Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The low down on haiku

A haiku is a poem consisting of three lines with a specific pattern of syllables: five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third.

You knew that! But there's more to it than the 5/7/5 pattern.

Here's a link to an interesting haiku story. (The story is worth reading for its own sake.) The author is a Jewish man who took a creative writing class with his wife, where he learned that a true haiku must:
  • express something about nature;
  • use very concrete terms, never generalities;
  • deal with the here and now; and
  • be composed of strong nouns and verbs. (It should rarely be necessary to use a modifier, like an adjective or an adverb.)
  • each line should contain a complete thought;
  • often the three lines are split into two parts, by a colon or a dash, with an imaginative distance between the two sections; and, finally,
  • the whole haiku should have a twist that conveys some insight by means of juxtaposition.
Ooh, a challenge! The gauntlet has been thrown down! Now I am compelled to compose a haiku of my own:
Five senses:  lovers'
portal to transcendent realms;
Earthy and sublime.
OK, I cheated, particularly by breaking up the first line. (Rule #41: each line should contain a complete thought.) But I conveyed an insight by means of juxtaposition not too badly, I think.

Form and content stand in uneasy tension with one another — that's where the challenge lies. The poet who perfectly executes both achieves nirvana on the spot.

Are you up to the challenge? Do you have the IQ for haiku?


At 3:30 PM, May 19, 2005, Blogger snaars said...

Carbon dioxide -
by degrees warming the earth.
Mission accomplished.

Wow, that feels good! Nirvana, here I come!

At 3:54 PM, May 19, 2005, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

Bravo, Snaars! All that useless beauty, and you can write poetry, too.

At 11:47 AM, May 20, 2005, Blogger snaars said...

I try to be modest, but it's just so difficult to hide all this raw talent! ;)

Okay, the first one was kind of tongue-in-cheek (obviously), so I decided to do another:

black oak limb out-stretched
eight-legg'd swinger hammering
jarring down the sun

This is fun!

At 12:07 PM, May 20, 2005, Blogger Journeywoman said...

This perhaps sounds more bitter than intended. The peacock I'm considering amuses me more than anything else.

Arrogant peacock
Struts and preens. He,like sour wine
Is better when drunk.

At 5:15 PM, May 21, 2005, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

Snaars and Journeywoman —
If anyone else wants to join this informal competition, you two have raised the bar to a high standard.

My inclination is to crown Journeywoman haiku champion, but my judgement may be biased. I must confess there is a — ahem — personal relationship between us.

Sorry, Snaars, but for all your beauty and raw poetic talent, in some respects you are at a definite disadvantage.

At 5:19 PM, May 21, 2005, Blogger Journeywoman said...

Ha. He's just saying that because he knows he's not the peacock immortalized in my po-em.


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