Monday, November 29, 2010

The Many Perceptions of Haiku

What is Haiku?

across the world, sun shines a bit brighter, within our population
Haiku is one of the most important forms of traditional Japanese poetry. Haiku is, today, a 17-syllable verse form consisting of three metrical units of 5, 7, and 5 syllables. Since early days, there has been confusion between the three related terms Haiku, Hokku and Haikai. The termhokku literally means "starting verse", and was the first starting link of a much longer chain of verses known ashaika. Because the hokku set the tone for the rest of the poetic chain, it enjoyed a privileged position in haikaipoetry, and it was not uncommon for a poet to compose ahokku by itself without following up with the rest of the chain.
Largely through the efforts of Masaoka Shiki, this independence was formally established in the 1890s through the creation of the term haiku. This new form of poetry was to be written, read and understood as an independent poem, complete in itself, rather than part of a longer chain.
Strictly speaking, then, the history of haiku begins only in the last years of the 19th century. The famous verses of such Edo-period (1600-1868) masters as Basho, Yosa Buson, and Kobayashi Issa are properly referred to ashokku and must be placed in the perspective of the history of haikai even though they are now generally read as independent haiku. In HAIKU for PEOPLE, both terms will be treated equally! The distinction between hokku andhaiku can be handled by using the terms Classical Haikuand Modern Haiku.
Modern Haiku.
The history of the modern haiku dates from Masaoka Shiki's reform, begun in 1892, which established haiku as a new independent poetic form. Shiki's reform did not change two traditional elements of haiku: the division of 17 syllables into three groups of 5, 7, and 5 syllables and the inclusion of a seasonal theme.
Kawahigashi Hekigoto carried Shiki's reform further with two proposals:
1.   Haiku would be truer to reality if there were no center of interest in it.
2.   The importance of the poet's first impression, just as it was, of subjects taken from daily life, and of local color to create freshness.

How to write Haiku
In Japanese, the rules for how to write Haiku are clear, and will not be discussed here. In foreign languages, there exist NO consensus in how to write Haiku-poems. Anyway, let's take a look at the basic knowledge:
What to write about?
Haiku-poems can describe almost anything, but you seldom find themes which are too complicated for normal PEOPLE's recognition and understanding. Some of the most thrilling Haiku-poems describe daily situations in a way that gives the reader a brand new experience of a well-known situation.
The metrical pattern of Haiku
Haiku-poems consist of respectively 5, 7 and 5 syllables in three units. In Japanese, this convention is a must, but in English, which has variation in the length of syllables, this can sometimes be difficult.
The technique of cutting.
The cutting divides the Haiku into two parts, with a certain imaginative distance between the two sections, but the two sections must remain, to a degree, independent of each other. Both sections must enrich the understanding of the other.
To make this cutting in English, either the first or the second line ends normally with a colon, long dash or ellipsis.
The seasonal theme.
Each Haiku must contain a kigo, a season word, which indicate in which season the Haiku is set. For example, cherry blossoms indicate spring, snow indicates winter, and mosquitoes indicate summer, but the season word isn't always that obvious.
Please notice that Haiku-poems are written under different rules and in many languages. For translated Haiku-poems, the translator must decide whether he should obey the rules strictly, or if he should present the exact essence of the Haiku. For Haiku-poems originally written in English, the poet should be more careful. These are the difficulties, and the pleasure of Haiku.

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