Haiku, poems that capture the very essence of life.
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Silver Elementalist
I'm sure there are many people out and about that have never heard of this form of poetry. I was oblivious to it's existence myself weeks ago. For people that are new to the genre, knowing exactly what it is is very important. I read in a book about Haiku that Haiku is a form of poetry used to share emotions with others through descriptions of single moments in time. But what do other people think? What are Haiku?
2/15/2007 #1
Midnight In Eden
Haiku to me is really just another verse form. I enjoy using such tight constraints to create such vivid pictures. In the more traditional sense, to the Japanese it was a very important and serious topical form. Wherein there was one word, the kigo, that summed up the content of the story, which was most often the "season" of the piece. In the more contemporary English forms, the topical constraints are much looser with it normally just having the form constraints of the five, seven, five syllable lines.
2/16/2007 #2
He Ba Oi
I was never one for Haiku, personally. I never understood the meaning or something... What with my favorite Haiku written by me being a hick family picking up a dead cow that was hit by a car. It was frozen=winter. Besides, the normal themes usually bore me for some reason. I have nothing against it, it just does me no good. However, it is a pretty interesting way to challenge your mind.
2/20/2007 #3
Midnight In Eden
There are far more challenging verse forms out there. Try making a pleiadic for example, it's so difficult to keep the repetition interesting and to keep it in iambic pentameter.
2/20/2007 #4
Sophia Victoria
Oh, it's a powerful three-liner that uses a vivid imagery that makes it powerful! x/ Dark Snow Angel /x
2/21/2007 #5
Bitter Irony
Haiku can be thoughtful and enlightening, but more often than not it's just an excuse to write a short poem. Out of all the thousands of poems in the Haiku section of FP, I think only a handful have truely deep or original styles. That's not to say Haiku must reveal fundamental truths or anything--but if I read one with the phrases "butterfly wings" or "waterlilies" again, I think I might scream. My prefered japanese syllable-counting form is the Tanka. You get the structure and imagery of Haiku, with more chance at social commentary. ~Bitter Irony
2/23/2007 #6
Midnight In Eden
I think the way to make a Haiku interesting is to make sure every syllable is necessary and interesting. To achieve this I think punctuation is really necessary. I'm severely proud of my haikus but that's also because I hone them down until I think they're perfect (and yes I'm being arrogant, sorry :p).
2/23/2007 #7
.....haiku, errr.... the greatest challenge of putting so much emotion into in the smallest lines ( if ever ) possible... mostly haikus are abstractly done or in focused in one subject matter... depends on the writer's style and technique... O.O... well, haikus are based on observation, emotion, or expirience... that's all...?
2/24/2007 #8
Sophia Victoria
We are allowed to make our haikus but let's consider the basics . . . the five-seven-five syllables and the main essence: the powerful and vivid imagery.
2/26/2007 #9
Midnight In Eden
I've decided after reading through a number of FP haikus that I really dislike haikus that are basically a seventeen syllable sentence split into three lines. I think each line needs to bring a new level to the piece, not just be part of a sentence that wouldn't make sense without the whole. But maybe that's just me being picky.
2/26/2007 #10
Sophia Victoria
You're not picky, you have just made a good point. That is the Japanese tradition of making a haiku and I'm not really going to break it, for there sake! Um, I know of a better alternative called 'tanka'.
3/1/2007 #11
am I part of them? just wondering....
3/1/2007 #12
Sophia Victoria
No, you're not. You outlined your haiku too well.
3/2/2007 #13
D S Rollins
Ah, the great japanese born and bred form, haiku. I knew about the form, but never knew how to write it, or what it is actually trying to put across. Haiku is a japanese form of poetry that enhances your sense perceptions. It pretty much enhances them, so when you read one, depending on which sense the haiku is outlining, that sense becomes more stronger because of the amount of imagery in such a few words. The typical form is the 5, 7, 5.
3/4/2007 #14
Honor Bound
a haiku is a challenge to put as much emotion and imagery possible into three lines of 5, 7, 5, (in the english form anyway). personally i can spin them out almost without thinking in most cases, and as such many arent very good, but then a few i think are decent. but yeah, a specific point in time or emotion or experience is a good way to put it, given the briefness of haikus, you cant put much more in(unless your awesome), but they also can give much more in multiple depths of meaning. a favorite form of writing for me.
3/8/2007 #15
Haiku's can be simple to write or very difficult to write. It's what it means to you. I recently discovered Haiku and am very fond of it. I've been reading many authors and varieties. Haiku is almost like a puzzle - to capture a moment or feeling in 5-7-5 is brilliant when done right. I have read many very good ones on Fictionpress.
4/25/2007 #16
Haiku never really made much sense to me.... I never saw one that I liked, is all. I don't know, I like things like Paul Revere's ride where hte poem tells a story even though it goes on for frikkin ever. ^^; I've written a couple before. Um... I guess, to me, Haiku is technically a poem that follows that 5,7,5 or whatever rule. It's also, when well done, capable of making a pretty good, strong statement and make you think without making words. It's also extremely fun to make fun of, according to the comics. I dunno, maybe it'd be more appealing if you were from wherever the form originated. I know dad was talking about how Japanese films tend ot use a lot of symbolism, so an american will be sitting there going "w**? It's just a flower..." and someone more familiar with it might say "No... it means this and this and this"
4/25/2007 #17
liz anya
To me, a haiku is simply a more compact form of poetry in which leaving out some things, everything is being said. It's a great method for emphasis on a subject.
5/4/2007 #18
Well, like what everyone has said a haiku is basic a poem with lines that go five seven five. Well, most tends to have meanings but it doesn't need to. It can be simple and funny! Mouse ran up a tree, The tree hid in the shadows, Of a very thick grove, that didn't make a lot of meaning out, but it was yet a picture painted and also a little story.
5/16/2007 #19

Humm. Looks to me like a very dead forum, but let's see whether we can rouse some interest... amazing though that despite the very large number of authors on FP there appears to be very little interest in forums of this type anyway.

But let's stay on topic.

Part I

Haiku are originally Japanese but are now written in all languages. The meaning of the word is close to "light humourous verse", and in fact, they are a shortened form of tanka. Tanka means "short poem", and is composed of five lines of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables each.

Originally, Haiku were used in a traditional form of poetry competition called "renga", or "linked poems" in Japan, where one member of a party would start off with the first part of the poem and another would follow with an appropriate continuation. Similar traditions also existed in the middle ages in Europe.

The uniqueness of Haiku consists in the fact that they became a self-standing form of poetry, represented by very famous (in Japan) poets such as Buson and Basho. Other than their 5-7-5 syllable format, they are also subject to a number of other rules, some of which I will list here:

First, they should ideally always have a nature, or more precisely, seasonal reference.

Second, they should combine a very concrete image with an abstract idea and preferably a sentiment that in Japan is called wabi which is akin to melancholy

Third, they should cut one part of the poem from the other by means of a kireji

Finally, the most beautiful haiku will, in Japanese, fulfill all these criteria and still read as a grammatically correct sentence.

Personally, I always think of a haiku as a photograph of a particular state of mind, and try to write them that way.

One of my preferred haiku is by Basho:

Natsukusa ya

Tsuwamonodomo ga

yume no ato

Loosely translated (the syllable count here will not match at all, and there are technically better translations, I'm sure):

Ah summergrass

all that remains of

warriors' dreams

The season is summer (natsukusa means summer grass). The kireji is ya, a sort of exclamation mark. The abstract reference is to the site where the haiku was written, the very scarce remnants of a fortress where a battle had taken place, and the obvious underlying concept of the passage of time that reduces all dreams sooner or later to dust.

A second one is even stronger with regard to the 'full sentence' criterion:

Kare-eda ni

karasu no tomarikeri

aki no kure

(a raven settles/on a bare branch/one autumn eve) - but it is very difficult to translate whilst expressing all of the image and staying reasonably close to the haiku format in english)

Second post will be on the difficulties in exporting the format to non-Japanese languages.

1/8/2009 #20

Part II on the challenges of writing Haiku

First: the language. Japanese is a language that lends itself to writing poetry counted in syllables, just like ancient Greek (and German) are languages that lend themselves to write poetry in hexameter. Producing 5-7-5 syllable, readable, and understandable poetry in other languages can be considerably more challenging. Also, Japanese is a language that allows the formation of continuous sentences where in other languages breaks are required - this allows three-line poems in one sentence that is uninterrupted that cannot be reproduced in the same way in at least most Western European languages I can think of.

Second: the style. As all forms of poetry, Haiku are determined by the culture that produced them, and the only in appearance simplistic, close to nature, descriptive style used for most of them, whilst almost always including some form of under-the-surface references is equally difficult to reproduce in languages used in our Western cultures with its own, and different images and references.

In other words, and to contradict some earlier posts: Haiku are a challenge, and a quite considerable challenge at that. Why?

First because they are short. To compress an image and impression into 3 lines and 17 syllables in total is not easy.

Second, because they require a combination of a fairly concrete image, preferably nature-related, with an experience and/or emotion, which should not be expressed explicitly, but must be read between the lines.

Finally, because the combination of format, choice of words and ideas must have an immediate impact, like a picture or a photograph.

The reward for achieving a good haiku is that one will have managed to express a complex emotion or thought in a very concise, and paradoxically, a very precise manner.

More words (unless we're talking about a narrative) do not necessarily mean a better or more precise description.

Amazingly, this does work, and I can provide a few references here, directly from FP, that demonstrate how well this can be done in Western languages:



http://www.fictionpress.com/s/1571052/4/Natures_Mirror (chapter 4 in particular)

I've done a few haiku myself, but none of them can match the three above... there are many more of course that I can think of - and I'd be happy to hear of more if you know of them.


1/8/2009 #21

Well, it sure is great to see this forum alive and well again. I have to say, WOW, you sure seem to know a lot about Haiku. I am personally very fond of Tanka myself. I haven't written anything in a while but I do feel your two posts have inspired me. Inspiration is the foundation of poetry, no? I will check out your haiku's when I have time.


1/8/2009 #22
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