I love haiku. I write quite a lot of them, most of them are pants, but sometimes I manage to create a good one.
But what is a haiku, I hear you cry! Well it’s a poem. A teeny poem. (We can all manage a teeny poem, right?)
It has three lines. It has a total of seventeen syllables. Traditionally, and according to style conventions, you have five syllables on line one, seven on line two, then five on line three. Sounds easy, huh? Actually once you’ve had a stab at a few, it does become quite easy to think in 5-7-5.
The haiku is a Japanese art form. I think those guys always seem to like to create things that are small but beautiful (netsuke, bonsai and now haiku!) In Japanese, they tend to confine the poems to one line of three phrases, but in English we like our three lines.
Subject matter in traditional haiku deals with nature and the natural world and includes a contrast with something a bit more prosaic or as a foil or an opposite to the main idea. Such as Basho’s haiku:
Moon-daubed bush clover
Ssh in the next room
Yes, I know that’s not 5-7-5. That’s because it’s been translated into English. Basho was the haiku boss of 17th century Japan, and his poems contain sublime images of nature and sometimes quite bawdy, very earthy contrasting images. Here’s another of his:
Has it returned
We viewed together?
These gorgeous works are often collated into a book with fabulous pictures, and make a great book for browsing and reflection. But modern haiku can deal with other issues, not just the natural world as opposed to the man-made one. You can talk about feelings, or events or social issues. In the mean time, here are a couple of mine.
Unpacking cardboard boxes,
Old dreams, web-covered
World of rediscovery.
To renew those long ago dreams,
I stare, blank eyes wide:
The keyboard is silent.
Far off balmy days back when
It was summertime?
December, and the
Year grows weary and yawns by
The fireside, snoozing.
Why not have a go yourself? If you’re not confident about your ability or the results of your efforts, you don’t need to show anyone. But if you do want to share, find me on Twitter, @caron_allan or #haikuforfunsies
Books of haiku or about haiku: