The smell of haiku

The power of scent to raise a memory has been scientifically proven, as has the link between scent and emotion, one that perfumiers strive to tap into. This article in The Harvard Gazette explains the science: Smells are handled by the olfactory bulb, the structure in the front of the brain that sends information to the other areas of the body’s central command for further processing. Odours go directly to the limbic system, including the amygdala and the hippocampus, the regions related to emotion and memory – and the oldest parts of the human brain.

And although we list taste as one of the five senses, science says that everything we taste is by way of being smelled. No sense of smell, no sense of taste.

Here are some haiku I think convey the sense of smell very well, even if they almost all use the word ‘scent’! I hope you’ve enjoyed this four-part look at haiku that engage with the senses beyond sight, I’ve had fun putting it together.

fallen eucalypt …
the scent
cut into stove lengths

Jo McInerney
from naad anunaad: an anthology of contemporary world haiku
(Viswakarma Publications, 2016)

gentle rain
scent of the seedbed turning
a deeper brown

Katrina Shepherd
from Before the Sirocco (NZPS, 2008)

yellow roses
at Uji the fragrance
of roasting tea leaves

Basho, tr Jane Reichhold
from Basho: The complete haiku (Kodansha, 2008)

The translator’s note to the haiku, written in 1691, is that as yamabuki flowers (Kerria japonica) have no fragrance, they must borrow smells from the roasted tea.

Uji was once one of the most important tea-growing areas in Japan. Read more here. It’s interesting to note that although the yamabuki plant is not a rose, its name is often used to mean ‘yellow rose’ in Japanese literature!

migrating geese –
her scent finally gone
from my pillow

Stephen Toft
from another country: haiku poetry from Wales (Gomer, 2011)

in the alleys
orange blossom scent . . .
the rest escapes me

Luci Cardillo
from Autumn Moon 2.2 (2019)

otoko kite heya nuchi suisen no nioi midaru

a man enters
the room, disturbing the scent
of daffodils

Yoshino Yoshiko, tr Makoto Ueda
from Far Beyond the Field: Haiku by Japanese Women
(Columbia University Press, 2003)

two boys giggle
as he enters the bike shop …
onion seller

Alan Summers
from Stepping Stones: a way into haiku (BHS, 2007)

family reunion
bad breath
has a name

Roberta Beach Jacobson
from H Gene Murtha Senryu Contest, 2019

summer breeze
setting aside the book
to smell her hair

Makarios Tabor
from The Heron’s Nest 22.1, 2020

 

A garden of haiku

I’ve spent the past few days immersing myself in our biennial Garden and Art Festival (still 2 days to go!). There’s something magical about walking into a stranger’s garden, exploring its pathways and knowing that it’s waiting to show me its treasures, if only I have the wit to see. A good number of the gardens I visit now are not the gardens of strangers, but that doesn’t dim the excitement one iota – new beds may have been created, interesting new plants put in, new “garden art” or, as happened today, a property may have changed hands.

I shared a bench at lunchtime with an older couple I’ve known for a while. They sold their very large country garden last year and moved into a small town with a decent-sized garden but much, much smaller than they had been used to. Had they ever been back to their old place? No, they said emphatically, and we won’t. They think there’s probably been lots of change (because no one will tell them) but they have decided to be philosophical. That’s life, they said, everything changes all the time. Gardens don’t stand still and nor are they meant to.

nobody rebukes
more softly than blue violets,
nobody louder

– Helene Kesting (translated from Afrikaans)

from The Haiku Seasons by William J Higginson (Kodansha International, 1996)

violet

gentle rain
scent of the seedbed turning
a deeper brown

–  Katrina Shepherd

from Before the Sirocco anthology (NZ Poetry Society, 2008)

summer rain
the poppies keep their thoughts
to themselves

– Sandra Simpson, A Hundred Gourds 2.4 (2013)

rose fence

across a rose fence –
a cat lover,
a cat hater

Kazuo Sato (translated from Japanese)

from Haiku Mind by Patricia Donegan (Shambhala, 2008)