The taste of haiku

Finding myself with some time on my hands I thought I would explore haiku that deal with our senses beyond sight. So there will be a themed post once a week for the next four weeks. I’ve had fun finding and selecting these poems, so I hope you’ll enjoy reading them.

Taste and scent are and likely the most difficult senses to weave into a haiku. I catch myself writing ‘the taste of …’  far too often so then must stop and figure out another way of saying exactly that. It’s been fun discovering or re-discovering taste-sense haiku where the authors have found ways of making their poem bold, fresh and vivid.

sweetness
oozing from a fig
indian summer

Harriot West
from The Wonder Code (Girasole Press, 2017)

mononofu no daikon nigaki hanashi kana

warriors
the bitterness of pickles
in the talk

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

The translator’s note for this haiku written in 1693 says Basho has chosen to pair ‘daikon’, a large radish that is often pickled, with ‘nigaki’, meaning ‘bitter’. Both the pickles and the military men’s stories left a bitter taste. She believes the haiku also references the Japanese proverb, ‘the ambitious man eats strong roots’.

shimmering pines
a taste of the mountain
from your cupped hands

Peggy Willis Lyles
from Montage (The Haiku Foundation, 2010)

wood smoke
a little something extra
in the tea

Adelaide B Shaw
from Another Trip Around the Sun (Brooks Books, 2019)

Valentine’s Day –
a cherry tomato
bursts in my mouth

Michael Dylan Welch
from Haikuniverse, Feb 14, 2017

carnival day
candy-floss kiss
on the ghost train

Ron C Moss
from the ‘Freshly Caught’ sequence, Kokako 2 (2004)

im-mi-grant
the way English tastes
on my tongue

Chen-ou Liu
from naad anunaad: an anthology of contemporary world haiku
(Viswakarma Publications, 2016)

no longer friends
the aftertaste
of imported ale

Polona Oblak
from A New Resonance 9 (Red Moon Press)

lovacore market
notes of diesel
in the chilled cherries

Lew Watts
from a hole in the light (Red Moon Press, 2019)

我味の柘榴に這す虱かな
waga aji no zakuro ni hawasu shirami kana

this pomegranate
tastes like me
enjoy it, little louse!

Issa

Translator David Lanoue says: In the prescript to this 1820 haiku, Issa recalls the legend of a mother demon who went about eating children. The Buddha recommended  she switch to a diet of pomegranates, which supposedly taste the same as human flesh. See R. H. Blyth, Haiku (Hokuseido, 1949-1952/1981-1982). In this hard-to-translate haiku, Issa catches one of his lice, and, instead of killing it, places it on his surrogate, the pomegranate.

It’s in the detail

One of the most common remarks I make about a haiku I’ve particularly enjoyed is that it’s ‘well observed’ or ‘nicely observed’, meaning that I appreciate the detail that either makes me look afresh at something I know well or offers me something brand new to ‘see’ and think about.

Haiku are all about observation, switching on all of our senses, and yet … It’s easy to sketch out an idea but harder to be diligent with the editing process to try and realise the full potential of a poem. Just now I have six ideas and part-written haiku jotted on the back of a piece of a recycled paper – it’s not often I have this many haiku written in the space of a day or two so I need to get on while that part of my brain is working!

The haiku featured today have all arrested my reading when I’ve come across them recently. It’s in the detail ….

morning snow
the footsteps from a grave
size 4

Lew Watts
from Presence 66 (2020)

winter lamb
a little ma
in its baa

Francine Banwarth
from Frogpond 43.1 (2020)

What I love about Francine’s haiku is that it works delightfully just as it’s written, plus there’s a twist in that ‘ma’ is a Japanese word denoting white/negative space and is a technique used in haiku. I have seen the technique described by Alan Summers as: … not putting all of the information into the writing, and using space as a way to  suggest there is more to see, ‘look closer between the lines, and even between the words’.

a gentle tug
of the magician’s silks …
crocuses!

Claire Everitt
from Presence 66 (2020)

calendar page
     a tiny November
          in the corner of December 

Laurie D. Morrissey
from Modern Haiku 50.3 (2019)

stars at dawn:
the clatter of small change
on the coffee shop counter

Chad Lee Robinson
from his e-book Rope Marks (Snapshot Press, 2012)

higgs boson
my eyelids
feel so heavy

Gregory Piko
from NOON 16 (2020)