Haiku Revisited

Michael Dylan Welch, who wrote on haiku for the 2005 Poet’s Market, stopped by and offered some great advice in the comments to my “Haiku: Easy or Hard?” post from earlier this week. While it’s probably best to read the comments first-hand, I figured I’d make it easy on people since the advice is very useful.

Some highlights:

  • “My sense of things is that practically no current literary haiku writers believe the 5-7-5 pattern of syllables is applicable in English (in Japanese they count sounds, not syllables, which is why a one-syllable word like ‘scarf,’ in English, is counted as FOUR sounds when said in Japan, something like ‘su-ka-ar-fu’), so I’m not sure I’d call 5-7-5 a ‘traditional’ viewpoint in English. More like a traditional misunderstanding.”
  • “Rather, what matters most in the tradition of haiku is kigo (season word) and kireji (cutting word), as well as objective sensory imagery (thus one wouldn’t say that rain ‘stampedes’ the mud, because, as interesting as that is, it shows your interpretation and lacks the objectivity that lets readers have their own reaction to a carefully crafted image).”
  • “At any rate, I always like to quote philosopher Roland Barthes on haiku. He said that ‘The haiku has this rather fantasmagorical property: that we always suppose we ourselves can write such things easily.’ Paradoxically, haiku is both easy and hard.”

Welch also provided to links to check out:

  1. His essay “Becoming a Haiku Poet” at http://www.haikuworld.org/begin/mdwelch.apr2003.html
  2. Keiko Imaoka’s essay “Forms in English Haiku” at http://asgp.org/agd-poems/keiko-essay.html

I would like to thank Welch, who is an expert in his field, for sharing so much great information with everyone. This is what having a community of poets is all about as far as I’m concerned.

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2 thoughts on “Haiku Revisited

  1. Franci

    For almost every poem I have written, I have chosen a title, so, even the little ones are not haiku. I have a recent collection which I called "Haiku from Buenos Aires", but then figured I must have broken other rules too, so I changed the title to "Scenes from Buenos Aires". Safe?

    What I learned today? No metaphors or similes. (Try to) remember: kigo & kireji & fantasmagorical. (My dictionary spells that "phantasmagorical" BTW.)

    Could the line length thing be a natural tendency? Which reminds me of one of my favourite (old!) limericks:

    THERE WAS A YOUNG MAN FROM JAPAN
    WHOSE POETRY NEVER WOULD SCAN –
    HIS FRIENDS WOULD SAY, OH DEAR!
    YOU CAN’T PUT THAT IN HERE!
    and he would say well I always try to put as many words as I can in the last line . . .

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