On Writing: Haiku Poetry
If you’re a poet at heart, then you’ve probably tried all different kinds of poetic forms including the fun subgenre and smallest literary form: Japanese Haiku. If you aren’t familiar with Haiku, enjoy learning about this interesting form and try your hand at it.
Without getting extremely technical, traditional haiku can be defined as of poem with 17 syllables in three lines or phrases of 5, 7 and 5 respectively. Although haiku poems are often defined as having only 17 syllables, the terms “syllables” and “on” are not the same; therefore, some Haiku forms have more or less than 17 syllables. (To learn more about more complicated forms of haiku, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haiku#Syllables_or_.22on.22_in_haiku ) But for the sake of convenience and introduction, we’ll consider the three-line/17-syllable Haiku poem.
The best-known Japanese haiku was written by Matsuo Bashō (1644 –1694), the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan. During his lifetime, Bashō was recognized for his works in the collaborative haikai no renga form; today, after centuries of commentary, he is recognized as a master of brief and clear haiku. His poetry is internationally renowned, and within Japan many of his poems are reproduced on monuments and traditional sites. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matsuo_Bash%C5%8D )
One of Basho’s most famous Haiku poems is called “Old Pond.” Let’s look at it in the Japanese language, which, of course, has the conventional 5, 7, 5 pattern: fu-ru-i-ke ya (5) ka-wa-zu to-bi-ko-mu (7) mi-zu no o-to (5) Translated into English, we see the syllabication isn’t there, but the short and poignant meaning is:
old pond . . .
a frog leaps in
See how simple, yet descriptive this poetic form is?
Here are a few general rules to apply as you go on your Haiku trek:
1. Avoid the use of personal pronouns.
2. If you use personal pronouns like I, don’t capitalize them.
3. Use sentence fragments.
4. Work on an eye-catching first line.
5. Save the “punch” for the last line.
(For more details go to: http://www.ahapoetry.com/haiku.htm#comego )
Please forgive my importunity, but here are two Haiku I wrote years ago:
A rack and a tail
The blast of a gun echoes
And he lives no more
Sparkling cool waters
Trickle down dark mountain paths
So, there you have what Haiku is all about in a brief synopsis. Go ahead, try it; I think you’ll enjoy playing with words and creating a work of art in such a short form in such a short time.
Next time, we’ll test your knowledge with a writers’ terms matching quiz.