Haiku: Beauty in Brevity

Adobe Photoshop PDFRecently, I was asked to write a long essay for a university anthology on haiku. Therefore, haiku has been on my mind a lot recently, and I’d like to bring out some relevant points about it in this post.

People often ask me if you have to be a Buddhist to write haiku. No, you don’t have to be a Buddhist. I am not one. But keep in mind that life is short. You don’t want to go through it without stopping to appreciate the little things around you while you are waiting at the red light or walking to the grocery store.

If you have had experience as a freelance writer of articles or as a staff journalist, you are used to writing with an economy of words. This will likely help you get used to writing haiku. Many haiku beginners find it especially difficult to be parsimonious with words.

Recognize these significant aspects of haiku:

1) It is insightful, dealing with human nature, your fellow man, nature, or anything around you. The fun is often in discovering the various levels of a haiku’s meaning.

2) Haiku helps us to share our emotions in a subtle way. In so doing, we dust ourselves off, and understand ourselves better. It is good therapy without seeking counseling.

3) Buddhist thought and sensibilities run through haiku, telling us that life is not always beautiful, but that we should appreciate the beautiful moments. Haiku, written in the present tense, allow us to capture these beautiful moments.

4) Use your observational skills to write haiku and develop a “camera eye.” Freeze an image in time by writing a haiku.

5) Consider yourself an artist. Paint a picture, only with words. Haiku is imagistic poetry.

6) Indulge yourself with the free things in life– the scenes around you. Appreciate nature, the seasons, and human scenes through your five senses. You can discover correspondences between nature and yourself–how you are feeling, how you experience life. We are one with nature.

walking by sun
along the frozen lake
i melt into winter

–Charlotte Digregorio
Haiku Society of America Anthology 2009

after reading
the morning newspaper
i step out into gray

–Charlotte Digregorio
bottle rockets #21, Aug. 2009

If you don’t know much about haiku, read the many posts on this blog that deal with it. You’ll begin to develop an idea of what it’s all about. My blogs feature a lot of haiku written by others, and even interviews with haiku poets. You can also read about related Japanese forms like tanka.

Copyright 2012 by Charlotte Digregorio.


About Charlotte Digregorio

I publish books. I have marketed and/or published 55 titles. These books are sold in 46 countries to bookstores, libraries, universities, professional organizations, government agencies, and book clubs. In 2018, I was honored by the Governor of Illinois for my thirty-eight years of accomplishments in the literary arts, and my work to promote and advance the field by educating adults and students alike. I am the author of seven books including: Haiku and Senryu: A Simple Guide for All; Everything You Need to Know About Nursing Homes; You Can Be A Columnist; Beginners' Guide to Writing & Selling Quality Features; Your Original Personal Ad; and my latest, Ripples of Air: Poems of Healing. The first four books have been adopted as supplemental texts at universities throughout the U.S., Canada, India, Pakistan, and Catalonia. They are sold in 43 countries, and are displayed in major metropolitan cultural centers. These books have been reviewed, recommended, and praised by hundreds of critics, librarians, and professors worldwide. I am also the author of a poetry collection: "Shadows of Seasons: Selected Haiku and Senryu by Charlotte Digregorio." Two of my books have been Featured Selections of Writer's Digest Book Club. I am regularly interviewed by major print, radio, and television organizations throughout the U.S. I regularly sign books at libraries, chain bookstores, and university bookstores, and do poetry readings at art centers, cafes, tea houses, and galleries. I was recently nominated for two Pushcart Prizes in poetry. I have won fifty-nine poetry awards, writing fourteen poetic forms. My poetry has been translated into eight languages. I do illustrated solo poetry exhibits 365 days a year in libraries, galleries, corporate buildings, hospitals, convention centers, and other venues. My individual poems have been displayed at supermarkets, apparel and wine shops, banks, botanic gardens, restaurants, and on public transit. I have been nominated and listed in "The International Authors and Writers Who's Who" in Cambridge, England and in the "Who's Who In Writers, Editors & Poets U.S./Canada." I hosted my own radio program, "Poetry Beat," on public broadcasting. My poetry has been featured on several library web sites including those of Shreve Memorial Library in Louisiana and Cornell University's Mann Library. My background includes positions as a feature editor and columnist at daily newspapers and as a magazine editor. I have been a public relations director for a non-profit organization. I am self-employed as a public relations/marketing consultant, having served a total of 118 clients in 23 states for the past several decades . In other professional areas, I have been on university faculties, teaching French, Italian, and Writing. I regularly give lectures and workshops on publishing, journalism, publicity, poetry, and creativity to business and professional groups, and at writer's conferences, universities, literary festivals, non-profit organizations, and libraries. I have been a writer-in-residence at universities. There have been about 400 articles written about me in the media. I have served on the Boards of writers and publishers organizations. My positions have included Board Secretary of the Northwest Association of Book Publishers. I served for five years as Midwest Regional Coordinator of The Haiku Society of America, and for two years as its Second Vice President.
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6 Responses to Haiku: Beauty in Brevity

  1. Axel Pliopas says:

    I didn’t know about tanka!!! That’s something to research about 🙂 Thank you for the nice post.

    • Axel, I hope you get hooked on all the Japanese forms. They are a lot of fun. Just carry a notebook in your pocket and record your thoughts. Sooner or later, they’ll turn into a haiku or tanka.
      Also, log onto the Haiku Society of America website, http://www.hsa-haiku.org. You might also like the Mainichi Daily News website from Japan. They run a daily haiku. And, there is “Asahi Haikuist Network” online with good haiku.
      Thanks for writing.

  2. Very insightful Charlotte. Look forward to meeting you at the next event.

  3. Yousei Hime says:

    Really enjoyed this post. Many of those aspects you listed are ones I try to incorporate in my haiku, though I’m a bit sluggish about getting out in the cold. I’ve also enjoyed reading the other haiku related posts lately. Very inspiring given this month of haiku writing. Thank you so much.

    • Yousei, I find winter a good time to write haiku. I’m holed up inside, and a lot of thoughts come to me. Try sitting in a quiet room and contemplating. Also, read a lot of haiku journals in winter. The ideas will come!

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