Photography, haiku, haiga

How often does it happen that you see something, want others to see it too, make a picture of it, and then get it in front of people?  A lot of the time I would guess.  Certainly the millions of photos online are evidence of that wish.  People are saying ‘I shot this, I’m proud of it and I want you to see it.’   I feel the same way.

I was watching a video of Jane Reichhold (highly recommended), an American master of haiku, and the same point came up there.  She said

‘And the way you know a haiku is lurking about is if you see something and say oh!  I want to show that to somebody!’

The way a leaf is falling from a tree, the colors in a sunset, a mother playing with a child and as many other examples as we can think of all point to the same thing:  we see something beautiful or interesting and we want to share it with others in a creative way.  That is true of many of the arts that work in the present but right now I’m thinking especially of photography and haiku.  Photography has little choice but to operate in the present moment and haiku is written in present tense.  It also shares with photography the intention of capturing a moment.  Both are typically achieved quickly at least to the level of the first draft.

We all learned that haiku consists of 17 syllables in a 5, 7, 5 arrangement.  It is true that Japanese haiku consists of 17 sound units in that arrangement but the problem is that Japanese sound units don’t translate directly into English syllables.  For example the word ‘Tokyo’ is three English syllables while it is four sound units in Japanese.  Seventeen syllables would generally be about one third too many in English so a shorter poem is needed here.  Jane Reichhold recommends fewer than 17 in a short, long, short arrangement.  Other English haiku experts simply recommend keeping it short, abandoning the short, long, short recommendation.  Two recommendation that are pretty consistent among experts are that the haiku consist of a (long) phrase and a (short) fragment and that it not be a sentence.  For example:

last fleeting gift
of the sun
cricket song

‘last fleeting gift of the sun’ is the phrase and ‘cricket song’ is the fragment.  What is that haiku saying to you?

Working in both photography and haiku can produce an interesting combination known as haiga which most simply is image plus haiku.

Some of my images seem to beg for companionship with words.  They seem complete in themselves but they also appear to want something more.  I ran across the idea of haiga  not long ago.  You’ve undoubtedly seen Japanese paintings with calligraphy; the writing is likely haiku; the painting plus the haiku is haiga.  This form is gaining popularity in Western countries and I’ve been experimenting with it recently.last_rays_8922_2

Did your interpretation of the haiku change as a result of pairing it with an image?

Here are some more examples.


Here the remaining part of the flower (minus the petals) even looks a bit like a walnut.  We have a couple of walnut trees in our front yard and they do make a lot of noise when they fall from the trees and hit the driveway.  Flower petals, not so much.




Confluence here is intended in at least two ways.

On reflection, I don’t know that what I have written would qualify as haiku and I don’t think I really care if I am following a specific form.  The important thing is to get started and work at distilling a thought or a scene into a few words, and if it seems appropriate, pair it with an image.  I enjoy it, you might too.