Several years ago, back in my Ashland days, a group of us studied with Richard Tice, a prominent English language haiku poet. Richard acquainted us with the work of the 17th Century Japanese poet Matsuo Basho, iconic in the realm of haiku, as well as several other famous Japanese and Western poets working in that genre.
In the collection of his own work, Station Stop, Richard defines Japanese haiku as “an objective, concrete poem usually of 5-7-5 syllable lines, consisting of two or three simple, juxtaposed images held in tension, acutely aware of moment and nature and being.”
He made it clear to us that English translations of Japanese haiku cannot be bound by the 5-7-5 rule because the Japanese process of syllabification is quite different from ours. Besides, Japanese haiku poets, including the great Basho, often break their own rules.
Our little Southern Oregon haiku group persisted for a while, composing and exchanging haiku, until we eventually floated off in different directions. After that, I indulged my creative tendencies with other kinds of poetry, and, more recently non-fiction prose.
When Bacho and I first moved to Portland’s Irvington neighborhood, we were both smitten by its delights—he by all the great smells, and I by the beauty of the flowers, especially in Spring. Morning and evening we would visit the Irvington School’s grassy yard, peaceful in the morning before the tumult of children, and busy in the evening with flying frisbees and doggy conversation. But especially as Bacho became older we enjoyed leisurely strolls of the entire neighborhood. He would wander off-leash from flower to tree savoring the fascinating messages, while I, at a mostly-retired pace, drank in these moments of nature and being.
It seemed the perfect time to resurrect my old poetic urges. No need to carry pen and paper. Over the space of a mile or so the words would come together and I would simply write them down when I got home. He was my Basho, my dog-poet, and I was his faithful companion, content to follow him throughout the land.