I don’t really think of myself as a poet—the menu on my site, which includes categories for my fiction and my nonfiction, doesn’t even have a category for poetry. However, for many years now, I’ve been writing haiku in Esperanto.
It started specifically because of Esperanto. As a beginner with the language, I wanted something tractable. A haiku was small enough that, even if I had to look up every other word, I could put it together and keep it in my head long enough to compose and finish something.
It was also a shared activity with my brother, who was learning Esperanto as well, and similarly found haiku to be appropriately sized. Our haiku were often rather silly observations on the quotidian details of workaday life, and even more often shared jokes—puns based on elaborated misunderstandings of one another’s haiku, and the like.
A few years ago, Steve started taking his haiku more seriously. He read about the Japanese tradition of haiku. He started focusing on writing better haiku. He wrote a lot, and he shared them with other people who cared about haiku. He didn’t quit writing funny, trivial haiku, but he wrote more serious haiku. Haiku that tried to capture something universal through a keenly observed moment. Haiku that used the tools of the Japanese tradition to express something.
I found myself rather left behind. He encouraged me to make a similar study—he even lent me some books—but I didn’t find myself moved to deepen my understanding of haiku.
A few things happened since then. One was simply being more and more impressed with Steve’s haiku—feeling ever more keenly how left behind I was. Another was the publication, by a Japanese Esperantist we met on-line, of a book Kiel verki hajkojn en Esperanto (How to write haiku in Esperanto), which condensed a lot of the stuff Steve had been talking about and applied it specifically to Esperanto. Most recently, a local haiku poet (who also happens to be past president of the Haiku Society of America, former editor of Modern Haiku magazine, and current editor of the Modern Haiku Press) started a haiku study group that meets at the Champaign Public Library.
Participating in the study group, I took one of those little leaps that anyone who works in a creative endeavor takes from time to time. My haiku are perceptibly better.
And so I now have a published haiku. The same Lee Gurga who leads the study group also edits a weekly haiku feature in the News-Gazette, the local paper. He selected one of my haiku for today’s column. He elided the Esperanto original, so I thought I’d share that here:
Senresta en mallumo…
Oh, and I should mention, this isn’t my first ever published haiku. One of my haiku was used as an example in Kiel verki hajkojn en Esperanto. Oh, and I’ve three times traded my haiku for earrings at the Haiku Earring Parties at WisCon.