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

  1. #1

    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!
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    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

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