A PATH TO THE SEA

We have seen how to begin working with models in hokku, using the method of substitution.  It is important to keep in mind,however, that this is only a beginning.  It will enable one to follow the form and structure of hokku, but that means little if one does not understand the aesthetic basis.

That is why I talk about the principles of poverty, simplicity, transience, etc. that one finds in hokku.  Unlike modern haiku, hokku has a particular aesthetic approach to the composition of verses.  The aesthetics of hokku are generally those held in common with the other meditative arts in Japan such as the tea ceremony, flower arranging, calligraphy, ink painting, gardening, etc.  Unlike the aesthetics of Western art, in Japan these practices had the “same flavor,” and if one understood the essence of one, one understood the essence of them all.

We must keep in mind, therefore, that the aesthetics of hokku are critical to writing it, and that without an understanding of those aesthetics, knowledge of structure alone is inadequate.  The student must learn both.  Of the two, structural understanding comes more quickly.  The aesthetics of hokku must be absorbed over time.

Otsuji wrote:

Spring rain;
Seen between the trees —
A path to the sea.

It is a simple verse, plain but effective.  as Blyth says of it, “There is something pleasant and lasting about poems that do not try the reader, that do not pander to popular taste.”

David

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