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Editors Choice August 2010


          crescent moon
          the turning point
          of my mind

Barbara A Taylor, Australia

If a feeling comes to one and if one wants to express it instinctively not in any other forms but haiku, a haiku poem is itching to be born. If the words to express it and the order in which they are used also come in such a spontaneous manner, the prospect of a good haiku poem to emerge is good.

Conversely, if one forces oneself to manufacture haiku for non-natural, non-spontaneous reasons and forces materials (be it nature or human affairs) to fit such artificial desires to write haiku, then the same prospect would be less or none.

When I ‘saw’ this haiku by Barbara A Taylor rather than read it, such a thought as described above came to my mind. Everything in it is concrete, except for the fact that we have no idea what the turning point is of. That is the only obscurity and the obscurity about what might be a vital point of the poem at that.

I normally go against obscure haiku, especially the ones intentionally made such, as one of haiku’s original requirements has been concreteness or specificity, which also brings clarity. So, obscurity has not been a feature of haiku, contrary to the views of some who encourage it mainly for the reason that authors should leave something (a lot of things!) to the imagination of the reader or some space for different interpretations. They also mistake obscurity for yugen (that mysterious Japanese aesthetic value which reaches depth and mystery).

Does it matter that this haiku has this obscurity? It is an interesting point to debate.

In the beginning my first impression was that this haiku was complete as it was, nothing needing to be added or detracted, or changed in any way. My conclusion at the end is the same. There have been, however, many a thought between the beginning and the end.

Like enlightenment or a slip disc, such a turning point of one’s mind can come at any time, often in the most unexpected circumstances, or while doing something least related to one’s thinking. So, the crescent moon could be a bush warbler, chopping onions or coming out of an aeroplane, though viewing the moon in any shape, brightness or season tends to lead one to contemplation.

The standard interpretation of this haiku would be that the author was looking at the crescent moon when suddenly she experienced what she was struggling to sort out in her mind becoming completely clear and marking a definite point where she found the new direction. Not knowing the author at all, one can hazard a guess as to what she was struggling about, and can definitely “enjoy”. Did the heroic crescent moon help her decide: to accept his proposal; to give up Perth and move to New South Wales; to quit her job and get married; to abandon the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer; to start writing haiku; to let her daughter marry a Japanese and move with her to Japan?

It can be anything. It, however, cannot be something slight such as buying a summer dress or adding ramen to her diet. One can almost say that the author must not disclose what the turning point was all about because to do so would be to narrow the breadth and depth and the universality or timelessness of the haiku. One can almost say that it is not important to specify what the turning point is about and that to do so would make this haiku less. We all experience different turning points in life. So we all know. We may not have written haiku like this, though.