Exploring the haiku with Kyoto and Kerouac

Lindsay on a boat outside of Kyoto, Japan

Lindsay on a boat outside of Kyoto, Japan

The pile of Kleenex below me is one of the few pieces of evidence in my room indicating my recent adventures. Walking around the cold old capital of Japan last week left me with sniffles that make me self-conscious in this nation of face masks.

I met Kyoto for a second time on Monday and enjoyed five days of exploration with students and teachers, one of those five days actually allowing for my own itinerary. I always carried my backpack, much to the dismay of my vertebrae, and that bag included my favorite travel accessory: my notebook.

One afternoon in the Gion neighborhood, I sat in a smokey coffee shop, sipping on a cup of cinnamon and roasted beans, and experimented with the haiku form. It's not my favorite. You may notice I'm a little heavy on the words from time to time to time. Maybe sometimes, dare I say, bordering on redundant. Editing my words to meet a syllabic quota is a frustrating action, but I do believe it affords an extra look at word choice and allows for the multiple interpretations that I so love.

A couple days after this experimentation, I came across a book on Jack Kerouac's haiku work, which I found surprising knowing his near stream-of-consciousness style in On the Road. I quickly learned he, and the rest of the Beat writers, were heavily influenced by Japan, more specifically the haiku and Zen Buddhism.

Kerouac considered the beauty of the form to be in the process of painting a single moment as simply as possible in three lines of text. He often wrote in "Western haiku" form, which didn't follow a strict 5-7-5 syllable equation. Since I'm not a fan of a creative process that includes the frequent counting of fingers, I embraced this style and experimented yet again with the haiku, this time during a TGS club session called "Word."

Students, teachers, and I sat by the river in Hiroshima today, all writing or creating on the topic of "friends," our randomly picked inspiration of the day. Mine took the shape of the Western haiku and haven't been edited beyond initial creation.

Laugh with whomever is

near and forgiving.

If not, why?


return to nature

without hands

There is a world

within a day.

Who plays along?




I have been thinking a lot lately about friendships and their definition, importance, role, and necessary maintenance. Among other things, the first haiku is about the role of a friend and factors that affect that connection, whether it be distance or acceptance of the other. The second haiku touches on my previous piece about proximity to your investments and symbolizing that idea with sandcastles. The third haiku was my connection of childlike spontaneity and companionship to the more adult manifestation of the same daily interactions and mentality. Finally, my last Western haiku tries to define friendship with three perspectives that go from pessimistic to indifferent to hopeful and positive.

Care to share your Japanese or Western haiku? If you are curious about Word and the work of the other creators, visit Word Rebels.