Haiku Exercise 2 notes on writing a '5-7-5' brief 3-line nature poem with two juxtaposed images

Haiku exercises

Your first three haiku:


Exercise 2: notes

Attribute of the classical haiku:

  1. The first attribute of the classical haiku:

    This is the Japanese for 'Season Word'.
    Many words are accepted traditionally by the Japanese as denoting the seasons
    and are recorded in almanacs.
    An example for English speakers the word 'Snow'
    indicates the season of Winter.

    Consider how the Kigo brings resonance with it of nature and the time of year.

    Note that a Japanese noun can represent the plural as well as the singular. Therefore Kigo can also mean 'Season Words'.

  2. The second attribute of the classical haiku:

    Juxtaposition of images.
    In one line you have your 'Season Word(s)'.
    Put your second image in the other two lines.

    Consider the energy between your two images. Try to make them different enough to have some energy between them, a gap that electricity can jump across.

    Traditionally Japanese has no punctuation. Often a Japanese haiku connects its images by a kireji (cutting word). That's similar to the way in English we say, "dot dot dot" or "quote".

    A haiku in Japanese is written in a single vertical line, with a standard rhythm that provides pauses after the first and second phrase. In English, translators have inserted line breaks to signify this pause.

    The line break can be enough; or use an em-dash or ellipsis.

    Be aware of the energy of the gap between the juxtaposed images. It can be called "The Goldilocks Gap" because it should be not too small and not too big; the large gap allows the reader to leap between the two images without falling in a chasm between them.

    Haiku techniques for the images and their relationships include: Association; Contrast; Comparison; Divine in the common; Focus narrowing; Paradox; Riddle; Sabi (loneliness, solitude, beauty); Shasei (nature sketch); Synesthesia (sense switching); Wabi (beauty of the worn, aged, and simple); Yügen (mystery and sacredness of the ordinary).

  3. The third attribute of the classical haiku:

    5-7-5 morae.
    Westerners unaware of the brevity of Japanese sounds,
    mistake this for 5-7-5 syllables.

    While it is a useful exercise for Westerners to write a 5-7-5 syllable haiku,
    as Westerners are familiar with syllables,
    one would better approximate the Japanese form by using 5-7-5 morae.

    Linguists observe that the sounds in Japanese haiku are brief, each the length of a mora, whereas English syllable are often twice that length.

    Accordingly, the use of '5-7-5' syllables does not give us the 1-breath poem that is the haiku, but something more like a 2-breath poem.

Basic bibliography of haiku publications:

Writing and Enjoying Haiku: A Hands-On Guide (2003)
by Jane Reichhold, whose many skills include a keen sense for the writing and appreciation of haiku.
This book includes useful guidelines on writing haiku and related forms
In the Palm of Your Hand, Steve Kowit.
Highly recommended. Brimming with clear and practical exercises,
Kowit's book is the best 'How to' book to help you start writing poetry.
My favorite chapter is about Awful Poems, where Kowit leads us cheerily
through the frequent mistakes that appear in our poems, with exercises to correct them.
Buy Strand The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms,
Edited by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland.

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