I’ve been meaning to write a post on this theme for a while and have off and on been collecting some exemplar haiku to illustrate how a colour name may be used in fresh and exciting ways beyond simple descriptors such as ‘blue sky’, ‘brown grass’ and ‘red rose’, which of necessity have their place, but are workhorses instead of show ponies. The haiku I feature here have colour as their central focus.
The nudge to get on with it came from hearing that composer, and haiku poet, Hilary Tann had died suddenly last month. This is from an obituary for her:
I write for the pleasure of the performers and listeners, and a glance at my titles reveals my joy in simply being alive in this wondrous green world.
That ‘wondrous green world’ really spoke to me. We are so very lucky to be here, aren’t we?
rumble of thunder
the floating dock
shifts with the wind
Hilary Tann (1947-2023)
opening stanza in the First Place nijuin, HSA Renku Award, 2022
the tube of cadmium yellow
D Claire Gallagher (1941-2009)
Second place, HPNC contest, 2004
I couldn’t resist including this art-theme senryu:
the grade school children
make cubist faces
Prune Juice 16, 2015
The following two haiku both show what effect colour can have on us, if we allow our eyes and minds to be open.
the rest of the week
Presence 53, 2015
the room is white
until that red apple
Anita Virgil (1931-2021)
The Haiku Anthology, 2000
The following haiku reminds us that we see only a limited range of colours. London’s Natural History Museum website notes that the eyes of nocturnal geckos, for instance, are 350 times more sensitive to colour at night than a human’s, while the mantis shrimp probably has the most sophisticated vision in the animal kingdom. Their compound eyes — which can move independently — have 12 to 16 colour-receptive cones compared to our three.
the shades beyond purple
only a bee sees
Haiku Dialogue, THF, May 6, 2020
Scarlet Dragonfly Journal 11, 2023
the blue rim around
a hard-boiled egg yolk
read at Chamber Poets’ International Day of Haiku, 2019
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln website tells me that this ring is caused by a chemical reaction involving sulphur (from the egg white) and iron (from the egg yolk), which naturally react to form ferrous sulphide. The reaction is usually caused by overcooking, but can also be caused by a high amount of iron in the cooking water.
across the lake a traffic light
switches to green
Kokako 37, 2022
Barbara’s poem alludes to the fact that in New Zealand we used a ‘traffic light system’ during our Covid lockdowns.
Let’s close as we began this small exploration of colour, with another art-theme poem, although this one leaves the exact colour being referenced to each reader’s imagination.
the stylist applies colour
to my hair
Creatrix 58, 2022