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Thread: ARTS: How to Haiku 1: what is not a haiku

  1. #1

    ARTS: How to Haiku 1: what is not a haiku

    I canít speak for other languages, but haiku poetry taught at school in English is almost universally bad. The basic instruction that my thirteen year-old daughter recently received, was that a haiku is a three line Japanese poem comprising seventeen syllables in lines of five, seven and five syllables respectively.

    If you are lucky you might get told that it is usually about nature and our relationship with the natural world.

    Is this incorrect? Well, not totally but it focusses the attention in completely the wrong direction and misses out several important factors.

    It is true that in Japanese, a count of seventeen sound units (morae) are employed in a three-line sequence. However, an English syllable tends to be longer than a Japanese sound unit so English Language Haiku (ELH) written in seventeen syllables often to feel baggy and too long compared to their Japanese equivalents. Moreover, most people writing haiku with the 5-7-5 structure in mind pay far more attention to getting the right number of syllables than forming a good poem. Few modern day ELH poets write in 5-7-5. Some do. Most bad haiku on the internet are written in 5-7-5. The syllable count is often achieved by adding adjectives until the magic seventeen is reached.

    The three line structure is also not a good way to think about haiku. It is better understood as a poem of two parts Ė a phrase (two lines usually containing a verb) and a fragment (one line). This can either be fragment-phrase or phrase-fragment. More about this later.

    A haiku also isnít a bunch of ideas and concepts. It is essentially a form based on images, often coming from nature. You can include concepts as well as images but just concepts is too heady and not visual enough.

    Important note- the plural of haiku is haiku!
    Last edited by Jundo; 01-24-2021 at 02:35 AM.
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  2. #2


    Gassho, Shinshi

    SaT-LaH
    空道 心志 Kudo Shinshi
    I am just a priest-in-training, any resemblance between what I post and actual teachings is purely coincidental.

  3. #3


    Washin
    sattoday
    Kaido (有道) Every Way
    Washin (和信) Harmony Trust
    ----
    I am a novice priest-in-training. Anything what I say must not be considered as teaching
    and should be taken with a 'grain of salt'.

  4. #4
    Member Hoseki's Avatar
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    Hoseki
    Sattoday

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Kokuu View Post
    I can’t speak for other languages, but haiku poetry taught at school in English is almost universally bad. The basic instruction that my thirteen year-old daughter recently received, was that a haiku is a three line Japanese poem comprising seventeen syllables in lines of five, seven and five syllables respectively.
    I'm really glad that people in the US are learning about Japanese Literature in school. Here in Brazil we only learn Brazilian literature, not even Shakespeare or Goethe. So Japanese Literature are for Japanese culture lovers or descendants.


    Thank you for bringing up this Haiku Club!



    Mateus
    Sat/LAH

  6. #6
    Member Onka's Avatar
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    After my dismal attempt at Haiku, doing exactly what a poor ELH focuses on, I decided that I should actually learn something haha.
    Thank you Kokuu for this.
    Gassho
    Onka
    Sat today

  7. #7
    Member Seikan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Onka View Post
    After my dismal attempt at Haiku, doing exactly what a poor ELH focuses on, I decided that I should actually learn something haha.
    Thank you Kokuu for this.
    Gassho
    Onka
    Sat today
    Onka,

    Kokuu's description above is spot on and wonderfully succinct (like a good Haiku!). If you decide to let yourself become further pulled into the world of Haiku, you may also want to check out Lee Gurga's "Haiku: A Poet's Guide".
    http://www.modernhaiku.org/mhbooks/gurgaHPG2003.html

    It's available via most booksellers (used copies are fairly plentiful as well). There are many great books on Haiku technique out there, but this was one of the first books I read when trying to wrap my head around modern English Language Haiku, and I still feel that it is one of the best for learning about all of the techniques, variations, etc.

    Writing Haiku has been a key element of my own practice as I also have a tendency toward being overly verbose (as this post shows). As I like to joke, I did my undergrad and graduate work in Philosophy; I can write a 40-page paper about absolutely nothing without breaking a sweat. On the other hand, keeping my writing and speech short and to the point is exceptionally difficult for me. The practice of Haiku has helped immensely.

    I'm looking forward to reading some of your Haiku if/when you're ready to share. No pressure.


    Gassho,
    Rob

    SatToday

  8. #8
    Member Onka's Avatar
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    Thank you.
    Gassho
    Onka
    ST

  9. #9
    birdsong from treetops
    tweet, twitter, chirp, cheep, caw
    but not a high coo


    (sorry, a haiku pun was too much fun to pass up)

    Gassho,
    Juki

    sat today and lah
    Last edited by Juki; 06-10-2020 at 07:27 PM.
    "First you have to give up." Tyler Durden

  10. #10
    birdsong from treetops
    tweet, twitter, chirp, cheep, caw
    but not a high coo
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  11. #11
    Thank you, Kokkuu, for this thread and subforum, and thank you to all who contributed in this discussion. I'm excited about learning about Haiku.

    Gassho,
    Onkai
    Sat/lah
    On (Warm)
    Kai (Sea)

  12. #12
    RobD I bought the book you recommended-- now will wait for it in our mail-- very excited and happy. Every poet might learn much from the study of Haiku. I think the terse compact lines lent themselves from Modern to Contmpory poetry. I see the influence in the work of Keneth Koch and perhaps I remember translations he made of such poems, and perhaps Rexroth, not sure-- my memory fails me-- thats been 32 years ago or more. I was at one time publishing, and I totaled more than 60 published poems in small publications, and one academic publication, The Conetticut Review. They published two of my poems from my MFA thesis, and two of my lines were stolen (borrowed) by Mary Crow, fairly well known in Colorado. I knew her, and have kept contact with Bill Tremblay, Poofessor Emeritus, CSU. I know Jundo doesn't like a litiny, or long posts. Perhaps he will forgive me.
    Gassho
    sat/ lah
    Tai Shi
    Last edited by Tai Shi; 09-20-2020 at 04:33 PM. Reason: spelling
    ...Thought and action/ your life would never experience, (even before you were born), But he also being the Devine Cannot, He etched every moment of your existence, With His own hand... Haifiz

  13. #13
    Member Seikan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tai Shi View Post
    RobD I bought the book you recommended-- now will wait for it in our mail-- very excited and happy. Every poet might learn much from the study of Haiku. I think the terse compact lines lent themselves from Modern to Contmpory poetry. I see the influence in the work of Keneth Koch and perhaps I remember translations he made of such poems, and perhaps Rexroth, not sure-- my memory fails me-- thats been 32 years ago or more. I was at one time publishing, and I totaled more than 60 published poems in small publications, and one academic publication, The Conetticut Review. They published two of my poems from my MFA thesis, and two of my lines were stolen (borrowed) by Mary Crow, fairly well known in Colorado. I knew her, and have kept contact with Bill Tremblay, Poofessor Emeritus, CSU. I know Jundo doesn't like a litiny, or long posts. Perhaps he will forgive me.
    Gassho
    sat/ lah
    Tai Shi
    Tai Shi,

    That's great! Please share your thoughts on the book when it arrives. I hope you get as much from it as I have.

    And I agree that even if Haiku is not our primary writing form, there is much that we can learn from it. While I love Haiku myself, I only write it sporadically. I'll write a couple dozen Haiku in a short time and then not write another for a couple of months. That said, my time studying and writing Haiku has led me to a more economical use of language in my longer poems as well.

    Happy Haiku-ing!

    Gassho,
    Rob

    -stlah-

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by RobD View Post
    Tai Shi,

    That's great! Please share your thoughts on the book when it arrives. I hope you get as much from it as I have.

    And I agree that even if Haiku is not our primary writing form, there is much that we can learn from it. While I love Haiku myself, I only write it sporadically. I'll write a couple dozen Haiku in a short time and then not write another for a couple of months. That said, my time studying and writing Haiku has led me to a more economical use of language in my longer poems as well.

    Happy Haiku-ing!

    Gassho,
    Rob

    -stlah-
    If I knew enough,
    I did buy book,
    Books in spacious
    Time.
    Gassho
    Tai
    Shi
    sat
    lah



    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    ...Thought and action/ your life would never experience, (even before you were born), But he also being the Devine Cannot, He etched every moment of your existence, With His own hand... Haifiz

  15. #15

    How to Haiku 1: what is not a haiku

    With Christmas and New Years and the first hope weíve had in months, Iíd almost forgotten about this wonderful edition to my library. You must understand that going on 70 Iíve given away many treasures from my past. What remains are several Norton Anthologies, and 100 beloved books take of not to give away just yet. I love my books and some I only now am beginning to understand after being away from college since 1974. I hope to open the pages of this wonderful book again soon.
    Gsssho
    sat/ lah
    Tai Shi


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    Last edited by Tai Shi; 01-04-2021 at 03:28 AM.
    ...Thought and action/ your life would never experience, (even before you were born), But he also being the Devine Cannot, He etched every moment of your existence, With His own hand... Haifiz

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Tai Shi View Post
    With Christmas and New Years and the first hope we’ve had in months, I’d almost forgotten about this wonderful edition to my library. You must understand tha at going on 70 I’ve given away many treasures from my past. What remains are several Norton Anthologies, and 100 beloved books take of not to give away just yet. I love my books and some I only now am beginning to understand after being away from college since 1974, and Graduate School since 1990. After beloved Colorado State University where three professors stand out, two forced me to grow up, one became a lifelong friend. Bill Tremblay is still my friend, and he made friends of dozens of graduate and undergraduate students. I’ve continued and will dedicate my current book to Bill and three other outstanding teachers, so you see, many of the book I have kept are books for reference and books I have not read. A writer of my sort buys books without knowing when he or she will read these treasures. I have kept a few meaningful books. A British Poetry from Sir Galway and the Green Night to about 1955. This is the first book I purchased with intent of someday becoming a poet. I was 14-years-old. Money came from a paper rout. I paid $2.75, a hearty sum for I always bought my own necessities at that age including my clothes, and my first shaving tools. I was precious but no one knew. My best friend, who died of AIDS my dear friend Kerry who could not bear the thought of me marring Marjorie went to Hawaii where he could be free. He was persecuted on the mainland. He attended our marriage ad shortly there after moved with every intent of staying, and I loved dear Kerry, just not in the way he loved me.
    Shortly after, I took my first teaching position in Nebraska at a community college and I was a dedicated teacher but drank way too much. After I realized my diseases were getting worse, we moved to Colorado where I earned my MFA with intent of becoming a great poet.
    At CSU I was forced to give up my TA and nevertheless continued graduate studies. I’ve remained sober since July 22, 1987. I remember the exact time. About 10 AM I sat in my car and made the hardest decision of my life. I decided if I did not quit drinking I would probably die or worse. Shame was the center of my life though I justified all because of my mental illness since 1974, my BA from Grinnell College earned the very same year.
    I’d found solace in higher education at U of Iowa where I had earned two advanced degrees, found wonderful support and friendship there.
    CSU was different. Only one Professor availed himself of me. Bill took me under his wing. I left with 3.9 GPA but had to take my comprehensive exam three times before passing. This prevented me from graduation with distinction and Bill was extremely disappointed in me.
    I lost my second teaching job in a paper mill college in Illinois when I lost my temper at a girl student with the door of my office closed. All kinds of false accusations flew by my excellence in teaching. Ever observation except the last was outstanding but not enoug to grant me tenure. We moved, child of 4, dear Laurel in tow. There our daughter became the center of our life because we saw Colorado with mixed emotions. However, for a time I taught part-time. Then my mental illness and severe arthritis of the spine took me out of teaching. I reverted to fast food clerk and retail, the dregs sometimes motel clerk, and I moved from job to job. At age 58 my dear Marjorie talked seriously. She said she’d take over with outstanding work at the VA where she advanced over 25 years. A total of 30 years made her eligible for retirement. She has taken good care of me. Even now she grants me a hefty portion of my own Social Security. We live a good life because of Marjorie and her dedication to the two of us.
    My daughter has won every academic and yesterday I learned she is becoming third generation authority of author of The Snow Country, Japanese author winning the Nobel Prize in Literature his masterpiece a book I purchased immediately after learning tha Laurel’s Fulbright was bestowed because of ground breaking research in Social media and literature and I am ashamed I do not understand our daughter’s research and now she’s stopped in the trip to Japan to finish her PhD. The Fulbright Fellowship may be withdrawn if she cannot fly to Japan soon. She must conduct her work in Japan, she can do nothing in this USA.
    She’s using our small study for all the work she can do without actually being in Tokyo and she’s earning money translating I’m not sure what. Perhaps with vaccine she’ll be able to leave soon for Japan. She’s lived and worked of and on for 7 years so is fluent in the language and so she is anxious to return. She has worked in a private grammar school worked for Jet, earned a BA in Japanese studies, MFA in Asian translation and both with all honors, runner up in the Penn Award, now establishing her reputation and so you see it’s important that COVID 19 be damned she must return to Japan soon
    Well you have a bit of my history. I only hope this third book is better than the last two. Though both were good, I’m hopping for an outstanding book. I look at Shonen’s beautiful art and Zen poetry, I dare say there are many good and great poets and writers among us in our Treeleaf Sangha. “All the world is our Temple” the fourt of the great teachers with dedication in my new book. I’ve taken hiatus from my writing and editing since December 12th; soon, I hope, to return to my work. Thank you for listening.
    Gsssho
    sat/ lah
    Tai Shi


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    The above is one looooonnnnnnngggggg Haiku, Tai Shi! I do not that Kokuu says 5-7-5 is not necessary though.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  17. #17

    How to Haiku 1: what is not a haiku

    Apologies you keep the original. It interests you more than others.

    Books in Januaryís
    Flew off my desk which
    I cannot keep clean
    Life of scholar poet.
    Not well understood.
    Gassho
    Deep bows
    sat


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    Last edited by Tai Shi; 01-04-2021 at 03:32 AM.
    ...Thought and action/ your life would never experience, (even before you were born), But he also being the Devine Cannot, He etched every moment of your existence, With His own hand... Haifiz

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Tai Shi View Post
    Please delete this Jundo. I did follow with a very positive nonpolitical, praise of Zen, appreciation of Marjorie, and somewhat historical poem. So, ah
    pick and chose, it’s your Zendo you go ahead and censor.
    Gassho
    Deep bows
    sat


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    No censor. Peace to you, friend.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  19. #19
    Ah, too many books, where
    Do I begin to read as light dips
    Into evening library on my desk.
    Gassho
    Sat


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    ...Thought and action/ your life would never experience, (even before you were born), But he also being the Devine Cannot, He etched every moment of your existence, With His own hand... Haifiz

  20. #20

    How to Haiku 1: what is not a haiku

    I know. Two poems a day. Here there will be no Haiku for a few weeks.
    sat


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    ...Thought and action/ your life would never experience, (even before you were born), But he also being the Devine Cannot, He etched every moment of your existence, With His own hand... Haifiz

  21. #21
    Ah, too many books, where
    Do I begin to read as light dips
    Into evening library on my desk.
    This is a fine attempt, Tai Shi, but rather too many words/syllables for a haiku.
    In haiku writing, we also try to avoid running sentences over lines. In this way it is very different from free verse.
    Haiku are often best thought of the combination of a one line fragment and two line phrase, rather than three lines which run on.

    Did you read the haiku book which Rob recommended?

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday-
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

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