Summer is over, fall is beginning, and clay is commencing! This month, I have chosen a selection of short haikus and provided tips on how to write good haikus. Enjoy!
Frogs croaking at night
Loud splashing as I approach
Moonlight exposes ripples
Above is a haiku I wrote! Hopefully this haiku captures the sight and sound of frogs croaking in the summer, while immersing the reader in the experience of the narrator.
Haikus follow a 5 syllable – 7 syllable – 5 syllable pattern. They originate in Japanese poetry, which often attempts to convey an experience or emotion through few words and vibrant imagery.
An old silent pond…
A frog jumps into the pond,
splash! Silence again.
– Matsuo Bashō
Above is another haiku, this one written by a famous Japanese poet, Bashō. It focuses on one aspect of a frog: the noise it makes as it splashes into a pond. More deeply, it reflects on the ethereal, fleeting nature of this experience. The splash happens once, and afterwards, there is no sign that it ever happened. Since haikus are so short, there is only room to focus on one aspect. This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage of this type of poetry.
Blowing from the west
Fallen leaves gather
In the east.
– Yosa Buson
The above haiku is very appropriate as we look forward to fall. Instead of just saying that leaves fallen from trees are carried in a certain direction by the wind, Buson evokes a feeling of movement by saying that leaves are blowing in from one direction and gathering in the opposite direction. The reader gets to figure out what the haiku is trying to say; this is the ultimate example of showing instead of telling.
Chicken of the sea
Buttered, tasty as can be
Picked fresh from the ocean
Fruit of the pear tree
Edible although prickly
Sweet exotic fruit
Above are two haikus I wrote as a pun. The first one has the subject of tuna, the fish, while the second one has the subject of prickly pear fruit, also called tuna. In addition to being fun and easy to write, haikus can be humorous!
Other types of comparable Japanese poetry include the tanka, renga, and hokku. Tankas have a 5-7-5-7-7 syllable meter, meaning that they are slightly longer than haikus. In the renga category, there are two types: tan-renga and cho-renga. Tan-renga means “short renga,” and these have two stanzas, the first with the syllable patterns of 5-7-5 and the second with 7-7. Cho-renga encompasses longer forms of the renga, including the “hyakuin,” which is a renga with 100 stanzas! Hokku were derived from renga. They are the first stanza of each renga (with a 5-7-5 syllable meter).
Eventually, Japanese poets had the idea to separate the hokku from the rest of the renga and turn it into its own poetry form, the haiku. Bashō, the famous Japanese poet, only wrote hokku, because during his time there was no such thing as a haiku.
Now it’s your turn! Write a haiku and post it in the comments below. Don’t be afraid to explore different topics!
Keene, Donald. The Comic Tradition in Renga, in Japan in the Muromachi Age. Los Angeles: U of California Press, 1977. Print.
Blyth, Reginald Horace. Haiku Eastern Culture. Vol. 1. Hokuseido: Hokuseido Press, 1981. Print.