Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How To Haiku!

So my NaNoWriMo novel is still rolling around in my mind and in an effort to tie the chapters and themes together, I'm working on snippets of writing as chapter headings. Some of these are in the form or poetry, lullabies, speeches or other various quotes that I've made up from characters we meet and ones we don't. In my exploration of what to write for these chapter headings I've come across a well loved but forgotten (on my part) form of writing called the Haiku.

While it's not all the rage, haiku is admirable and is quickly becoming my favorite form of poetry. In my exploration of the form, I've done some research which might be interesting to writers who read this blog so I'll share it.

People who know haiku know that the form is set in three lines. In Japan, each line has a distinct set of "moras" not to be confused with syllables. Moras are the concept that syllables pattern together according to the number and/or duration of segments in the rime (part that is lengthened or stressed when a person elongates or stresses a word in speech). That all is a bit confusing. In America, writers of the haiku often utilize syllables when determining what to write for each line of a haiku. The standard set of syllables in American haiku by line is 5, 7, 5. While I'm cheating a bit by going by the American haiku standards, I don't know kanji and therefore cannot be true to the Japanese version of the haiku.

Haiku contain several elements (other than the set number of lines, and the set number of moras) that connect all haiku as a form of writing.


The first would be a nature theme. Each haiku, should have a mention of nature. Traditionally, this reference was used to allow the reader to know what time of the year the haiku is written in, but I've seen haiku which mention animals or plants which may not be specific to a time of year (or maybe I just don't see the correlation).


This is an aspect of the haiku, utilized to divide the haiku into two distinct parts. In America, it is seen often through the use of punctuation like a comma, colon, dash or an ellipsis.

Subject Matter:
Traditionally, haiku is used to explore the human experience. By utilizing nature, cutting, and our individual experiences as human beings, we can create a haiku that shows us the world in new and interesting ways.

Two of my favorite haiku are:

No sky
no earth - but still
snowflakes fall

I just love the imagery here. It makes me think of darkness in a snowstorm when we can see nothing but snowflakes.

I kill an ant
and realize my three children
have been watching.
~Shuson Kato

This one is so powerful to me because it starts out simple but makes such a great statement. We have to be aware of the impression and examples we set for others, especially future generations.

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