Sunday, August 16, 2009

House Special of the Week: Haiku

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I'm sure that everybody had a chance of writing their own haiku as a project or just a simple school exercise. I remember my elementary days where we were asked to come up with our own haiku. But in case you are wondering what a haiku is....then you'd better read this one.

Haiku 俳句, is a poetic form and a type of poetry from the Japanese culture. Haiku combines form, content, and language in a meaningful, yet compact form. Haiku can generally be about everything things but it can be about nature, feelings, or experiences. The most common form for Haiku is three short lines. The first line usually contains five (5) syllables, the second line seven (7) syllables, and the third line contains five (5) syllables. Haiku doesn't rhyme. A Haiku must "paint" a mental image in the reader's mind. This is the challenge of Haiku - to put the poem's meaning and imagery in the reader's mind in ONLY 17 syllables over just three (3) lines of poetry.

In the Japanese haiku, haiku poets use kireji or a cutting word, typically appears at the end of one of the verse's three metrical phrases. In English, poets use punctuation marks such as ellipse or a dash to divide a haiku into two grammatical and imagistic parts.

In addition to kireji, Japanese haiku poets also use kigo, a defined word or phrase which symbolizes or implies the season alluded to in the poem.

Here are examples of haiku from masters of haiku. Translations are below each line.

The first example is by Basho, one of the grandmasters of haiku.

furuike ya
old pond....
kawazu tobikomu
a frog leaps in
mizu no oto
water's sound

The next example is by Buson. He lived from 1716-83 and was an accomplished painter as well as a poet.

The old man
cutting barley-
bent like a sickle.

The last is by Issa, who lived from 1763-1827. His name means "single bubble in sleeping tea" and he is known as a humanist who loved all creatures, including the crawly kind. He also had a sense of humor that comes through in some of his poems.

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