What is a Haiku?
Those interested in poetry should develop a fair understanding of a Haiku poems, a simple and spontaneous form of traditional Japanese poetry. Haiku uses minimum words to sketch a picture in the mind of readers.
Definition of Haiku
A Haiku can be defined as,
“A major form of Japanese verse, written in 17 syllables and divided into three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables; and employing highly evocative allusions and comparisons, often on the subject of nature or seasons”.
“A Japanese lyric verse form having three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables, traditionally”.
History & Origin of Haiku
The stream of poetry travelled to Japan from Persia, India and China. The first form of Japanese poetry was pretty much casual, named as Tanka. Tanka was only used to praise Japanese gods and rulers. Its syllable count was 5, 7, 5, 7, 7, which gained much popularity in the eleventh century.
By the end of fourteenth century, many poets experimented with new styles of poetry. Finally, Boshu came up with Renga; a poetry style of 5,7,5 links. Soon Tanka became stale and all rage came into the lap of Renga. Hokku and Haikai are two popular verses of Renga.
The early form of Haiku was Hokku. It was largely due to the efforts of Masaoka Shiki that Hokku was broken off from the long chain of Renga and its forms; and instituted as an independent and modern poetry style. Haiku has been formally around since the end of nineteenth century.
Issa, Buson, Shiki, and Kikaku are some of the popularly known classical poets in Haiku poetry. The credit for introducing Haiku in the Western world in the late fifties goes to R.H. Blyth and Harold G. Henderson. The element of Buddhism in Haiku strongly influenced the minds and souls of Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac. Today Haiku has grown into a phenomenon which inspires all societies globally.
Haiku in English Poetry
Originally, Haiku is written in Japanese language. It has been over hundred years now and the translators still find it quite a task to translate Haiku from Japanese to English. The only reason is that like Japanese, not all foreign languages especially English, poetry can be written in seventeen syllables count.
When the interpreters try to transform the Japanese Haiku into English, the number of words in 5, 7, 5 form become more, which is against the rules of Haiku. Therefore, it is recommended that writers and translators employ the rules of English language when dealing with Haiku otherwise, the poetic verses will deliver no sense and meaning.
Theme of Haiku
A poet cannot create poetry without having a theme in mind. There exist a defined theme for Haiku and all Haiku poets are bound to follow it. Haiku is a nature poem which revolves around seasons and nature. This means that Haiku brings the readers closer to natural beauty while highlighting a particular aspect of human psychology or activities which is associated with a seasonal word. For instance, snow indicate winters- snow could be a time of celebration such as Christmas or a phase of deep sorrow, grief and loneliness.
Characteristic Qualities of Haiku Poetry
Haiku is usually classified on the basis of its three qualities:
A kigo is phrase or a word associated with a season. Kigo is a definite element of Japanese culture and poetry. Kigo communicates the readers the beauty of the particular season in which a stanza is set. For example, fog, rain showers, mosquitoes, breeze.
A kireji is a cutting word, which is essential in a Haiku. The function of this cutting word is to give a pause to the flow of thoughts and create a link between the preceding and following phrases. A kireji is usually a punctuation mark such as an ellipsis or a dash.
Haiku must contain seventeen syllables in the form of 5, 7 and 5 on (Japanese for sound) in three phrases respectively. Usually one of the three phrases ends in a kireji.