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Public Haiku Engagement

Haiku, according to the Japanese,  happen  all  the time,  wherever  there  are  people  who  are "in  touch"  with  the  world  of  their  senses, feelings and have a will to respond  to  them.  Being  brief,  usually 3 lines, the writing of haiku lends itself to sharing intimate moments through a distillation of a memory. By recognizing the intimate experiences that touch us,  we  come  to  know  and  appreciate  ourselves, others, nature and our world more.


Most  haiku,  either  directly  or  by  implication,  present  two objects,  actions,  or  states  of  being.  Usually  there  is  little  grammatical  connection  between  the  things  presented,  and  sometimes the  mixture  of  contrasts  and  unities  is  abrupt  and  startling. The goal is to achieve an imagistic impact without metaphor or simile, nor logic.


In  the  best  haiku  the  author  tries  to  share  the  experience  itself, so  that  the  reader  may  share  in  that  experience  as  directly as possible. We create this shared experience through proposing images that "resonate" between  images  to create a sense of drama, comedy or mystery.

The  things  named  in  a haiku image  can  be  seen, touched,  heard,  smelled,  or  tasted by the reader.  Sometimes even a sense of  temperature,  pain,  or  movement as well as doom, joy, or fantasy can be felt.  More importantly, haiku does not use metaphor or simile, it only is what it is. Rather than the "the pine tree laughs like a wolf", one might write "the howling pine tree" which allows the reader to ask and imagine "what could possibly be making a tree howl".

Haiku traditionally focuses on details of one's environment that relate to the human condition, and in this case, our relationship to river water. Think of a haiku as a meditation of sorts that conveys an objective image or feeling without employing subjective judgment and analysis. When you see or notice something that makes you want to say to others, "Look at that," the experience may well be suitable for a haiku.


A reference to the season, referred to in Japanese as kigo, is an essential element of haiku. The reference may be obvious, as in using a word like "spring" or "autumn" to indicate the season, or it might be subtler. For example, mentioning ‘falling leaves’, which happens during the autumn, can subtly indicate the season.


The  images  you  use  to create an  emotion  in  the  reader  without  telling  the  reader  what emotion to  feel is critical to the authentic nature of the haiku form.


1. Think of the images that came to you while doing a movement meditation. We suggest writing your haiku after the movement meditation so your images remain fresh in your mind and ready to integrate into your creativity.


2. For your haiku we suggest using the traditional 3 lines; 5 beats for the first, 7 for the second, and 5 for the third. Remember, the less conjunctions you use, the better will be the impact of your syllabic beats.


Shadows sprinting by,

the thud of a memory -

Wide river cracks wide.*

Blue heron linger,

the sun is overheated -

Only a trickle glistens.*


3. Try to contain two juxtaposed ideas in your haiku. In the example above, the focus is on dark shadows sprinting by, then juxtaposed with a sound that calls up a memory to a river cracking wide open in late winter. Juxtaposition can give your poem a deeper metaphorical meaning but without the use of a metaphor.


4. Now go ahead and write. When finished, you may want to take a photo of your haiku. When ready, roll your paper into a scroll and tie it with the blue ribbon so it may be deposited and given up to the river sculpture of your choice.


* Written by Thom Sokoloski


In the centuries old tradition of haiku poetry there is the renga, a participatory form of poetic creation whereby an established poet would compose a haiku to become the inspiration for other poets to add to and extend. During the samurai era of Japan, poets would create renga that could have as many as 1000 poetic extensions of the original haiku. It was often the case where poets would also draw an image using the same brush they used to write the poems. These images were referred to as haiga. The haiku, and sometimes with haiga, were delivered and responded to far and wide on horseback and/or boat, often taking months to complete.


Underneath each river sculpture hang two vessels. In the smaller is the artist’s haiku and in the larger, the deposited haiku of the public which have been inspired by the total expression of the artwork’s form and ceremony, and as in traditional renga, the public poems become a response and extension of the literal and visual content of the river sculptures.

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