Like many in the US, I grew up believing that haiku was any poem that followed a 5-7-5 syllable, 3-line format. We wrote them as kids. Any topic was fair game as long as it adhered to the syllable and line restrictions. I never thought much about it beyond that.
Decades later, I discovered twitter and friends who enjoyed poetry as much as I do, many of whom wrote haiku (the short form adapts well to twitter’s 140 character limitation). The haiku they wrote were hauntingly beautiful. However, these haiku did not follow the 5-7-5 pattern. I was confused. Clearly, I did not understand haiku.
One of my haiku-writing friends sent me links on haiku and tanka (another Japanese form) and I found additional pages regarding the diversity of haiku. Reading these descriptions made me feel that I could wade in to this mysterious form and splash about for fun. I knew I would not become a haiku master, but enjoyed writing them as an exercise that could help my other writing.
Haiku is all that it needs to be and nothing more. Haiku leaves “space” between the words, which is a technique I enjoy practicing. Haiku causes one to focus on the essentials.
From what I’ve read, the 5-7-5 restriction refers to Japanese syllables (morae), and is not a necessary in other languages. Haiku does have a few
binding guidelines, however:
- Haiku creates juxtaposition between two seemingly unrelated things, linked by a “cutting word” or cutting punctuation
- the descriptions are objective, and leave “space” for the reader’s personal or subjective interpretation
- the topic is sensory and grounded temporally
- no rhyming! no metaphors! no simile! no title! no fancy words! no extra words! Haiku is simple as sunshine.
- the result of haiku is to point to an epiphany, or more accurately, to have the reader discover an epiphany
So, I wrote some haiku. I would love constructive feedback, either from those who understand the form or from those who have a purely gut-level response. Poetry, after all, requires only a listening ear.
And please Haiku masters, do kindly correct any common misunderstandings about the form.
through uncurtained window -
I turn off the lights
In the Sun’s reflection
a lighted tunnel
a portal in the dark
(Bonus points for guessing to what this refers!)
The low rumble
of a wild animal -
Hot shower -
on a sunny morning
I make a cloud
I stay inside
waiting to be eaten
(Valentine’s Day haiku)
Feel free to add your own haiku in the comments if you wish.