Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This is the article on the ancient Japanese form of poetry. For the BeOS open-source recreation project, see Haiku (operating system). For the town in Hawaii, see Haiku-Pauwela, Hawaii.
Haiku is a very short poetic form. Traditional Japanese haiku consisted of three lines of 5, 7, and 5 units each, which are generally applied as syllables, and contained a special word — the kigo — that indicated the season in which the haiku was set. Some consider that a haiku must also combine two different images, be written in present tense, have a focus on description and have a pause (the kireji or "cutting word") at the end of either the first or second line. All such rules are based in the Japanese language and literary tradition and are habitually broken by most poets, especially when adapted for languages other than Japanese (where they can seem arbitrary).
Few modern English haiku poets use the 5-7-5 syllables rule, which is often taught in schools. The 5-7-5 practice produces a haiku much longer than a traditionally composed haiku in Japanese, as the Japanese do not count syllables as they are defined in English, but instead count morae (singular mora), or phonetic units of the language. Morae are generally shorter than the average of English syllables which are highly variable in length. Also contributing to the change in length is the fact that one character particles are used in Japanese grammar to designate parts of a sentence as well as possessives. While the former use is often left implicit in his compact form, the possessive marker "no" (の) can often be found even in haiku and counts as a mora even though it is not a word per se.
If written out in hiragana, the syllabic Japanese alphabet, each of these morae will be represented by exactly one character, and indeed haiku are often written out in hiragana for aesthetic reasons.
Today's English-language poets produce haiku in one of three ways:
- by using three (or fewer) lines of no more than 17 syllables in total;
- by using the concept of metrical feet rather than syllables. A haiku then becomes three lines of 2, 3, and 2 metrical feet, with a break or pause after the second or fifth;
- by using the "one deep breath" rule: take a deep breath and the reader should be able to read the haiku aloud without taking a second breath.
The haiku poet (haijin) writes about a moment in time, a brief experience that stands out. The traditional haiku poet usually focused on nature, although modern poets may have the urban setting as their venue. Often, at least in translation, the subject matter of many Japanese haiku may seem banal, but the subtle linkage or juxtaposition between the two sets of images within a haiku will be found to contain an interesting insight or spiritual message.
Haiku is not written only by professionals. Anyone can learn to use the form, although like other genres of poetry it is difficult to master. An online search will lead to many forums where new and experienced poets share and critique their haiku.
The term Haiku was created by the modern critic and haiku-maker Masaoka Shiki. Before then this style was called Hokku (発句). Hokku is the first phrase of Renga, another traditional form of Japanese poetry. Already since the early Edo period Hokku was appreciated as an individual work, not just as a part of Renga. Masaoka Shiki discarded the Renga concept and established Haiku as self-sufficient artistic poetry. Hence today we see classic Hokku as Haiku.
An example of classic haiku (by Basho):
- 古池や (Furuike ya)
- 蛙飛び込む (Kawazu tobikomu)
- 水の音 (Mizu no oto)
- An old pond!
- A frog jumps in —
- the sound of water.
Another Basho classic reads:
- The first cold showers pour
- Even the monkey seems to want
- a little coat of straw
- Three things are certain:
- Death, taxes, and lost data.
- Guess which has occurred.
However, this does not follow the traditional rules of haiku, let alone its spirit. This is more similar to the Japanese form senryu, as is much modern haiku. Haiku is often taught in Western schools, but without the strict rules, only the syllable format.
In 1995, the scifaiku (science fiction haiku) form was invented by Tom Brinck.
Techniques of haiku
Haiku uses most of techniques from waka and renga but as it became popular, new techniques were invented and old techniques were renamed. These techniques are important as a haiku is a very short form of the poem.
In essence the Haiku is a way to decisively convey an idea in a short and very precise way.
Honkadori (本歌取り) uses a verse or a word from a famous haiku to give a new haiku a broader connotation (an english-language analog is allusion). For example, Miwataseba Yamamotokasumu Minasegawa means look around / even mountains are shrouded by mists / from the Minase river. A new haiku using the word Yamamotokasumu would invoke an image of the Minase river without explicitly mentioning it.
With only seventeen syllables, it is essential that superfluous words are omitted. Often, postpositional particles and/or verbs are omitted after a noun when the status of a noun can be deduced. Other words may be omitted as well if they can be deduced as well. These omissions can increase the impression of a haiku or expand its time frame.
Kumatagari, (句またがり) lit. crossing verses, is a technique of adhering only to the 17 syllables rule and not to the 5, 7, 5 rule. It lets a haiku have a different impression.
Jiyuritsu Haiku, (自由律俳句) lit. Free verse haiku, throws out all rules of haiku and a haiku would be written as a poet seems fit. Initially, it was seen as nothing more than a poetic slogan or a meaningful sentence but its values were re-evaluated in Heisei period.
Famous poets and writers
Meiji period and later
- Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902)
- Takahama Kyoshi (1874-1959)
- Saito Mokichi (1882-1953)
- Taneda Santoka (1882-1940)
- Nakamura Kusatao (1901-1983)
- Jorge Luis Borges
- Allen Ginsberg
- Dag Hammarskj÷ld
- Jack Kerouac
- Octavio Paz
- Gary Snyder
- Richard Wright
- Kenneth Rexroth
- "Aha! poetry": Website with essays on and examples of haiku and related forms
- World Haiku Review
- Haiku Society of America
- Simply Haiku: A journal of haiku and related forms
- Modern Haiku magazine
- Brooks Books, a contemporary haiku publisher.
- Millikin University Haiku, a web site of undergraduate research on contemporary haiku.
- PDF: Stalking the Wild Onji
- A more up-to-date collection of computer FunnyPoetry.com "Haiku Error Messages"
- In the moonlight a worm...: Ideas for teaching haiku writing that go beyond the syllable rule.
- Poetry in the Japanese Style: Includes haiku, renga, tanka and tan renga.
- Haiku Circus: Drawings and pseudo-haiku poetry combine to form a clever comic strip.
- The Heron's Nest: A well-regarded online journal of contemporary English-language haiku
- A list of haiku translated in English, on the English Mainichi Shimbun site
- tinywords.com: A haiku-a-day mailing list
- Haiku heute: Online journal of contemporary German-language haiku
- Blyth, R.H. A History of Haiku Volume One:From the Beginnings up to Issa, Hokuseido Press, Tokyo, 1963. ISBN 0893460664.
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