A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 13, Number 3, September 2019

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| Introduction | Fay Aoyagi’s Comments | Ray Rasmussen’s Comments |

Ray Rasmussen

With the Work of Fay Aoyagi and Chad Lee Robinson

How to Read and Write Haiku

I. Introduction by Ray Rasmussen

My haiku journey started about 20 years ago when I did a photographic study and website about the Kurimoto Japanese Garden near my home in Edmonton, Canada. I wanted to add Asian poetry to the website, did an Internet search, found an abundance of Asian genres, and in particular, discovered haiku.

I tried my hand at haiku, and in time succeeded in getting a few pieces published. Early on, I shifted to haibun because I wanted to write more detailed accounts of life experiences, and not just about a haiku moment. This is not meant as a pejorative, a dissing of haiku. Anything but. A good haiku can be a wonder to read and muse about.

And the little poem that is half of a haibun followed me along. I confess that it’s difficult for me to produce a worthy haiku, one that both stands on its own merits and that works effectively with a haibun’s prose.

While difficult, and even though I call them "the little pests," I'm a romantic about the haiku I most often place at the end of my prose, and I struggle over how to get it right. Consider this:

In good haibun, the prose deepens the understanding of the poetry, and the poetry gives greater energy to the prose. The relationship is like that between the moon and the earth: each makes the other more beautiful.
                                                      ~ Nobuyuki Yuasa, excerpt from Blithe Spirit, V10, N3, Sept 2000

My understanding of haiku is that many of them are 2-phrase compositions, and like the relationship between a haibun's prose and haiku, the relationship between the two phrases of a haiku is like a motor's spark plug, a flash of light that fires up the reader's imagination.

Early on I learned that not only are haiku difficult to write, but they are also difficult to read and understand, to "get the spark." Indeed, I often wondered why the editors picked the haiku featured in their journals. I simply didn't get much out of them. The problem was that I had a tendency to read them once. No spark, and on I went to the next one.

I further came to understand that in order to write an effective marriage between prose and haiku, one has to gain an understanding of what makes for a worthy haiku. How? By doing close readings of good haiku. And close readings of good haibun where prose and haiku as earth and moon.

To hone my reading skills – call them sparking abilities – I regularly peruse the "Editors' Choices" section of The Heron’s Nest. For each issue, one editor picks three haiku and elaborates on his or her thoughts about one of them.

Here’s editor Fay Aoyagi’s first pick in The Heron’s Nest, Volume XX, Number 2, June 2018.

tornado siren
the wind lifts a sneaker print
from home plate

Chad Lee Robinson

A suggestion. Before you go on to the next pages which contain Fay Aoyagi’s and my musings about Robinson’s haiku, first take the time do to the following:

1. Read Robinson’s haiku slowly several times. Then read it aloud several times. In short, immerse yourself in its images.

2. Sketch out your reactions. What are your associations? What, if anything, does it bring to mind about your own experiences in life?

Note: Chad Lee Robinson's haiku and Fay Aoyagi's Comments that appeared in The Heron's Nest are used with their permission.


Read Fay Aoyagi’s comments on Chad Robinson’s haiku.

Read Ray Rasmussen’s comments on Chad Robinson’s haiku and how to learn to write haiku.