On ants and poets

------------------ by Yoko Sugawa

When ten poets each endeavour to write about an ant, the result should be ten different ant haiku. If any of these haiku resemble another, the poet has only been observing the ant superficially or has based their haiku on their preconceptual image of an ant. Let us look not at our ants but rather into them. Surely the ant will speak to us. Ah!! Now quickly write down what caused that feeling of discovery. This is your ant and yours alone. Your "ant" must now be expressed in a fixed poetic form. In Japanese a count of 17 syllables (5,7,5) is used. This expression should be in your own words, as they come naturally to you. If your haiku has captured a Truth, there is no need to decorate your poem with flowery words. One should, however, keep in mind some of the main characteristics of haiku.

1. To state without stating. In order to say ten things a haiku presents only two. Due to its length, every word is of the utmost importance.

2. A haiku is like a cross-section which gives the observer a new perspective and restimulates their thoughts on the object as a whole.

3. When juxtaposing one must be careful that the two elements do not fit together too well. Their relationship must be "surprising".

4. Seasonal words (kigo) are very important to haiku. However in the modern world where the seasons have lost much of their omnipotency and where we wish to share our haiku internationally a more relaxed stance on kigo may be called for. Kigo need not necessarily place a haiku in any particular season but could rather be included simply to relate the haiku to the natural world.

One cannot make good haiku simply by going about one's life in a day-to-day fashion. It is necessary to hone one's senses to the world around one and take an interest in all things great and small.