Haiku are closely associated with Zen, a philosophy which suggests human life has no intrinsic elevated value and reality is not as most people perceive it. Although often rather less bleak in expression, this view of existence will be immediately recognizable to Lovecraft fans as very similar to cosmicism. So, as I like both haiku and Lovecraft, I asked myself whether I could combine the two.
Obviously, it is easy enough to do on a surface level: a three-line poem that mentions R’yleh, tentacles, or such. However, while the 5-7-5 pattern is synonymous with haiku in the minds of many Westerners, there are other traits that experts consider more central to the form. One of these is the use of kigo (“season word”) that is sometimes rendered over-simplistically in English poet-lore as “a proper haiku refers to the season without mentioning the season.” Seeking to adhere both to the tradition of including a kigo and the idea of oblique reference, I set myself the rule that I would not only include an implication of season but would also add the cosmicism through implication and echo rather than direct name dropping.
As Lovecraft’s universe posits a human race on the brink of the inhospitable but not fully aware of it, I opened my kigo dictionary to autumn; and found suzuki (“sea bass”). Mind feverish with horrors and quill dipped in squid ink in hand, I wrought the following:
Sea bass lie on sand
Old men eat their pantries bare
In fear or in hope
One thought on “Season of the Cultist”
In dreams I travel,
Beyond my understanding,
And wake bewildered.
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