Haiku : Writing rules

The aha moment . . .

Haiku is a poem composed of three verses of 5,7 and 5 syllables and having a seasonal word. And for us Westerner, a unique element : the 'aha moment'.

The 'aha moment'. It is a very short fleeting moment, in which a man catches a glimpse of what we could call 'world harmony'. This group of relations, made of causes and consequences, that make the backbone of our world representation.

Why 'aha' ?

Because, unlike what we could imagine, there is not a light outburst, flooding mind like mystic illuminations illustrated in engravings. This moment of awakness can be viewed like a laughter. But it is not the laugh of somebody who obtains a big fortune; it is not the laugh of somebody who wins. It is rather the one of somebody who, after having searched something for a long time, find it, in his pocket, in the morning.

The 'aha' moment ...

A subject that divides the haiku community. It seems to mark a separation line between the haiku written in Japan and these written in the international community. It also marks a separation between two conceptions of haiku.

Traditionnaly, in Japan, haiku is not of zen inspiration. At the best, it follows the buddhist attitude that consists in observing things without a priori, as things are, before formulating an opinion. Haiku is sometimes considered as a mental exercise.

By us Westerners, haiku has been introduced in the beginning of this century, in an exotic atmosphere. The zen dyeing seems arised in the 50' with the popularisation of that philosophy in the Americain culture.

The Blyth's foundamental work (1949) is based upon the idea that haiku is the poetic expression of zen. It is spread by the 'beat generation' (Allan Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac). This idea will then dominate the Western haiku approaches.

Buddhism don't enlight haikists necessary! There are example of great masters fawn upon richs, masters quarrelling about disciples...

Traditionnal Japanese haiku don't speak necessarily about world beauties. It often tells about things with humor and sometimes about satanic or nihilistics subjects.

Two well-known examples :

Hito korosu ware kamo shire zu tobu hotaru 
Me, as an existance, 
would be a killer - 
flying fireflies. 

Fura Maeda

Mizoreru sono unaji e mesu o sa sasei 
Your nape
where melted snow falls -
let me burst it with a scalpel. 

Ippekiro Nakatsuka

A part of the haiku international community seems however to think haiku from a 'zen' approach, giving the 'aha moment' as the haiku foundation.

It is to be noted that it is Basho, who, circa 1680, adds that element to a small poem (the hokku or the hokku of haikai) issued from a linked form (haikai-renga) and then creates a new genre. Since that period, haikai was a satirical and comic form laughing at renga, a poetic genre used in aristocraty.

Basho, himself, writes comic or satirical hokku, especially in his youth. Kikaku Takarai succeeded Basho in this way. Recently, some poets (Koich Iijima, Ikura Kato, etc) have begun to give a new value to Kikaku and they appreciate his haiku equal of Basho's in his youth and better than those at the end of his life. This trend should be noted.