Spanish-language haiku appears around the same time as haiku is being discovered in the French and English-speaking worlds, and there are some notable influences between Europe and the Americas. Spanish-language haiku really begins with the Mexican poet Tablada, whose influence is key to understanding the development of the genre in the first few decades of the 1900s. Key features of early haiku production are a reliance on titles, metaphor, and rhyme.
When Nobel Prize recipient Octavio Paz heard of Tablada’s death he entered a public library and revisited the poet’s work, as a result of which Paz became further interested in Japanese poetry, leading him to translate Basho’s travelogue Oku no hosomichi (Narrow Road to the Deep North) in the 1950s, thereby creating a newfound interest in haiku.
The final wave of interest occurred in the 80s and 90s with Argentinean Borges and Uruguayan Benedetti both producing haiku poems. With the subsequent arrival of the internet, interest in haiku has flourished. Spanish scholar Vicente Haya laments what he refers to as “Benedetti syndrome”: 5-7-5 haiku that aim only at syllable count or brevity but do not respect the themes and techniques of classical Japanese haiku. Some of Haya’s disciples are included here, alongside haiku that reflect other tendencies.
There is much debate about what constitutes haiku in the Spanish language, as with English-language productions, and the lines are often blurred between haiku, senryu, zappai, and other more Western forms, such as epigrams and so on. Whatever the case, Spanish-language haiku has a rich and fascinating history that I hope to present in more detail in my upcoming book Haiku From Iberia and Beyond.
I hope you enjoy the current selection and I look forward to any feedback you may wish to offer.
*The translation of the poems from Spanish into English is by Danny Blackwell.