Favourite Haiku by Stephen Addiss

summer heat
the strands of hair not captured
by her braid

– Michael Ketchek, Frogpond 35:2

A nice observation, resonating in the mind – what underlying emotions does this suggest?

kogarashi ni iwa fuki togaru sugima kana (1691)

winter gusts
through the cedars
sharpen the rocks

– Bashô

This image appeals to me; we know that water can sharpen rocks, but to have the wind do so makes us sense its power, something we can feel more than explain (the translations are my own).

a Catholic girl
engorged with doubt

– Eve Luckring, Modern Haiku 43:1

As well as having a marvellous word (engorged) at just the right moment, this haiku provokes thought. What is her doubt? Lilies can suggest death, so is it doubt about Catholic views of heaven and hell? Or does the doubt go further? It’s up to us to contemplate – what are our own doubts?

ashi no hô kaze no yukitai hô e yuku

the tufts of weeds go
where the wind
wants to go

– Santôka

Seemingly simple, the tufts are born by the wind, but this haiku implies comparisons with people – what makes us go where we go? Do we really have better reasons than the wind?

the river
the river makes
of the moon

– Jim Kacian, Six Directions

Repetition, usually a haiku no-no, is here used to marvellous effect, taking us beyond the usual haiku themes of river and moon.

furuido no kuraki ni otsuru tsubaki kana

falling into
the darkness of an old well
a camellia

– Buson

There are many Japanese haiku about falling camellias, but this one takes the image further, perhaps down a well with no bottom.

more rain . . .
the stream makes room
for each new drop

– Ann LB Davidson, Haiku Canada Review 6:1

I had never considered this understanding, one could see it as the politeness of nature.

otoke onna to sono kage mo odoru

men and women
and their shadows

– Santôka

Shadows can be mysterious, even dangerous, but here they are dancing with the people they share their lives with.

fourteen donkeys
in a field
fourteen donkeys!

– Alan Spence, Seasons of the Heart

The simple surprise in this haiku is delightful. Really? Fourteen donkeys?

naki nagara mushi no nagaruru ukigi kana

singing as they go
insects float down the stream
on a broken bough

– Issa

How better to express the joy that Issa finds in the least of creatures? I too hope to be singing as I go.

Editor’s note: Stephen Addiss spent 16 years as half of the folk music duo, Addiss & Crofut, performing in Asia, Africa, and Europe as well as the United States. They made 14 LPs, chiefly of their own performances, but also of traditional music from Africa and Vietnam. Forming an abiding interest in Asian art and culture, Stephen holds a PhD in East Asian art history and musicology. His own haiku, as well as his translations of Japanese haiku, have appeared in many magazines, journals, and books, and his calligraphy, ceramics and paintings, including haiga, have been exhibited internationally, including in China and Japan, England, France and Germany, and many American venues.

A former editor of South by Southeast journal, his books include Cloud Calligraphy, A Haiku Menagerie, The Art of Zen, Haiga: Haiku-Painting, The Art of Chinese Calligraphy, Haiku People, A Haiku Garden, Haiku Humor, Tao Te Ching, Japanese Calligraphy, Haiku: An Anthology, and The Art of Haiku (Shambhala Press, 2012). Stephen is Professor of Art, Emeritus at Richmond University in Virginia in the United States.