True haiku is a Japanese verse in three lines, a mood poem that uses no metaphors or similes. The first line has five syllables; the second, seven; and line three has five syllables again.
Following is an English translation of a famous haiku (which, of course, follows the rules in Japanese but only occasionally–and accidentally–in translation):
How much more of it remains?
The night is brief.
~ Masaoka Shiki ~
Winter seclusion –
Listening, that evening,
To the rain in the mountain.
~ Kobayashi Issa ~
And yet again:
As one who loved poetry
~ Masaoaka Shiki ~
I think haiku are beautiful. They conjure images that perch lightly in the mind, tickle the imagination, touch the heart.
Once in a while, when I’m lying in bed at night waiting for sleep to come, playing with words and images in my head as I often do, something vaguely similar to haiku–little one-liners, really–pop up virtually entire, to my delight.
In fact, they please me so much that I’ve taken to grabbing pen and paper and writing them down. A quick polish and they become small word gems, awaiting my pleasure.
Diamonds? Oh no, nothing so fancy as that. Cubic zirconia, more likely. Come to think of it, cubic zirconia is more my style than diamonds anyway.
No matter. I think of them as haiku in spirit, if not in fact, these little word pictures that burble up every now and again as I lie there in the dark, relaxed and comfortable:
Anger, low on the horizon,
rolling across the landscape,
crushing everything in its path.
Prism, sparkling crystal prison.
Rainbow lights await
the sun to set them free.
Passion, sharp tongue of flame
licking the edge
of a paper lantern.
Is my unconscious sending up message balloons, or am I simply playing word games in that soft grey area between waking and sleep?
Either way, I’ve begun to pay attention, if for no other reason than to watch the way my mind moves when I’m relaxing.