Haiku is one of the most mysterious and unique forms of poetry. Created by the Japanese poets centuries ago, haikus are known for their short yet surprisingly concise structure (Addiss, 2012). A typical haiku consists of three lines, the first and third line consisting of five syllables and the second one consisting of seven syllables. Despite this rigid structure, haikus can compete with long poems when it comes to conveying deep philosophical meaning and generating an emotional response in readers. Their abruptness and simplicity, as well as their ability to represent the Eastern wisdom in such a subtle and skillful manner, make this form of poetry extraordinary and inimitable. In this essay, I intend to analyze one of the haikus written by the Japanese modern poet Kijo Murakami.
The selected haiku sounds as follows, “First autumn morning/ the mirror I stare into/ shows my father’s face” (Ueda, 1976, p. 86). The beginning is typical for haikus, as it introduces the setting and time. Three words are enough for the readers to imagine the first autumn morning that came after the bright and sunny summer. It may still be warm outside, but the feeling that the summer has ended is somewhat depressing. It seems that the author uses this line to imply that there will be long autumn and winter days, cold and full of hopelessness and decay. As far as I am concerned, the image of autumn in this haiku represents human senescence. Like nature gradually dies towards the end of the autumn, so a man dies eventually.
The second line introduces the protagonist. We can guess that it is a man, most likely an aging one. Possibly, as if pondering on his age, he looks into the mirror to see the signs of wrinkles on his face. Maybe, he accidentally looked into the mirror while washing his face. In any case, the last line shows that he is amazed by his appearance. He notices that he becomes just like his father. It is not known whether this thought is positive or negative for the protagonist because his feelings are not conveyed in this haiku. Yet, readers are allowed to ponder on the theme of aging and form their own understanding of this haiku. This is what I like the most in this poem and this poetic form in general – they create powerful images and leave a space for philosophical reflection.
Addiss, S. (2012). The art of Haiku: Its history through poems and paintings by Japanese masters. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications.
Ueda, M. (1976). Modern Japanese haiku: An anthology. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.
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