at my feet
when did you get here?
- Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828)
It's no coincidence that Elisabeth Tova Bailey chose Kobayashi Issa as one of several selected poets to gently ease us into the passages of The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. The haiku poet's simplicity and grace complement Elisabeth Tova Bailey's quiet observations as she interprets the larger natural world through that of her tiny snail. Sometimes less is so much more, and like the mighty message of this story's small snail, haiku is a fitting medium to deepen its meaning.
Most Western school-children learn that haiku is a form of Japanese poetry that uses a three-lined format of 5-7-5 syllables. This is actually wrong on a number of counts.
Firstly, Japanese haiku are not measured in syllables but in what in English are called morae or moras (from the Latin, to linger or delay), or "on" in Japanese. A fairly complex linguisitic term, moras basically measure the emphasis ...