Haiku is an ancient Japanese poetic art form, characterised by it’s brevity and deep insight. In this blog I am attempting to emulate this acutely refined sensibility using English as my medium.
You could say that these are not really haiku at all though, and you would be right. Traditional Japanese haiku have very specific rules regarding length (17 moras – loosely translated as syllables), content (usually focussed on natural themes) and vocabulary (the use of season words, or ‘kigo’). However, these rules relate to a linguistic structure that is very different to English.
Some of my verses do indeed have a natural theme and in many cases I have tried to include (my version of) a kigo, but when it comes to the 5-7-5 syllable structure, I find I often have to digress. It would be different if each English syllable actually had a specific meaning, as they do in Japanese, but that is usually not the case.
A lot of my ‘haiku’ would probably be more correctly termed ‘senryu,’ having a similar structure to haiku but not being quite so restricted by content.
In either case, I’m definitely departing from tradition by giving each of my haiku a title. Traditionalists may consider that an alarming development.
Many of the verses are brief observations of daily life, or what I call ‘poetic terrorism,’ in the sense that they are usually ‘covert’ observations, as it were. I believe the best haiku are able to somehow link the internal and external worlds in altogether unexpected ways.
For more examples of both classical and modern haiku, please follow the ‘Haiku Links’ in the column on the right.
(For a much more detailed exposition on the forms and interpretations of haiku, please have a look at this page on the exquisite ‘Failing at Haiku’ website)