In the run up to the IAFOR Vladimir Devidé Haiku Award 2016, Drago Štambuk explains the importance of the concept, practice and composition of haiku

The haiku is a way of accessing and representing an agenda for the common good, for the common betterment. By definition, the haiku is brief; even tiny. Yet in three short lines, a vast metaphysical expanse opens up: this is the paradox, the shock and the achievement of the haiku. A minimal amount of text charged with infinite space and time. I call this open space, this arena of metaphysics, the haiku consciousness. It is a way of being in harmony with nature, and with one’s own nature. It’s a way of connecting between the world inside and the world outside; of joining our own internal light with the exterior illumination. Imagine what it could mean for our world if haiku consciousness and composition could be globalised, could be generalised, universalised.

Haiku acts as a harmonising force on man’s relation with nature, with the outside world. Especially in an era where disjuncture between man and nature is so pronounced, we should inculcate the noble concepts of haiku, and disseminate the practice as widely as possible. To encourage the global practice of haiku, I think it is crucial to set aside strict rules and limitations of prosody that are not crucial to its composition or aesthetic.

When I proposed the creation of a haiku award in memory of Professor Vladimir Devidé, the pioneer of haiku in Croatia and in the region as a whole, I suggested that modern and traditional haiku should be treated as equals. This is especially crucial for international haiku composition and competition, since not all languages can reflect Japanese syllabic patterns, nor do all climates mirror the four clear seasons which find expression in classical haiku. Insistence on narrow limitations won’t give the haiku room to breathe in other languages, climates, cultures. Haiku is something more universal than its mere formal rules: it is a state of mind and an approach to thought, and as such it cannot be confined to a certain amount of syllables or morae.

Let me explain what I think haiku can do for the spirit. I believe that all the great sacred traditions show that consciousness began with only inner light, in a time when humanity was in union with the Supreme Being and Creator. Corruption originated when people began tasting of the earth and of the outer light. The external world is thus the creation of otherness, which by the same token diminished the essence of our creation by diverting us from God and breaking our union with Him. This is the tension that creates the need for a metaphysical resolution.

The haiku woman or man (rather than the poet) is a person who stands inside that chaotic darkness and waits. This is not an idle way of waiting; it is alert, conscious and focused. What do they wait for? They wait for the lightning to strike – that lightning which illuminates the world around them. To look at the world boldly, in the sudden light of haiku consciousness is to commit an act of love and complete understanding. Looking becomes presence – the gift of seeing, in depth, and with the power of discernment. It is a kind of satori beyond the critical mind and devoid of criticism. Compassion permeates this kind of mindfulness and attentiveness. Haiku leads us in the right direction, homewards, in a process of rediscovery and reassimilation of our compelling and inherent universal values.

Therefore: Vivat haiku! – let’s live in, of and by haiku consciousness and writing. Let’s celebrate its ethical purity, its metaphysical austerity, let’s become the priests and followers of religion called poetry.

Extracted from Haiku Consciousness by Drago Štambuk