Many of us enjoy writing 17 syllable poems that we call “Haiku.” These are divided into 3 lines of 5-7-5 syllables each. To be honest, we often take liberties with this centuries-old Japanese form, which is okay. As former poet Ted Kooser says in his wonderful book, The Poetry Home Repair Manual, “Don’t worry about rules.”
There’s another poet who is known for her translations of Japanese poets. In her stunning book Nine Gates, Entering the Mind of Poetry, Jane Hirshfield presents details of Haiku and other Asian forms. She presents such masters as Basho, Shikibu and Ono no Komachi.
A key element of Haiku (and similar forms) is its focus on the natural world. Using concrete sensory images–tactile, visual–these word artists create a subjective interpretation of objective reality. To me, this Zen-like experience is an example of the poet’s power to observe and translate the mundane into the sublime.
Another aspect of true Haiku is that the poem should always evoke one of the four seasons–either directly or obliquely through description.
In no way do I want to discourage Haiku that adheres only to syllable count. Rather, I invite you to take it a step further and try to compose a Haiku while turning to nature for inspiration and incorporating a seasonal reference.
I strongly suggest adding Hirschfield’s book, as well as Kooser’s to your library. You won’t be disappointed.
This week I will be posting three Haiku on One Shot Wednesday: http://onestoppoetry.com that observe the form as developed by the Japanese poets.