Perhaps it has occurred to some of you that by introducing daoku as a Western form of brief verse in the aesthetic tradition of old objective hokku, we have eliminated a great deal of bother and needless controversy.
In presenting it as a verse form with its own fixed form and aesthetics, no room is left for the bickering and ongoing controversies that so marred the discussions of hokku and haiku from the mid 20th century onward. One may argue about hokku and haiku and the appropriate terminology and aesthetics for these, but daoku — as a modern verse form in the tradition of old Japanese objective hokku — is what it is, and there is nothing to argue about. What a sense of relief and peace!
If someone asks us what we write and practice, we can just reply, “Daoku, based on the aesthetic tradition of old Japanese objective hokku.” If someone asks us if it is just like old hokku, we can say, “No — it is based on essence of the best of the old objective hokku aesthetics that developed out of the spiritual traditions of Buddhism and Daoism, but being written in English, it has its own definite form and standards and aesthetics.”
Daoku remains so close to old Japanese objective hokku in its aesthetics that we can use many of those old hokku — translated into modern English daoku form — to teach it. That enables us to honestly say that daoku continues the aesthetics of the best of that old tradition in our modern world.
Further, daoku takes us completely out of the ongoing “haiku wars” that began in print in the mid 20th century and continue on into our times on the Internet. Because daoku has fixed form and aesthetic standards, there is no need to argue with others over the form and aesthetics of modern haiku or old hokku. All may write whatever kinds of verse they prefer, whether some category of old hokku, or some variation of modern haiku — or, as we do — the now clearly defined modern verse form daoku. No argument over terminology is needed any longer.
I will continue to use the term hokku to describe the old Japanese verse form, because that is not only its original name as used for centuries, but it is also the correct modern academic term. When discussing modern haiku (which I may on occasion need to do), that terminology will refer to the variations of brief verse that were loosely inspired in the 20th century by the old hokku, continuing into the present. When describing the kind of verse that gave rise to the aesthetics of daoku, I will likely refer to it as “old Japanese objective hokku.” I may sometimes loosely refer to individual old Japanese objective hokku — when they fit daoku standards — as “daoku,” but only with the understanding that this is only a convenient aesthetic descriptor, not the original name.
It should gradually become clear through all of this that theoretically, one could read and write daoku with no reference to its roots in the old Japanese hokku at all. No need to know anything of Japanese hokku and its history and aesthetics, as long as the definite aesthetic standards of daoku itself are maintained. There is, however, no need to do that, and old objective Japanese hokku are very helpful in learning the aesthetics and spirit proper to daoku, when translated into the daoku form.
In my view, daoku is a very practical and appropriate way to continue the old objective hokku tradition in our modern world. As the best of that old objective hokku tradition stripped to its essentials, it leaves aside the great weight of baggage that has accumulated around hokku and haiku over the centuries and more specifically in the West, from the mid 20th century onward. It enables a fresh, new beginning, very appropriate to the coming of spring in just a few days from now.
If daoku speaks to your condition, it is there for you. And if you prefer following another path, everyone is free to choose. In any case, those who decide to learn and practice daoku can now happily say goodbye to the ongoing arguments and animosity of the “haiku wars.”