By: Peggy Sue Wood
I was recently introduced to the idea of a visual haiku and my first thoughts went to CLAMP.
For those of you who were as knowledgeable on the subject of a visual haiku as myself prior to the introduction, the best definition I can find is one in which you take the moments of everyday life as the subject matter of your photo or imagery to express a meditative or self-reflecting idea.
Since the literary form of the traditional haiku is typically focused “on images from nature, haiku emphasizes simplicity, intensity, and directness of expression” and the visual form of this often 5/7/5 syllable count minimalist poetry is one that tries to do the same thing without words (Poets.org). This means it can stem from sensory experiences, such as hearing, touching, seeing, etc.
One such photographer in this field, Masao Yamamoto, said this about the form in an interview, which I feel sums up the expression nicely:
“Long ago, there was a man named Ryokan [Taigu], who was a calligrapher and a poet. I have an enormous amount of respect for him. In one of his Haikus he describes simply the movement of a leaf trembling as it falls. But in reality, this poem can be interpreted in several ways. For example the falling leaf could be a metaphor for life, the right side up, the bad, and the reverse side, the good. From this simple natural phenomenon he speaks of much deeper things. I find this remarkable. I would like to take these kinds of photos.”Masao Yamamoto
You can read more about it here: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/masao-yamamoto-visual-haiku
Of the many anime I’ve seen, I think that more than a handful make use of these minimalist artistic moments/these visual haiku. The first example of this that came to mind was CLAMP–particularly the image of feathers that often become stand-ins for memory in Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle.
There are other examples too–the butterfly and smoke, for example, in xxxHolic and the flower imagery (not just cherry blossoms) in Cardcaptor Sakura. Often these are tied to the more reflective moments of the series, which is what brings them to mind when I first think of the visual haiku concept.
I think another great example is the Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou (Natsume Yuujinchou Season 2) opening, in which we are first shown scenes of life and then shown those scenes again with the yokai that were present being visible:
It’s reflective, in many ways, and beautifully minimalist in expression.
With that said, let me know if you agree (or disagree)–or if you have any additional notes/examples! I’d love to hear more on this subject.
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