An image or poem can convey many complex ideas. They can allude to feelings, beliefs and philosophies to prompt questions and challenge the viewer/reader. This is far better than direct statement—war art does not need to show a soldier on a battlefield. Likewise, haiga, should do more. Though a Japanese form, haiga does not need to include a Japanese subject.
In haiga and visual haiku (concrete poetry) composition is paramount for both the visual and written elements. Consider where the placement of the poem works best with the image to enhance the whole. This should be different with different images, and will always depend on what you want to convey.
Though My haiga ‘Dear Moth’ from Bashō Has left the Building (above) tips its hat to Issa who famously asked questions of animals. It has a simple line composition and colour scheme that draws on my own cultural experience. Another similar in style is ‘Daisy Chain’. Image used for the cover of Thinking Once A Week and haiku inside.
With visual haiku, as with all concrete poetry, there is an element of deciphering for the reader but it must also work as an image too—better still if poetic. A vertical line of text that simply spells out ‘dropping’ to show something dropping is not really good enough, there has to be more to form the poem. ‘Midw1nter’ shows one foot of snow on the steps outside and leaves the reader pondering on whether the writer left the house or stayed indoors.
With Blackcat a complete story unfolds as we watch a cat set off in a stretching run and crouch to look halfway as it crosses a road.
And in Midnight Loch we gaze into a mirror like loch and enjoy the ethereal quality of the light during summer at high latitudes.
For visual haiku with complex formatting please take a screen shot and send as an image.
Photographs can be worked on and should not just be pretty landscape postcards or sympathy cards with an aphorism or cryptic crossword clue attached. The haiku element of haiga must always work as a separate poem. Fonts are at your discretion but please bear in mind they must be legible on the image. This is particularly important on photographs. Consider form, line and the blank areas of your canvas. Colour can also be used as metaphor. Read your poems out loud and think how others will hear it. With haiga, as with visual haiku, the initial impact is made by the image; then the poem is read; and only then is the whole taken in, considered and felt.
A good poem will cater to the eye, the ear, and touch us emotionally and/or intellectually.
All that being said, draw, paint, take photos, write, and compose for yourselves. Explore your own creativity and style and do not cater to the editor. As with all creativity the ideas come first, work on them and let me see what you come up with.
Colin Stewart Jones