An audio of me reading this prose poem can be heard by clicking the link below. It will take a few seconds for the sound to begin.
It was the year we lived in London, some 25 years ago, when autumn began like any other autumn. The fall, the changing, the color shifting, the soft breezes, the sporadic thick fog and the leaves dancing, even floating upward at times. What I hadn’t anticipated, being so far north for the first time, was how short the days grew. How dark it became earlier and earlier all during that autumn. The days were ‘closing in.’ That’s what they called it, and I loved that phrase. It brought a certain comfort of pulling heavy curtains closed and shutting out the darkness. It was a time for wearing coats and warm sweaters, and I dressed my son in practical English clothing and soft grey mittens while he ran ahead enjoying what was left of the day. He was only three, but he knew the delight in using what was left of the day’s sunlight. I learned to enjoy the simple pleasures around me that came with this quiet season. Victoria plums were my new delight. They appeared at the Greengrocer’s shop just as autumn set in, later replaced by apples—Bramley and Cox’s Orange Pippins, names that twirled on the tongue and tasted as good. Burning leaves were an unexpected, half-loved sensory pleasure. The smoke was pungent, but it brought back memories of childhood. I loved even the rasp of raking, bamboo or metal combs gathering leaves in sacred piles waiting their turn to be sacrificed in an autumnal pyre. In the English light, I found the colors were softer, quieter than the brilliance of New England woodlands. Each morning I left my son at school and then walked through Hampstead Heath. I found my own favorite route through woods and meadows up to the large ponds. Purchasing a single cup of tea that warmed my hands, I made my way to that empty bench that faced the pond. I thought about all the people it had held before. And every day without fail a lone Scottish piper played his bagpipes as if on cue. Each day I sat and listened. A world so far from my own. From where he stood near the peak of Parliament Hill, the mournful songs became a wordless chanting, charging the air with a lamentation to this closing season, every day briefer, softer than the day before.
Lost in Reverie (c) 2014 by Iosatel, The Obvious and Hidden blog on WordPress (with his permission)
Today is the first day of autumn, and for my writing practice in the next few weeks I’ll begin a series of autumn or fall poems. This is my favorite season, my soul season. I’ve done a few different types of haiku ranging from traditional 17 syllables to a poem in a single line. Do you have a favorite?
biting into a Victoria plum, such guilty pleasure
the last swallowtail
the season’s first soup
almost ritually cooked
stirs our senses
sweet windfall apples…
autumn of long ago
Modern English language haiku are not always seventeen syllables. A haiku can be many things, but always it is a brief poem with a strong image that evokes a season and a moment of time captured simply in lyrical language. Scroll to the bottom of today’s blog to find a list of essential qualities of haiku.
The following list from the wonderful journal, Heron’s Nest, lists important qualities that make a haiku.
Here are some qualities we find essential to haiku:
Present moment magnified (immediacy of emotion)
Interpenetrating the source of inspiration (no space between observer and observed)
Simple, uncomplicated images
Finding the extraordinary in “ordinary” things
Implication through objective presentation, not explanation: appeal to intuition, not intellect
Human presence is fine if presented as an archetypical, harmonious part of nature (human nature should blend in with the rest of nature rather than dominate the forefront)
Humor is fine, if in keeping with “karumi” (lightness) – nothing overly clever, cynical, comic, or raucous
Musical sensitivity to language (effective use of rhythm and lyricism)
Feeling of a particular place within the cycle of seasons