I sent my friend (S.M.) my ‘Robin Haiku’ by email. It was she who had told me about Basho’s Haiku. And she replied:
Robin in tree
Sings clearly to sun
Bramble clearing fun
I thanked her by email, and later …. maybe in response to my Xmas 2014 poem, another popped into my inbox:
Happy New Year
Away from fear
of false Christmas cheer
We have discovered that Haikus can be a little bit addictive, and have had them going round in ours heads all day, here’s one of mine:
WINTER WALK Walkers muffled up Against the cold wind blowing Boots on, crunching ice
I’m sticking to the traditional 3 lines, in 5 syllable, 7 syllable, 5 syllable format as it feels like a satisfying puzzle to solve. Apparently, according to Auntie Internet, modern Haikus can stray outside that form – and now I’m wondering if they traditionally have titles … maybe not?
And later from S.M.
Off to bed
ouch – my head
She is obviously from the modern school of Haiku – “Ah so”!
My last one of the night:
BABYSITTING Kids at last in bed
Snug as bugs in rugs, tucked up
Kitten sleeps on lap
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I have a few years of studying haiku, and writing them as well.
Changes in syllable count aren’t a matter of whether the poems are modern or not, but of what language they’re written in. It is a Japanese form, but writing in English requires some bending because the two languages are structured so differently, especially in grammar.
The generally accepted rule for writing in English is to allow a two-syllable leeway; that usually ends up being two more syllables rather than fewer because of a huge basic language difference: English has articles (a, an, the), and Japanese doesn’t. People often drop them to meet the Japanese syllable count, but that usually ends up sounding like someone speaking “Japanglish” or imitating a 50s Western-movie Indian. That’s rarely the desired effect. If you use two extra (or drop two), the poem usually works better if both aren’t in a single line.
They shouldn’t be titled, regardless of language. The three lines are supposed to be complete in themselves. If you find that you feel a haiku needs a title, that generally means the information that would be in the title belongs in the poem itself.
You can also explore the season-words (kigo) that are important to traditional haiku. A lot of them aren’t really appropriate to English-language haiku because they’re tied to the Japanese seasons, which are different. It’s not hard to come up with our own seasonal words, though.
Japanese has certain words that English lacks that exist as a kind of punctuation. That makes punctuation more important to English poems. The Japanese word that expresses the idea of “Oops, surprise! This is unexpected!” we might express with a dash or ellipsis.
I’ve found that working with another rule has drastically improved my haiku. Traditionally, the first and second lines are supposed to form a complete concept/idea/image/emotion, and the second and third, another. What makes the poem is how they work together. I think I got a piece of that idea in this one:
In the mid-day rain
Three goldfinches bicker
Over damp thistle
Hope this helps!
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Maia! this is brilliant!!! Thank you SO much. Thanks for taking the time to explain things so clearly. Even more of a puzzle and a skill to play with – fun! Thank you, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! I’m off to try this out ….
I’m glad it helps! Given the collaboration the two of you have begun, you also might find renga interesting to have a look at. You’ve more or less already started one.
New Year….Apparently, I’m in for quite an experience this year. 🙂
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Wow! That’s great – we were Renga-ing and didn’t know it – it will be fascinating to see where that leads. I’m trying out what you say in your last paragraph in my next post. Thank you for sharing your Goldfinch Haiku, it gives me such a charming picture, with the sound of goldfinches bickering to go with it. ❤
and YES in Scotland New Year is the BEST!