroundings seen with a new keen eye.
Sometimes in photography it is said that a photo taken at the peak of the action is the "decisive moment." In haiku I think it is the perceived moment. You say to yourself ah ha!


at the beginning
glistening maggot


Everything from nothing, nothing from everything: the question as the answer.

The question 'Where do your haiku begin' is, some might say, at the heart of all
things, a question within the greater question of all things. Gauguin dovetailed
the two - creativity and essential meaning - together best when he said:

Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?

And he said it as a creative act.

Don Wentworth

snowbird a/k/a Merrill Ann Gonzales

Since I'm not a word person... I seem to have impressed images in the place words should have been forming as a child... I mostly have my "haiku" awareness' in image form... but every once in awhile, as I come across the way a line forms or the light strikes something etc. words come to mind and startle me.  This sometimes happen from exploring deep psychological paradoxes but most of the time it happens in the outdoors, or while I'm walking.   It usually happens on a very pragmatic mission, such as walking to the store for groceries.  The intrusion into my ho-hum day with something as unremarkable as the milkweed I pass, at the point of turning to seed.... or the time a bluebird landed on a milkweed as the seeds shed their silk.  That last image turned into a haiga that was published in REEDS: Contemporary Haiga some years ago.   It spoke to me of taking new paths... and so I did.   
    A very strange things happens often.  I end up living my haiku.  There is something of a premonition about them for me.   

Adam Traynor

Where do your haiku begin?

Where do I begin to answer this question? Doesn't seem like there's a single place or time, but many of each. Off the top of my head, I am thinking of coming across zen telegrams by paul reps when I was a teenager over 20 years ago. That's how the title and his name appeared on the book I saw: in lower case letters. I was struck by that. I hadn't read anything by cummings yet. But I was struck by the brevity of the poems. Didn't know you could do that. I wrote some down in my notebook, which I still have. Of course the poems had illustrations with them, which I thought was neat. Not really illustrations, but simple lines or brush marks that were like their own kind or words. Like words you couldn't say. Or if you had to say them, you'd have to use your elbows or eyebrows or something to say them.

At that time I didn't know about haiku. So I wasn't thinking these reps things were like haiku or anything like that. They just had an immediate charge to them. They were what they were. That's a cliche, but I sometimes think it's kind of rare that a poem, or a haiku, is what it is, and is not pretending to be anything else, or copying anything else. Strange, but rare.

He called them telegrams. That part I could figure, the zen part was new to me. The charge, the electricity in a telegram. The urgency in it. I guess the zen part is something about things being what they are.

I tried to write a few things like that myself. Threw it all away, couldn't do it like reps.

Now I can say he was influenced by haiku, and by the Beats writing haiku. But I really like the way he found his own thing with it.

So that is one part of where my haiku begin.

I don't know where my old notebook is right now, but I memorized two of reps' telegrams. (Pretty easy to remember actually).


and this one I don't remember how the lines go exactly

telephone me
in the rice field

I enjoyed thinking about this. Don't know if it answers the question really.

Thank you.

Don Baird

"Sometimes in photography it is said that a photo taken at the peak of the action is the "decisive moment." In haiku I think it is the perceived moment." - Gary Gay

Yes, this is what I'm also inferencing - haiku are everywhere and it's the sudden moment of perception of it by me that begins my haiku.  Awareness, to me, seems first. It is awareness of the activity of all things and in specific, one activity that catches my attention that is the causal action of my writing.

Being aware of what is on my mind, what is in my environment, and what is in my imagination is key - to me.  The rest; well, that is the problem of how to write it - to portray what I experienced, felt, and understood.  Possibly for discussion down the line.
I write haiku because they're there to be written ...

storm drain
the vertical axis
of winter

Peter Yovu

Henri Cartier-Bresson, who did not coin the expression "the decisive moment" but who wrote about it as a way of helping us understand his work, took photographs with uncanny compositional qualities, juxtapositions of elements that if he had managed it not hundreds of times but only once or twice, one might say were merely serendipitous.

One could argue that his photographs are visual haiku, or as I like to say "they have haiku", a quality of fleetingness with a sense of the whole universe coming together at just that place at just that time, and the attendant sense that everything will be different in a moment.

Even so, the cucumber will go on cucumbering, but in a different light, and another light, and with a woodchuck thinking of taking a bite. Or me.

I will try to find some of what H C-B said about the decisive moment-- I wonder if it intersects with Garry Gay's "perceived moment".


reading these over in several sittings, getting comfortable with the various voices, seeing continuities amongst all the differences is a rather moving experience, at least for me. My preoccupation with the spaces between philosophy and poetry does not prepare me for the sudden awareness as I read of something like contentment. Each writer has struggled with the demands of this tiny poetic form, each has no illusions about the cost/ benefit ratio. Each shows a devotion that transcends the work, and yet which always returns to the work with few illusions. There is an abiding mystery in this craft.

Philip Rowland

Peter's mention of Cartier-Bresson's "decisive moment" and photographs "with uncanny compositional qualities" reminds me of Roland Barthes' idea of the "punctum" in Camera Lucida; the punctum being the piercing quality of (from a detail in) a photograph, that which "escapes" language, a quality similar, perhaps, to what the best haiku possess.

"The decisive moment" also made me think of a title of a more recent book about photography by Geoff Dyer: The Ongoing Moment (which i haven't yet read, though I've enjoyed his other books). Decisive and ongoing... seems to sum it up.

Chris Gordon

Here's the first thing I noticed.

Eve, George, Lee, Peter, Richard.

They each wrote a poem about their poetry.

All very different and compelling.

The rest of us talked about cameras.

This is going to be fun.


re Where do your haiku begin?

What makes so many of us not only come to the haiku side of poetry, but push ourselves to write it well, setting aside, and regardless of, publication credits and peer groups?

warm regards,


Alan Summers,
founder, Call of the Page

snowbird a/k/a Merrill Ann Gonzales

Peter, It seems to me that your comment about Henri Cartier-Bresson comes to the point of what makes art art.  I often feel that I paint/draw in order to see.  As I enter the painting everything is new and creates new things I didn't know I wasn't seeing and in seeing anew, I see deeper.  I'm in the middle of a watercolor where I needed to find a palette  for flesh.  My oil palette no longer applies and as I'm rendering the hands with washes of color upon color to sculpt the forms... I notice my friends hands more deeply.  I notice how the color is formed with shadows, reflections, with the way the blood colors the skin in some people more than others and on and on.  By the time I finish those hands I may never look at hands in quite the same way.   
     Other artists go in the direction of making those discoveries evident to others which has led to myriad forms of art.   
      And I would suspect that dancers, and musicians also come to that moment.  That's why it's so vital to have the "haiku moment" in haiku... That's all there is.   

martin gottlieb cohen

Where do your haiku begin?

In many different places, one of which is this:

I am experiencing something that seems familiar as I've gone through it before and then suddenly I wake up in a cold sweat walking to work and hear something...

the sounds of mallards fall to the next pond




Certain Zen schools conceive of seated meditation as a practice intended for the obtaining of Buddhahood, others reject even this (apparently essential) finality: one must remain seated "just to remain seated." Is not the haiku (like the countless graphic gestures which mark modern and social Japanese life) also written "just to write"?
Roland Barthes, "Empire of Signs"

Rinko Kawauchi (Shiga, Japan, 1972)

Her unique approach to "drawing senses" and consistent motifs of every day details, as well as circulation of life and its transience has been admired by art lovers all over the world.
"Fotografia Europea" international festival.
Fotografia Europea 2013 - Cambiare

Kawauchi's work has frequently been lauded for its nuanced palette and offhand compositional mastery, as well as its ability to incite wonder via careful attention to tiny gestures and the incidental details of her everyday environment. In Illuminance, Kawauchi continues her exploration of the extraordinary in the mundane, drawn to the fundamental cycles of life and the seemingly inadvertent, fractal-like organization of the natural world into formal patterns.
Publishers: Aperture, USA / FOIL, Japan / kehrer verlag, Germany / Editions Xavier Barral, France / POSTCART, Italy

a photographer
reflected off picture glass
mends her spectacles

Alan Summers
Presence  (1998)

Haiku have often been said that they are the sum of two parts, and that the haiku, however brief, is greater than the sum of its parts, but really isn't the two parts of haiku, if that is its core feature, this bi-part verse, more like Bipartisanship where a political situation, usually in the context of a two-party system, finds opposing political parties obtaining common ground through compromise.   Where often I experience a dislike, or fear, abhorrence, pity around poetry by the public, they become engaged with haiku, even to the extent they will read a hundred haiku I've tied to trees and bushes on an art trail, or blutacked along book shelves in a large library, but I've witnessed few people read a single longer poem in, or as, an installation or displayed in a library?

Perhaps the reduced ego in haiku, and of the haiku poet if they are present, creates a cessation that we all crave?   In times of crisis, some people will turn to sex to embrace or challenge death not so much to escape it, so some will turn to haiku, even to the extent to reading a hundred haiku where they would struggle to read a single longer poem for two or three minutes.

My raison d'etre however oblique is to communicate, and I feel more alive interacting with people new or wary of poetry.  My writing process is a painful one, even distasteful and something to be avoided, that I do not regularly seek the practice of creating my own poetry, and rarely enjoy, it's just a compulsion that is uncomfortable with me and if needs must, then I must write it. I'm a very quiet person yet I will stand up and communicate in person as I did for Antony Gormley's Fourth Plinth project in Trafalgar Square in London, now archived by the British Library for posterity.  Perversely I decided against reading my haiku, or talking about haiku, or creating a live renku session, and choose instead to communicate words for an hour direct with the public, from those who did not have a platform to communicate them.

British Library Fourth Plinth Alan Summers Archive:

BBC interview

But going back to haiku, and my painful process of writing this and any type of poetry, reminds me of this quote I used to end my piece entitled "Defying the enclosures of regularity" where Samuel Johnson talked of, back in 1751:  "Imagination, a licentious and vagrant faculty, unsusceptible of limitations and impatient of restraint, has always endeavoured to baffle the logician, to perplex the confines of distinction, and burst the enclosures of regularity."

counting down
to those waking dreams
my skill at handguns

Alan Summers
c.2.2. Anthology of short-verse
ed. Brendan Slater & Alan Summers
(Yet To Be Named Free Press 2013)

Haiku seems to defy its own enclosures, and also defy the enclosures people put upon themselves, or have put upon them by others, around poetry.   I guess I write haiku not so much to engage people with poetry, that's their affair, but to steer them away from their fear of this intensely searingly intimate writing that sometimes they feel only ridicules their own existence, and say hey! you can absorb poetry because each person is a poet, you needn't write it, or even read it, but you should never be denied the right of it.

am I the ghost
of a child who died before me?
autumn deepens

Alan Summers
Haiku Novine ISSN 1451-3889 (December 2012)

Alan Summers,
founder, Call of the Page

martin gottlieb cohen

Quote from: Don Baird on June 25, 2013, 04:37:44 PM
haiku are everywhere and it's the sudden moment of perception of it by me that begins my haiku.  Being aware of what is on my mind, what is in my environment, and what is in my imagination is key - to me.  The rest; well, that is the problem of how to write it - to portray what I experienced, felt, and understood. 

Sometimes as I mentioned above it's laid out as a gift already written for me...

I was working on a hot and muggy August day near the marsh at miserable Home Depot as a cashier in their outdoor part of the warehouse. I noticed to my dismay what looked like big white blossoms on the trees. I couldn't understand what I was seeing...

heat lightning
the tree's blossom unfolds
into an egret

Other times I have to dig and never find it...

snowbird a/k/a Merrill Ann Gonzales

The thought came to me today, in talking to a friend...  I was telling him about this "fly" a little black fly... and we realized that I had "haiku'ed"... it had come from the coming together of time and space in a way that taught us both something ... both the moment was necessary, but also the space... the object... my friend called it a priori.   

SMF spam blocked by CleanTalk