The Haiku Page
Introducing the Haiku
Skip to the verses
The haiku is a Japanese verse form, highly regarded in that
country. I do not know Japanese and therefore know nothing
of the frm it takes when written in that language. Neither, it
follows, can I comment on translations from that language.
What I can say is that the Japenese prize it for its simplicity,
its lightness and its depth.
Here, for example, is a seventeenth century example by
Basho - probably the best loved of all the Japanese masters.
The grasshoppers' cry
does not reveal how very
soon they are to die.
The following remarks apply to the haiku as verse written in
English, rather than having been translated into it.In that form
then, it has pretty much established itself as a verseof three lines
having five syllables in the first line, seven in the second and five
again in the last. It also should have an epigrammatic quality.
Beyond that, purists say variously that rhyme and rhythm are not
factors to consider, that simile and metaphor should be avoided and
that it should referto a season and have an appropriate seasonal
word included in it somewhere.
Not every haiku you encounter will exhibit all these qualities.
Some poets writing in English have experimented with spreading
the seventeen syllables over just two lines, but to my mind the
pattern of breaks and restarts afforded by the 5 - 7 - 5 structure is
essential to its character.Certainly the final 5 is needed to underline
any pithy ending that it might have.
I am not a purist as my stumbling examples below will make clear.
I have produced them in the belief that the three essentials are:
That a haiku should have three lines,
that it should have seventeen syllables in a 5 - 7 - 5 sequence
and that it should hint at more than the words convey.
Silent woodlands. Silent homes.
As earth grows warmer
pie and mushy peas give way
to chicken kormer.
Standards now are set
for us but not for them by
those whom we elect
To know how little
one must give for hope
of life, is to live
What memory films
it edits. In the cutting
deeper feeling dies.
Words are Christmas toys
left untouched in boxes or
hammered flat by boys.
correctness improve a lot
the lot of any?
Within hours of putting this page online I had the following sent me by e-mail:
Many hands make light
of work while too much work makes
light of many hands.
And then the following day, this:
Spin and disasters
conceal from us our masters'
waves rush to the shore
happy frogs sing in the creek
peaceful coastal night
When the Montreal
constabulary went on
strike, all hell broke loose.