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ELDER POETRY INTERLUDE: Haiku

Certainly you know haiku, the elegant Japanese form of short poetry, tiny gems usually about nature but not always. From Jokun:

Ah! I intended
Never never to grow old
Listen: New Year's Bell!

Translated into English, classic Japanese haiku consists of three lines, usually involving a reference to one of the four seasons, each line divided into a specific number of syllables: 5–7–5.

There are many other acceptable styles such as 3-5-3 and even 2-3-2. The number of lines also can vary and seasonal references are not mandatory. One style of haiku called senryu is meant to be about human foibles, sometimes cynical or humorous.

We could discuss all the complexities in detail, but I would rather leave that to scholars and just enjoy.

Because haiku is of Japanese origin, you can imagine that cats make frequent appearances. One of the most famous haiku from 17th century master, Basho, is the first I memorized back in my teen years:

Why so scrawny, cat?
starving for fat fish or mice -
Or backyard love?

The thoughts of another revered master, Issa, who lived about 150 years after Basho, ran in a similar direction:

Arise from sleep, old cat,
And with great yawns and stretchings -
Amble out for love

Both Basho and Issa wrote of age:

A man, infirm
With age, slowly sucks
A fish bone.
   - Basho

This autumn
As reason for growing old
A cloud and a bird
   - Issa

Jane Reichhold is a well-known American poet and translator who has published several books about haiku in general and Basho in particular. She also writes haiku:

WRITING HER MEMOIRS
THE AGED POETRESS READS
HER FIRST HAIKU

HOT FLASHES
BLUSHES OF YOUTH
GETTING OLD

Sometimes capitalization matters in haiku so I've left Jane Reichhold's two haiku as I found them online.

You have probably noticed by now that aside from the cats, I have chosen haiku only about aging. That's because I think it might be fun for us to try our hand at writing some.

Let's see what haiku we can create about the nature of growing old: what is good or bad or funny about it, how it changes us, what it feels like or perhaps you can capture a single moment in time, as so many haiku do, that seems to hold a universe of meaning.

Use any style or number of syllables you like. Try to keep to the exquisite nature of such minimal, delicate poetry, but don't get hung up on form. Have fun with it and post yours in the comments below.

I cannot write any kind of poetry. None. I am just rotten at it. But it doesn't seem fair to ask you to take a stab at it and not me. So here's what I came up with:

Benumbed and annoyed
Struggling to retrieve lost thought -
Damn, old memory

Now if I'm willing to stick my neck out in public with such awkward piffle, surely you can take a chance too.


There is no new story at The Elder Storytelling Place today. They will return on Monday.

Comments

Hot flashes, wet dreams
Not so far apart these days
Damp PJs to blame

Getting old is like
Watching a movie unfold
It is here too soon.

Days are growing short

No regrets,I've had my turn

Ah!Sweet memories....

My days in the sun
Have come and gone
Have fun young one

Aging child in me

Playing out what used to be

Life savoured again!

Wisdom comes with age
How very wise
I have become!

Our inner circle
Spirals into evening joy
Michael Kathi cats

Another autumn moon
waxing to full
I have grown old.

I wrote this one for my husband:

Cheeks sore from
Shaving. Old razor?
No, old face.

What a refreshing departure from the world at large! And I am most impressed with the creativity. You elders rock! :)Dee

See the beauty in the form
Each character is perfect
Haiku magic for the mind.

I once thought I could learn to do Japanese calligraphy but I was born in the wrong place

Tiny hummingbird
Dips his bill to scarlet bloom
Trembling with delight

You're all terrific. What an excellent effort.

Near our winter's end
The layers of snow melt down
To spring memories.

I have absolutely NO poetic talent but lots of TGB readers do! Nice.

Reminds me
of kudos used wrong
Sing, you lar!

Claire Jean, your haiku is so very beautiful, I actually gasped upon reading last line. Thank you.

One recent summer camping I got up early every day and practiced haiku, which I'd been reading. I'm not certain I succeeded, but these are some of my attempts. By pure coincidence they all touch in some way on aging.

1.
Gray clouds
hide the moon--
a loss too soon

She rides
with my dead.

2.
She glowed for me
alone I learned
the early riser catches the moon.

3.
Sleepers miss lesson
of full morning moon:
Loss will come again soon.

"Inner Vision"

Peering about me,
my vision grown hazy.
But mem'rys stay bright.


Claudia De Bellis 10-03-12

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