Red acers and red oak-leaf lettuces

Haiku has this rather phantasmagorical property: that we always suppose we ourselves can write such things easily. (Roland Barthes)

red acers (03 Jan 2012)

red acers (03 Jan 2012)

The end of the first week of the new year. I’m rattling around quite happily on my own in a big old house in Petone – a nice change from my little council flat in Wellington city.

This morning, after digging dandelions from the front lawn, I rehabilitated a handsome, moss-encrusted trough and planted the half-dozen lettuce seedlings I’d got a few days ago at a garden centre in Karori  … which is where I captured images of some dramatic red Japanese maples (acer palmatum).


Envied by us all,
Turning to such loveliness
Red leaves that fall.

(Haiku by Shiko, in a translation suggested by the Japan Society of London)
Roland Barthes cited in Haiku and the Japanese Garden 


7 thoughts on “Red acers and red oak-leaf lettuces

    • On warm summer days, I welcome a bit of coolness. The cool reticence of haiku is very Japanese, and quintessentially minimalist … all of which appeals deeply to me.

  1. Unlike Touch2Touch I do enjoy Haiku, but this (valid – I did check that!) translation perplexes me, because the final line is missing a beat of the 5-7-5 rhythm that is part of where haiku beauty lies for me when the word placement is excellent.
    The original haiku rhythm has become corrupted with use, and inferior rhythms accepted, dumbing down the talent.
    This haiku transmits the idea that matches atwistedpair’s attractive photograph. But for me, the haiku words lack beauty of placement, and the whole seems without rhythm.
    I do hope Touch2Touch will meet an excellent haiku that will truly sing for [her].

    • Haiku and the Japanese Garden (link given at the end of the original post) asserts that the 5-7-5 syllabic form “is not used by the great majority of dedicated haiku poets writing in English.” Whilst it has generally been my practice to use the 5-7-5 schema, I have some sympathy with the view that, when writing haiku in English, 17 syllables are often too many.

      Furthermore, I have read some remarkably fine examples with fewer than 17 syllables – and some of these are set out in just two lines.

  2. No prizes, of course, for assuming that the choice of this haiku to accompany this photograph was no accident. What might not be so apparent, however, is the fact that, having considered several translations, I selected this one not merely for its high level of aptness, but also because I appreciated its word-order and its rhythm. 😉

    PS: I’d wanted to post one of my own haiku, but nothing happened (hence the citation from Roland Barthes).

  3. Haiku is both a type of poetic pattern and a way of experiencing the world. This short, 17-syllable form, usually written in three lines with a 5-7-5 syllable count, focuses our attention on a single, insightful moment. Closely tied to the Japanese aesthetic of Yugen and the spirituality of Buddhism, Haiku looks deceptively simple, yet can take years to master. A well-executed haiku is rooted in the physical world of our senses, yet suggests something deeper, often evoking the mysterious, transitory nature of all existence.

    • Spam this might have been … but I was interested enough in the site to which its author pointed that I have allowed it to stand. And besides, the comment constitutes a summary of haiku I cannot summarily dismiss.

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