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A traditional form of Japanese poetry, the haiku, has a strong traditional connection with the seasons and weather. The connection is not an accident, for many of the early haiku poets concluded that one common experience of all people was the changing of the weather with the seasons. Therefore, they generally incorporated some allusion to the season or weather within the poem. These poets also expressed human emotions using natural phenomena as the vehicle of expression.
For those not familiar with the haiku form, it is considered the ultimate distillation of poetry. Over 300 years of refinement has given us a poem a mere 17 syllables in length in which all non- essentials have been eliminated to leave, in the words of American haiku poet Annette Shaefer Morrow, "the naked seed of a poem to spring and bloom within the reader's imagination."
A haiku reminds me of the coded weather station reports I used to see in my forecasting days, or the coded station on a weather map -- at least the detailed versions I worked with in the days before computer plotting. They both (haiku and code) condense the big picture into a small message and yet, after reading/viewing, a big picture unfolds in my mind. For example, the airways code segment of S++BS+ 937 -15/-20 3215G25 translates to: air temperature minus 15 Celsius, dew point temperature minus 20 C, atmospheric pressure 99.37 kilopascals (or 993.7 mb), Northwest wind at 15 knots gusting to 25 knots with very heavy snowfall and heavy blowing snow. Even today, the image leaps in my mind of one cold, wintry day, likely in the midst of a blizzard.
The seasonal setting which forms the poem's backdrop is usually presented using what is known as a kigo, a season word, which may be the naming of the season directly -- such as summer heat or spring rain -- or an obvious image of the season such as cherry blossom or snow or lightning. According to haiku scholar Harold G. Henderson: "The custom of using kigo has hardened into an almost inviolable rule, and most modern collections of haiku arrange their contents according to the season in which the poems refer."
The haiku presented here are translations of works of several Japanese haiku masters written before 1900. Three masters presented here are the greatest of all Japanese haiku poets. The first, Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) is credited with writing the first haiku in 1679 and was the first great master of the genre. Taniguchi Buson (1715-1783) is regarded second only to Basho . Many of his haiku covey a feeling of the wonder and mystery of nature. The third of the great masters is Issa (1762-1826), perhaps the best loved of all the haiku poets.
As is tradition, the haiku here are presented by season.
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