Haiku in the time of coronavirus

Haiku in the time of coronavirus


In a world limited by the virus, our lives vastly reduced, isolated from the shared joys and heartaches of every day, I turn to the great masters of Haiku, for solace and peace.

The quiet beauty in the heart of Nature, the serenity in the midst of chaos, the attempt to hold moments before they evanesce is the essence of the haiku. This three-lined, seventeen-syllables poetic form reflects the Japanese culture of minimalism, where nothing can be added or subtracted to things as they seem. In fact, it is the shorthand for emotion or idea.

Haiku freezes a brief moment in time, at the same time casting it into eternity. Rich in wistfulness and nostalgia, it is emotion recollected in resignation. Haiku is often linked to Zen Buddhism — capturing a precise moment as part of meditation.

A Haiku poet’s eye level is low and microscopic, nevertheless grasping universal truths. Haiku are whispers that require deep listening to be heard Basho was a mystic poet who wrote:

When I look carefully

I see the nazunia blooming on the hedge

The nazunia is a common flower but if you look at it meditatively it transports one to an outer world, it becomes a thing of beauty, the commonplace turning extraordinary.

'Mono no aware' is a Japanese concept, which is empathy for all things, even with the consciousness of their impermanence, a gentle wistfulness at their passing, not a cause for despair but wonder and gratefulness.

Spring: A hill without a name

Veiled in the morning mist.

Spring will leave, the morning mist will melt but Basho’s vision remains the sakura or the cherry blossom, which symbolises transience and the finiteness of life has inspired many haiku poets. Bosho says, “A lovely spring night/ suddenly vanished while we/viewed cherry blossoms."

Haiku is a demanding art form, brief, evocative, submersion of the self and an attempt to capture the magical moment before it returns to the mundane. It's a moment of tranquillity.