Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Haiku A to Z: E is for Essence

on road home 2015
"The essence of haiku is the way it describes natural phenomena in the fewest number of words, making an indelible impression on the reader." --Bruce Lansky

The word essence, from the Latin essentia (esse to be) has a number of different meanings, depending on how the word is used:
1. "the basic, real, and invariable nature of a thing"
2. "a substance obtained from a plant, drug or the like, by distillation, infusion, etc. and containing its characteristic properties in concentrated form"
3. "an alcoholic solution of an essential oil, spirit"
4. "a perfume, scent"
5. "something that exists, especially a spiritual or immaterial entity" (source:

I suggest that the "essence" of haiku takes on each of these meanings in its own way. Yes, the essence of haiku, as in Lansky's definition above, is in the way it describes natural phenomena in the fewest number of words, hence: definition #1, the basic nature of the thing.

Haiku is also a distillation (definition #2): the poet's thoughts distilled into an image or a moment and containing properties of observation in concentrated form.

Haiku, though not alcoholic (but maybe addictive?) and not liquid, also consists of essential oils (definition #3)--or, in this case, we might say 'qualities.' These might include, but are not limited to, a quietness, calmness, insight, or surprising lift.

Haiku, because of its emphasis on engaging the five senses, often carries a mental "perfume," especially when a reference calls to mind an association to a seasonal scent (definition #4).

And haiku, in its existence (definition #5), often speaks of spiritual things, hence it can be said to contain 'heart'--a spiritual entity.

Essence: nature, substance distilled, spirit, scent, heart. Who would have thought haiku could take us to all of these places. At the same time it can be said that the essence of haiku can be elusive--the poet has her work cut out for her.

Of course, none of this discussion touches on other e-words of the day: experience, emotion, editing, experimentation, exercise, engagement of the right side of the brain, encapsulating the feeling of a scene, evoking. So many things to touch on, so little time!

All of this being said, I extend to you my Day Five Haiku:

evening clouds sweep the
sky and cool daytime's fire...
ashes bank embers
--Kenda Turner


  1. I admire those that can write haikus; I liked how you described the essence of them here and enjoyed the one you shared :)

    thanks for visiting! Enjoy the rest of the challenge!


  2. Thanks back to you, Betty--enjoyed visiting your blog. Glad you stopped by here :-) Have a great rest of the challenge, too...

  3. I've tried to write poetry and haiku but I'm not very good at it. Well done!
    I’m exploring different types of dreams and their meanings.
    E is for Epic Dreams
    Stephen Tremp’s Breakthrough Blogs

  4. Hi, Stephen, so glad you stopped by. Your theme sounds intriguing--heading over your way now :-)

  5. I always feel haiku does focus on the essence of something - good choice. Very pretty poem, too. E is for Excellent!

  6. Peggy--your 'E'ncouragement, coming from a talented teacher and writer yourself, is much appreciated! Thanks...