Friday, April 2, 2010

Spring Haiku

Tis the Season for ... Haiku.

Updated 22 May 2010.

Haiku is an old Japanese form of poetry; it's classic period ran through the 15th and 16th centuries. Basho, 1644-1694, regarded as the greatest exemplar of haiku, made the form independent as a stand alone when previously it had been the starting lines of longer forms.

What makes haiku a specific poetic form in the Basho tradition depends upon a few "rules." The poem has three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables, references nature, and finishes with a surprise. Not everyone follows these rules, but I think they are essential and challenging to the art. Yet, even I sometimes bend them. Here is one of his famous creations that I translate.

Old pond sleeps alone
until little frog leaps in
and slaps the water.

Haiku is intensely popular to this day in Japan and has a following around the world. U.S. school classes often use haiku because its requirements prompt poetic consciousness among the young, and the limitations of the form make for simplicity and are relatively easy to follow while opening up creativity.

This spring, for the joy of the sudden flood of good weather after a long winter, the elements have prompted a series of haiku that I began in March. And they keep coming.

The season is Lent;
"it's not something lent," you say.
Tell again, what's Lent?

Winter shrinks slowly;
roofs, walks, decks emerge from snow.
March can be fooling.

While shoveling snow,
I spy two squills in bloom,
as promised, hardy.

The white-headed one,
commanding a barren branch,
scours, sharp-eyed, for prey.

The deer-run broke snow;
deep repeats caught spring-bound sun:
green curves snowy lawn.

In this age of pop-
ups, nothing beats the burst of
yellow daffodils.

Unseasonal spring
this April, aready the
windows are open.

Chives are green, Autumn
Joy sedum in green bunches;
peonies start red.

Spring cleanup begins.
Iron oak leaves clog bushes
and they keep falling.

Too long absent last
September, then rains delayed:
so much to do now.

Sifting the compost,
I harvest fungible soil.
Debris still remains.

Azaleas, tulips,
hydrangeas hot house in the
chancel: it's Easter.

Apple trees will bloom,
as always, for Mother's Day,
even if early.

Mrs. Robin in
flying flury bulds her nest
without adhesive.

She builds three nests
against the winds that take it
from under the deck.

Rains will come and give
her black essential mudding,
fixing home so fast.

Spiders often in the
shower: more thirsty species
in search of water.

Crabapple blossoms,
three weeks early downtown, bloomed
here for my birthday.

As never before,
the youthful hawthorn blossoms.
What a spring, this year!

Silvery traces
meander the patio.
Hostas beware - snails!

What is that perfume?
One bush overcomes the landscape -
Korean lilacs.

Time, a relentless
procession, is to me as
spring is to poets.
Copyright 2010 by Roger Sween

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks Roger, wonderful stuff! I am in need of organizing things for Bolder, might be able to publish there...Happy Spring, follow Jesus to India!