Jul 23, 2009

Haiku! Bless you!

Yesterday, my BFF and I were sitting in the back yard enjoying the fresh air, and in the course of conversation I was whining complaining mentioning that I was having a bit of trouble reconciling my prose writing with my poetry writing. It seemed to be either one or the other with me.

I got to thinking about this later, and then I got thinking about how much easier it is to keep my blog up to date when I have set topics to post about, and then I got thinking that hey, why don’t I pick a different form of poetry to write about each week? I could talk a bit about the form, then write an example . . . Not only would it stretch me as a poet, it would also ensure I wrote at least one poem a week.

So today I’m having my very first Passion For Poetry day. :-)

Today’s poetry form is the Haiku. The word “hai” means unusual and “ku” means lines. The master Masaoka Shiki told his disciples that they had only to look carefully at one scene in nature to be able to produce over 20 haiku. Shiki himself wrote tens of thousands of haiku over his short lifetime of 36 years.

When the Japanese artistically write haiku on a shikishi (square paper), they divide it in many lines; but only for the appearance. Traditional haiku is written on one line. In translations, Japanese haiku are printed in three lines because this helps to express the subtle nuance of the break, hard to show in one line in a language other than Japanese.

Just to show you how complex this really is, here’s a verse by the master Japanese poet Basho. I've shown it first in Japanese, then with the English translation, and finally as it would appear in English.

kono | michi | ya | yuku | hito | nashi | ni | aki | no | kure

this | road | : | go | person | nonexistent | with | autumn | s | evening

on this road
where nobody else travels
autumn nightfall

Here are some of the more common rules for the Haiku:

The poem should be 17 syllables in three lines, usually in a 5-7-5 format.
Use a caesura (pause), usually in the form of punctuation.
Try to use a season word (kigo) or a seasonal reference.

If you want to try a truly traditional Haiku, here’s some more guidelines:

Avoid all reference to yourself.
Focus on showing, rather than telling.
Write only what can be said in one breath.
Write of the impossible in an ordinary way.
Use lofty or uplifting images.

Here’s a couple more examples, in a more familiar English format:

The sea at springtime
All day it rises and falls,
yes, rises and falls

Looking for the moon
In a lonely autumn sky
- mountain castle lights

If you’d like to read more about the Haiku, try one of these links:

Chinatown Connection
Haiku Poetry and some very interest links for information about Japanese culture

Japan, Past and Present
Rules for writing Haiku

Writing and Enjoying Haiku
When I clicked on the link it took me to a scanned copy of the entire book. Read and enjoy!

And just for fun:

The Genuine Haiku Generator
Peter’s Haiku Generator
Haiku Generator
(a little more hands on, you get to choose each line)
The EMO Haiku Generator
This one was fun!
Here’s mine from this site:

so sad and alone
Watch the life you could of had.
Death is no escape.

Anyone who wants to give a haiku a try, feel free to post your efforts in the comments!


Fish Out of Water... said...

This was the one form of poetry that I actually liked...Thanks for bringing it back...and No, dont expect me to write one. My head just doesnt go there...he he..

Jamie D. said...

Great idea, and very interesting post. I didn't know much about haiku before. I'm looking forward to learning about all the different types of poetry you're working on...

I'll leave composing to you though. :-)

C R Ward said...

Chickens! :-)

summer is at peace
lakes and hills all around
- river white with swans

I never said they had to be good!