craft and the daily haiku

Roughly a thousand days ago, and I say roughly because I don’t remember the day I first started, I have been tweeting out a haiku every day (albeit with a very few missed days here and there). If you check out the hash tags #dailyhaiku and #haiku you can find these and haiku by other authors as well; there is a remarkably robust and active haiku community on Twitter.

Haiku is a structured short Japanese poetic form; in its English incarnation, it consists of seventeen syllables, in lines of five, seven, five in that order. I don’t remember why I started ; I suspect it was a bit of whimsy. Why I’ve continued is probably due to some combination of momentum and an appreciation of craft.

What do I mean here by craft? Some many years ago, I read The Unknown Craftsman by Yanagi Soetsu. (Unfortunately, I don’t remember the translator of the edition I read.) I have a copy of Yanagi’s book on my shelves of books to read again (shelves which are locked in eternal combat with the shelves of books as yet unread and the shelves of books unwilling to resign themselves to never being read) and I know that I need to re-read it, but one point that I took from my reading is that craft arises from reflective repetition.

By reflective repetition, I mean doing a task over and over again, whether it be pulling together seventeen syllables with some developing understanding or whether it be shaping clay to be fired into mugs or whether it be, drifting somewhat far afield, executing a proper aikido technique among many repetitions.

When I look over the things where I spend my time, I can see aspects of this reflective repetition in many places. Whether it be herding words into a haiku each morning, or the swing of a bokken or jo, I see that this reflective repetition occasionally creates magic. A haiku perhaps that sings as opposed to being a mere collection of syllables, or one particular shiho nage where uke’s eyebrows rise in surprise.

But there is something beyond this, because there are other areas where if I am honest, I can see the dark side of this quest for the few perfect moments among reflective repetition. This I think is something that bedevils my writing. I don’t want to find the one great paragraph, the one great story among all the words I write, and I stand at the edge of the abyss of recognizing that there is no other path.

I am not yet at the point of being able to bring forth perfection from the void in which ideas perambulate like ghosts. And perhaps I will never get there, but I can get to the point of putting down the words, revising the words, and creating something good that spark interest and a (deliberate) laugh from the reader. And that is the lesson to take to heart.

~ by Jim Anderson on 24 January 2021.

One Response to “craft and the daily haiku”

  1. Thank you for this.

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