Posted in Essay, General Interest, Liz Rice-Sosne, Poems/Poetry, poetry, Spiritual Practice, Writing

Haiku – A Spiritual Experience

600px-Poecile-atricapilla-001I am sitting here trying to remember what prompted me to write one haiku per day during the first 6 months of 2012.  I was ill, that was the first reason for doing so.  I wished to remain connected to my writing community, keep alive my connection with the friends that I had met online.  I knew that I could not manage an article daily so I needed to write something short.  I decided that haiku was the answer.  Was there any shorter form of poetry?  The learning and the writing that year became for me a spiritual experience.  It taught me to see the world through a new and different lens.  I am so grateful for this experience

I have always been drawn to haiku even when young.  What can be said in 17 syllables, those three short lines of 5, 7, 5 syllables?  It would be easy – just compose three short lines of poetry a day.  Those thoughts will tell you just how little I knew of haiku when I began.  Experience has shown me that many Americans have little knowledge of haiku seeing it simply as three lines of poetry with the 5-7-5-syllable count.  If seen this way the reader and writer of haiku will never be fully satisfied.

The first thing that one should know is that the syllable count fits Japanese words or syllables.  Japanese words or syllables are nothing like English language syllables.  When attempting to write a haiku there are many things to consider before considering the word count.  The second thing that I learned is that it is often written in one line.  Just one.  In Japan that line is often written from top to bottom.  It is vertical.  I do not write vertically.

Poignancy in haiku is important.  The most important thing about haiku for me is very hard to put into language.  For I see haiku as a language all its own.   A haiku ties things together.  Haiku conveys the depths of nature’s beauty and its power.  Haiku shows ones relationship with nature.  One haiku can express in a few words what it might take a psychologist an entire magazine article to profess.  Haiku can evoke within the reader new understanding.  I equate haiku to light.  It can dazzle in brightness.  It can illuminate a path.  It can act as a halo separating yet conjoining reader and writer through the poem.  You are placed within the poem.  Haiku connects the ancient with the modern, the light with the dark, and nature with man/womankind.

The book to which I turn most often for reference is “The Haiku Handbook, How To Share Write and Teach Haiku,” by William J. Higginson.  I would go so far as to say that he has he has “lived” haiku, making his teachings easy to understand and to apply.  When writing haiku my goal is to be living in the moment, to be “living haiku.”  It is a spiritual moment.  I wish to express that moment to you so that you feel what I feel.  I believe Higginson tells us that haiku is about the eloquence of sharing those feelings.  It is easy to say to your friend: “the sky is beautiful.”  But in doing so, you do not really convey what you feel.   Nor are you conveying any degree of real beauty.  According to Higginson, when we share the depths of what we feel through haiku we are building community.   What more important act is there?

The first thing that I do when writing a haiku is search for a kigo.  A kigo is a season word and mandatory in haiku.  Your haiku should be driven by what you feel for your subject and your choice of kigo.   I view the kigo as an anchor.  There are numerous kigo databases online.  New words are always being added.

We have just experienced a foot of snow here in the midwest.  The last time we had so much snow was 1982.  This is an immense weather event here.  Along with subzero temperatures accompanied by wind many of us are pretty much homebound.  I would like to share this large weather experience with you by writing a haiku.  I edit and re-edit before I am happy with them.  Each of these are a part of my process for creating one haiku.

wall of snow – broken branches dangling from trees (this sounds awkward to me)


deep white snow – hidden branches (this coveys little feeling)


drifting snow – a chickadee’s cap (this possesses the essence of what I am looking for)

Final haiku:

blowing drifting snow – chickadee’s black cap

– Liz Rice-Sosne

© 2013, essay, Liz Rice-Stone, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ Black-capped Chickadee via Wikipedia and under CC A-SA 3.0 unported license

unnamed-2LIZ RICE-SOSNE a.k.a. Raven Spirit (noh where), perhaps the oldest friend to Bardo, is the newest member of The Bardo Group Core Team. She is also our new Voices for Peace project outreach coordinator and our go-to person for all things related to haiku.  She says she “writes for no reason at all. It is simply a pleasure.” Blogging, mostly poetry, has produced numerous friends for whom she has a great appreciation. Liz is an experienced blogger, photographer and a trained shaman. We think her middle name should be “adventure.”


Old, crafty, stylish, shape shifter, loyal, kind, takes no prisoners nor any B.S. But sometimes, just feels old! Still in love with her best friend to whom she has been married for 38 years and known for 43. But now he is sorta grumpy.

11 thoughts on “Haiku – A Spiritual Experience

  1. Loved your post! I so admire the traditional haiku form. When I’m stressed or fatigued and it’s too hard to push my brain I amuse myself with “eaux du haiku”:

    Spiritually play
    brain relaxing, soul smiling
    hijacking haiku


  2. scillagrace – you are right about structure at least with me. If I focus in upon the structure, the rhyme, the length of a stanza or any other form, I often end up with something that looks great and says nothing. My questions are always what do I have to say, how can I say it well and in as few words as possible? Thank you.


  3. Thanks, Liz, for your response. I want to get better at recognizing how and when to leave structure behind, so your example is another instructive illustration. Funny how structure is actually the easy way out, not the more difficult! (at least for me)


  4. Your posts are always so well constructed. Thank you, Raven Spirit. Capturing the essence of a thing on s few words is a treat of a task. You do it marvellously! And I loved seeing the process of how you got there.


  5. Scillagrace thank you for you comment. This last haiku is the manner in which I write a one line haiku. I rarely ever use the 5-7-5 standard. I believe that is probably the influence of a blogger friend Yousei Hime who blogs at Shiteki Na Usagi. Why do I use a – (dash)? I do not need to do so. But I do it to define that poignant moment in haiku. It is a bit like saying: “Wow we have so much snow today! But I can still see life out there as I can see the chickadee’s black cap while he digs in the snow.” Or perhaps my thoughts were: “OMG there is so much snow today, I am all cooped up! Yet, I see a chickadee digging for seeds so it is not as bad as it seems.” Have I answered your question?


  6. Please educate me, Liz. Your final haiku seems to only have 2 lines with 5 syllables. What am I missing? And I love the two-note descending major 2nd song of the black capped chickadee…it’s such a cheerful reminder of his simple presence.


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