The Ethos of Haiku

H.F. Noyes wrote: “Re definitions of haiku, I honor Basho’s, ‘Do not follow in the footsteps of the ancients. Seek what they sought.’ If they could speak from beyond the grave, Basho, Buson, and Issa would caution that a haiku is not a product of mind, but of heartmind. The most precious ingredient in a haiku that ingratiates itself with us is likely to be spontaneity . . . an unselfconscious catching of the haiku spirit as it flies. The depth reflected is chiefly through afterthought in readers’ minds. The writer is content to convey a sense of wonder.” 


A sampling of H.F. Noyes' haiku:


the geese fly off . . .

and now it comes to me

that I am still here

Parnassus Literary Journal, Fall 1988

homeless beggar —

the itch of his clothes

all down my spine

Modern Haiku 27:1, 1996

spiral nebulae

through the telescope’s site —

longing to love

Frogpond 24:3, 2001

mountain cedar —

snowmelt leaving

a sharp blue scent

South by Southeast 12:2, 2005

morning stroll —

unshared thoughts float off

with the withered leaves

The Heron’s Nest Volume II Number 3, November, 1999


Brief Bio: H.F. Noyes — 1918-2010

The American poet and editor wrote prolifically all of his life until his death sometime in April 2010. He did not use e-mail, preferring to correspond often with other poets through handwritten letters and notes. He is perhaps best known for his “favourite haiku” pieces which he published occasionally in many places and later gathered into five volumes. His thoughts on the ethos of haiku have informed virtually every one of the first two generations of haiku poets working in English, and his influence, though subtle, remains pervasive. “The truth is that readers require not so much to be informed as to be reminded. Haiku remind us that life is ever new, and of what compelling interest the everyday can provide.” ~ Iliyana Stoyanova