Haiku Chat 1 ~ AUM


I invite you to casually attend the transcript of the following chat between myself [S] and Narayanan [N]. It is a chat about a haiku that was written today (20th of June 2006).


[S]: blyth's books are great

[N]: yes

[N]: but about the west he simplifies sometimes ~

[N]: he writes excellent prose

[S]: i see

[S]: yes

[N]: but he is surely delightful reading

[N]: many criticisms have been levied against him


We are referring to “Haiku” volumes 1 and 2, by R.H. Blyth. These were gifted to me by Narayanan last year. It has since served well as a common source for chats about haiku. The topic came up again randomly, then sort of digressed.


[N]: http://www.wonderhaikuworlds.com/haikufromphoto.php?image=105

[S]: how long it is the spring day

[S]: this is a good photo

[N]: it is very simple but there is a depth that comes if you focus your eyes at infinity

[S]: yes

[N]: then the details are very clear

[S]: it is like an illusion

[N]: actually this was something i thought was too plain


The photo was posted some days previously. In the flurry of photos posted, it went almost unnoticed. Such is the quality of the photo. N brought it again to my attention perhaps just randomly, or intent to spread a mood of “Tranquility”. My response was a haiku.


[S]: the sky cascades / [on] wave after wave / to the empty shore

[N]: just check and post

[S]: i'll keep [on]

[N]: yes i thought

[N]: no remove it

[N]: no

[N]: sorry

[N]: i find some problem

[S]: me too

[S]: not sure

[N]: a comma after on

[N]: okay


This is typical of the spontaneous editorial portion of a haiku chat. At least one follows every haiku that is shared. These dialogues may well sound funny and illegible out of context -- since there is underneath, an unspoken code of haiku discussion nurtured over the last few years.


Where the haijin is doubtful about a choice of words or the necessity for a word, he encloses the word in [brackets]. By that is understood a surrender of the choice to discussion.


The haijin may have some degree of preference which he will yet conceal till the verdict of his friend’s impression. More often than not, there is a consensus – the preference that the haijin concealed is the same one his friend reveals – and that is the sure sign of the inevitable choice. Other times a friendly debate is necessary to chisel out a perfect form and polish the haiku to shine.


The effort itself elucidates and the perfect haiku fulfills.


[S]: is cascades okay

[S]: yes

[N]: yes it is

[N]: that suits the photo ~ i also saw sunlight coming wave after wave

[S]: empty [seamless]


The nuances of a choice sometimes become clearer through comparing the universes of each candidate word. If this seems like a vain technical indulgence, dear reader, remember this is one of the shorter chats that N and I have had about a single word or detail of a haiku. We are indeed obsessively careful, but to our own delight!


[N]: empty is better i think

[S]: okay

[N]: empty has no dimension

[S]: yes

[N]: it is great vastness

[N]: seamlessness is a property of emptiness

[S]: yes

[S]: i see

[N]: seamless is not necessarily empty

[S]: true

[S]: something vast and full can be seamless

[S]: like the sky

[S]: or ocean

[N]: yes or light

[S]: yes

[N]: or mantrams

[N]: or pranvam

[N]: you could almost hear it

[S]: hear what?

[S]: ocean?

[N]: pranvam

[N]: now ?

[S]: i see

[S]: yes

[S]: almost

[N]: infinite pre-oprimordial spandas make each breath

[N]: of each being

[N]: actually pranavam[om ] echoes everywhere

[S]: i see

[N]: today we have discussed one haiku for a photo. ~


The haiku after this discussion:


the sky cascades

on, wave after wave

to the empty shore


How much the experience of the haiku is itself enhanced by the discussion. How much richer the words have become from the associations gathered during the chat.


[N]: what about haiku chats ~ get going with the possibility

[S]: yes !

[S]: i must

[S]: yes

[S]: i could make this the first

[N]: yes you could and go backwards

[N]: tell also that many chats are lost and not saved !

[S]: yes

[S]: true


This is the first of a series of haiku chats between Narayanan and I that I will be annotating and posting as a feature. The tradition of chatting about haiku has continued for almost as long as we have been friends. It is a frequent though spontaneous ritual that has produced many good haiku over these years. We hope that they are interesting in themselves including the many meta and humourous digressions; they may also inspire other haijin to develop the attitude of open and friendly discussion that has proven fruitful to our unofficial school of haiku. They also trace the school’s development and blossoming into what it is today.


The day after this first chat and the essay was written, we revisited the haiku.


[N] curiously this haiku has no kigo or explicit kireji ~ but we have universal all seasonal kigo[!] sky and sea and emptiness. the comma after "on" serves as the kireji

[N] it has the feel of repetition of the same event endlessly ~ a sense of eternity.

[S] i see ~ true

[N] surely there is wabi-sabi invoked too especially by the "empty shore" ~

[S] i also wrote it by sound

[S] i was seeking the ocean's sound in the words


[N] yes you can feel the hum of the sea[ocean] on the empty beach ~

[S] i think many haiku come out like that

[S] i would notice it from now

[N] Incidentally in trying to provide the missing kigo i thought of this change summer sky cascades on, wave after wave ~ But it destroys the spontaneity and looks falsely induced ! Just noting! Do you have any thing to say?

[N] it is not so bad after all!! ? perhaps!

[S] hang on

[S] yes it's good

[N] no "the sky" is vaster and more general ~ We are in A dilemma!?

[S] let me check

[N] yes you choose it goes

[N] it brings in heat

[N] summer


[N] there is alliteration summer sky

[S] yes that too

[S] i feel like keeping it

[N] yes

[N] so do i


We settled on this as the final version of the haiku:


summer sky cascades
on, wave after wave
to the empty shore


Adding summer improved the rhythm of the haiku, added sensory ambience and opened it up vastly.


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