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sixteen haiku


“ A haiku is not just a pretty picture in three lines of 5–7–5 syllables each. In fact, most haiku in English are not written in 5–7–5 syllables at all — many are not even written in three lines. What distinguishes a haiku is concision, perception and awareness — not a set number of syllables. A haiku is a short poem recording the essence of a moment keenly perceived in which Nature is linked to human nature. As Roland Barthes has pointed out, this record neither describes nor defines, but ‘diminishes to the point of pure and sole designation.’ The poem is refined into a touchstone of suggestiveness. In the mind of an aware reader it opens again into an image that is immediate and palpable, and pulsing with that delight of the senses that carries a conviction of one’s unity with all of existence. A haiku can be anywhere from a few to 17 syllables, rarely more. It is now known that about 12 — not 17 — syllables in English are equivalent in length to the 17 onji (sound-symbols) of the Japanese haiku. A number of poets are writing them shorter than that. The results almost literally fit Alan Watt’s description of haiku as “wordless” poems. Such poems may seem flat and empty to the uninitiated. But despite their simplicity, haiku can be very demanding of both writer and reader, being at the same time one of the most accessible and inaccessible kinds of poetry. R. H. Blyth, the great translator of Japanese haiku, wrote that a haiku is ‘an open door which looks shut.’ To see what is suggested by a haiku, the reader must share in the creative process, being willing to associate and pick up on the echoes implicit in the words. A wrong focus, or lack of awareness, and he will see only a closed door.”

~ Cor van den Heuvel

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hammer echoes shingles at dawn, silent red clouds

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light stills dust into the steel guitar strings

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rain slipping through porch

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baby curled in, eyelids

trembling

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bay waves glittering beyond piers on shoreline

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cherry drops in pond, rippling

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pregnant belly of sunlight, bouncing over an open book

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yellow leaves flickering in sun with brown leaves

*** waterfall gurgles, froth rocks

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night pumpkin shadowed by legs on stairs

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rustling bush, peeled in the wind of its leaves

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hands full of sunlight wrinkled shadow

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callused flesh, fingertips roll on soft strings

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full moon fills in power lines, crow flies off

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trash bag wraps in the wind of highway tires

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boot plops in mud, sucks back into air

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