About- Why Haiku?

I’ve started this blog to share my haiku poetry. I’ve used haiku for several years as a creative outlet and an exercise in minimalism. While many dismiss the form as simple and childlike, I find that it  forces restraint on the author and opens worlds of interpretation for the listener. While the message is meant to be simple, there exist whole worlds in the white space of the page. Further, the form has had a tremendous influence on some of my favorite writers. I’ll share a few classical samples and modern riffs on Haiku below along with a basic history of the form.

Haiku is best known for its seventeen beat structure, divided into three lines following the five-seven-five syllable pattern. In its historic form, however, haiku also contained two common elements- a juxtaposition of unlike ideas, and a reference to the seasons. In my work, I follow the five seven five structure as closely as I am able and use the ideas of juxtaposition and seasonal reference as inspiration rather than as hard and fast rules. I must note, however that as a Jersey native, I speak very quickly and eliminate some syllables. If you find my verses to break the five seven five rule, it probably reflects how I would read the written words.

BY way of an exceedingly brief history of haiku, the form was developed in 17th century Japan and is largely credited to master poet Matsuo Basho. Haiku arose from a collaborative form of poetry called renga, in which one poet wrote a 5-7-5 tercet and another responded with a 5-5 couplet. Basho is credited with abandoning this form and adopting the 5-7-5 hokku as a standalone work. His single most famous poem, below:

古池や蛙飛び込む水の音

ふるいけやかわずとびこむみずのおと

OR

old pond . . .

a frog leaps in

water’s sound

I was introduced to Basho and this particular work by my college Nature Writing Professor, Robert Kern, but my real interest in the form and its possibilities came from Jack Kerouac’s free-form American haiku- example below:

Alone, in old

clothes, sipping wine

Beneath the moon

Many modern haiku writers believe the 5-7-5 rule is not well suited for English language haiku as Japanese words tend to have more syllables. Most advocate a more sparse syllable allocation or free form work. I have decided to retain the 5-7-5 structure as I find the limitations and demands of the form to present their own challenges.

As I’ve mentioned, I have always been a fan of minimalism in poetry. I’ll share two favorites of mine that are not haiku, but certainly share the spirit of the form.

In a Station of the Metro- Ezra Pound (1913)

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Little Lyric (of Great Importance) – Langston Hughes

I wish the rent

Was heaven sent.

 

I hope that you enjoy my blog and I welcome your feedback and comments.

-Rafferty

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