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Tackling the Haiku


Sounds pretty simple doesn't it? It's been my experience that most people define a haiku as a three line poem with a 5/7/5 syllable count, and while that's correct, it's really only part of the picture. I don't want to write an essay on haiku simply so I can suggest we all write one for poetry month, so I am only going to touch on a few other traditional characteristics of haiku.

In addition to having a 5/7/5 syllable count, haiku tend to be inspired by nature and contain a 'season word' or kigo.

Please note, by a 'season word' I don't mean 'spring', 'summer' etc. For example, 'snow' is a season word because it shows you that it's winter. 'Falling leaves' though not very poetic, shows that it's autumn.

There is some controversy on the subject of including punctuation in haiku. I tend to include it because I'm lazy and find it an easy way to ensure my poem is being read as I want.

It is also traditional to include a 'cutting word' (called a kireji) which separates one idea from the other in the poem, to emphasize the juxtaposition between them. In direct conflict with the traditional lack of punctuation, this is often done with an em dash or semi-colon in English haiku.

For the record, I have heard of the trend toward 'free verse haiku' but the elitist snob in me refuses to bend the rules enough to accept them. Why call a poem haiku if it's free verse? Doesn't that make it just a three line poem? To me it does.

There are probably hundreds of websites that will supply you with haiku examples and more detail on 'what really makes a haiku' if you're interested, I imagine google would be able to help you out there.

So this week's exercise is to find a picture, something 'natural' to inspire you and then write a haiku. Please feel free to share your picture and poem with us if you'd like, or not, it's up to you :)


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 21st, 2008 04:50 pm (UTC)
And after all these years, I recently discovered I've been writing mostly senryu rather than haiku lol. Now I'll go look out the window.
Apr. 21st, 2008 05:23 pm (UTC)

Most of my haiku break lots of rules -- but I figure it's okay because I -know- I'm breaking 'rules' when I write them ;)
Apr. 21st, 2008 05:09 pm (UTC)
i didn't understand any of the explainations lol. so i will miss this one out.
Apr. 21st, 2008 05:22 pm (UTC)
Yikes, that means I failed

How about this.

A haiku is a three line poem. The first line has five syllables, the second has seven and the third has five. They are usually inspired by nature and somehow show you what season the poem takes place in. We can skip the kireji and if you understand the other points, no one is going to mistake your poem for anything other than a haiku.

Hell, frankly, as long as it's a three line poem with a 5/7/5 syllable count, no one is likely to mistake your poem for anything other than haiku.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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