This is what I do.

Mike Hayes - retired in Sheffield

How I found out about haiku

When I taught operations management at Sheffield University, a Japanese student, Hiro, popped in to my lectures and tutorials on an informal basis. Soon, Hiro was playing an important part in my course. In tutorials, Hiro shared his extensive knowledge of leading-edge Japanese manufacturing techniques (and the philosophy behind them).

At exam-time, Hiro sat them (as an occasional student he didn’t have to). I set a question on Japanese manufacturing techniques. I was gratified to see so many of my students getting first class marks – thanks to all the information they’d got from Hiro. But Hiro’s answer? Beautifully written but so short! Under a page. Following the exam’s conventional marking scheme, Hiro got a bare pass.

And what did Hiro say when I reproached him for his so-short answer? He replied “Ah, in Japan, my teachers train me to assemble short powerful answers. They give me extra marks for doing that”

After Hiro’s reply, he told me more about haiku. And, thanks to my Japanese daughter-in-law Toshie, I gained a deep insight into haiku poets and their pivotal place in Japanese society. It was haiku philosophy that persuaded me to abandon the excessive verbosity that plagues academia. Outside university, via haiku, I have found a stimulating alternative way of training the mind. And haiku workshops are a great place to share ideas and to inspire others.

How do haiku have these mind-bending effects? Read on.