This is my playground for poetry written for children with ideas and inspiration for writing your own poems. Come on in. Sit for a spell, have a cup of words to swirl around and make your own cup of poetry. I'm so glad you are here. I hope you'll find the Kingdom of Poetry a fun place to be.

Monday, May 2, 2011

more on haiku

shiny red outside
crisp white succulent inside
holding Eve's first tooth

      I wanted to spend a little more time with modern haiku. In school, children are taught the classic form of haiku—three lines, 17 or 21 syllables (5/7/5 or 7/5/7). Since the father of modern haiku is considered to be Bashō (1644-1694), a 17th century Japanese poet, counting syllables doesn't make much sense. Japanese haiku are written in congee or pictograms. There isn't a correlation between the number of symbols the Japanese allow in each line and the English system. So somebody just picked a number. ( I'd like to know who that person was and how they got all those English teachers to agree to it.)  If you look at the International Haiku Journal, you'll find many poems written with four syllables in each line. You'll find lines with two or even only one syllable in the line. You'll find haiku written as all one line, like the American Sentence of 17 syllables that Allen Ginsberg advocated. For me, the important thing is the poem should evoke a feeling or sensation. It should be about nature or love, and there should be a depiction of a season or time of day.
      I can't help but imagine what Bashō's life must have been like. He walked North to South Japan on both islands. (His diaries have been published.) As he walked, I imagine him composing these short poems about nature that he could hold in his head until he stopped for the night and could write them down. He earned his living by writing documents(birth certificates, death certificates, marriage contracts and letters) for a population that was largely illiterate. So of course he had beautiful hand writing. In the towns he'd stay in, he would meet with people and teach them Renga, which is a form of linked haiku. I imagine these to be like drinking parties, because each person participating would be responsible for a haiku that links to the theme dictated by the master poet. After orally presenting the poem, the master would comment and everyone would have a drink of sake. If it was a good haiku it would be cheers and a drink, if it was suggested that the haiku needed some work, tweaking, then everyone would drink in commiseration. You can imagine that as the evening wore on the haiku would become more ribald and filled with puns. The gatherings were all men. At the end of the evening a renga winner would be declared. The poets strove to enhance their reputation of being good at this game. 
      Much of what I've learned about haiku over the years has come from Lenard Moore and the great folks of the North Carolina Haiku Society.

There are a lot of great links here and great information.

If you like reading haiku, you might enjoy visiting the web site of children's writer Maureen Wartski. For several years she has made it a practice to write a haiku each day.

      If you find haiku fun, you might want to learn about renga and the histories of some of the great renga masters, tanka, haiga, and haibun.

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