By D’Amonie Armstrong
Haiku – not to be confused with Haikyuu, the anime, haha – is a traditional Japanese short three lined poem that adheres to seventeen syllables throughout, following the 5-7-5 syllable format, where the first and last lines are composed of five syllables, and the second is seven. This gives you a chance to play around with this form of art, as you have to choose specific language over others.
We were visited by Aki Regan and Atsushi Iwai of JICC – the Japanese Information & Culture Center, part of the Embassy of Japan – back in January, in hopes that we would want to take part in their upcoming exhibit, Blossoming Flowers in Japanese Art and Poetry, from March up until May. As the theme was flowers, we were taught about certain virtues associated with specific flowers that are often used for haikus. The main five are as listed:
Peony 牡丹/ぼたん (botan) – beauty, elegance
Lily ゆり (yuri) – purity, innocence
Sunflower ひまわり (himawari) – hope, positivity
Pineまつ (matsu) sacred, determination
Cherry Blossoms 桜/さくら (sakura) new beginnings, celebration
During their presentation, Aki and Atsushi shared examples of haiku from famous artists, but their setups were new to me. The haikus were associated with paintings, serving as a visual representation of what the poem was about. That art combination I thought was amazing, as it has never been something that crossed my mind, or anybody’s that I knew. The class was very interactive and we practiced our hiragana when reciting the haikus. My favorite had to be the Lily example, because of the various meanings the haiku had to offer. My interpretation was that the narrator was envious of the purity/innocence that their neighbor possessed.
The Embassy also told us of an idiom to keep in mind – ichigo-ichie (一期一会) or “a once-in-a-lifetime meeting.” This idiom encourages us to cherish each fleeting moment and encounter . . . I think it’s important, for us and everyone, to keep this in mind as we go on meeting new people everyday, because we will never know if the encounter could be what you have been looking for.
The process of writing our poems was pretty simple. Think of a memory that you would like to write about, typically one where you learned something, choose a flower based on the virtues it’s associated with, and then begin constructing a beautiful haiku. My thought process seems to delay when I need it the most, but I pulled through, we all did. The flower I chose to write about was Sakura because I wanted to reflect on new beginnings, such as our transitions back into school buildings from the pandemic, being a huge shift for many. I had knowledge that the Cherry Blossoms bloomed in the spring, which told people that a new school year had begun so it was perfect.
I came up with:
When the blossoms bloom
The students meet again
No longer through zoom
I am writing after we’ve heard that six of our class’s works got picked to be featured in the exhibition and I have the honor of being one of the students to have their work chosen. If you can, please go down and see the beautiful exhibition full of distinctive exquisite crafts. Find the details here: https://www.us.emb-japan.go.jp/jicc/exhibits/blossoming-flowers.html
Congratulations to the five other amazing peers and thank you to my entire class for sharing their artistry and experiences. And a special thanks to Aki and Atsushi for coming down to speak with us and for wanting us to be a part of the exhibit. We would enjoy having you guys come back to teach us more. We will continue to strive to connect with many through our art. And we will truly always remember to cherish 一期一会– – ”a-once-in-a-lifetime-meeting”.