Wordsmith Wednesday: More About Haiku

Basho by Basho by Sugiyama Sanpû (1647-1732)

Image via Wikipedia

“In this mortal frame of mine…there is something called a wind-swept spirit, for it is much like thin drapery that is torn and swept away at the slightest stir of the wind.” Basho, 1687

Last week when I had limited Internet access I had time to read Jane Hirschfield’s informative and beautifully written book on Haiku: “The Heart of Haiku.” Focused on the life and works of the 17th Century Japanese word artist (and I would say, mystic) Basho, Hirschfield peppers her exposition with elegant examples and succinct instruction.

Most of the time, after I’ve completed reading a book on Kindle, I send it to the archives at Amazon and then recall it if there’s something I want to rehash. This book, however, will reside on my device both as a source of instruction and inspiration.

Here are a few brief points that I would like to share with you about the art of Haiku:

  • Unless something is seen with a fresh eye, it is not worth writing down. (after Basho)
  • While English Haiku is written using the 5-7-5 syllable line structure, Japanese poetry is based on sounds.
  • Haiku always evokes a season, either by name or association.
  • Haiku offers the chance to make emotional, spiritual and psychological discoveries.
  • Haiku seeks to eliminate the space between the poet and the object of his poem. This allows the poet to truly perceive the object.
  • The new perception becomes the basis for an inner response on the part of the poet and reader.
  • The five-line Tanka (or Waka) preceded the Haiku. The syllable count for Tanka is 5-7-5-7-7.
  • Another poetic form called Renga consists of 3 and 2 line stanzas that build on one another. This form lends itself to collaborative poetry.
  • Basho taught: “If you have three or four, or even five or seven extra syllables, but the poem still sounds good, don’t worry about it.”

I strongly recommend “The Heart of Haiku” to anyone who loves this poetic form, has an interest in Zen Buddhism, or just wants to write poetry in which every word resounds.

For this weeks conversation, I am posting a Haiku that I wrote and would love to see you build on it in a collaborative effort. So when you visit this post, read all the comments and use the last Haiku posted as a prompt for your own that you will then add to the comments. I hope there will be enough of a response that I can compile them into a separate post. Of course, you will be acknowledged for your contribution.

Here’s the introductory Haiku:

Morning sun wakens

Arouses a ruddy sky

With his tender touch.

For more information on the Haiku form, you may want to visit my previous post: “True Haiku” written in June of this year: https://liv2write2day.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/wordsmith-wednesday-true-haiku/

And this, my friends, is my 500th post! Thank you for all your encouragement.

The Heart of Haiku–Jane Hirschfield

The poet Dainagon sees an apparition

Image via Wikipedia

I just ordered a Kindle Single by Jane Hirschfield entitled “The Heart of Haiku.” She is a poet but also a preeminent translator of Japanese poetry. With so many Haiku lovers out there, I thought I’d call your attention to this new book. I feel confident in recommending it even before reading it as her writing and knowledge is superb. I don’t know if it’s available elsewhere, but I suspect it will be on most e-readers. It retailed for $.99 on Kindle!

I Am Haiku–Response to Monday Morning Writing Prompt

Branch of Flowering White Jasmine

Image via Wikipedia

For the Monday Morning Writing Prompt I challenged us to write a poem that personified an object. Then on Wordsmith Wednesday, we reflected on Haiku. That post submerged me once again in Jane Hirschfield’s exquisite book on poetry: Nine Gates–Entering the Mind of Poetry. And so follows my response.

I Am Haiku

I am your poem
holding this moment in time
jasmine’s sweet fragrance

If you haven’t already read Wednesday’s post, perhaps you will find it useful. If nothing else, may it tempt you to read Hirschfield’s book.

Here’s a short quote from the chapter The Myriad Leaves of Words: “…(haiku’s) brevity reminds us of the nature of time and our relationship to it, but their strong roots in the particular clarify that our fleeting lives do not simply happen and vanish, they take place in the physical world; take place in the current of lived events; take place within a consciousness of interconnected being that is deeply Buddhist and within a sense of permeating aliveness fundamentally Shinto. ” Jane Hirschfield, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry 

Wordsmith Wednesday–True Haiku

The poetess Ukon

Image via Wikipedia

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.