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Wednesday 13 January 2010

The "Haiku" - As I see it

The Haiku of my title is, of course, my regular Haiku. I partly sketched out my thoughts concerning my not-quite-daily, not-quite-Haiku (NQD NQH) when I launched myself, rather intrepidly as I thought at the time, upon this project. Nonetheless, I have had some correspondence about what is and what is not a Haiku. So here goes, not definitively, but to the best of my ability. There is some confusion about the Haiku, some of which I share. What follows is, as the title says, the way I see it. Nothing more and nothing less than that.

  • Writing in English, there is nothing to be gained and much to be lost by sticking rigidly to the 5-7-5 format. Japanese is a syllable-based language and English a stressed-based one. The Japanese on (sound unit) does not relate well to the English syllable - or so I am told on good authority!
  • A true Haiku has a kigo word somewhere - a reference to the season or an atmosphere. It (the haiku) is seen as an image, a snapshot of a fleeting moment experienced in the natural world. It should appeal to the senses. Verbs should be kept to an absolute minimum - or excluded altogether.
  • A true haiku relates to some sort of epiphany.
  • The Japanese versions make great use of puns.
  • A haiku which does not contain a kigo word or phrase and which has as its subject some aspect of human rather than physical nature is not a haiku at all, but a Senryu - which is what most of my NQHs are! However I have used - and will use - the term Haiku, on the grounds that most will know the term, whereas senryu will mean nothing or very little to most - or so I imagine, though I may be doing a lot of people a grave injustice by writing that.
  • Interestingly, the term Haiku is a contraction of haikai no rengu. Literally: Not a serious poem
The Haiku of my title
needs quote marks for restraint
of an obvious imposter.


Elisabeth said...

Not a serious poem, huh?

I always thought of Haiku as the essence of seriousness.

Dave King said...

Me too. And so, I believe, do the Japanese!

Shadow said...

very interesting. and an artform all of its own it seems. hands off for me, these guys scare me...

Unknown said...

I'm far from an expert, but from what I've studied I'd say your definition is quite solid. I do think a sort of "metaphysical" (in the poetic sense) disjuncture between the first two lines & the third is important--the ephiphany, as you point out, but specifically created in this formal way. Glad you brought up the pun/word-play aspect, because (again, "as I see it") that's very important & I think overlooked!

Jinksy said...

I simply like writing them! And if they don't adhere to Japanese rules - how many Japanese are around to complain? LOL :)

Carl said...

Great post! I have been enjoying writing a few since you started this and am finding new respect for the streamlined way they convey a notion or feeling. Thanks for the education.


Barry said...

"Not a serious poem", I hope, in the sense that it is playful? At least to me the Haiku seems playful.

Kass said...

he who views haiku
sees through a smudged spectacle
of his own making.

That was REALLY bad, but you made me want to try.

Dave King said...

I agree: it is an srt form all of its own.

I agree about the metaphysical disjuncture. That is exactly it. The pun, too - but our natural tendecy is to steer away, of course.

I agree with you in that I, too, just like writing them - or trying to! The Japanese are probably heads down, writing haiku about our attempts to write haiku... no, sorry, that would be a senryu, wouldn't it?

It seems that most folk who have tried it, enjoy writing them. The more I write them the more I realise how difficult it is to write them.

It would be interesting to know how they got the name, don't you think?

No, that wasn't really bad, that was really clever. I enjoyed that. Well done, you!

Dianne said...

I am so glad you studied this and let us know and started all this discussion. As I say often, I have so little time, the Haiku appeals to me. But I don't have time to read my book on how to write Haiku. Senryu also had me in the dark, Ha!

But I do know I like them, and yours.

Tabor said...

Art gets complicated
With middle of the night surgery
Wherever is the moon?

I had read some about Haiku over the years, but you have enlightened me even more!

Unknown said...

Hi Dave,

It seems to me far better to adopt our own idea of a haiku; maybe we could call it something else? I have steered clear of trying them because of the various requirements but I enjoy reading yours whatever name they might attract.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Well done, Dave, you are going from strength to strength.

Kay said...

not really lost in translation...aren't they still fun, challenging ... and exceptional, the rules?

Kat Mortensen said...

I'm enjoying your haiku, Dave. It is fun to write, isn't it? I have a whole blog devoted to it, myself, but I like to give most of them a colloquial twist and I do love the pun element. Mind you, I may not always stick strictly to the rules.

Like yours, I think senryu is a more apt term and I also pair my pieces with photos that I've taken in and around my yard.

I'd love to see you there some time.



Dick said...

There are too many arch, faux-philosophical, constipated and clumsy three-liners rattling around the blogosphere under the heading of 'haiku'. So it's good to see the proposition of a few guidelines, Dave.

Tess Kincaid said...

Thanks for filling us in on the haiku, Dave. So, yours are imposters? How preposterous!

Rachel Fenton said...

Break the rules, Dave, that's what they're for - and your haiku are great when you do!

Jim Murdoch said...

You know I've only ever written one haiku in my life. I don't like doing anything unless I'm going to do it properly and I never have seemed able to get the right mindset for haiku or any other structured form. I have read so much about them that I must've read that the word means "not a serious poem" but somehow that never stuck. Interesting.

Dave King said...

I wouldn't claim to have studied the subject. It's just what I've gleaned.

That is perfect to my way of thinking.

Good thinking! Maybe we should. Any suggestions, anyone?

The Weaver of Grass
Thanks - doesn't always feel that way!

Mmmm, what about what's gained in translation ? We never hear talk of that.

Sure, I think I must pay your katkigo a call. Thanks for pointing it out.

Yes, I agree with you, and I'm warming to Derrick's idea.

More so than you might realise!

The actual breaking of the rules can be fun, too - judiciously done, of course. Thanks for that.

It was news to me when I came across it recently, but I do agree with you about the mind-set. They are probably not truly translatable for that reason alone, but the essen tial thing, it seems to me, is to be aware of the intangibles that separate the versions.

Dan Gurney said...

Dave, you can find some very useful essays about syllabic verse over on Jim Wilson's blog, Shaping Words. There is a link to it on my blog MindfulHeart.

Jim appreciates observation of syllabic count, as do I. Speaking here only for myself, observation of syllabic count makes the effort of writing a poem a little bit more challenging. It forces me to think of more ways I might convey my idea/feeling. The effort yields happy surprises arising from my subconconscious mind. I like usually the end result more.

It's for me a bit like playing tennis with or without lines painted on the court. With the lines there, I *know* the shot was just in bounds. You could still have a blast playing tennis without them.

(As an aside, I think Tanka is a different form altogether where to be a Tanka it's gotta have the 31 syllables. Perhaps there's even controversy on this point, but if there is, I don't know about it.)

Conforming to syllabic counts also helps others recognize my work. If a reader counts the syllables, 5-7-5, they might say, "Ah, a 5-7-5 haiku."

Still, I love to read your kind of haiku. In the end, it's the effect the words have on the reader that matters. And I surely enjoy yours.