EN340 / IN350 Global Haiku Tradition
Dr. Randy Brooks • Spring 2005
Haiku Unit Plan Appendix 12

Appendix 12
The Power of Images

The power of your haiku lies in the choice of images. You already know that there are many ways of collecting images that vividly evoke what we see, hear, touch, taste and smell.

In haiku, we also appreciate how certain images touch our emotions. Images can be lovely and sad at the same time, beautiful in an austere or rustic way, lonely, mysterious and, of course, humorous. Haiku images often have a certain bite or astringent quality to them, and are rarely sentimental, strikingly dramatic or sensational. Remember the number one rule of haiku: Keep it simple!

Take a look at these images, selected at random. Which ones strike you as particularly evocative? If they are not evocative, how might you change them to make them so?

shiny goblets              a rusty swing                a polished mirror               a torn leather wallet

         an afghan          a sapling              a field of corn stubble             a drained fountain

a fallen oak branch              movie tickets              a Russian flag       a Confederate flag

    new lace           scattered rose petals               a grandfather clock                 a scarecrow

Now think of the images you see in and around your own house or neighborhood (or even around school!) In your opinion, which of these images have evocative power that could be useful in haiku? Be ready to discuss your answers with the class!

Putting Images and Meaning into Context

In haiku, a leaf is a leaf. It is not a symbol for something else. We see it and hope to express it sono mama - as it is. But its leaf-self and all that happens to it can express infinite truth and meaning that we can identify with and appreciate simply because we have life and existence in common with all things animate and inanimate.

A leaf - and any other image from the natural world - becomes meaningful in context. When the context changes, the meaning changes. Take for example the cherry blossoms present in Japanese haiku. We do not have the same cultural concept of cherry blossoms as the Japanese and therefore do not completely understand their special meaning. Cherry blossoms appearing in American haiku have an entirely different context.

Context means the place or situation in which you perceive the image. What contexts do the following images suggest to you?

A green leaf falling __________________________________________________

A leaf spiraling as it falls_______________________________________________

A fallen leaf in a little girl's hair _________________________________________

A fallen leaf in an old woman's hair ______________________________________

A tidy pile of raked leaves in your neighbor's yard ___________________________

A child diving into a pile of raked leaves ___________________________________

A fallen leaf cupping first snow ___________________________________________

Yesterday's fallen leaf in today's new pond ice ________________________________

A leaf caught between two boulders _________________________________________

Leaves on the forest floor _________________________________________________

The first colored leaf of autumn ____________________________________________

The first budding green leaves of spring ______________________________________

©2005 Randy Brooks, Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois || all rights reserved for original authors