Haiku and the AHA moment

When writing haiku, many poets claim that you must have what is called an “aha” moment. This occurs mainly due to something called juxtaposition. For example, take a look at this haiku from Japanese master Basho:

Not a traveler

brave this way –

autumn night

It consists of 3 lines. The first 2 lines describe something specific. In this case, you are describing something that is not happening, that is, there are no people on a road. In line 3 we have the setting “autumn night”. The aha moment occurs when we read the haiku as a whole and go back and forth between line 1 and lines 2 and 3. This juxtaposition makes one hopefully stop and wonder how the lines are related to each other. .

Because haiku is such a small poem, it is not difficult to do this. Many modern haiku poets insist that you must have this aha moment or you will not be writing haiku. I do not agree. I think haiku can be snapshots of something and that’s it! I like to call this an “ah” moment where instead of seeing how clever or cute the poet is in his use of juxtaposition, we get a more zen experience. For example, look at this haiku poem by Canadian poet Bruce Ross:

Be quiet –

The snow covered rock

Under the winter stars

Here we have something a little different. The contrast between line 1 and lines 2 and 3 is not that different. What this haiku does so well is give us what I like to call a “sentiment image”. We have the feeling of being there. There is no attempt to create the aha moment because the poet does not want to surprise us. He just wants to show us what he felt! A huge difference in focus and one that I wholeheartedly support!

When I read haiku, I don’t want surprises or work. I don’t want to spend 3 minutes trying to figure out what the poet means. I want to experience the state of mind! I want the experience directly and the previous haiku gives it to me.

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