Why is haiku so popular? Akito Arima, President of the Haiku International Association, answers a question he is frequently asked
We, the Haiku International Association, wish to make the world peaceful through grassroots exchanges among the world’s lovers of haiku, and are happy to support the Vladimir Devidé Haiku Award and commend its vision. Haiku is a poetry of nature and seasons which embody us all. Writing and sharing haiku can be a powerful way to promote mutual understanding of differences between human beings. I am often asked why haiku is so popular in Japan, and I think there are three main reasons:
1. Haiku is short, and has a fixed form of 5-7-5 Japanese syllables; this style is easy and allows haiku to be accessible to everyone. One can count the syllables on one’s fingers and easily write it on a scrap of paper.
2. Haiku is about nature and the seasons; there is no need to discuss or comment on difficult or delicate issues. To confront is not its goal, but instead to bring harmony.
3. The shortness of haiku enables people to memorise a poem, so it can be appreciated widely and passed down through the generations. Basho’s haiku written in the seventeenth century, for example, is still so vivid in our eyes.
an old pond,
a frog jumps in,
the sound of water.
Basho Matsuo (1644-1694)
In Japan, there are many forests due to our monsoon climate. Nature here is mild and polytheism is still prevalent, preserving an animistic way of thinking in our daily life.
Animism is the idea of respecting all and every creature in nature and living together in harmony. It emphasises the importance of the coexistence of nature and human beings. A poet’s awe for nature, as well as a sympathy and affiliation for plants, animals, mountains, and rivers are found in haiku. In haiku, we stand on an equal level with them. I am very happy to say that Mr. Tomas Tranströmer, the winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature, is also a haiku poet. Haiku is thus becoming more and more popular throughout the world. Through the cooperation of all of the poets in the world, we want to further internationalise haiku to enrich the lives of others.
The power lines
stretched across the kingdom of frost
north of all music
In times of conflict and uncertainty in the world, we still can appreciate our daily life and find beauty there. We should all write haiku and achieve a goal of mutual understanding among ourselves and bring peace to this beautiful planet.