One Breath Long – the Haiku

Thirteen Roosters by Ito Jaskuchu at the National Gallery of Art

A map of chicken land

noisy with red capitals,

black lakes, white highways

– by Emily from New York

While ruminating on the poet Mahmoud Darwish, the National Gallery of Art sent me an invitation to write a Japanese-inspired haiku.  As my artist-sister and her Japanese family were visiting us the timing was serendipitous.

Haikus are expressions of moments in time.  Through simple language, they invite the reader to experience nature as the writer attempts to capture it.

One breath long, haikus traditionally are three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllable words.  In English this translates into 10 – 14 syllables or 6 – 10 words.

Near Lake Okoboji, Iowa

Old pond –

Frog jumps in

Sound of the water

–          Matsuo Basho, 1644-1694, Japanese poet

April is poetry month at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.

On exhibit is the work of the Japanese treasure Ito Jakuchu (1760-1800).  This is the first time his Colorful Realm of Living Beings has been displayed outside of Japan.  The 30-piece bird and flower painting collection is normally kept at the Shukokuji monastery in Kyoto.  Displayed in one room, the paintings signify all living beings gathered around Buddha.

An American national treasure, the National Gallery of Art is free and open to anyone visiting Washington DC.

In fact, the haiku invitation is for everyone.  It’s an opportunity to sit outside and experience a tree, spring flower or bird.  Breathe.  Then try to take that moment and express it in words.

You can read more about the exhibit, the 1,000 year-old art of haiku writing and submitting your haiku at nga.gov/jakuchu.

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