'Straight From the Haijin's Mouth' is one of the features that makes up my haikai column in a fine line, The Magazine of the New Zealand Poetry. This edition is from the September 2011 issue, and is reprinted with the kind permission of Laurice Gilbert, Joanna Preston and Owen Bullock.
Straight From the Haijin's Mouth
I asked this year's NZPS International Haiku Competition Judges, Joanna Preston (Open) and Owen Bullock (Junior), 'What is it about haiku that keeps you coming back for more?'
Joanna Preston's answer: It's less a case of ‘what keeps me coming back’ than haiku refusing to let me go in the first place! Every few years I decide I want to leave the genre alone for a while, but something will happen that just can’t be expressed in any other form, or that announces itself to me that way. And then I'm astounded all over again at the depth and complexity of the genre. For me it's that shock of recognition, of purpose, of rightness, that’s crucial in all poetry, but most powerfully concentrated in haiku. And there’s no better training for a poet – to be precise, to be good at recognising exactly what elements of a scene or experience are the really important ones, and to be as supple in meaning and frugal in expression as possible. You feel the really good ones in your body, as a physical impact, as well as in your mind. So maybe my need for haiku is a form of addiction, the way runners can come to crave the endorphin high. Or maybe it's the nuclear physics of poetry – the power to blow the world apart packed into a tiny, seemingly innocuous package.
Read more from Joanna on her blog – A Dark Feathered Art
Owen Bullock's answer: I love the variety that is possible in haiku, and the depth that is sometimes held by such few words. That depth is like a lake, you can swim on the surface or dive deep, chase sticks or skim stones. But it is always about what is real, what is experienced, grounded in sensation. The technique is hidden; the approach of the best haiku so subtle that it is as if no effort goes into it, that it tumbles out of the sky fully formed. Haiku takes me by surprise more often than other forms of poetry.
My own search as a poet is for truth and simplicity. Truth, in this context, means a faithfulness to what actually occurred. The simplicity required to frame the experience is a great lesson and training ground for any and all writing.
waiting . . .
a leaf falls
into my lap
~from wild camomile
Read more from Owen on his website