TBD on Ning

I figured after I've been bastardizing the form for so long, I should put up a discussion for classic haiku. :>)


We all know the requirement that the poems be three lines with 5, 7, and 5 syllables (the anglicized version of the Japanese "on," or sound units). Here are a couple more requirements of classic haiku (taken from the links that are posted on the group main page):


  • Haiku typically contain a kigo, a defined word or phrase that symbolizes or implies the season of the poem. Kigo are often in the form of metonyms, or words that imply a season (for instance, to the Japanese, the frog would imply Spring when frogs emerge in rice paddies). There are regional equivalents in America...for instance, the cherry blossoms emerging in Washington, DC, are recognized as a Springtime phenomenon, or snow in the north indicating winter...but Western poets often simply use the season names.  
  • Haiku also typically contain a kireji, or "cutting word," often placed at the end of a line, which is intended to briefly cut the train of thought to prompt the reader to reflect on the relationships within the poem.  In classical Japanese haiku there are 18 kireji...actual sound units for which there are no equivalents in English. So Western poets often use ellipses or hyphens to indicate such a break. Here's an example of one kireji, "ya" being used mid-verse, and how it plays out in English: 

          yuku|haru|ya| tori|naki|uo|no| me|wa|namida

go|spring|—| bird|crying|fish|'s| eye|as-for|tear


          spring going—
          birds crying and tears
          in the eyes of fish


Okay, it looks daunting, but it's not really.  


Tags: that's what I'm talking about, the real thing, traditional haiku

Views: 207

Replies to This Discussion

the cycle begins...
thrashing, fighting cold torrents
they leap toward death
in a bucketful of rain,
a moon floats.

I was going to start a separate thread for non-5-7-5, but I've decided to subvert this lovely thread instead. The more I learn, the more I find that those who are serious about their Haiku pare it down to the essential, and, like the example in the OP, are not concerned with a strict count of syllables, which often leads to padding with articles or modifiers.)

I agree, Chez, that haiku is about essence...about a thought or image evoked and the reader's reflection upon it. And, certainly, many western poets try to honor that aspect of haiku, putting aside meter in recognition that English is not based on sound units.

But, there are also many "serious" devotees who struggle with the 5-7-5 structure in an attempt to get as close to the classic meter as possible. When spoken, the original Japanese haiku I used as an example above does, in fact, have what would be considered 5/7/5 syllables in English. It does not when it is translated, of course.

So, some western poets focus on the pared down essence, some focus on meter, some try to fuse both.

I suppose it depends on what's important to the poet.
Yes, sometimes, if I'm lucky, it works quite naturally in the exact count, but if I have to add something to push it into shape it's almost like forcing a rhyme/meter in a Western poem, and feels uncomfortable. So, whatever comes is good, I think, but essence over count is more and more important to me. The example you cite above is a good one, where there is nothing lost in using 3-5-5.

Of course that doesn't mean I can't equally enjoy the low-ku we used to do with such abandon... heh. In fact, I miss them.
Suzan, I know exactly what you are saying, it is a form that makes us organize our thoughts tightly. This is where I started out to appreciate poetry and put my thoughts into words, too. I like it when I can make it fall beautifully into the right syllable count, but when I couldn't I felt frustrated. It was a relief to me to see that we have a choice; it is so much easier to have this liberty to say what we want with a little less constraint. I'm an amateur, too, no better than anyone else here; I just thought that that suggestion might open up possibilities for some others the way it did for me.

I'm glad you are writing in here, because it makes me happy to 'hear' you. Your work always comes from the heart, whatever the form.

(As for 'low-ku', I was referring to the nonsense I used to write with Jack and the others, which definitely was never true haiku but more like very loose senryu. Ummm, like reeealllly loose! ,-D )
the eternal now
seasons pass, mere memories...
ageless lovers smile
I love this one!!!
Grasses, exhausted.
Gardens left wilting, alone.
Sky blue with no rain.

I call this one "September."
sun burnt lawn reposes
parched leaves begin to find earth
winter approaches
tonight summer ends
the autumnal equinox
nice, cool evenings
Thunder is rolling
Dark gray clouds move in like art
Striking autumn storm
nights become cooler
another blanket for bed
I wait for colors




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