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 The Art of Japanese Haiku Poems

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PostSubject: The Art of Japanese Haiku Poems   Mon Mar 26, 2012 10:20 am

History

Japanese haiku is a short but characteristic form of poetry that has been around for many centuries. The traditional art of Japanese haiku is specific to its syllables and phrases. Usually, the haiku will consist of 17 syllables. The syllables are then separated into three phrases having the first phrase with 5 syllables, 7 and then 5 again. Haiku poems combine meaningful messages about nature, feelings and experiences from the poet. Due to the amount of compacted syllables, the haiku form, language and its content are usually challenging to any poet to write.



A classic Haiku plaque

When the Japanese write their haikus, they are written in one line just to be able to see all the parts together clearly. This is known as Hokku and is often the starting point to writing haikus. The breakdowns of the three phrases however, have become a part of the English haiku poetry since the syllables and sound in Japanese are much shorter. Still, the poetry of the haiku is much the same. The line breaks typically act in the same way of punctuation.

Though not all Japanese haiku poetry focuses on nature, but a majority of them will. The Japanese poets who wrote traditional haiku’s use seasonal words to depict the specific time of the year and also to help come up with words or sounds to include in the poem. The season word not only reflects the feeling of the poem itself, but also helps to invoke the feelings expressed to the reader of the haiku. For example: winter months will usually bring on the feelings of being cold, so words used such as, “ice”, “snow” and “leafless” are some imagery that bring haiku to life. Haiku can also be based on all five senses that are felt by the writer.

Famous figures in Japanese Haiku

There are many famous figures throughout the centuries that have aided in producing excellent haikus. Some famous Japanese Haiku poets include Matsuo Basho and Natsume Soseki from the 13th and 17th century. Their poetry as well as others from the old masters of Japanese haiku has been translated into English versions that depict the nature and feelings of the time period they are from.



Master Matsuo Basho


The famous Japanese poets who did haiku generally thought of it as a way of life. Haiku can be simple to read, though it is known that it can take many years in order to master the art of writing it. The old Japanese masters took haiku from the physical world around them but generally evoke deeper meanings and mysteries, especially in the nature of existence in the world.

Here is an example of traditional haiku poetry from Matsuo Basho:

An old silent pond …



A frog jumps into the pond,

Splash! Silence again.

How to Write Japanese Haiku

In Japanese Haiku poetry writing, what you feel should be a part of the haiku. When you observe a natural environment or notice something important, write it down in the haiku. It is common to find poetry that involves people who found their inspiration from a simple walk. Read many haiku’s to get an understanding of what is incorporated in them and the correct stance to take. Remember that in order to write true haiku poetry, the poem should contain three phrases or lines, with 5 syllables to begin with, 7 syllables in the middle and ending the poem with 5 syllables again.

To write Japanese haiku, you must present an idea, expression or feeling and can be found through observing nature. Usually there is a shift in the haiku itself which the Japanese call “kireji” that separates the haiku into two part structures. At times, the shift in the poem shows a compare and contrast and will provide a connection between the structures. This doesn’t have to be a difficult process when writing haiku and can be achieved by rereading the poem and sounding the words aloud. Make sure to write the haiku in present tense so that the reader can feel as though they are experiencing the moment right away.

By the end of writing the haiku you should give yourself some form of a checklist to make sure you have gotten every about the haiku written down. Check the syllables and length of the haiku to make sure it matches the traditional patterns. Does it combine feelings and relate to events that occur in nature or human existence and life? If so, then you’re on the correct path. Use the senses and also words that come from the seasons to describe in the content of the poem. Haiku’s are special kinds of poems unlike any other and do not have to rhyme or even have titles. Just like other forms of poetry, practice makes the poem writing easier to do as time goes on.

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