marlene mountain
september 1986


haiku and nature and the nature of haiku (once again)

Is haiku many things to many people? Not yet. Slowly though we are finding our personhood in our poems. We are becoming real now--though not quite as real as Issa's fleas. And, as yet, we are not completely honest in our haiku--primarily in our response to nature.

Is haiku, indeed, about nature? Some readers of my recent haiku might not think that my answer is 'yes.' But it is. Yes, haiku is concerned with nature and, yes, I am concerned with nature. My primary concern is that nature is no longer nature--no longer the nature that inspired Basho or Wordsworth or even more modern poets.

Like it or not, if we are honest, we cannot say 'rain' without being aware of acid rain; 'tree' without being aware of deforestation; 'haze' without pollution; 'sea' without oil spills and toxic waste dumping; 'insects' without insecticides; 'water' without shortage and contamination; 'land' without erosion and dangerous chemicals in our food supply; 'river' without factory waste and plastic jugs; 'air' without ozone depletion and nuclear energy leaks; 'climate' without the greenhouse effect; 'animals' without extinction and loss of natural habitat; 'life' itself without the threat of nuclear war; and 'human' (I, personally, make no distinction between haiku and senryu, and nature and human nature) without poverty and starvation, racism, sexism, overpopulation, increasing violence, industrial diseases, and oppressive governments and religions. Whew.

If we are poets/artists, and therefore observers, we cannot ignore Reality. If, indeed, haiku are those 'moments keenly perceived,' we have much to write. Perhaps we will even be heard. Perhaps our observations can make a difference in the direction nature is being forced.

acid rain less and less i am at one with nature *

* less and less nature is nature

Yes, haiku is about nature. Yes, I write about nature--what it has come to be. But I long for old-fashion Nature. How sweet it was.


* one-line haiku with one-line haiku 'footnote' from a sequence, 'free country' in 'pissed off poems and cross words' 1986

Hiroaki Sato, HAIKU IN ENGLISH: A POETIC FORM EXPANDS, Simul Press, Tokyo, 1987;
Modern Haiku 19:3 1988


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