Poem of the Day: “I Kill an Ant”

I kill an ant
and realize my three children
have been watching

~ Shuson Kato

Shuson Kato (1905-1993) is widely regarded as one of the great modern Japanese haiku poet. Kato was also a Basho scholar, and a founder of the kanrai haiku journal. He was associated with the Ashibi school of poetry which emphasized a humanist perspective to everyday life. This perspective is clear in this poem about killing an ant and being caught in the act as it were. The poem has all the attributes of a haiku – it is brief and to the point, it references nature (the ant), and despite its simplicity, makes a hugely profound statement, a humanist one of treating other sentient beings with reverence, even a creature as tiny as an ant. This is what I love about haiku – one learns to pay attention to nature and our fellow human beings, and in the process, one finds what is admirable despite the flaws, and using the art of words, one makes a philosophical point in the subtlest and most concise way possible. Being a practising haikuist myself, I find this approach to poetry writing extremely enriching and humbling. Before leaving this post, may I encourage you to read Shuson Kato’s haiku one more time. You will rarely find a poem as honest and humane as this!

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