The role of ‘fusoku-furi’ in the art of photo haiku

FURTHER UPDATE: I was excited to learn over the Christmas holidays that my entry in the January episode of the award-winning Japanese TV programme HAIKU MASTERS won Haiku Master of the Month.

Haiku master and judge Michio Nakahara said, “The three line haiku does not mention the bee or the flower. In terms of fusoku-furi it has a perfect distance from the photograph. This photo haiku would be inanimate if it were just the flower but the bee adds movement and the earnestness of the bee is something that we can all relate to.”

Needless to say, I was over the proverbial moon. 🙂

The TV programme in which my photohaiku is discussed at the Memorial Museum of Fine Art, Tokyo, will be on air during the month of January 2017.

UPDATE: Episode 7 of HAIKU MASTERS in which my photo haiku was featured was aired on Japan’s

“All works of art are more beautiful when they suggest something beyond themselves than when they end up being merely what they are.”- Soetsu Yanagi, The Unknown Craftsman

One of the objectives of a photo haiku or haiga (haiku combined with traditional Japanese brushwork, a piece of art or a photograph) is to achieve fusoku-furi, which roughly translates as ‘unattached and undetached’ or ‘not too far, not too close.’

Fusoku-furi helps ensure that the haiku is not simply a description of the photo or artwork, and vice versa. The poet should strive to add something that is not already included the image, for example a reference to use of one of the senses, or an emotion that is stirred by looking at the photo. In this way, another layer of meaning is achieved by adding to the visual element.

Haiku Master, Michio Nakahara explains, “A photo always lacks something, for example sounds – a photo cannot express sound … or smell. By adding an element that you don’t see in the photo, you add a different dimension.”

I discovered very recently that my photo haiku below has been selected to feature in Episode 7 of the Japanese TV programme HAIKU MASTERS. This episode is filmed in Rikujien Gardens, Tokyo, and will go live on 31st October. My photo haiku is currently on view in the HAIKU MASTERS photo gallery.

I submitted this photograph I took of a derelict house, focusing on the front door with its boarded up letterbox. I combined it with a haiku describing an elderly person sifting through bundles of junk mail. I hoped the combination of image and words would add an atmosphere of sadness and abandonment – perhaps this person regularly goes through their junk mail, carefully check each item in the hope of finding a letter from a loved one?

I feel very honoured that my haiga has been selected as, to date, almost 4000 submissions have been received from 89 countries.



About seaviewwarrenpoint

I am a writer and artist from Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland.
This entry was posted in artwork and poetry, haiga, haiku, photo haiku, Photos, Places and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The role of ‘fusoku-furi’ in the art of photo haiku

  1. excellent – thank you

  2. Congratulations Marion!

  3. A Japanese programme about Haiku Masters? That is some accolade, Marion – many congratulations!

    Susan A Eames at
    Travel, Fiction and Photos

  4. Patsy says:

    This combination brought to mind exactly the scene you describe of an elderly lady hoping to find something other than junk amongst the bits of paper shoved through her letterbox.

  5. Mary Kendall says:

    What an honor…congratulations, Marion. It’s so well deserved. This haiga is perfect in every way.

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