West Desert Haiku

copyright: Jeff Clay
Sky so delicate
Floating high, shadows hang low
Nothing between — us!


The Japanese devised haiku poetry centuries ago as a way to describe nature with seeming simplicity. But upon closer examination, the true spirit of haiku reveals a none-too-obvious complex face. It depends upon a juxtaposition of ideas and images brought forth with the use of a kireji or cutting word. The reader is meant to meditate upon the deeper meaning behind the deceptively simple lines. 

I would never pretend to be anything but a dabbler in this rarefied art form, but I do find it stimulating and creative to try and distill a complex image into three very brief lines. Good photographs — and certainly paintings as well — should stand on their own: as the representative things-that-they-are. Though of course, what exactly an image is varies greatly from viewer to viewer. Ansel Adams was criticized for never having people in his images. Never mind that the statement is false, the impression is what Ansel responded to when he quipped that there were always at least two people in his photographs: the photographer and the viewer. The photographer certainly had his perspective when he captured the scene. You, the viewer bring your own set of perceptions (and prejudices!) to the gallery when you gaze at the hanging image.

Image and words by Jeff Clay

So, what does this have to do with haiku? Perhaps not much. But on occasion I stare at a photograph I have taken and words come to mind. “Sky so delicate…” begins the thought process. Once I start, it must be finished. Both the photograph and the haiku can and do stand separate.

But, together…they become something more.