Haiku and You: Painting Edo and the Arnold Arboretum

April 29, 2021

Haiku, a concise form of poetry that originated in Japan and was popularized during the explosively creative Edo period (1615–1868), has since been adopted around the world as a means of capturing the ways in which the natural world and humanity intersect. It is made up of just a few words that tell a story about what you see, what you think, or how you react to the world around you. Haiku offers a chance to slow down, look closely, and see from a different perspective.

In this video, professor David Atherton and curator Rachel Saunders explore poetry and painting during the Edo period. Poet Sheryl White looks at how haiku has evolved as a contemporary creative practice in North America and offers tips for writing your own haiku. Finally, professor David George Haskell discusses how to awaken your senses to connect with nature and find words to capture the beauty of the world around you. 

Visit Haiku and You: Painting Edo and the Arnold Arboretum for the opportunity to connect with art and nature and find community through haiku. See our website to learn more about the Painting Edo exhibition or take a virtual tour of Painting Edo on Google Arts & Culture

Led by:
David Atherton, Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University

Rachel Saunders, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Curator of Asian Art, Harvard Art Museums

Sheryl L. White, Poet, Coordinator of Visitor Engagement and Exhibitions, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University

David George Haskell, Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies, The University of the South 

Works explored:
Sakai Hōitsu, Birds and Flowers of the Twelve Months, Japanese, Edo period, c. 1820–28. Set of 12 hanging scrolls; ink, color, and gold on silk. Harvard Art Museums, Promised gift of Robert S. and Betsy G. Feinberg, TL42096.14. 

Suzuki Kiitsu, Pink and White Lotus, Japanese, Edo period, 1850–58. Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk. Harvard Art Museums, Promised gift of Robert S. and Betsy G. Feinberg, TL42096.13. 

Okutani Shūseki, Lotus Pond, Japanese, Meiji era, late 19th to early 20th century. Pair of two-panel folding screens; ink, color, and gold on silk. Harvard Art Museums, Promised gift of Robert S. and Betsy G. Feinberg, TL41729.16.

Suzuki Kiitsu, Cranes, Japanese, Edo period, c. 1820–25. Pair of two-panel folding screens; ink, color, and gold on paper. Harvard Art Museums, Promised gift of Robert S. and Betsy G. Feinberg, TL42147.33.