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Kobayashi Issa and the Minimalist Beauty of Haiku

Haiku master Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa was born on 15 June 1763 in Kashiwabara, Shinano Province of Japan. I seek serenity in his writings. Writes
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Haiku master Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa was born on 15 June 1763 in Kashiwabara, Shinano Province of Japan.

I seek serenity in his writings.

Kobayashi Issa’s life is fraught with sorrows and losses, from the untimely deaths of his mother, wife, and children to the hardships of financial struggles and social isolation. In his quest for solace, he journeyed across Japan, visiting shrines and pagodas seeking reconciliation. He kept a travel journal chronicling his experiences adorned with his exquisite haikus. He wrote over twenty thousand haikus celebrating small wonders of everyday living, finding joy in a million little things. Issa was a master of weaving tapestries of rich and vivid imageries in his poetries. Yet his language is simple. The emotion and the evocative theme that emerges are that of transiency, empathy, and the interconnectedness of all living things, with a deep appreciation of nature. His admiration for nature and the impermanence of life resonates deeply within me, offering solace and peace amid turmoils.

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Just last week, while strolling through our community garden, a gentle breeze brushed against my face, carrying a handful of fallen leaves on my feet. I paused. I looked down and picked them up, transfixed at the skeleton of the leaves, once green and vibrant. At that moment, I was transported, on a whimsical ride, captivated by the beauty and poignancy of those humble remnants.

The delicate road map of a million-souled city.

I enjoy haiku for its beauty of simplicity. In a world of chaos, confusion, and the never-ending roller coaster of life’s ups and downs, haiku is my refuge of bare and the basics. The art of capturing moments and distilling them into a few carefully chosen words.

The minimalist.

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I can walk the walk to transcend the noise and immerse myself in a time and place far removed from the present, embracing the beauty, tranquility, and even melancholia that lie within. And yet, navigating through these ethereal realms, I am always drawn back to reality, emerging from the depths of the virtual to find a renewed appreciation for the present. The dead come alive once more in a circle of life.

Nature is my muse. Haiku, the creative refuge.

 

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Three Haiku Poems

Traditional Japanese Haiku poetry uses 17 Japanese characters broken into three distinct units or in 3 lines. It includes a kireji (cutting word) or kigo (seasonal word). The structure of a haiku typically follows a 5-7-5 syllable pattern, with the first line containing five syllables, the second line containing seven syllables, and the third line containing five syllables. This form of poetry is distinct in its brevity and simplicity. And the essence is capturing a single moment or image. 

[i]

Bare veins etched in gold,
Nature’s intricate lacework,
Autumn’s whispered tale.

[ii]

Veins etched in paper,
Ghostly remnant of life’s breath,
Leaf’s fragile remains.

[iii]

Nature’s lacework fades,
Leaf’s intricate skeleton,
Whispers of seasons.

Images courtesy: Mousumi Duttaray

Mousumi was raised in Kolkata but now call New York her home. She pursued her PhD from Indiana University Bloomington and currently works as a Marketing & Consumer Data and Design Analytics professional. She is Co-founder and Director at MDRK Partners. She loves to read, cook, take photos on her phone and travel.

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