Shortly before the advent of the summer here in Baltimore, i fell in love with haiku. And i mean giddy, half-an-hour-long-hugs type of love. By throwing myself at as much haiku i could find (i highly recommend Haiku (Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets) and The Haiku Anthology), i discovered that the art from is a fair amount more complex than how it was taught to me in school. Forget three lines and syllable count.
The heart of haiku is keen observation, paired with a striving to capture the essence of an experience. And, since most of the Japanese haiku Masters were either Zen monks, or at least well-versed in the practice of Zen, they were no strangers to keen observation, or finding beauty in the mundane.
Bashō, on his pilgrimages, kept travelogues dotted with haiku, written i feel as a kind of epitome of whatever he was experiencing in the entry. I would like to think that he kept this practice as a way to stay mindful, or as an act of meditation.
Haiku are insights, observations that break out into intuition and awareness. At least, that’s what i feel when i write them. I have to allow myself to open up to the things around me, to really see them and discover their beauty. Zen is all about experiencing Life in the now, the moment, and haiku definitely the poetry of the moment.
In fact, i had a neat experience yesterday at the café where i work.
It was the middle of rush, and since i was the only person working the bar, i was dancing around in a state of almost frenetic concentration. Then, in the middle of pouring a green tea, i had a moment: the tea was pouring slowly because lid of the pitcher had been spun around to the slotted pouring side, and instead of getting angry/frustrated at the opening barista, i felt the subtle tang of irony. Then i felt a smirk break out on my face.
I had found a moment of beauty in an otherwise mundane action, in the midst of a unrelenting line of people who want their god damn coffee. It was surreal and wonderful.
I would like to think that Bashō cultivate that state of being all the time. How sublime it would be to simply live haiku.