October 2nd, 2005

Egrets Reading

Kigo

Each month in our Southern California Haiku Study Group meetings, we start off by discussing the current season’s kigo as it relates particularly to Southern California. We then write haiku on the kigo discussed and have an anonymous kukai reading of the poems we wrote that day, voting on our favorites, and then revealing the authors of the winning haiku. I find this to be great writing practice and look forward to it each month.

A list of kigo for Southern California in October might include:

gray skies
brush fire
monarch butterflies
red leaves
college football
trick-or-treating

Using these kigo, I might come up with:

gray skies
my bank balance
after the tuition check

traffic stopped
on the 101
brush fire

etc, etc...

After brainstorming the kigo during the meeting, my draft haiku are often later reworked into more polished poems, and sometimes these sessions even produce haiku that are good enough in their initial draft state to keep as-is.

By its nature, kigo tends to be region specific. This works well when haiku is being written and read in the same geographical area, say Japan. Japanese poets use a saijiki, a reference book of kigo/season words, references, and inspirations for haiku poets.

When considering haiku as an international form, kigo can become problematic when a season word that suggests “September” to someone in Portland, Oregon, may suggest “March” to someone in Santiago, Chile.

When Dr. Gabi Greve of the Daruma Museum in Japan told me that “ghosts” indicate “summer” in Japan, I was surprised. Here in the US, we tend to associate “ghosts” with Halloween, and therefore “fall”.

She is developing a world kigo database and has added my “blue blob” haiku to the Halloween page:

http://worldkigodatabase.blogspot.com/2005/08/halloween.html

There is also a World Haiku Club yahoogroups set up for World Kigo discussions and development:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/WHCworldkigo/