SEEN IN A NEW WAY

I often mention that to improve your writing of hokku — and it applies equally to daoku — objective hokku — write about things seen in a new way, from a different perspective.  That can turn something ordinary into something interesting.

Here is an example:

On the tree,
All the leaves fluttering;
A summer breeze.

It is an honest hokku; it reflects what really happens, and it is an experience of the senses.  The problem is that it is a very ordinary way of looking at the event.  And if we write about things as they very ordinarily appear, it means our verses are likely to lack interest and depth and freshness.

Look, however, at what happens when we approach the same subject from a different perspective — when we see it in a new way:

On the ground,
All the leaf shadows fluttering;
A summer breeze.

Notice that we have done nothing to change the ordinariness of the things contained in the daoku.  There is nothing unusual about leaves, or their fluttering, or a summer breeze.  What has changed is our perspective, in moving our focus from the leaves on the tree to their shadows on the ground.

When we do this, we suddenly feel a sense of deeper significance — and that is because we are experiencing a common event in a new way.  It gives us a sense of freshness and depth that we do not find in the first example. It awakens our inner sense of surprise, and we suddenly realize, as Blyth said, that the experience tells us something we have known, but did not know that we knew. It is a kind of “little enlightenment.”

2 thoughts on “SEEN IN A NEW WAY

  1. Juanito Escareal (ito)

    Thank you for sharing, David. This reminds me of one I composed:

    windy day–
    a flock of shadows
    flies by

    Some haiku or daoku poets consider “shadow” as a kigo for summer. Here’s another one of mine:

    a ferry
    crosses under the bridge
    under its shadow

    REPLY:
    In contemporary hokku/daoku, we do not use kigo — season words. We just use a seasonal heading. And of course these are not in standard hokku form — but use a format often seen in modern haiku– no punctuation, no capitalization. Contemporary hokku/daoku uses both.

  2. A “little enlightenment”… I like that! It is interesting how a simple change in perspective can “improve” the hokku. Very nice, David! Thanks!

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