This is the original English version of a haibun entitled ‘Haiku and me’ which was published in the Italian language haiku journal, Le Lumachine °25, after translation by Eufemia Griffo.
I am not a poet. My background is in science – how things work and how they move, not how they move us. Ask my English teacher. At school, I spoke in equations rather than words, feeling the pull of numbers and the orbit of planets, the survival of the fittest and bursting forth of rain from clouds formed around condensation nuclei. Plants are my passion, from the lowest moss to highest tree, and the creeping stolons, sprouting buds and shooting inflorescences that weave somewhere in between.
So, how did this happen? How could a small seed of words open in my solar plexus and send forth its first tender leaves without my notice? By what means could three lines of poetry take root just below my heart and cast its tendrils aloft in search of support? When did it become nourished by my breath and body until large enough to put forth timorous flowers, reaching into my brain and filling it with images, such images of moonlit branches, rain-swept mountains, dragonflies, herons and apple picking, the soft shades of cherry blossom and low tones of bamboo shakuhachi.
At first my words were like seeds themselves, tiny seeds drifting on the wind, looking for somewhere safe to settle, but not having the strength of their own conviction to take hold. Then they became fuller, sharper and more rounded, with edges that would hitch onto a woollen sweater or twist into strands of hair, tugging gently at the ears and catching the eyes.
After a time, I noticed that mine were not the only seeds. There were others. Some were like my tiny wind-blown beginnings whereas others were much fuller. Each one grew into something slightly different, formed from new words, foreign tongues and unfamiliar dances. All had their own beauty and sought out places to grow and set forth fresh seeds themselves. Branches and leaves reached out across land and oceans, pollen grains carried on trade winds and cross-fertilised with other flowers.
Even before I could take a breath, suddenly the whole world was filled with blooms. Not just the Japanese cherry flowers and Acer trees but American laurels, Italian lemons and French lavender. British wild roses clamber among them.
Bashō may have planted the first seed but his haiku flowers have now spread to fertile soil in far-flung fields. I am happy that my tiny petals can be part of this exquisite meadow of vibrant words.