Demystifying Haiku


By: Indrajit Chattopadhyay (LTHE)

 

In recent years the fancy of Haiku has caught the imagination of western world. This traditional Japanese short form poetry now has its proponents thriving on internet. Why? Simply because, with a Haiku you can capture a piece of life, while walking towards your office, or glancing at the ledge outside the window.

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So what exactly is Haiku? Simply put it is a short form poetry, originating from Japan, written in 3 lines, with a “cutting” or juxtaposition of two images or ideas. Though it finds its origin in 17th century Japan, the modern definition was introduced by Masaoka Shiki around 1892. The identifying elements defined by Shiki were:

  1. Having 17 “On” (syllables) in form of 5 – 7 – 5 syllables per line.
  2. Use of “Kijeri” – a cutting word or a verbal punctuation that separates two juxtaposed or seemingly separate images or thoughts.
  3. A “Kigo” or seasonal reference.

The most famous Haiku master who is also treated as the father of Haiku is Matsuo Bashō (1644–1694) and the haiku that is almost synonymous with him is “Old Pond” –

 

The old pond –

A frog jumps in,

splash and silence.

 

Some other masters include – Yosa Buson, Kobayashi Issa, and Masaoka Shiki.

In modern English Haiku, however the first rule of syllables are omitted, as poets believe its more suitable to Japanese syllable system. However people religiously stick to the use of “Kijeri” and “Kigo”. This also helped in translating lots of traditional Japanese Haiku for people all over the world.

The cicada’s cry

No sign can foretell

how soon it must die.

– Matsuo Bashō

 

First autumn morning

The mirror I stare into

shows my father’s face.

– Murakami Kijo

My grumbling wife –

if only she were here!

this moon tonight…

~ Issa

 

So what do you write about in a Haiku, the modern day Haiku poets follow what ancient masters has been doing, capture a moment from life. Haikus rarely capture an event that one cannot fathom; yet with the “cutting” some of the most thrilling Haikus describe daily situations in a way that gives the reader a brand new experience of a well-known situation.

 

People now a days have developed a few more variations of Haiku, such as Haiga (where haiku is combined with paintings, photographs and other art-forms) and Haibun (a combination of prose and haiku, can be autobiographical or a travelogue).

 

Here are two from my collection:

 

Hot summer night

Bent in heat and chores of life

Tired crescent moon

Watching each other,

Soaked and tempered akin – not to meet

Rails to eternity.

 

For more of my collection you may visit:  https://rainstarvedclouds.wordpress.com/

 

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