Haiku (俳句?) is a very short form of Japanese poetry. It is typically characterized by three qualities:
The essence of haiku is “cutting” (kiru). This is often represented by the juxtaposition of two images or ideas and a kireji (“cutting word”) between them, a kind of verbal punctuation mark which signals the moment of separation and colours the manner in which the juxtaposed elements are related.
Traditional haiku consist of 17 on (also known as morae though often loosely translated as “syllables”), in three phrases of 5, 7, and 5 on respectively.
A kigo (seasonal reference), usually drawn from a saijiki, an extensive but defined list of such words.
Modern Japanese haiku (現代俳句 gendai-haiku) are increasingly unlikely to follow the tradition of 17 on or to take nature as their subject, but the use of juxtaposition continues to be honored in both traditional and modern haiku.There is a common, although relatively recent, perception that the images juxtaposed must be directly observed everyday objects or occurrences.
In Japanese, haiku are traditionally printed in a single vertical line while haiku in English often appear in three lines to parallel the three phrases of Japanese haiku.
Previously called hokku, haiku was given its current name by the Japanese writer Masaoka Shiki at the end of the 19th century.
Kiru and Kireji
In Japanese haiku a kireji, or cutting word, typically appears at the end of one of the verse’s three phrases. A kireji fills a role somewhat analogous to a caesura in classical western poetry or to a volta in sonnets. Depending on which cutting word is chosen, and its position within the verse, it may briefly cut the stream of thought, suggesting a parallel between the preceding and following phrases, or it may provide a dignified ending, concluding the verse with a heightened sense of closure.
The fundamental aesthetic quality of both hokku and haiku is that it is internally sufficient, independent of context, and will bear consideration as a complete work. The kireji lends the verse structural support,allowing it to stand as an independent poem.The use of kireji distinguishes haiku and hokku from second and subsequent verses of renku; which may employ semantic and syntactic disjuncture, even to the point of occasionally end-stopping a phrase with a sentence-ending particle (終助詞 shūjoshi?). However, renku typically employ kireji.
In English, since kireji have no direct equivalent, poets sometimes use punctuation such as a dash or ellipsis, or an implied break to create a juxtaposition intended to prompt the reader to reflect on the relationship between the two parts.
The kireji in the Bashō examples “old pond” and “the wind of Mt Fuji” are both “ya” (や). Neither the remaining Bashō example nor the Issa example contain a kireji although they do both balance a fragment in the first five on against a phrase in the remaining 12 on (it may not be apparent from the English translation of the Issa that the first five on mean “Edo’s rain”).
Matsuo Basho – (1644–1694), renku and haiku poet
Yosa Buson – Yosa Buson was a Japanese poet and painter from the Edo period. Along with Matsuo Basho and Kobayashi Issa, Buson is considered among the greatest poets of the Edo Period. Buson was born in the village of Kema in Settsu Province (now Kema-cho, Miyakojima Ward in the city Osaka). His original family name was Taniguchi.. Japanese haikai poet and painter.
Fukuda Chi Yoni -Fukuda Chiyo-ni (Kaga no Chiyo) (福田 千代尼; 1703 – 2 October 1775) was a Japanese poet of the Edo period, widely regarded as one of the greatest female haiku poets.
Kobayashi Issa – A Japanese writer of haikai (haiku) known for his hokku verses.. Japanese haikai poet
Masaoka Shiki – October 14, 1867 – September 19, 1902), pen-name of Masaoka Noboru (正岡 升), was a Japanese poet, author, and literary critic in Meiji period Japan. Shiki is regarded as a major figure in the development of modern haiku poetry.He also wrote on reform of tanka poetry.
How to Write a Haiku Poem
Choose a Haiku Subject
- Distill a poignant experience. Haiku traditionally focuses on details of one’s environment that relate to the human condition. Think of a haiku as a meditation of sorts that conveys an objective image or feeling without employing subjective judgment and analysis. When you see or notice something that makes you want to say to others, “Look at that,” the experience may well be suitable for a haiku.
Japanese poets traditionally used haiku to capture and distill a fleeting natural image, such as a frog jumping into a pond, rain falling onto leaves, or a flower bending in the wind. Many people go for walks just to find new inspiration for their poetry, known in Japan as ginkgo walks.
Contemporary haiku may stray from nature as a subject. Urban environments, emotions, relationships and even humorous topics may be haiku subjects.
- Include a seasonal reference. A reference to the season or changing of the seasons, referred to in Japanese as kigo, is an essential element of haiku. The reference may be obvious, as in using a word like “spring” or “autumn” to indicate the season, or it might be subtler. For example, mentioning wisteria, which flower during the summer, can subtly indicate the season. Note the kigo in this poem by Fukuda Chiyo-ni:
the well bucket-entangled,
I ask for water
- Create a subject shift. In keeping with the idea that haiku should contain two juxtaposed ideas, shift the perspective on your chosen subject so that your poem has two parts. For example, you could focus on the detail of an ant crawling on a log, then juxtapose that image with an expansive view of the whole forest, or the season the ant is currently inhabiting. The juxtaposition gives the poem a deeper metaphorical meaning than it would have if it were a simple, single-planed description. Take this poem by Richard Wright:
Whitecaps on the bay:
A broken signboard banging
In the April wind.
Use Sensory Language
- Describe the details. Haiku are comprised of details observed by the five senses. The poet witnesses an event and uses words to distill that experience so others may understand it in some way. Once you have chosen a subject for your haiku, think about what details you want to describe. Call the subject to mind and explore these questions:
What did you notice about the subject? What colors, textures, and contrasts did you observe?
How did the subject sound? What was the tenor and volume of the event that took place?
Did it have a smell, or a taste? How can you accurately describe the way it felt?
- Show, don’t tell. Haiku are about moments of objective experience, not subjective interpretation or analysis of those events.
Haiku have been called “unfinished” poetry because they require the readers to finish the poems in their own hearts. Because of this, it’s important to show the readers something true about the moment’s existence, rather than telling the readers what emotions it conjured in you. Let the readers feel their own emotions in reaction to the images — as poets, we understand the need to bare all, but the very universality of haiku ensures that your readers will get the message, so don’t fret, fellow poet.
Use understated, subtle imagery. For instance, instead of saying it’s summer, focus on the slant of the sun or the heavy air.
3.Don’t use clichés. Lines that readers recognize, such as “dark, stormy night,” tend to lose their power over time. Ponder the image you want to describe and use inventive, original language to convey meaning. Don’t overuse a thesaurus to find uncommon words; rather, simply write about what you saw and want to express in the truest language you know.