To me, haiku is perfect poetry in so many ways. It is concise, yet full of meaning, contemporary, yet classic. It is global, reminding us how similar we are as humans in the observations that we make of this world, no matter where on the planet we live.
Haiku helps me see the world from different angles. It is a way to reinvent my thinking. By writing haiku, I have to view the world with new eyes every day. I think most people who write haiku regularly would agree: It becomes a way of being.
on the bedroom wall
a new window
My own love for haiku is probably also a cultural thing. Being Swedish, haiku expresses emotions with a minimum amount of fuss. Scandinavian esthetics are in many ways similar to the Japanese. An appreciation of the functional and the minimalist. The clean lines. My haiku are often very simple and matter of fact.
the old man
never gets on
I have always been a lover of all things Japanese. Our family lived in the UK for some 15 years. There, I used to train Wado Ryu karate, I am an environmentalist and subscribe to some brand or other of wabi-sabi. I very much enjoy Japanese food, I watch Miyazaki films, I read Murakami and I dress myself in clothes from Muji. It isn’t exoticism. It its just that in this global world we can pick whatever influences we want. And I do, simply based on preference.
About a third of the haiku I write can be translated straight into English. About one third I work on to adapt. One third I just forget about translating, as it is not worth it. If the idea behind it is good, I may recycle it from a different perspective all together, but not bother to use the original at all.
Many Swedish two-syllable expressions do not translate into less than five words in English, which sometimes makes translation if not impossible, at least not meaningful and always clunky. The expression “lost in translation” really is a thing!
out to sea
ut på havet
I was a rebellious child and have always detested any sort of rules. I must be some kind of paradox that I am drawn to a poetry form with a huge set of rules. I guess the more rules there are, the more they can be broken.
I started writing books and stories as a young child and landed a youth-reporters job at the age of 16 with the local paper. After that I studied to become a journalist. First at Nordiska folkhögskolan in Sweden and eventually, I was awarded a masters in Journalism studies at the University of Westminster in London. I worked as a journalist and writer for many years, but took a job managing a museum when we moved back to Sweden from the UK.
commuters stand still
on the escalators
Two things influenced me to return to writing. Firstly my middle son made an enormous red pencil in woodwork class at school when he was little, which I was given as a present for my birthday. I held it in my hand and thought to myself “why has my son made me this giant pencil?”. The answer came quickly: “Because I am a writer!”. I suddenly realised how much I had been missing writing.
The second thing that happened was that I came upon a small book in a thrift shop. It was simply called Japanese poetry (Japansk lyrik) and printed in 1958. I became aware of the haiku form when I read Kerouac as a teenager in the 1980s, but this little vintage volume inspired me to decide to explore haiku and that was it.
the yellowing leaves
of a diary
The first challenge I set myself was to write one haiku per day, which I did for a year. The discipline was brilliant. I would not go to bed unless I had written the haiku of the day. Good, bad or downright ugly didn’t matter.
I returned to journalism for a time, but after three years I gave it up, as it took all of my writing energy. I went into a career in life-long-learning and also work within the transition movement. It is a privilege working with things you enjoy and get paid for doing it.
Now have the luxury of writing on inspiration. Haiku often comes to me when I am in some sort of state of heightened emotion.
first frost I give a beggar nothing
Although I read a lot of haiku, I don’t ever follow other writers or try to write like them. The purpose for me when it comes to reading haiku, apart from the sheer enjoyment, is to find out what is already written, so that I can write something else.
Often my work is a reflection of anger, passion or wonder about the world. I will become a full time writer when my children leave home and my time is only mine again.
Until such time, I write haiku, as there is no time for anything more.
Haiku credits: “Sunlight”/Chrysanthemum issue 17, “Bus stop”/Frog Pond 36:3, Moon River/Acorn fall 2014, “winter solstice”/Heron’s Nest Vol XV No 4, “Autumn winds”/Shamrock issue 30, “first frost”/Frog Pond 38:2.