Haiku. What is it about these small poems that make people all over the world want to read and write them? Nick Virgilio, one of America's first major haiku poets, once said in an interview that he wrote haiku "to get in touch with the real." And the Haiku Society of America has called haiku a "poem in which Nature is linked to human nature." We all want to know what is real and to feel at one with the natural world. Haiku helps us to experience the everyday things around us vividly and directly, so we see them as they really are, as bright and fresh as they were when we first saw them as children. Haiku is basically about living with intense awareness, having an openness to the existence around us. A kind of openness that involves seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching.
Not so long ago, in 1991, when the first Haiku North America conference was being held at Las Positas College outside of San Francisco, another major figure of American haiku, J. W. Hackett, and his wife Pat, invited four of the attending poets to their garden home on a hill in the Santa Cruz mountains. Christopher Herold, one of those poets, wrote a haiku, included in this anthology, about that experience:
call to us from the moment
of which he speaks
The poets had all moved out to the garden, continuing their talk about nature, Zen, and haiku. Toasts were raised to Basho, Japan's most famous haiku poet, and to R. H. Blyth, his most faithful translator. Shadows were lengthening and James Hackett was trying to make clear his feelings about haiku when the birds suddenly came to his assistance. Christopher Herold's haiku captures that "moment" of the afternoon, when Hackett, and the quail, summed up everything he had been saying, eloquently and passionately, about haiku and the way of life it represents: living in the present moment now.