It is with great respect for the haiku tradition that I present myself here today. I feel myself almost like a newcomer to this form of expression, but you can possibly relate to this poetry from your own original approach and thereby see your own experience in a new perspective.
Since I was ten years old I have been moved by the wonderful world of words, of putting life into words, to express all that touched my heart and mind and everything that is impossible to express in dailylanguage, the short sense of a moment, which is fleetingly here only to disappear having touched the soul.
In the period 1974 - 94 I wrote many poems, at first long prosepoems, which in time became shorter and shorter to end up as ”stockcubes” of what I wanted to express.
They were short poems and epigrams with few or many syllables and one or several lines. f.ex.
Above the city rooves
bringing a stride to a halt
which live on
when grief over absence
and there's a smile on my lips
At that time I was particularly inspired by the Danish poets Erik Stinus, Dan Turéll and Peter Laugesen.
For many years I mostly wrote books for children and youngsters. Poems took up very little space in my universe.
First in 2006 a tiny little book - no bigger than a match-box suddenly appeared in my life. It contained haiku poems written by the Danish writers Hanne Hansen and Sys Mathiesen, who both took the initiative to create the haiku-writers group in The Danish Author's Society and whose work has meant a great deal for the development of this form of poetry in Denmark. Hanne Hansen is still our chairman. Sys Mathiesen is unfortunately no longer among us. Peace be with her.
From that day my haiku-awakening moved forward, embracing both the elements of huge fun and curiousity and many new names turned up in my poetic world, first of all the Danish haiku writers, especially Niels Kjær, who also taught me about Basho, Issa and Buson.
One haiku after another was born – and all of you know exactly what that means. It becomes a passion. When you are waiting here or there, for a bus or a train, a friend or a loved one, in an office, or standing in line in a shop, or maybe like here at a festival, when you have heard enough and need a creative pause. It sneaks into your life. You look around, you recognise your surroundings, scents, colours, forms, faces, nature, actions taking place and suddenly your lips begin to move creating sentences and when you see a human being doing this – you know immediately that here we have a haiku-writer.
In October 2011 I decided to look at my around 200 haiku – and in February 2012 75 of them were printed in this little book. In the darkness rests the light The following two haiku are from this book and have been translated from Danish:
A hope from the heart
Of love in the world of man
War moans audibly.
Yon blackbird flirts in sweet song
A heart melts right now
When we got the invitation to participate it was time to try making haiku in English, which is absolutely not my first language!
But on a trip to Paris, I found a very interesting book in the old Shakespeare Company booktrade: Global Haiku – Twenty-five Poets World-wide, Mosaic Press, NY, 2000, edited by George Swede and Randy Brooks and in this book I discovered that many of the English haikus are written as were my first short poems, meaning not necessarily 17 syllables in 3 lines.
This was a revelation, because now I'd returned to the realisation that it is meaning, as the essential poetic element, which controls the real or perceived moment and often sets the rules for the poem's form.
Secondly, when spoken, the haiku should be approximately one breath-length.
Once again I began to turn the pages in the book, Global Haiku, as well as in my own little book with these, for me, new criteria in mind. Did they satisfy those criteria? Yeah, but not all of them.
So now I have a lot more to discover – before I can call myself an accomplished haikupoet.
In 1967 Henderson said:
”There is as yet no complete unanimity among American poets(or editors) as to what constitutes a haiku in English – how it differs from other poems which may be equally short. In other words, haiku in English are still in their infancy.”
In Global Haiku (edited in 2000) George Swede examines the eight classical criteria and shows, that only five still remain crucial today.
1)The haiku must be brief, that is when read aloud it should be one breath-length long
2)The haiku must express a sense of awe or transcendent insight
3)The haiku must involve some aspect of nature other than human nature
4)The haiku must posses sense images, not generalizations
5)The haiku must present an event as happening now, not in the past or in the future.
My research until now shows that most of the Danish haiku follow the original Japanese-inspired haiku : 5-7-5 syllables in 3 lines. They can be arranged symmetrically, which is a neat way of indicating the two short pauses necessary for making the implied comparison between two things or events as we haven't the kireji or a cutting word or suffix (afledningsendelse) in Danish. This works very well (I think) in the Danish language, but a shorter form regarding breath-length works too. So it's up to the individual to choose.
In the sunrise
You are the sunbeam
The sun has come
and the deck-chair
is waiting for
a moment of zen
The ultimate pleasure is when a poem soars into the eye of the hurricane and lifts the mind of the reader to a level of transcendental insight. Not that esay... Ann Mari Urwald 2013
The argumentation for this summary can be red in
Global Haiku-Twentyfive Poets World-wide,
Mosaic Press in USA, 2000
4500 Witmer Industrial Estates
PMB 145, Niagara Falls
When I first met Henderson.
I was very young when I visited Japan for the first time. It was in 1961. I was on board a Danish
ship as a wireless-operator, and we were bound Moji in the southern part of Japan.
I found everything so interesting and beautiful and was fascinated and strongly moved by Japan,
and I loved the country from my very first visit.
Later in the years to come, I was still sailing as a wireless-operator and visited many different ports
and cities in Japan.
During my stays in Japan, I became interested in the culture of the country and found out that there were some small poems called Haiku.
My mother gave me a book with Haiku-poems by Hans -Jørgen Nielsen, a Danish writer, who as the first for 50 years ago,in 1963, was writing about Haiku. In his book, there was the very first
Haiku-collection in Denmark, all the great classic poets from Japan were represented. -Translated
or re-created into Danish.
Then it all started. I read Haiku, tried to write some, but I had a lot to learn. But once I was in Japan
still on board a ship , I had some trouble with my radio station, which called for technical assistance from a Japanese firm in Kobe. It was back in 1968, and I asked the technician if he
knew the poetry called Haiku.---- What a question to ask a Japanese about!! Of course he knew
the Haiku-poems, and when he returned the next day to finish the work, he had a little book with him by Harold G. Henderson, with the title “Haiku in English”, from the manager of the firm, together with a dinner invitation.
That little book became an eye-opener, and here I read about all the rules concerning Haiku-poems, and learned that Haiku was a 5-7-5 poem, dealing with nature, and happening now.
Who was that man Harold Gould Henderson, whose little book became my follower through the
years, and still is?
Harold G. Henderson was born in 1889 and died 1974. He was an American academic, an art
historian and Japanologist. In 1910 he earned a degree at Columbia University , and continued his
studies in Japan between 1930 and 1934. For twenty years he was a professor at Columbia University, and from 1948 through 1952 , he was president of The Japan Society in New York .
He was also an assistant curator of The Far East Department of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City back in 1927-1929. During the second world war he was doing military service in Japan.
In Tokyo he was an adviser on education and art, and was working together with R. H. Blyth
(another great writer about Haiku) Blyth is known for his great work in 4 volumes about Haiku.
Preparing this paper on Haiku, I read the book “An Introduction to Haiku by Henderson, and was moved by Basho´s poem, when he twenty years after his beloved master and playmate Lord Sengin
had died, again was standing under the cherry trees, where they had spent so many happy hours.
Standing there with his heart so full of memories, he was unable to write a normal poem, but could only say:
Many many things
they bring to mind-
I do find this outburst a real good poem, and I am convinced that everybody, who is writing Haiku have written about cherries. And me too! I am not going to compare myself with Basho or other
of the great masters – not at all- but here is one of my own about cherries.
a link to life
at the cemetery
In 1679 Basho wrote a verse which was taken as a model by other Haiku poets, more for its technique than its content.
On a withered branch
a crow has settled-
This Haiku was of course associated to Basho's name, but the best known Haiku from Basho came in 1689, and is known by all of us. I need not say more than:
In Henderson's book I also found The name of a female Haiku poet, which I didn't know.
Chiyo (1701-1775). There were different opinions about her verses , but Henderson stated “that she was a true poet, but not a Haiku master.” Her poem after her little son died, he mentioned as one of her finest ones. In Henderson's translation into English he uses rhyme (which is not allowed in Haiku, and which I think one shouldn't use. But of course it is a nice rhyme, and here it comes.
The dragonfly hunter-
today, what place has he
got to, I wonder.
It has also been translated in rhyme by Curtis Hidden Page in a very beautiful way.
I wonder in what fields today
He chases dragonflies in play
My little boy-who ran away.
Basho and Buson were called “ The two pillars of Haiku”, and one of Buson's wonderful Haiku
about a temple and a butterfly is also one of my favourite ones :
On the temple bell
has settled , and is fast asleep
As everybody knows Buson was also a painter, and made very beautiful “pictures “in his
I too like to write about butterflies, which is again common for many Haiku poets.
Through the open door
a butterfly is visiting
staying for a while.
As I mentioned before ,- I have been in Kobe , and there on a rainy day many years ago I met the extreme politeness of the Japanese people, which I have caught in the following Haiku.
I have to tell you that it happened twice, on the same route this rainy day in Kobe:
offers his umbrella
rain in Kobe.
There are so many great Haiku masters who ought to be mentioned , and also quoted here,
but the time does not allowed it.
I am going to finish this paper with another of my own poems.
bringing people together
all over the world.
Thank you Mr. Henderson , for taking me into the wonderful world of Haiku , and thank you to all of you for listening.
Thank you very much.
C. Andersen, Issa and me.
When I was a kid, it was not only a country but
also a kingdom with a king, and he had a daughter who is
now queen and who also,
once in a while, still puts the royal crown on.
Today, although I'm not much of a royalist, I do not
really know whether I prefer a president instead of a
king. In a time when everything is so polarized and
without visions and nuances in our so-called European
Community, which now is as wobbly as a ramshackle house
in Andersen's adventure, it is quite a difficult
political decision. The story of the Emperor's new
clothes, has become a new current affair - as the little
boy in the story said: "Mom, he has no clothes
I too have worked with improvisation in my career
as a jazz singer, and I feel a certain kinship with the
poetry in Andersen's art. He said of his work: "
Short, clear and truthful it should be, only then it
becomes art", and it leads in a natural way like an
invisible thread to the little big haiku poem.
I like Issa for his keen interest in the people from the lowest class, who he was surrounded by, portraying their lives with great sympathy and a sharp eye. He was also, as a haikai poet probably is, very good at observing himself from the outside. Here's a humorous self-portrait, though the humour and irony sometimes had a twist of mockery. 2 "Autumn wind / a beggar looks at me / then at himself"
I came in close contact with the Haiku Group of the Danish Writers Association and was inspired by Hanne Hansen to read "Dew on the Grass”. I felt no distance in time relative to the poems, which seemed to me to be written by a contemporary poet, which is quite unique.
The short reflective poems have always attracted me, ever since I began as a shy and introspective teenager writing only for the drawer. From the beginning I have also been interested in the great painters, particularly the ones who cut to the bone - Picasso, Miro and the adventurous painter Paul Klee, who has inspired art and poetry.
Being in a haiku moment, displaying it in a poem, for me is a meditative way to live life in the presence, with gratitude and sometimes forgiveness, and that you can spend a whole lifetime. Andersen has written about it, and Issa has shown the way.
At about the same time, when I
published my first and up until now, only haiku
collection in Danish, "Leaves Dripping" in
2007, I was asked to,
and had the great pleasure, to read from
Kobayashi Issa's "Dugdråbeverden"
at the annual Bookforum in Copenhagen. The collection
was published by "House Publishers" in 2006,
selected and translated by journalist and historian 3
Petersen. He has translated Issa's poem:
"A flock of
sparrows / And not one of them is the stepchild
", and here he is exactly at the crux of the
matter of Issa's life. The poems in the collection date
from after his return home from wandering in the
provinces as a 51 year old man in 1814, when, through a
settlement, he took over half of his ancestral farm.
Basho’s and Issa’s relation to wander was very different. For Issa, it was not an exercise in being alone, a discipline of giving up, as it was for Basho. But on the other hand, "the way" was a ribbon to the meeting with the other person. He sought relationships, just as Andersen sought relationships.
I can easily identify myself with this. The creation of relationships is the very core of life, precisely as a feeling of genuine fellowship is something to be fought for; almost something fatal. 4"Reddish-yellow leafs / the forest's playful face / always the same".
Reality is one side of the art, the feeling
completes it, and if you have been affected, that
feeling is passed on to others, at all times.
Anthology "Haiku Workshop in Copenhagen, in January
2008, with Colin Blundell. (Hub Editions, Hand Made in
"Dew on the Grass", p.55. The Life and Poetry
of Kobayashi Issa by Makoto Ueda.
Petersen, born 1943, translator since 1965 of Asian
languages. 4 Haiku, my journey to
Bindlach, Bayreuth, Germany 2007.
ripples in Danish poetry
By Thorvald Berthelsen
In 1853 Japanese leaders opened the country for trade. This meant that Japanese culture became accessible to foreigners. Haiku were spread all over the world in the 160 years which have passed since then – even to our country Denmark.
In 1958 the Danish tennis champion, jazz critic and writer Torben Ulrich published the first Danish translations of Japanese haiku in the periodical Bazar, which he edited together with the Danish poet Jørgen Gustava Brandt. Amongst them was the famous Basho haiku on the pond and the frog. He translated the ending sound with the Danish onomatopoeia, “Blop”, which is still the best translation of that particular sound.
Torben Ulrich, himself a Zen Buddhist, and Jørgen Gustava Brandt were inspired by the American Beat poets and their revival of the American haiku tradition from the Imagists combined with Zen Buddhism. Specifically by the publishing of “The Darma Bums” by Jack Kerouac. In that novel a character based on Gary Snyder writes a lot of haiku.
The year before Jørgen Gustava Brandt published his collection of lyrics, Trails of the dragon, where probably the first haiku inspired poem in Danish was printed:
This didn’t spread the Danish awareness of haiku very far. It was the publication of “haiku” in 1963 by Hans- Jørgen Nielsen that triggered the broader haiku influence on modern Danish poetry. He had translated large samples of the Japanese haiku masters from German, English and French translations. This also meant that he neglected the formal syntax and rules of classical Japanese haiku. He translated them into the “broken” syntax of modern poetry.
One of the greatest modern Danish poets, Ivan Malinovski, imidiately responded to this by in 1965 writing and publishing a whole book of short poems inspired by haiku, “Poetomatic”. In it he wrote poems that question the Zen Buddhist and introvert tradition in haiku. And he develops the short lyrics into modern civilization critical poems. In a section of Poetomatic he prints Hans-Jørgen Nielsens translation of a Buson haiku on one page and writes a poem with his own comment on the opposite page:
During the 70/80es of the 20th century Dan Turell, Klaus Høeck and Peter Laugesen where strongly influenced by the American Beat poets, Zen Buddhism and haiku. Peter Laugesen wrote several haiku poems mixed in between his other poems in his different books of poems. And he has continued doing so throughout his authorship. For example this one in “Blues” from 1977:
As the literary scholar Anne Borup has pointed out: The Danish literary critics didn’t recognize the literary renewal, because they didn’t see or understand haiku. Erik Skyum-Nielsen wrote about one of his haiku “It could have been the start of a poem. But alas Laugesen lets the lines stand alone, like the following short sight:”
As always with Laugesen his poem is rooted in everyday experience. Here: laundry hung out to dry in cold weather. The sight makes you associate to flat or flying fish and flower heads, and the poem jumps abruptly into a surreal image: winterfish in bloom. It is haiku and imagism at once. And it captures the essence of haiku. It is a snapshot of the moment in its microcosmic unikness.
In 1982 Susanne Jorn published her haiku translations directly from the Japanese in “Efter blæsten”. It contains translations closer to the original of the same haiku masters, whom Hans-Jørgen Nielsen had published In 1963.
In the 90’es Pia Tafdrup wrote haiku inspired short poems, and authors like Susanne Brøgger, Hanne Hansen, Viggo Madsen and Lone Munksgaard Nielsen wrote haiku or published haiku books. Lone Munksgaard Nielsen has written "Rimgræs" (2003), in which the following haiku appears:
The poem is compliant with the 5 -7 - 5 syllables rhythm, but the classic themes from the original haiku is gone, although the poem is about the entry into a Zen-insight in the essence of everything, a cosmic overall awareness.
In 2002 The Haiku Group of the Danish Authors’ Society was founded by Hanne Hansen, Niels Kjær, Kate Larsen and Sys Matthiesen, who are all avid haiku poets. Hanne Hansen, who was also the initiator of the group, writes even exclusively haiku. She has also released several collections. Since then a lot of haiku books has been published in Danish.
A large selection of haiku by Kobayashi Issa has been translated and published by Arne Herløv Petersen and 2 books of Basho haiku translations have been published by Niels Kjær
In 2011 the Haiku Group of the Danish Authors’ Society published their 10th anniversary anthology Blade i Vinden (Leaves in the Wind).
In 2012, the Danish haiku group had the opportunity to meet with Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, who is well known for his love of haiku and for publishing his own book of haiku in 2010.
On that occasion the group made a supplement in English and Danish to Blade i Vinden. Danish Haiku Today 2012 is an extended edition, which includes more poems as well as more poets. It introduces the English-speaking world to 28 contemporary Danish haiku poets.
Some of the Danish haiku poets address nature, the seasons, cherry blossoms and other subjects addressed by the Japanese haiku masters. And they do so in a more classical haiku language and syntax. These are all examples of this:
Others are deeply integrated in the ways of expression of modern Danish poetry and don’t comply with most of the rules of the Japanese haiku tradition:
Johannes S. H. Bjerg
In the development of Danish haiku the Beat poets of America and even Zen Buddhism have played a smaller and smaller part. There are several different opinions about what a haiku is amongst both the Danish and the American-European haiku poets. Some use rhymes, metaphores, titles and other poetic expressions, foreign to the classical Japanese haiku forms. The key is that haiku poems put a momentary experience into perspective in its microcosm and expands the experience. And whether they write classical inspired or more modern haiku Danish haiku poets are all more or less deeply influenced by modern Danish poetry from the last 60 years.
Haiku in Danish: A Theory of Poetry
By: Bo Lille, Denmark
Honoured Hosts, honoured Friends of the haiku!
Today I am to tell you about my theory of haiku, - and its background.
Before my first collection of haiku was published, in 2005, I studied various theories of haiku. They contained many demands as to the contents and themes a good haiku should have. Some were reasonable, others not really.I shall mention a few of these demands: The rule of 5-7-5, the demand that a haiku should contain a reference to nature, the demand that it has to deal with a specific happening, the demand that it has to be written in the present tense, the demand that a haiku must not rhyme, the demand that titles are not allowed, and that it has to refer to a specific time of year which - by the way - should not be mentioned.
At the same time I read many good poems of 5 -7- 5 syllables that did not live up to those demands. Some might deal with the “wrong” themes, some were not in the present tense, others were more general, perhaps they did not refer to a specific time of year, a few were rhymed, and so on. – But I could see no good reason not to call them haiku, for what other genre was left for them, if they were not accepted as haiku?
Officially those poor poems were genreless, it seems. - In a way, we were caught in a kind of a theoretical dead end, a conception of the word haiku that was much too narrow, and excluded some existing poems from the genre, although they were in fact good haiku.
I did not find that situation reasonable.
Although most of the above-mentioned demands were in themselves reasonable, it seemed necessary to change them, but that would of course have to happen without changing the demands to the classical Japanese haiku.
How could this be done?
My solution was the following:
In my first collection of haiku, ”Haiku in Danish”, I published a theory, in which I suggested that we should recognize all poems of 5-7-5 as haiku, while accepting that the genre of haiku consists of a number of subgenres.
In my theory the GENRE HAIKU is like an umbrella which contains all poems of 5-7-5, and which contains a number of SUBGENRES. To these belong the traditional Japanese haiku, as well as haiku that do not fit into the rigid definitions they have set up to describe the nature of the classical Japanese haiku.
The fact that this definition is still built on the 5-7-5 schema has a parallel in the definition of the other poetical genres, such as the sonnet and the ritornelle, which are primarily defined by their form, and not by their contents.
Another good argument for my theory is the fact that our Danish language does not have the Japanese on-ji, only syllables, and this prevents us from writing traditional Japanese haiku anyway.
In that way I did not have to argue for or against the reasonability of all the demands that different haiku theoretics have made during the years. The only real demand was now the schedule of 5-7-5, and my theory made it possible for poets to choose whether they would try to write traditional Japanese haiku or less formal “modern” haiku.
Now – 8 years after my haiku theory was published – it appears that it has become the norm in Denmark.
But what about sub-genres? Right now I can think of the following:
1.The traditional Japanese haiku: They deal with nature, are unrhymed, a “photo in words”, written in the present tense, etc. etc.
2. Surrealistic or super-naturalistic haiku: Haiku that do not follow nature’s rules, but other standards.
3. Erotic haiku: Haiku with erotic contents, even sex.
4. Political haiku: Haiku with a political point of view, e.g. anti-war haiku, environmental haiku, etc.
5. Philosophical haiku: Haiku which contain philosophy, or philosophical thinking.
6. Humoristic haiku, including satirical / ironical haiku (senryu).
7. Metapoetic haiku: Haiku on haiku.
8. Thriller haiku: Haiku of horror.
9: Rhymed haiku: Haiku with rhymes, unlike what we know from the Japanese tradition.
As many of my haiku have been written in order to prove or exemplify these theories, I am forced to use much of my own material as examples. I hope you will accept this!
what kind of tree
with the unknown flower
such a fragrance
the tomb also shakes
my weeping voice
is the autumn wind
as black as the smoothest night
I get electric
New Orleans crying
to inciting jazz rhythms
well oiled BP blues
peace has broken out
cannons are being melted
into lovers’ rings
what is the question
if the answer is love
that is the question
It is raining again
Cats as well as dogs
Sew up the clouds please
The best poems
are always born exactly
where I am out of words
smell of corpse in my sheet
I spend my morning hunting
for the offspring
In this poem 12 out of the 17 syllables rhyme, which makes it untranslateable, therefore I shall quote it in Danish and try to explain it in English
Hvis jeg ku’ haiku
som ham den samurai ku’
blev du s’gu bleg du
“if I could haiku
like that there samurai could
you would turn pale, you”
Thank you for listening! I hope you will agree with my solution to the problem – or at least give it a thought, and perhaps discuss the matter with me lateron. You are so welcome!
Natgrubler/Tunge og stirrende/vaager stuerne/Tænder jeg
vej gennem parken”
Information, 17th November 2001
”Frosne underbukser/dinglende på snoren/vinterfisk i blomst ”, Peter
Laugesen: Konstrueret situation, 1996
”Han lænede sig / alt for langt tilbage og / faldt ud af sin krop”.
”Haiku på dansk”, 2005
 Basho 362, 1688, English version by Jane Reichold
566, 1689, English version by
Lille: Haiku – Knytæg med
afkroge, p. 40
 Bo Lille: Canadian
Zen Summer 2010, p. 12, referring to the BP oilspill
disaster in the Mexican Gulf
Lille: Canadian Zen, Spring 2010, p. 33
Lille: Haiku-Knytæg med afkroge, 2006
Lille: Haiku-Knytæg med afkroge, 2006
Lille: Haiku-Knytæg med afkroge, 2006
in Blade i Vinden, Haiku-antologi, p.89
Lille: Haiku på dansk, 2005