April 7, 2017
Unhappy with the “ignorance and disrespect to the art of English-Language haiku[,]” the Haiku Society of America agreed among themselves in 2004 to this definition, “A haiku is a short poem that uses imagistic language to convey the essence of an experience of nature or th season intuitively linked to the human condition.”
The format is two or three lines and as brief as possible. The familiar 5-7-5 format is not rigid. Rather, 17 syllables is a cap. Other guidelines include no more than 10 words and 8 to 13 syllables.
HSA noted that traditional Japanese haiku includes a season word or phrase and a cutting word, as a spoken punctuation that marks a pause or emphasizes one part of the poem. English poems don’t always have season words. The key is to capture an experience in clear images.
Haiku should be just
small stones dropping down a well
with a splash
- James Kirkup.
If it looks like Haiku but highlights human foibles, HSA purists call it Senryu not haiku.
Fabion Bowles edited an anthology entitled The Classic Tradition of Haiku (Dover Publications, 1996). He says the haiku 5-7-5 format originated as part of the longer renga format, then broke free.
Among the most revered practitioners is Basho, from the Seventeenth Century. Basho and his followers are known for elevating the art from wit and scatology to great sensitivity and dignity, according to Bowles, often using humor and surprise. I find it interesting to read different translations of the same poem. For example, here are three of six translations of a Basho classic:
Old pond – frog jumps in – sound of water.
Th’old pond- a frog jumps in – Kerplunk!
A lonely pond in age old stillness sleeps . . .
Apart, unstirred by sound or motion . . . till
Suddenly into it a lithe frog leaps.
Now that I’ve set the bar higher than I can vault, let us begin at the beginning of our trip with a four-hour delay due to the fiercest winds in 60 years at the Portland airport.
Wind whistles in
Delta customers deflate
Tokyo must wait.
April 8, 2017
Gentle marine mist
Softens towers, freshens face